My students ask for my opinion on things, especially when I’m covering film and television in class.
Sometimes it’s a litmus test to get to know me. Sometimes they want to hear if I’ve got an opinion so they feel free to share theirs. And sometimes it’s just pre-class chatting about whatever’s trending.
There was a time when I was in their shoes, where I would have lots of insufferably demanding opinions about the things I watched. Since then, I’ve become a little more generous.
Mostly because I just don’t feel like spending energy on being negative.
It’s easier to point to reasons why something works well than to explain exactly what’s wrong with it
You can feel fairly confident in pointing out something that’s working in a narrative and why it works. But if there’s something in a film or show that you bump on; that doesn’t work for you, it’s not always easy to tell what caused that disconnect.
For one thing, pointing out what doesn’t work involves making suggestions for what could have worked better. You can offer opinions, but that’s a conversation about some imagined version that isn’t constrained by whatever realities of production shaped the actual finished product.
Without being there in the midst of the process of making a thing, it’s easy to cast blame, but hard to be correct in your accusations.
It doesn’t do my students, or me, any favors to offer half-assed opinions on what went wrong with something.
One thing I’ve gotten more confident with as I’ve gotten older (and as I’ve gotten more experience with teaching) is not having an opinion on everything.
My daughter has the right idea
It was a vocal quirk that she developed early on, but she’s stuck with it as she’s gotten older. When Sprout didn’t like something, she was likely to say:
“It’s not my favorite.”
What better way to put it when something doesn’t bowl you over? When you can see the flaws, but don’t feel a need to engage in a lengthy post-mortem examination. You can just move on.
Because I’d rather talk about exciting things I think we should aspire to instead of wasting time in discussions that say more about the people in the conversation than the thing they’re supposedly talking about.
What good does it do for me to add my voice to a chorus excoriating something for failing to satisfy its audience?
If I’m going to ask students to write with respect and empathy, then I should extend that same kindness to people who made a good faith effort to make something.
There’s no required response to artistic entertainment.
I’m not required to like it. I can’t be forced to list my disagreements with it. And I shouldn’t point fingers without accurate knowledge of the inner workings of the project.
If given the choice between trying to feel smugly superior to others who have taken on a difficult task, or to admire the work of giants, I know where I stand. I’d rather live in the shadow of the greats, aspiring toward something higher, than spending my time pretending I can trample others under my own feet.