Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The More Popular You Are

The more people hate you

This isn’t always true, but certainly it often is. Somehow, a person or even a genre becomes successful by entertaining millions of fans, but the result is a backlash of seemingly-unjustified derision by many of those same fans. Or perhaps just a few loud ones. It’s hard to tell.

Case in point: actors like Keanu Reeves and Will Smith. Neither of them has, to my knowledge, performed any crazy hopping-on-a-couch antics on TV, a la Tom Cruise, and both have made lots of hit movies. They’re both financial and popular successes, even if Keanu hasn’t necessarily had a big hit lately. Yet around the net you can find plenty of people who deride his movies and his acting. Hell, type the phrase “hate Keanu Reeves” into Google and you’ll get nearly 3.7 million hits. Will Smith (who, I admit, I didn’t know was a crazy Scientologist until doing research for this article) yields 31.3 million, presumably making him about ten-times more hated than Keanu.

But how does this occur? Logically, if lots of people see an actor’s movies, consistently, it isn’t just that their appreciation for the script and the production values happens to coincide with the actor’s presence in the movie. People seek out Will Smith movies to see because he’s a decent actor or something, right? So if he’s successful as an actor and celebrity, which requires that people like him, you’d have to conclude that, generally, people like him. So isn’t all that hate then illogical? I mean, Speed and Point Break weren’t the greatest movies ever and didn’t necessarily require an actor of unparalleled depth and breadth of thespian skill, but The Matrix is one of the all-time great movies, right? It’s #25 on IMDB’s top-250 list. Granted, neither of these guys is anywhere on the American Film Institute’s “best of” lists, but they’ve done a pretty good job packing some movie theatres with a popcorn-gobbling public regardless. It just doesn’t make sense that “I like you” translates so easily into “I hate you.”

Here’s another example – the entire genre of Science Fiction. People who like science fiction are geeks, and “reg’lar folk don’t cotton to it t’all.” (That’s my impression of an accent from “America’s Heartland,” wherever the hell that is). For reference, see the failure of practically every sci-fi show to try to make a serious go at it on television in the last… ever. The exceptions seem to do more to prove the rule than anything. Yet people flock to Star Wars movies by the millions. Every kid of the 70s and early 80s had Star Wars toys. All the boys, anyway. But it’s “uncool” to like Star Wars. You’re a nerd if you like Star Wars. Well, either nerds and geeks aren’t really the severe minority, or a lot of supposedly non-geeks likes ‘em some Vader-lovin’, because literally billions of people must have seen some or all of those movies by now. The original actually is #13 on AFI’s top-100 movies of all time. 2001: A Space Odyssey is #15. E.T. is 24. The Lord of the Rings and Blade Runner are on there, too. If these movies are just for geeks, who the hell is making them so popular? Why are the people who admit to liking them derided (or, sometimes, beaten by jocks) if there can’t possibly be enough of them to explain the level of success?

Well, screw it. I like Star Wars and Blade Runner. I like Keanu Reeves, especially in The Matrix (the first one, not the crappy second or third ones). I like Will Smith even if it turns out that he’s a crazy Thetan-cleansing Xenuphobe like Tom Cruise. Who also makes great movies even if he’s nutso, too. If those two ever make a movie together I hope it’s sci-fi and it’s as good as I, Robot and The Minority Report combined. That would rock. And people would claim to hate it. But I think they’re full of crap.

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