I like MovieBob’s Really That Good series of movie reviews. He drills deep into instant-classic films, such as Ghostbusters, Die Hard, The Avengers, and the first two Spider-Man films, to discover why they connected with audiences upon their original release and why they continue to work so well among contemporary audiences. One of my favorite movie reviews of all time is his Really That Good take on Superman: The Movie. If you want to gain a whole new appreciation for what that film managed to accomplish, watch that review right now. It’s an hour well spent.
Being a fan of his, I was excited to hear his take on The Matrix. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like his other reviews. He seemed extremely uncertain of himself and uncomfortable in reviewing the film, but when he explained his reasons for feeling that way in an acknowledgement near the start, I realized he was making a mistake in his suppositions.
Here’s his acknowledgement:
“Like a lot of other people in my business of film and cultural analysis, a lot of my background in the discourse over such things is grounded in both an academic and lay tradition, which holds that with sufficient research and education anyone should be able to weigh in with some authority on any subject regardless of one’s own background because facts are objective and the academic ideal is a higher plane of knowledge where foundational and experiential information are beside the point. But the objective fact about that outlook, folks, is that it’s bull$#@%. Background matters. Experience matters. Firsthand knowledge counts for a lot, and that means not everyone can become a genuine expert on everything or possess every insight. That’s not how the world works. I can and have informed myself on a lot of things over the years, but that doesn’t mean I can successfully offer every insight about every issue surrounding a film or the discussion thereof… The fact is that I am a cisgender, heterosexual white man, and I simply do not have the perspective necessary to view The Matrix or any other film from a trans lens.”
All of this seems beside the point. It sounds more like a confession or apology than an acknowledgement, but he’s acknowledging things about himself that don’t have anything to do with his ability to judge this film and its impact from his own perspective. That’s what I showed up for; not to get someone else’s point of view, but to get his.
It should go without saying that a reviewer is reviewing something from his own perspective. It’s not necessary to acknowledge biases when they are inherent in the very act of either praising or criticizing a piece of art. They’ll present themselves loud and clear as you hear what the reviewer has to say. It disappointed me to see such an incisive man downplaying his own opinion when he actually has something valuable to say. Don’t worry about what others might think of your opinion because you don’t have the “right” characteristics (not qualifications, mind you) to talk about a certain topic. Just share it, along with your reasons for thinking that way. That’s all I care about. No one expects a reviewer to present every single fact about a film from every possible perspective. That’s not reasonable. What is reasonable is to expect someone to be true to his own conscience and say what he honestly believes.
I don’t listen to a particular reviewer’s take on a film because I expect him to be “a genuine expert on everything or possess every insight” into a film. I listen to him because I want to get his unique take on a film. I want to look at a film in a way I’ve never considered before. I realize that that was part of MovieBob’s trepidation in even approaching The Matrix, as he also notes that just about every aspect of it has already been analyzed to death, and he worried he wouldn’t bring anything new to the table. But I thought he did an admirable job bringing his own thoughts on the familiar subject matter, just as he has done with other great films.
He had several insights into the film that I hadn’t heard before, such as the idea that The Matrix is an allegory for adolescent boys coming into manhood and that it stresses the uplifting message that the protagonist is already doing the right thing, and he just needs to fully believe it in order to triumph. His description of the sequels gave me a new appreciation for what they were trying to do, even if they failed to pull it off. He even mentions that a Matrix reboot is highly expected to be in the works, which could be quite cool if done well. But the review was tainted by his unnecessary acknowledgement about his limitations as a reviewer. He never found it important to say he was uniquely unqualified to speak on any other subject matter in his previous reviews, even if he covered time periods he didn’t witness or addressed uncomfortable topics like 9/11. This just felt so out of place.
I, too, analyzed The Matrix a while back, pointing out that the film’s story follows a chiasmus structure, repeating the first half of the film’s events in reverse order in the second half. I didn’t feel it necessary to prostrate myself before the film’s material or apologize for not delving into every aspect of the film that could be mined. I simply wanted to share something that no one had considered before. Sure, Really That Good aims to showcase a film’s broad impact and relevance to popular culture, but it’s certainly possible to do that from any single reviewer’s perspective.
Don’t apologize for who you are, MovieBob. I enjoy many of your insights into films. Who cares about superficial things like your race or sex? Those are unalterable and irrelevant, so why bring them up at all? I care about what people offer right now, not what they were born as. If someone has something interesting to say, I’ll listen to them.
And if anyone still thinks it’s not okay for someone to comment on something they haven’t personally experienced, I will kindly refer them to this video:
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
The video clip is the copyright of its owner.