austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I'm on the outside looking inside, what do I see

So the book I'm reading --- actually, that I've finished reading, as it's quite short and not dense --- is about snark, with the thesis that it's toxic and festering in places like the awful comment thread that grows on everything the Internet has. Denby isn't able to exactly define snark. He notes some of its operational properties, such as a nihilistic glee in attacking everything regardless of an objective. (Roger Ebert in a similarly themed essay noted one liveblogger, snarking on the Oscar ceremonies, had declared at the opening that the ceremonies were ``already too gay'', and Ebert reasonably wondered what kind of program the blogger would regard as ``not gay enough''.) it frustrates the essay to not be able to say clearly what snark is, and Denby admits that clever and funny enough snarking becomes wit. If snark is just failed wit then we can easily say it's got to be avoided; who wants to support failed humor? But saying that snark is just the comedy that fails doesn't seem like a useful definition.

But pointing out the corrosive aspects of snark does get at me harder than maybe is appropriate; I do a number of things, particularly writing Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction and commenting on the daily comics, that I do think of as snarking on them. But I don't think that I'm making life worse, really. I do make fun of, for example, Spider-Man's astounding desire to wander back and forth between abandoning Aunt May outside the hospital and Mary Jane in her apartment rather than doing anything about the blackout Electro has set up, but I do have a particular thing I want to see from it: I'll accept Spider-Man, or Mark Trail, or whoever as heroes in their quirky and not-quite-realistic worlds but I want to see them doing the heroic things they're supposed to be respectable for.

Yet it is nagging at me. I'd like to have a stronger answer for what I do than that ``I'm pretty sure I'm being funny'' and that I'll admit ``so help me, I laughed at Ziggy today'' when it does happen.

Trivia: The day after Pons and Fleischmann's 23 March 1989 press conference announcing their discovery of cold fusion Utah Governor Norman Bangerter announced he would call the state legislature into special session to appropriate $5 million for cold fusion research. Source: Sun In A Bottle, Charles Seife.

Currently Reading: Snark: It's Mean, It's Personal, and It's Ruining Our Conversation, David Denby.


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