So we had a rumble yesterday in Classic Movie Land but one of the good things to come out of it was a discussion on spoilers and trolls, two of the most controversial aspects of blogging.
Soylent Green is people
In the case of yesterday’s trollishness, a commenter objected to a writer mentioning minor plot points in his review of a thirty-year-old film. The plot points were minor and occurred early in the film and so that raises a question of what constitutes a spoiler and how old a work of art can be before it is considered fair game.
On this site, my policy is to mark plot points with a spoiler warning if they occur half to two-thirds of the way into the picture and I try to always mark information about a film’s ending with a huge SPOILER. It really varies from film to film. I consider it a courtesy as I review some rather obscure works but I think our culture is a bit too sensitive about spoilers in general. Most movies follow the same basic formula in both the silent era and modern times. Maybe one film in two-hundred will be ruined by knowing the ending. However, I realize that a lot of people hate spoilers and so I try to be accommodating.
That being said, a lot of films are so familiar to the average viewer that the idea of spoilers is moot. We all know that Rick doesn’t get the girl in Casablanca, though he does find a beautiful friendship. We all know that the planet populated by apes is really Earth of the future. We all know Ben-Hur wins that darn chariot race.
In the case of yesterday’s kerfuffle, someone objected to very minor plot points being discussed. I have to agree with the general consensus on this. If you don’t want to know anything about a film’s plot, don’t read a review until after you have seen it.
Oh, and Rhett leaves Scarlett at the end.
Troll, troll, troll your boat…
As far as trolls are concerned, I have had relatively few issues. I’ve had to slap on a few bans in my day but most commenters have been perfectly lovely and I am grateful for that.
You always remember your first major troll attack and I definitely found mine to be memorable. I was answering a reader’s question about the decline in John Gilbert’s career (his voice was fine but there were a lot of factors in play) when someone I will call Amaryllis burst in and started a rant about Louis B. Mayer. Now the two men hated one another but, as I said before, the whole thing is complicated. Further, the infamous “brawl in the bathroom” that was supposed to trigger Gilbert’s downfall has been thoroughly debunked and dismissed by biographers and historians.
Amaryllis would not accept this and went on a long-winded rant, which covered Judy Garland, my obvious agenda (because I am clearly somehow in the employ of the Mayer clan) and concluded with her lecturing me for changing the subject by bringing up Mayer at all. (I had not mentioned Mayer by name in my initial response, merely touched on studio politics. It was Amaryllis who obsessively discussed him.)
Amaryllis made the blacklist, needless to say, and all her comments were scrubbed because that’s how I roll. I’ve had some trolls since but I have to say that she is the gold standard for tantrums in these parts. Nowadays, I likely would have banned her after her first outburst but I was nicer back then.
But what’s the difference between someone disagreeing with a post and a troll? If there was an easy answer to that, I would be the queen of the internet. But here are some basic elements of a troll comment, at least in my opinion:
- The comment attacks the blog owner, author or another commenter personally.
- The commenter ignores social norms and automatically takes a combative position.
- The commenter is more interested in a fight than a discussion.
The problem is that many of these issues may not be actual malice. Perhaps the commenter does not speak English as their first language and does not know certain softening phrases. Perhaps they simply came off as more abrasive than they intended. It’s hard to tell and so blog owners and comment moderators have to rely on their experience and judgement.
I firmly believe that trolls should be deleted and banned on sight. Most small-time bloggers create content in their spare time as a labor of love. There’s no reason in the world to put up with rudeness and meanness. However, this can be easier said than done. (If you are blogging with WordPress, simply got to Settings > Discussion and then scroll down to comment blacklist. You can blacklist by name, IP or email address.)
As I said before, I really don’t get that many trolls. Generally, angry emails or comments are limited to “How dare you say that (NAME OF PERFORMER) wasn’t the biggest star ever?!!?!” I think that’s pretty standard fare for a film blog. It’s the internet. People get angry when other people don’t have the exact same taste but I wouldn’t call them trolls.
On social media, I tend to have an itchier trigger finger. I usually mute these days but had to all-out block an overzealous role-player who was camping out in my feed. I should note that role-playing accounts aren’t really my thing but folks have fun with them and good for them. I even play along sometimes. However, it’s very bad form to try to force someone to role-play with you. It doesn’t make you fun, it makes you Trelane, the Squire of Gothos. (If you’ve never run into one of these accounts, basically, the person is pretending to be a celebrity, politician, animal, etc.)
As you can see, there are no easy answers. However, this is my basic rule of thumb:
Does this person make blogging or social media less pleasant for you? If the answer is yes, consider muting, blocking or banning.
I follow this rule and have found cyberspace to be much more pleasant as a result.