For those of you not acquainted with their work, Siskel and Ebert had a movie review show where they would break down every review to the overly-simplified "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." Sometimes they'd get crazy and give an "enthusiastic thumbs up" or a "thumb so far down it ended up in my own rectum." Those were wacky episodes, I assure you.
|They're not the most attractive dudes, but the novelty of having one of their famous thumbs violate me is a little too hard to pass up. Source|
Allow me to explain how this relates in any way to the ruination of society.
We live in an age bereft of nuance. While I don't blame the late Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert for that, I do blame them for the distillation/devolvement of all opinion over subjective material to "great" or "sucks". It's a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down world. It's all good or bad, no in-between.
Siskel and Ebert actually had really good, well thought out reviews filled with great detail, but then undercut themselves with their own thumbs. People would skip all that needless detail and get right to whether they approved or denounced a film with their damnable digits.
Don't trust anyone who speaks in absolutes. We should demand reasons and details. We should expect nuanced thought.
|This is one of the images that came back when I Googled "Absolutes". It's a sculpture by Irish artist Alan Phelan called "Fragile Absolutes". It's so beautifully weird I had to include it even though it's apropos of nothing. Well, it is nuanced. There, that justifies it. Source.|
This is never more prescient than with the U.S. presidential election cycle. The process has devolved to the two candidates sloganeering (don't fool yourselves Libertarian or Green parties, you're lucky you're not in Guantanamo, like Ralph Nader...what, you haven't heard from him an a while, have you? Where did you think he went?). The debates might as well involve Jim Lehrer shooting fireworks out of his hairpiece while the candidates see who can chant "U-S-A" loudest while models in bikinis made of dollar bills wrestle in a kiddie pool filled with the tears of the poor and semen of the rich. A well-reasoned, non-pandering position on an issue in these debates is more rare than seeing a squirrel poop. (When was the last time you saw a squirrel poop? Yeah, that metaphor holds up.)
And because I love you, here's a hastily crafted picture of Jim Lehrer shooting fireworks out of his toupee:
|Wow, he even remembered the sparklers! You're the greatest talking-head ever, Jim Lehrer.|
I am not immune to this. When I argue with my spouse, I inevitably devolve into "you always do ___". And that's not true. No one "always" does anything. This over-simplification is a way to undercut your opponent and put them on the defensive with no real basis to your own argument. It's something I admittedly need to work on.
There are no such thing as absolutes. It used to be "death and taxes are the only sure thing in this life" but we Wesley Snipes doesn't pay taxes and Keith Richards is inexplicably still alive. So tuck your thumbs away, kids, and tell us the merits of a piece of subjective art based on your informed opinion.
The over-simplification of the world sucks...Aww crap. Although, I think I got a good idea for a bumper sticker. Are people still putting bumper stickers on their cars other than those "coexist" things?
This borderline self-righteous post was inspired by the great, ever-insightful Sporkgasm! Here's a drawing I made of her (or "did to her") a while ago: