Some shenanigans went down on YouTube last night. I’ll get to that in a minute.
When I was 16, I started a blog. This blog. Except back then it was on blogger, I didn’t know anything about HTML, and I thought I knew everything about film. Everything. Some of the posts from back then are cringe-worthy. They filled with these statements that only emphasize how naive I was back then about a lot of things, especially film.
Then I thought the username I created, cinefille, was pretty brilliant. It is a play on words for “cinephile” (movie lover, which I am) using the French word for girl (which I also am). Cinefille became a mask for me. I could easily hide behind the double meanings of this word, say what I wanted to say, and move on. What I didn’t realize then and I have come to realize now is that when some people see the word “cinefille” they think I am trying too hard and that I saying something about myself that I don’t necessarily mean.
Going to college helped me move past my sometimes very jaded view of the cinema. It helped me move past my “cinefille” identity. The degree program I entered into was rigorous and beyond beneficial to my understanding and appreciation of film. Before college I implemented and hosted a classic film series at my local community center. But suddenly the cinema didn’t just consist of the Hollywood greats I had cultivated a passion for anymore. Instead it encompassed everything and everyone in between and beyond. I developed a passion for experimental filmmaking – Maya Deren, Marjorie Kellor, Kenneth Anger. (One passionate instructor can do that for you.) I discovered Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura and realized that this is my favorite film. (Sorry Bringing Up Baby.)
I worked on film sets. I attended the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. These experiences opened up the industry to me and really showed me that so much more goes into a film than what you see on screen. (This is something that I had been taught in class, of course, but it is so hard to truly understand the filmmaking process until you see the industry in action.) All of these experiences – my education, my firsthand industry experience – culminated in my senior honors thesis that I have written a bit about on this blog.
Then I graduated from college with a film degree that I am incredibly proud of. I am among the first students to graduate from Mount Holyoke’s film studies program. It may not be a big name undergrad program like USC or NYU but there are amazing things coming out of this program that I feel challenge industry norms.
This has all worked to change how I approach writing about cinema. I think, I hope, that this shows in my blog. Since graduating last May, I have made an effort to write sustainable and original content. I don’t just regurgitate news stories anymore or post a review that focuses solely on performance or character. I try to read each film, write something meaningful about the cinema, and have that conveyed in my writing. I plan on pursuing all this further in graduate school. (One day.)
This brings me to last night’s YouTube debacle. I mentioned earlier in the week that I won a 30-item goodie bag from the Criterion Collection. For me, this is unbelievably exciting. I’m stuck in this awful post-college lull; there is no way I can afford any of the 22 movies I received. I have been handed a great opportunity that I realize has made many people jealous. I was caught up in the excitement of winning this gift bag when my friend Nicole and I decided to make a short vlog of me opening the package. We never intended for it to be taken too seriously.
This is intended as a short, lighthearted, fun video. If only it had stayed that way.
Initially people were receptive to the vlog. Then late last night one someone commented that it was stupid. Things spiraled out of control from there. Commentators called me obnoxious, an ungrateful brat, an ungrateful bitch and ignorant. Oddly, I don’t mind any of those comments. I can see where some of them are coming from. I clearly I didn’t show how appreciative I am for the goodie bag. If you don’t follow my blog and twitter, you would assume I didn’t really care. But it was when these commentators started saying I didn’t deserve to win because I am clearly “just a normal person who sees a movie and only sees a movie” and that I should return the movies. Now, this is where the gloves come off.
The vlog, in some people’s opinion, does not show me earnestly appreciating the Criterion Collection and analyzing each film in depth. Instead I am seen making some pretty stupid jokes. Oh, then there is that Charlie Sheen reference. (How dare Charlie Sheen and the Criterion Collection be put in the same context?) Because of this I know nothing about film. I admit I come across as a bit foolish and not as informed as I really am. It is frustrating that this is only how people saw me. But if there is one thing I am not, it is the ungrateful and uninformed bitch that all of these commentators are making me out to be.
Why are they so amped to attack this video? When I used to post my blog under my cinefille moniker because my online persona masked my insecurities about my lack of film knowledge. These people, who I have never met and really don’t take their criticism too seriously, they are hiding behind their usernames to attack me because they see themselves as better and more knowledgeable than me. My film degree by no means makes me more of an expert about film than anyone else. I just read films differently. It seems to me that I understand this about myself which is why I can make a silly vlog about the Criterion Collection. I just didn’t realize that this silly vlog would generate so much flack. It was a naive presumption but I still don’t regret making or posting the vlog.
For all the good things that come from social media, it has created this black hole in our society. It has given people, what they see as a right, to be unnecessarily rude and mean to complete strangers just because they can. It is really bizarre to think about. But if I didn’t look at it this way, I would probably be more angry about this right now than I am.
Any thoughts on this hoopla is more than welcome. Sound off below.
Update: Thanks for your comments so far. I hope you have noticed that I did not respond to most of the comments on YouTube. Rather I chose to respond with this blog post. I felt I could most effectively and appropriately articulate my thoughts on this topic here and start an open dialogue. With that in mind, I have read the comments on this message board and I have a few quick responses.
My gender is (intentionally or not) influencing the comments. The fact that it is assumed that I am a flighty twenty-something female with little knowledge about film is frustrating. Although I did bring this on myself (I chose to make the video and post it on a public forum after all), it is because of my gender that people were more willing to resort to name calling and obvious pettiness.
The off-handed tossing the copy of Au Hasard Balthazar on the table was unintentional. It’s an echo-ey room and the sound is heightened. I do have access to a Blu-ray player; it’s just not at my immediate disposal. Lastly, I have heard of every movie in the goodie bag but I have not seen every movie. I certainly cannot afford to buy them. That is why I plan to make the most of this and not just let them collect dust in a corner. This is a great opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of the cinema.