I got stupider in 2017. My stupidity manifests itself in different ways. Sometimes it’s difficulty in processing instructions. Sometimes it’s mangling words. Sometimes it’s this blog. (See “My Therapy Toaster,” September 21.)
For a while, I attributed my new stupidity to my cell phone, its incessant pings and distractions keeping my mind from being still long enough to think creatively or at least remember what I walked into the kitchen for.
But I’ve had a cell phone for a few years, and I never felt especially stupid before now. Oh, I’ve always been stupid but clever enough to get away with it. Now, I feel my stupidity is out there in the open. (See “Giant Louise Penny,” September 14.)
Then I went to see The Last Jedi, the latest instalment in the Star Wars franchise, and it all became clear.
Without giving away spoilers, I liked the film. It took the series in a new direction and undermined certain assumptions about the Star Wars universe. It certainly had its faults, but I was entertained and had popcorn as a meal, which is about all you can ask of an evening out. The biggest flaw I saw was my purchase of a large root beer without considering the absence of a pause button.
Having avoided all reviews and comments prior to the screening, I now took a look. The critics loved The Last Jedi. Fans, however, hated it. Not just “didn’t care for it”or “were disappointed.” HATED it! They hated the movie, hated Disney, hated its “agenda,” hated the new characters, hated what they did to the old characters, hated the director, hated the director’s mother, hated the director’s dog.
On the critics’ side, multiple think pieces defended the film, in some cases clinging to rationalization like the last life preserver on a sinking ship.
But it was the haters who intrigued me, and I found myself drawn to the battlefields of Twitter and its free-flowing rage. Overwrought these fans were. Ye-e-essss! They let the hate flow through them!
To paraphrase these tweets: “The Last Jedi has betrayed my deeply held beliefs in a fictional universe built around a 40-year-old action film!! #hatethelastjedi”
“I hated this movie so much. I hated it even more the second and third time I saw it to make sure I really hated it, which I did. I want my money back, so I can afford to see it a fourth time and hate it even more!”
“I demand that my art conform to all my preconceived notions and never, ever challenge me in any way!!! #deathtothelastjedi”
I’ve strongly disliked movies before (looking at you Forrest Gump) but I’ve never petitioned one to be entirely reshot. I was fascinated by the force (ha!) of anger about something so inconsequential. You’d think these people were Habs fans.
Then I realized that not only was I wasting time reading these angry comments but something more: I recognized that anger.
For the past year, I’ve been feverishly scrolling through my Twitter feed to discover the latest horrible, spiteful, self-serving political misdeeds in the United States, a country I don’t even live in.
I shared and posted tweets. About Alabama. Alabama! I did this because I needed to express my anger, anger that the jerks were winning. I wanted — needed! — that anger reinforced by others feeling the same way.
In other words, for the past year I’ve been like an outraged Star Wars fan, lapping up the snark and sarcasm, wallowing in all that bitterness, ineffectively directing my futile rage, angry that things weren’t going exactly the way I wanted. It wasn’t that spending too much time hating Donald Trump on Twitter was making me stupid. It was the hate itself. All that negative energy echoing back at me was replacing reason, creativity and, in some cases, basic coherence.
I’ve stayed off Twitter for nearly a week now and have limited most of my other social media. I feel smarter already, this post notwithstanding.
This is not to say that, whatever your county, you shouldn’t be paying attention or getting angry at those determined to tear us apart or satirizing them within an inch of their lives. We, after all, are the resistance. But to succeed, we need to be smarter than they are, and we stay smart through creativity and hope. Anger only leads to the dark side.
That’s something else I learned that from Star Wars.
Happy 2018, everyone. May the brain force be with us.