Haters are the best makers

19Jun10

I was amused to discover (to my complete non-surprise) that Armond White was one of the only two film critics on earth who hated Toy Story 3.

You may not be familiar with Mr. White’s reputation. Suffice it to say he is batshit insane, or at least pretending to be. He is a professional hater. He hates every movie you like, and likes every movie you hate. Sometimes that produces opinions that I find agreeable, or at least defensible — like a broken clock being right twice a day. But mostly he is, in the words of Roger Ebert, “a troll.”

Which is why he needs to stop reviewing movies and start making them. (Beware, I’m going to make this thought apply to you, too.)

Haters-of-things are great makers-of-things (art, products, whatever) because they have a very passionate point of view as their default. I mean, they dislike something so much that they hate it. The difference between hating something and just really disliking it is that the latter says “it shouldn’t be that way”, while the former says, “It shouldn’t be that way — it should be THIS WAY, GOD F*CKING DAMMIT.”

That’s active. That’s generative.

[I should stop here and say explicitly that I’m talking about hating stuff, not people. There’s really no upside to people-hatred, and it’s certainly not generative of anything that the world needs more of. Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.]

You know the French New Wave? Truffaut, Godard, those folks who’ve been canonized as saints? All haters. They started as film critics and realized that what they hated in filmmaking, they hated so much that they couldn’t just stand by and hate it anymore, they had to make something in response, just to show the universe (and themselves) that a non-hateworthy alternative was even possible.

So every time I read one of Armond White’s reviews, I wish he would just funnel that intense, roiling craziness into making a film of his own, one that comments on everything he hates by embodying everything he loves. It would probably make El Topo look like Bambi.

What this has to do with you (and me)

Do you spend a significant portion of your time and attention pointing out things that you hate? On Twitter, on your blog, on other people’s blogs, in casual conversation?

I know I have. I used to be like Armond White in college, when I was in film school and writing reviews for the campus newspaper. Oh, I could use the written word to construct an edifice of hate-itude that was a thing of beauty. My films… not so much.

This thought (along with a stern talking-to by my writing mentor) brought on a realization that I count as one of the most important I’ve ever had: If I was ever going to be a decent filmmaker, I’d better stop applying all that fire-in-the-belly to writing reviews and apply it to making films. But there was a corollary to that which didn’t go down so easily: I realized I didn’t have any ideas of my own for fiction films (or how to make them) that I felt as strongly about as the ones I hated in others’ work. I was actually just a run-of-the-mill disliker, not a true hater. It seemed like a dead-end. So I shifted my attention and energy toward making a go at nonfiction filmmaking and journalistic writing instead. (Still very much a work in progress, but one that I find fulfilling so far. Here’s something cool I made out of a deep hatred for everything else I saw in the genre…)

It sounds wrong somehow, but you can use what you hate as a compass to point out what you love — and then start doing/making/living it. There are certainly other ways to discover what you love and start doing it, but don’t discount this one. The bonus is that, if you really do truly hate something — anything from world poverty to the arrangement of furniture in your living room — it doesn’t require extra work become very motivated. It’ll just be a very powerful feeling that your lily-livered, hem-and-haw-prone, fearful brain may not be strong enough to stop. You could very well just get to work, with a minimum of existential cruft gumming things up. (Imagine that!) Or… you may still be scared shitless or not have enough information or care too much about what other people think.

But it probably won’t stop you.

hell yeah, eagle



One Response to “Haters are the best makers”

  1. Good point(s).

    I often findi myself in similar situation, totally hating something, but then getting stumped as to how i would do it better. Luckily it’s not as often as I actually do have an idea. I hope

    Love you’re writing too BTW. Not every day that you read El Topo and Bambi in the same sentence.



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