The Soapbox: The Difference Between Film Critics and Bullies

The Soapbox: The Difference Between Film Critics and Bullies

Jun 25, 2013

The Soapbox is a new column by the wildly opinionated (and frequently pushy) Scott Weinberg, film critic and columnist for FEARnet, Twitch, Geek Nation and others. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its owners. Hit Scott up on Twitter: @moviesdotcom & @scottEweinberg.

If you follow my Twitter feed then you know I'm a powerfully opinionated guy. I rant and rave and ramble sometimes, and I can be pretty tough, but I like to think I also have a heart... and that's why I'm writing this now. Because Rex Reed has repeatedly proven himself to be an affront to the profession of film criticism, and since I happen to love this odd vocation, I thought it was time to speak up.

It is not a film critic's job, role, or responsibility to attack an actor's physical appearance.

I may repeat that theory at the end of this diatribe just in case Rex Reed happens to be reading. I believe that most adults know it already. Writing about film doesn't give you a free license to become a snide bully. Don't like a movie? Trash it. Got something really ugly to say about an Oscar-nominated actress who suddenly has tons of movie work because she's really funny? Just shut the hell up.

This all stems from Rex Reed's non-review of Identity Thief, in which he calls leading lady Melissa McCarthy an obese hippo, among other things. Right off the bat we're dealing with amateur-hour traffic bait; I've managed several movie sites and I'd never hire someone who wrote this piece of crap. You want to savagely trash a movie? Fine. I love a good thrashing. But don't get personal. If you have a problem with the way in which a slapstick farce uses an overweight actress for terrible physical comedy, then just say that. That's what a film critic does. S/he doesn't make petulant little schoolyard comments about someone's big ass.

Ah, but Rex Reed wasn't finished. Ms. McCarthy has another movie coming out soon, which gives Reed another chance to grab some attention: "As a critic whose opinions are constitutionally protected by law, I stand by all of my original remarks about Melissa McCarthy's obesity, which I consider about as amusing as cancer, and apologize for nothing," he said in an e-mail to Us Weekly.

Nice, eh? This is a "film critic," a patron of the arts, an advocate for the beauty and importance of cinema. Well, Mr. Reed, my words are also protected by Constitutional law, and I say this: you're no colleague of mine. You're a bully. You've made a career out of being a humorless snot, and this whole Melissa McCarthy thing is probably the last time you'll ever be relevant in a conversation. And here's the twisted part: I think I see what Rex Reed's original point was! I also find it troublesome that "fatty fall down" jokes are so damn prevalent these days. I would agree that Hollywood needs to find better material for "plus-size" actors like Melissa McCarthy, but there's a way to make that point without being a classless jerk. A legitimate film critic would know this.

A film critic's role is to serve cinema, to support movie fans, to champion flicks they adore, and to respect filmmakers. (You know, the people who make the stuff we write about.) Pauline Kael was a film critic. Roger Ebert was a film critic. Rex Reed is a gossip columnist with delusions of insight, and on behalf of all my colleagues, I'd like to ask this professional troll to give up on movies and find a job he enjoys. I hear TMZ is hiring.

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