You’re Right. You Don’t Have To Talk About Captain America. So Go Away.

People feel strongly about things. Often that thing is a piece of art or writing. Sometimes that thing makes them very angry. The most recent iteration of this is the Captain America double agent controversy. I’ve read a lot about both sides of the argument. I didn’t read the comic, but I absolutely love how passionately people are debating. I love that people are engaging critically with a medium I love.

But some people just want everyone to shut up and read comics. They keep popping up in these arguments, loud and angry, demanding only silence.

It’s a weird position. I’ve spent countless hours passionately debating with friends, both online and over various card tables and bonfires. These discussions are valuable and can lead to improvements in the art or creative endeavors as a whole. I know they’ve made me a more conscious reader and a better writer.

Of course there are people who get mean and even make threats. These people are the worst. I hope they get gum in their hair.

But the shut-up-and-just-read commenters confuse me. They don’t want to talk about the thing at all. They are very angry that anyone is talking about the thing. They want everyone to know that there are worse things, serious things, or better things to talk about. Alternatively, they want all conversation to stop on the thing because they themselves have no attachment to it.

I don’t know why they do this, though I can speculate. I’m sure some of them do it because they love the source material and seeing it criticized causes them distress. Maybe they really DO think we should only talk about The Most Serious Issues all the time, though that seems unlikely. We all have our passions and we all talk about them, regardless of how ‘important’ they are.

This person is not the worst, but they add nothing to the conversation. They only want derail it. A few times I’ve pressed them on what topic, exactly, we should be discussing, but they usually don’t know. Just anything else. Something important.

In fact one commenter on a friend’s post shot back at me, “It would be pointless specifying because clearly there are bigger problems.”

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I mean, I’m not against nihilism as a point of view, but at some point we need to talk about something just to pass the time.

Other people pointed out that the ‘important’ things often bleed into and from the ‘unimportant’ things. Art and culture are not disconnected. These things feed and measure each other. He didn’t buy that. It was just a stupid comic.

Even if it is a stupid comic, (or whatever it is), the fact is that human beings are capable of thinking of and worrying about at least several things at once. I can worry about hunger and poverty and also dislike a recent comic issue. I don’t think we have to silently accept whatever is made for us.

I’m not going to recommend that you avoid engaging with these people. In fact, I think you should. These folks often come from echo chambers where their caring (or not caring) has been reinforced again and again until it is almost impossible for them to consider an angle or issue that differs from their own emotional allegiance. It’s really important, (and probably good for them), to know that not everyone agrees with them.

And if you don’t want criticism on your work, keep it to yourself. I don’t mean this as mean. It’s completely fine to make things for yourself and your friends, but once you present it to an audience that audience has the right to communicate amongst themselves about it. They may be angry! They may not like it! That’s part of making art and always has been.

If you don’t think that’s true, remember that Michelangelo once accused da Vinci of being “unable to cast a statue in bronze, [and] forced to give up the attempt in shame.” He also called him a crappy teacher.

The shade of it.

Try not to get angry at the only-read-no-talkers. They’re trying to derail a conversation you care about, which is rude, and their lack of empathy can be hurtful. Try to engage with them and move on.

I might suggest this short script if you just want to move past them:

“I agree that [Whatever] is an important issue, but we want to talk about [This Thing] right now.”

It might not work, but it gives your group permission to keep talking about the thing you care about. Which is good. Keep doing that!

And if you want to yell at people to stop caring about something, don’t. It’s fine to decide something is not worth your time. It’s not okay to tell everyone else what to do with their time. “We shouldn’t be talking about this” isn’t a valid argument ever, unless you’re one of three people on a sinking ship with a loose tiger and someone brings up Picard vs. Kirk.

Barring that, go work on the thing you care about! I promise it’s a better use of everyone’s time.

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