I saw Avengers: Infinity War recently, with my girlfriend and my two roommates, and I’ve gotta say that my least favorite part of the movie was talking about it before and afterwards. Trying to actually engage in a debate about the timeline, what was likely to happen, what the movie’s actual events would mean in the long run, and how this all fit into the greater Marvel universe (which was the dumbest part of the discussion because the cinematic universe is 100% not the same uni/multiverse as the comics) was completely useless.
That isn’t to say that anyone was being stubborn, intransigent, or deliberately abstruse. No one was trying to be difficult and it was mostly just spirited debate for the most part. There were some difficulties, as there often are, because we all have very different ways of expressing our opinions that can sometimes make even the same opinion seem opposed to each other The main issue is that I can point out the problems of a movie or book without it impacting my ability to like or enjoy it.
I studied literary criticism in college, which means I have a hard time turning of the “critique” part of my brain, but it also means I was quite literally trained to be able to look at the flaws of a story and still be able to evaluate it without letting one or two faults cloud my judgment. I’d like to say that’s the only difference, but I know people who were in my classes who never quite figured out how to do that.
When I said there were problems with the timeline that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has previously released as a result of the movies they released after the timeline, one of my roommates immediately leapt to defend the MCU despite the fact that, as we eventually figured out, he agreed with me. To him, my statement implied that the timeline issues of the MCU made the whole series of movies problematic. In my mind, it meant exactly the words I said. It took us a couple of minutes to figure out that he’d added implications that I hadn’t intended and to settle into an uneasy moment of agreement following a couple minutes of disagreement, but this is a situation I’ve been in so many times I feel like I should start to expect it any time I have something critical to say about any popular book or movie.
I could provide a long list of the things that got messed up or where unnecessarily changed in the Lord of the Rings movies and let’s not even get me started on the pile of steaming issues that was the second and third movies in the Hobbit trilogy. There’s also a few issues I spotted in the Harry Potter books over the course of the last few years, as I’ve re-read them a couple of times. Hell, I can even find problematic things in even my favorite books. Any time I start to talk about them with most people, though, they immediately get defensive or start bashing whatever we’re talking about.
It starts to feel, sometimes, like people can only love or hate something and that, when they do this or react strangely to me pointing out issues in something I love, people are telling me I can only love or hate something. I dislike being told what to do or put inside a box at the best of times, but this whole thing grinds my gears because emotions and preferences are so much more complex than that. I can love something that I believe pointlessly frustrates me. I can dislike something that has elements I enjoy. Like the everything else in the world, appreciation for stories is made of shades of grey rather than just black and white.
The only thing that frustrates me more than this is people telling me I can’t like something because they think its dumb or people acting like their opinion means something definite. I have a person in my life who does this a lot and I have a hard time expressing my frustration about it because I get so annoyed when it happens that my response is almost always too extreme for the infraction. I know I should say something, but it’s really hard to be polite and have an earnest discussion about what someone likely doesn’t see as problematic when you’re fighting down the urge to be angry about it.