Are you annoyed? Good! Then you know how I feel. I’ve had quite a week of petty annoyance and the cause, I am sorry to say, is Buster Keaton.
Now it’s nothing that Keaton himself has done, mind you, and it’s nothing to do with his films. No, it’s a rather irritating branch of his fandom I have dubbed the Keatonistas in order to differentiate them from the normal fans. Regular Keaton fans are just like everyone else (and some of them are super lovely) but Keatonistas…
I noticed almost from the first that unlike almost every other silent comedian, Keaton has a few vocal fans who are just plain mean. To them, all other comedians are awful, especially Charlie Chaplin. In fact, any attention paid to Chaplin is seen as a direct slap in Keaton’s face. Anyone who fails to share their specific level of idolatry is marked for abuse. It came to a head for me a couple of years ago when I was discussing what to do on on the centennial year of Chaplin’s film debut and someone burst in demanding coverage for Buster Keaton.
Since then, I have been engaging in a social experiment. I post either something mildly positive about Chaplin (something like: “In my eyes, Chaplin’s most beautiful film is City Lights”) or a suggestion that liking either comic is just fine. Then I wait. Invariably, a Keatonista bursts in and says something obnoxious or oblivious. I refer to the amount of time it takes for them to do this as “keatonicity”. To maintain my sanity during the experiment, I pushed off reviewing a Keaton film for one week every time a Keatonista was, well, themselves.
As I said, it was one of those weeks.
Me: Chaplin or Keaton? Why choose. Both are good, it’s a matter of taste.
Them: But Keaton is still better.
Me: No, not better. You just like him better. It’s taste.
Them: Waaaaaaaaah! Keaton is better!!!!
Something snapped this week. I got sick of the sheer solipsism by proxy of these people and so I decided to take drastic action. As of today, there is a general embargo on the topic of Buster Keaton on this blog. I’m very sorry to the Buster Keaton fans. As I said before, I know a lot of you are perfectly lovely people who are both chill and open-minded. However, the lunatic fringe makes it impossible for me to cover Keaton’s work. Once again, a very vocal minority has ruined it for everyone.
I have had trouble with the fans of other stars but never to this degree. Rudolph Valentino has a few fan issues but as most of the rude people are interested in his love life rather than his films, the solution was obvious. It was easy to just put a ban on discussing the who, where and why of his romantic partners and this ban quickly extended to discussing the love lives of ALL stars. It eventually became a cornerstone of this site’s review policy and I have been very happy with the results. The Valentino Love Life Brigade has departed! Yippee!
It’s not so easy with Keaton. While there are people who obsess over his divorce from Natalie Talmadge, a lot of the fanaticism is linked directly to his films and performances. I can’t just ban discussions of his divorce and solve the problem. It’s not that I don’t want to cover Keaton, I do! It’s just (strikes dramatic pose) I can’t work under these conditions!
The ban on Keaton will likely not be permanent. I just need some breathing room and this seemed to be the best way to go about it. So, no reviews of his films, no GIFs and you’ll just have to wait for me to taste Keaton’s recipe for chop suey. (Yay?) I should note that I am currently backing a crowd-funded Keaton documentary called To Be Funny and I will continue to assist in spreading the word about it. You should check it out when it’s released, the filmmakers are good peeps.
In the meantime, I am going to focus my comedy resources on Charlie Chaplin, Charley Chase, Harry Langdon and silent Laurel and Hardy. It just seems like the healthier option.
There is a general movement toward balkanization in pop culture. Warring tribes, etc. I don’t like it, I don’t support it and I will not be pulled into it. Throwing a tantrum because someone disagrees with you as to which dead comedian gets objectively more laughs is silly. Stop it.
OMG, I love Buster Keaton! Is she talking about me?
If you are thinking this, almost certainly not. A Keatonista would be like, “Harumph! Well, Keaton IS better!” You are just a fan, a poor fan battered by the cruel winds of fate. Alas and alack! Here, have one more GIF for the road:
Fritzi’s Rule of Silent Film Fandom: A person’s obnoxiousness is generally in direct inverse proportion to their actual knowledge of the subject.