Flamed by Metafilterians

Yikes:  my earlier post on Abed's epic speech from last week's Community has proven very, very unpopular.  If we lived in a world where electro-thumbs up/thumbs-down justice had any real impact beyond the self-satisfaction of mouse-clicking, I'd be a dead man right now.

One interesting thing about the state of Net discourse these days: the time-honored practice of "flaming" has apparently been displaced to other sites.  In other words, though more people read this particular post in one day than typically read this sleepy little blog in a month, most decided to exercise their hard-fought right to call me a dick elsewhere in cyberland.  And for this I suppose I should be grateful.

The post seems to be particularly unpopular among members of a gated Net community who call themselves the Metafiltered.  A quick trip to the Wiki Gods tells me Metafilter is a long-standing, relatively exclusive, and self-policed community blog where people gather to discuss stuff they find elsewhere online.  They have some excellent flamers over there at Metafilter, so I thought I might reproduce some of their work below to instruct others in the art of electro-spleen venting.  To make this exercise even more instructive, I have taken the liberty of annotating certain key points in these responses. 

Example 1.   "I may just be underthinking this, but I'm pretty sure that most of the author's descriptions of Community fans is really just projecting.

What he's really trying to say is that he loves the show, for all of those reasons, but he hates himself for it because he's a pretentious hipster prick."

Though somewhat overly aggressive, I think this flamer is on to something here.  In short, s/he is at the threshold of recognizing that our perceptions of any and all social groups are, in the final analysis, a "projection."  As Raymond Williams reminds us, there are no masses, only representations of the masses.

As for being a "pretentious hipster prick," I will go the author one better by taking ownership of being an "aging pretentious hipster prick," an even more virulent instantiation of prickdom predisposed to hating all the shitty music, loud movies, and funny hairstyles you kids keep leaving on my digital lawn. 

As for "hating myself for loving the show."  Absolutely.  I thought everyone was familiar with that experience.  
Example 2.  Alright. So sweet mushroom gravy, there's turgid writing, and then there's pop commentary, and then there's like the full text of your mobile phone contract, and then there's metatextual pop commentary by academics posting oversight-free to their blogs.

This flame gets off to a good start before taking a rather chilling turn toward the end.  Through a classic strategy of escalation, the author positions my blog as even more boring than a "mobile phone contract." And let's face it, those are so damn boring that none of us ever take the time to read them, am I right?  But then comes a rather Stalin-esque complaint over academics having the freedom to speak/write without any "oversight."  Gulp.  Just who will be in charge of making sure those involved in blogging, academics or otherwise, are writing "correctly?"  So sweet mushroom gravy, it's not like anyone forced you to read this blog...I beg of you not to notify NBC's branch of the NSA and rat me out.

This particular respondent goes to perform a close reading of the sentence describing Southpark's attack on Family Guy from a few seasons back. 

I think the only more lifeless way to describe that (superlative) South Park scene would be to actually go back in time and shoot Trey and Matt dead. With lead slugs dug out of an ancient grave. While reciting the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Backed by a Grateful Dead medley. On the shores of the Dead Sea.  
I’m not sure of the exact nature of the critique here.  Is the idea that my recounting of the scene in question is not nearly as awesomely hilarious as it actually was on South Park?  If so, guilty as charged, my turgidity can in no way compete with the entertainment value of colorful cardboard cut-outs frolicking to music and sound effects.  That this respondent refers to "Trey and Matt" by their first names is particularly poignant, I think, in that it speaks so directly to my point about the "false familiarity" encouraged by social media in relation to cultural producers.  

Example 3.  I have to admit, the next "flame" broke my heart a little. 

Oh my god, did I just flashback to my semiotics in cinema class? Congratulations Jeffrey Sconce, you have bored me to tears in your self absorbed "essay" about a clever self aware TV show.

This hurts, you see, because I often do teach semiotics in a cinema class.  That's actually my job.  And here we have proof of what everyone in higher education dreads--no sooner are students out the door than they've hit the purge button.  All that shit I just learned...useless!  Making it even more cruel, s/he uses the semiotic of the "scare quote" to question whether my essay is in fact an essay at all, making it feel abandoned, insignificant, and forlorn.   I do appreciate, however, the courtesy of using my name.  Most responders simply referred to me as "that guy," "this guy," or, as we saw above, the "pretentious hipster prick."  

We continue: 

Maybe you need to get a life. One that does not involve parsing a COMMUNITY episode as if it were the lost testament of Judas. 

There could be a good discussion about how Community has bent the rules of sitcoms over the last few years, but this isn't it.

Here I must strongly disagree: I think it much, much more important to debate the form, aesthetics, and implications of Community than it is to analyze the lost testament of Judas, which I must confess I have never heard of, but based on this description appears to be “lost” and thus unavailable for analysis anyway. 

To reiterate:  I actually like Community, I really really do.  I just think it occasionally has a "tone" to it that can be a bit "precious," and that can be irritating.  I think the characters and character-relations are actually strong enough to sustain themselves without all the cutesy movie templates.  And finally, I still think Abed's speech is a singularly magnificent statement about the oddly over-personalized fantasy life so many now have with television programs and the television industry.  Okay, maybe the show isn't attacking its own fans (who are all so super smart, after all, and don't deserve such mistreatment)---rather it's a statement about just how impoverished real social relations and "communities" have become when so many are so intensely invested in TV shows and the lives of those who make TV shows.  

Does the rest of the cast like Chevy Chase?  Jesus, it's like being back in high school, a high school populated by those you don't know, have never known, and will never know.  Who cares? 

Okay, I'm done.  And I promise if I ever write about this show again, or indeed anything on NBC Thursday night, I will do so in very short sentences, or perhaps with a series of animated grunts and gesticulations. 

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