An Office smackdown

Two traits of public discourse I’d like to stamp out in my lifetime:

1. Trying to get ahead of the cynicism curve. If possible, these guys would go back to Season 5 of Saturday Night Live and declare that it’s jumped the shark. They’d confuse a lot of people, since “jump the shark” had not yet entered everyday conversation in 1980, but that would only add to their feeling of superiority.

2. Dittoheads on blogs who just reinforce the blogger’s arrogant worldview.

That’s why I find the commenters’ mass revolt against the TVSquad guy who keeps dissing The Office so rewarding. It’s not just hostility — it’s a point-by-point dismantling of every point the guy even thought about making.

Between that and the first 15 minutes of Friday Night Lights, I feel better about the world at the moment.

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3 Responses to An Office smackdown

  1. jayblack says:

    As the writer of the particular review that you’re referring to, I have to agree: I got smacked down pretty hard. That being said, I think you’re being a little simplistic by reducing the entire 1700 words of the review into me “trying to get ahead of the cynicism curve.”

    The entire point of the post was that I was afraid that The Office was drifting a little too far into the area of broad comedy. I said that while I found it funny, I was worried that it was losing what made it so special through its first three seasons. What I was hoping to do was open the subject to discussion.

    Some of the people did discuss it; most of the people did what they normally do on the internet (call me a douche, say I should be fired, etc).

    So, while I agree with you that many of the points I made were very debatable, you praised, I think, the worst current trait of public discourse: the use of anonymity on the internet to turn any kind of debate into a flame war.

    Thanks for reading this and if you’d like to continue the conversation further, please email me at: jayblack@jayblackcomedy.com

  2. Neel Mehta says:

    An invitation to a private fight! Let me know what happens.

    Actually, I just wanted to applaud both of you for your non-anonymity. I know some people have legit reasons for an alias, but I wish more of us had such courage.

    With the element of personal attribution, I’m sure the vitriol of online discussions would shrink to nothing. Or, in the alternative, more people would get their asses kicked for what they thought they could get away with saying.

    I’m fine with either result.

  3. bdure says:

    I’ll respond publicly first, then tell you a bit more privately.

    What’s funny in reading your response is that I have, in so many other contexts, made the same point you’re making. I see plenty of obnoxious anonymous posts in my day job, and I’ve done some academic study along these lines.

    I wasn’t thinking in those terms when I wrote this post, because the following thoughts from my personal experience were taking priority:

    1. TVSquad’s comments have never struck me as particularly obnoxious, compared to other public forums I’ve seen. I’m not defending the “douche” comments here, just saying I’ve seen worse, and so it didn’t stand out to me. And as I said in the post, I was impressed with their counterarguments, not their insults.

    2. I’ve had a couple of experiences in which I’ve tried to be the voice of reason among a howling mob stirred up by a blogger. It hasn’t gone well. Bloggers-vs.-commenters is more of a fair discussion, particularly at a relatively restrained site such as TVSquad, than blogger-and-brainwashed-mass vs. lone-voice-of-reason.

    3. I’m surrounded by cynics and culture snobs. You know the type — they think all shows should wrap up after 12 episodes like the Britcoms do (ignoring the fact that great shows like Seinfeld needed three seasons just to hit their stride), they always think the current of era of Saturday Night Live can’t compare to the previous, they think any band that ever had a platinum album is a sellout, etc.

    So perhaps my perception of what you wrote is tainted by overexposure to culture snobs. And that might be a little unfair.

    I’d still disagree with your point on broad comedy. The show has always had this in small doses. The first commenter pointed to an early episode in which Michael burns his foot on a George Foreman grill. I’ve got the basketball episode burned in my head for some reason, and that’s very much along the same lines.

    So I’ll agree to disagree on some specific points. But your general point here — that anonymous flame-throwing is a nasty trend in Web discourse — is absolutely valid. Thanks for bringing it up here, and if I ever post on one of your reviews in the future, please do stop by again. My small band of readers is well-behaved.

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