What’s in a name? Some thoughts on my online persona

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.

12 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Some thoughts on my online persona”

  1. The internet turns people into assholes because they can make remarks they wouldn’t normally do out lod because they don’t have to say them to your face.

    Don’t let ’em get you down – they’re idiots.

  2. It’s amazing how much flack you’ve been getting just because you made a few jokes and weren’t hyperventilating from excitement. I can understand being envious (what movie fan wouldn’t be?), but the outright nastiness that some people have displayed towards you is just pathetic. The only thing I’m really jealous of if that fact that you get to see a lot of these films for the first time, haha. Enjoy the movies, fuck the haters!

  3. As a fellow Criterion geek, I would like to apologize for my community’s social ineptitude. I am not generally the kind of person who would get involved with (or even acknowledge) these YouTube comment wars, but after seeing the video and the subsequent replies, my frustration with those people led me here.

    Cinema studies are an interesting field in that, from my experience, it appears that most people can fit within one of two categories: 1.) The ignorant and passionless who have no hunger for knowledge, or 2.) Those who feel a sense of intellectual entitlement for having seen what they have. You, and i’d like to imagine most rational people, seem to be characterized within a third group of people that consists of cinema-lovers who are unafraid to acknowledge their own blind spots and display an intoxicating enthusiasm for film. Cinema should respected, but by no means should anyone become elitist and possessive about such a beautiful, universal form of art.

    Congratulations on your win.


  4. I liked the video and posted a Youtube comment under the clip. Anyone that can cite a Bresson film as a favourite knows their cinema and doesn’t deserve the snarky comments that you’ve noted above. I think what really made some of the commenters irate is that the clip indicated that you have both a sense of humour and a life outside of cinephilia. I think a stereotypical view of younger women – i.e that they’re airheads and couldn’t possibly know anything about foreign films or arthouse cinema culture – has also made some commenters reflexively go on the attack. Too bad for them and I really hope the incident doesn’t sour your enjoyment of those movies, all of which seem like a great bunch of titles (except maybe ARMAGEDDON..). Cheers from Australia.

  5. First time commenter, first time reader. I think you’re due some hearty congratulations for being lucky enough to win the Criterion goodie bag. Lots of people wanted it but you got it. Lots of people, too, probably already have seen and/or own a good number of those titles so, if you still have many of those to watch, you seem like someone who might give them a particularly good home.

    Your mistake might’ve been naively making the video. To be clear, anyone who resorted to personal attacks was clearly way out of line. But you did make a video, show little to no appreciation for the actual content of what you’d been given, and then send it out to the world for consideration via the internet. It’s tough, for sure. Just keep in mind that Criterion is sacred for a lot of people. You got two out of print titles in Contempt and The Third Man. You received something like $1000 or more in retail value of goods and then you looked a little dopey while opening them like a toddler at Christmas. You sort of hit the mother lode and then seemed like you were happier for winning something than for having what you actually won.

  6. Wow. Thank you for your responses everyone. I see that the video and this post have made it onto a Criterion message board. So I only welcome more feedback.

    @MadHatter and @rrrr6666: The comments don’t offend me. I find them oddly intriguing. I realize that the video is not for everyone. I just wasn’t expecting the reaction to be that intense. Pretty naive of me in retrospect.

    @Eric – Thanks for your comment. Maybe my approach to cinema is oft-putting to the most ardent fans. I don’t know everything and don’t pretend to. I am continually wanting to learn more. These DVDs are a perfect way for me to do so.

    @Anthony Thorne You brought up an interesting point about gender relationships and cinema. What I have noticed from my (albeit brief and limited) experiences working in film is that there is an assumption that because I am female, I don’t know or appreciate film as much as someone else. It’s an unspoken norm. Maybe I’ve read into my experiences too much, but it was something I certainly felt as a Mount Holyoke student taking film classes at Amherst and definitely working on film sets. Because I am female is also why I think people were more willing to jump straight into name-calling. That really only happens to women.

    @Hiding Behind Username – Thank you, and that is a clever username. ;-)

    @Al – First off, thank you for your comment. I certainly realize how naive it was for me to make this video without any preparation. This is why, for instance, I call Criterion “cool DVDs”; it was the best I could come up with on the spot. I did expect some flack and negative feedback. How can you not when you are posting something on a public forum? I just didn’t expect the name calling. However, while I do regret how I come off as not respecting Criterion as much as I do, the value of this gift has never been lost on me. Criterion was an invaluable resource to me as an undergraduate student writing a thesis. Now that I am a broke, recent college grad, the fact that this all retails for more $1000 and is something I could never afford makes me all the more appreciative. You’re right that I was excited about winning and I’m sorry that my remarks in the video that are an instant reaction don’t satisfy everyone. But there is nothing I can do about them now.

    I will also add that people are making too much of what sounds like me casually tossing the DVDs on the table. The video was filmed in an old, echo-ey house. Combined with some lackluster equipment (just a digital camera), the sound is heightened.

  7. I really enjoyed the video. Some of these Criterion fans are extremely snobbish in their view of their cherished collection. I did a video for my series “Laserdisc Memories” where I listed 10 American films that I would like to see The Criterion Collection include in their collection. These films included Wattstaxx, Barry Lyndon, AI, Porn, and Head each with great explanations of why I would like them in the collection. When they got their eyes on it, They called me ignorant, and couldn’t believe that I only put American Films in my list. Then Criterion included “Head” in the collection.

    Most Criterion fans are very cool (a small percentage of them are fans of my show) but a small number of them are the ones that only want Criterion for their own and not want an outsider who “doesn’t know how wonderful a bounty that Criterion had given them”. They just need to take a chill pill.

    Again, great video!

  8. Really impressive that people can be simply so envious.
    You had the luck or talent (I don’t exactly remember the content of the contest) to win such a nice bag of price, and I feel, of course, a bit jealous and envious, but it should only be a nice envious.
    “How lucky you are !”
    and not “How ungrateful you can be ! I should have won and would have been more careful bla bla bla !”

    I live in France so don’t even have access to Criterion sale or contest, but I like to see the imagination of people on Facebook when such contests start.

    I watched your video, find it amusing, but that’s it.

    You were happy, and it clearly is understandable, and there’s nothing wrong
    with making such a light-hearted video to share your joy and happiness.

    Of course, with the Out Of Print gifts of Contempt and The Third Man, it can turns as “she really doesn’t know what she has !”

    But, come on ! Who cares ?

    You were happy. Let’s share it !

    1. Hey, thanks. You know, this happened so long ago now that I don’t even think about it. I was enjoying myself at the time and that’s all. I don’t feel as though I need to defend the vlog anymore. People will act however they choose and I can’t control that. Thanks for reading!

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