One of the things I love about some kinds of entertainment is that they are shared experiences. Seeing a movie in a theater is an experience that is shared with others in the audience; and with whomever they are texting. Live events are experiences shared by the performers as well. I imagine sports fans feel the same way about watching sports. And I don’t think it’s about wanting to see the crash in a car race or the fight in a hockey game. It’s more than that.
I blogged a few days ago about watching NBC’s broadcast of The Sound of Music – Live! (Give The Girl A Break). Ms. Underwood’s acting could have been better, O.K., a lot better, but, on the whole, I liked the program and I hope to see more such programs. What Underwood lacks as an actor is offset, at least to a degree, by what she brought to the project; a beautiful singing voice, a charming personality, and a huge fan base that NBC and their advertisers hoped would tune in to watch. She delivered on all three.
I didn’t expect to think much more about TSoM. Neither the DVD, nor the cast recording are on my Christmas list and I don’t plan on making it a holiday tradition in Casa de Harper. But then I got a crash course in the darker side of a shared experience in the age of social media.
I spend almost no time reading Twitter but I understand there was a lot of verbal carnage as people tried to one-up each other, in 140 characters or less, about how much they hated TSoM in general and Underwood in particular. I am not sorry I missed it. Inadvertently, I came across a pretty good proxy for the Twitter experience in the blogosphere. A Facebook friend shared a link to a blog post he’d read that expressed, more articulately, some of the same ideas I had. ‘Dial down the glee with which we are dumping on this’. It was not a blog with which I was familiar but I read the post. I liked it and I commented to that effect. Then I made the fateful choice to click on the little button that says “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” Oh my!
Last time I looked there had been 211 comments; about 20% of them anonymous. Some, the earlier ones, were ‘on topic’. Some agreed. Some disagreed. But the trend was relevant and the tone was respectful. As the comment stream grew, however, the tone got a little uglier. By end of the third day it was starting to read like The Lord of The Flies. When did it become impossible have a civil difference of opinion? Does disagreement by anyone about anything automatically indicate some defect in their character?
- Criticism = hate. Anyone with a different opinion is a “hater”
- Nobody watches PBS except a few elitist snobs
- Anyone who liked Underwood did so only because they support her politics
- An African-American should not have been cast as the Mother Abbess
- People who suggest Underwood was anything less than perfect in every way:
- are nasty
- are sick
- are twisted
- are irrational haters
- are evil
- are elitist
- are ignorant
- are theater snobs
- are biased
- are mean-spirited
- are jealous
- are artsy-fartsy insignificants who relish the opportunity to add their two cents
- did so because they have a personal agenda
- did so because of her politics
- did so because of her love of GOD
O.K., that “artsy-fartsy’ one hit a little close to home but I really have only one editorial comment. To those who felt that casting Underwood was about the network and sponsors wanting to make money….;
Well duh! Of course it was. When did that become evil? Dustin Hoffman once said; “There is a reason why it’s called ‘show business’ and not ‘show art'”.
That said, it is nicer for the audience when it is done well.
The best comment of all in a dialog about theater came from the woman of the hour herself;
“Mean people need Jesus“.
Well, O.K. then. Case closed.