Sunday, July 30, 2017

Howie Balaban: Thinking Out Loud - Everyone's Got an Opinion And...

A lot has happened since any of my thoughts last appeared in this virtual space. ComicCon descended upon San Diego. Congress held a vote. Trump tweeted a ban. Please note, the order in which I listed these things was not unintentional.
Avid readers of will be well aware, by now, of my personal affinity for pop culture and all that goes with it. True fans will probably also know how little I think of the current state of American politics. While I've never truly written my feelings and thoughts out, they have been alluded to once or twice.

I promise, this will all make sense when you're done reading.
Let's start with this past weekend in San Diego, where fans of everything from ancient medieval fantasy to futuristic science fiction joined together in trying to catch the latest glimpses of anything and everything related to their respective fandoms. Diehards who can quote Game of Thrones theories co-mingled with fans of Star Trek, and if you can believe it, Marvel fanatics peacefully coexisted with DC disciples.
San Diego's annual event has become bigger than anyone ever anticipated, and I'm sure that if I were to do some digging I could find some real resource that describes in great detail its humble origins. The point, though, is that now it has become such an anticipated event in pop culture that movie and TV studios plan marketing campaigns around it.
Don't believe me? Do a search for "SDCC" on Youtube. You will find trailer upon trailer of movie after movie and a number of popular TV shows. Among the movies fans salivated over most in San Diego were the upcoming comic book blockbusters, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ready Player One. TV fans couldn't wait to nitpick any extra glimpse of upcoming Game of Thrones episodes, and the trailers for the fall seasons of Stranger Things and the enjoyable DC Comics TV slate were also well received.
Since I was stuck here in Western New York, I had to wait for these previews to appear online. I checked Youtube and Twitter periodically last Saturday afternoon between my daily tasks, and I finally found some new videos to watch.
They were outstanding and did their job. By that I mean they made me want to get up and go to the movies right now. Right. Now.
After seeing the trailers I wanted to see, I noticed there was a video list on the right hand side of the Youtube screen, with the word "reaction" in each video title.
Out of curiousity, I clicked on one of them. Then another. And another. I wasted far too much time watching other people react to something I had just watched. In most instances, I found myself laughing or agreeing with the watcher. In other cases, I found myself wondering why the watcher would even bother making themselves out to be a buffoon.
Most of the reactions I watched were of people viewing the Ready Player One footage, which was something I was really looking forward to seeing. I think I just wanted to see if others shared my enthusiasm. About half had read the book on which the movie was based, and the rest seemed to have no clue what they were watching but figured aloud, "Hey, it's Spielberg, so let's give it a chance."
The ones who knew it was a book but hadn't read it introduced themselves as such. The ones who had no idea what it was at all also admitted their ignorance. But despite really not knowing anything, they felt completely comfortable criticizing the two minutes of teaser footage of a film they haven't seen, based on something they hadn't read.
Admittedly, I wasted far more time than I should have watching these idiots. By some metric, just by doing so I am sure some will call me an idiot. OK. No problem.
Then the rest of the week happened and more opinions came out of the woodwork, and I found out just how uninformed all of us truly are.
The last thing to happen (prior to this writing) was the "skinny repeal" vote of Obamacare. The repeal did not pass, leading the more vocal members on either side of the aisle to scream and stomp their feet with their thumbs on Twitter about how they either won a victory for America or felt shame for the government because it betrayed America. Some of the loudest voices came from people with no political background, no government background, and no higher education background. While this is a gross generalization, I'm sure many of the harshest criticisms, from both sides, came from those who were just merely ticked that their side lost or were happy their side won, and were trying to say so in 140 characters or less.
A day or two earlier, both extremes were cheering or lambasting Trump's ban on transgender people in the military. Having never served in the military, I will not pretend to begin to understand what it is like to serve. I have family who served and who are currently serving. I have many friends who have served and are currently serving.  All of the five branches are represented by people I know. Each of them is braver than I in a manner of speaking, and each brings something different to the table.
Once the ban was announced, opinions were fast and furious, and largely by people who have never served, and once again they were seemingly uninformed.
In a time when information is a click away, we as a society appear far too quick to respond in such a black and white way to an issue that is colored in many shades of grey. The healthcare vote, the military ban, and the movie reactions, while all vastly different animals, all elicited quick hot take opinions by the masses.  And there was no middle ground, either. These things were either good or bad, loved or hated.
As I've said to many people, that is the underlying problem in our country today. A mentality has emerged where "if you're not with us you're against us" is apparently the norm and fence-sitting is evidently no longer an option.
Art imitates life, and life imitates art. Last weekend, when people started lobbing opinions on things they didn't understand, I found it amusing and eventually annoying. Then the week progressed and I saw how celebrities were doing the same thing as it pertained to our government, and I realized just how true the old saying is about opinions. They are like our rears; everyone has one, and they all stink.
Unfortunately, with so many facts being twisted and distorted to fit the narrative du jour, the lines between fact and opinion have become more blurred than ever before.
I imagine it is why so many people have taken to creating Youtube channels devoted to them reacting to different things. Heck, there are also Youtubers who have "episodes" where they open boxes from Amazon that they have actually purchased. I don't know how we got to this place where these are actually things.
I do know that many of them come off as uninformed. And that no matter what the topic, if you are uninformed, or uninvolved, do us all a favor: keep your opinion to yourself. Because it stinks.
But that's just my opinion.

Howie Balaban is actually a pretty positive and optimistic guy. If you really want his opinion on something, give him a few days because he will want to educate himself on the topic first.