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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

if you want to keep the level of film conversation online up at high level, you need to support me

It’s not me saying it. It’s reader and subscriber Rob “Jurgan” Dukes, who recently increased his monthly subscription from $5 to $10. He gave me permission to post the following, which he says refers to me “in third person because I plan to post it on my blog.”

I was stunned last year when Roger Ebert died, not a day after describing all of the great plans he had for the future. I’d been reading Ebert since about 2000, and he gave me a lot of new understanding about movies, helping me reconsider some of my favorites and pointing me to a number of greats I’d never heard of. He had a combination of passion for film and knowledge about film that made him an institution, but I think a lot of people forget he didn’t start that way. When he got started in the 60’s, he was a critic for one paper at a time when most cities had their own paid critics. Granted, most people would only read their local paper’s critic, so the diversity of voices didn’t reach the average moviegoer, but paid critics had the time to become experts. Now, thanks to the internet, we have more choices than ever, many of whom are very passionate but few of whom have the knowledge to really engage readers with in-depth analysis. A skilled critic can bring insight to readers, but it can’t be a part-time job.

If there’s going to be another flowering of debate on today’s art, it will have to come from the internet. Old print media has given up on individual voices in favor of cheaper syndication; ironically, Ebert’s success helped kill the vibrant intellectual scene he started in. We have the potential to create a true public forum far better than what there was in the past. Not only are there no gatekeepers to limit diversity (let’s face it, most of those past critics were white guys), but the ability to publish online means we can engage in debates with people all over the world. And it’s great that anyone can register a blog and publish opinions, but we need some experts to keep the level of debate high. As I said, the level of passion is higher than ever, but without some knowledgeable critics to inform the debate, it’s just a bunch of people shouting shallow opinions at each other. That’s why I support MaryAnn Johanson, and I encourage anyone else to do the same. She is able to get to the core of movies and see what makes them tick. I owe her for helping me understand what feminism is through observing how women are treated in movies. Unlike many other feminist review blogs, though, feminism is not a simple pass/fail test: she evaluates the whole movie and whether it works, rather than simply focusing on a couple aspects and ignoring the rest. She has a very clear persona and likes and dislikes, and doesn’t hide them, but she always gives every movie a fair chance. It’s fun to watch her rip into bad, hateful movies, but it’s just as fun to see her surprised by an unexpected gem. I may not always agree with her (I still can’t understand how anyone could dislike Avatar: The Last Airbender), but the community that has grown in the comments section is a great forum for discussion, and she’s always happy to debate with readers. I want to see this community thrive for years to come, and I want to prove to the world that we value independent, intelligent debate around art.

Another man — joining Bluejay — who says I’ve helped him understand feminism!

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If you’re an existing subscriber and you’d like to increase the amount of your subscription, drop me an email and I’ll help you out. (It’s a little tricky because as far as Tinypass is concerned, you’re already a subscriber, so it won’t let you start a new subscription.)

But I’d really rather have a thousand people paying me five bucks per month than one person paying me five thousands bucks per month. Not that I want to discourage that one person — I won’t turn you away — but it’s better in the long run to have wider support.

Thank you.

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