?

Log in

No account? Create an account

The Power of Hate

« previous entry | next entry »
Aug. 2nd, 2012 | 09:08 pm

Dan, an actor friend of mine, showed up for an audition—Fiddler on the Roof, at a Las Vegas casino, nice gig if you can get it. He’s handsome, twenty-something, sings like an angel. Walked onto the stage, looked out at the director and the assistant director and the producer sitting in the house, halfway back, opened his mouth and said, “Hello, I’m—”

“Thank you! Next, please!”

He was dumbfounded. He could barely stammer out, “Don’t you want to hear me sing?”

“No! Next!”

Later, he sat in a coffee shop, stunned and hurt that they would take one look at him, not even listen to him sing, and decide he was wrong for the show. Another friend, a stage manager on Fiddler, walked in and saw him. “Hey! Dan! What were you doing there today?”

"Not you, too!” Dan said. “What, I suck so much I can’t even audition?”

“Dude, we’re replacing Bielke. She’s a seven-year-old-girl. Your agent fucked up.”

Sometimes it’s not you.

Haters gonna hate, but they aren’t always hating you. In auditions, an actor can be cast because they’re good—but they can also be cast because they look like the actor already hired to play their sister. Or because they had the same professor as the director, and that led to a five-minute chat about school, and when it came time to sift through the last fifty, they-were-all-pretty-good headshots, that’s who the director remembered.

Sometimes it is you.

I wrote a piece a few months ago about appearing on a popular American reality show. It went viral in a small way, and hundreds of performers saw it here and on Facebook. For many, it confirmed what they already knew. For some, it was a beacon of hope, explaining what had happened to them, when they went on the show and didn’t understand how the audience responded. The New York Post interviewed me, and wrote a small article about the unreality of reality TV (reprinted on About).

And then the hate mail started.


You sound like a bitter wanna-be.

You put yourself in a position to be judged, and you were judged to be bad.

You blew it, don’t blame the show. Whiner.


Make no mistake, when I put my words out there in public, when I state my opinion and invite others to read it, I have hung out the “Open for Criticism!” sign. If you can’t take the heat, don’t state your opinion on the internet. But it still punches my chest like a fist with a knife when I open up the inbox and Surprise! Hate!

It’s worse when I’m on stage. Getting a bad review—and by bad, I mean anything less than five stars and a pullable quote along the lines of “CHANGES THE WORLD OF THEATRE SEE IT NOW MORE FUNNY THAN STILLER MORE MOVING THAN CHURCH”—wrecks my feelings, leaves me sniffling in the corner. And someone who genuinely disliked the show? Those words brand themselves.


“An acting exercise.”

“Standard Fringe fare.”

“I don’t get the fuss.”


One of those quotes is from ten years ago, and yes, it’s still verbatim in my brain.

So what do you do with bad reviews, with hate mail, with Facebook jibes and YouTube thumbs-downs?

You thank your lucky stars.

Wait, what? Thankful for hate?

Damn straight.

Because when people love you, it’s lovely, that pumps up ticket sales and your self-esteem. It’s the cosmic pat-on-the-head, good-girl-here’s-a-treat, glow like a Christmas tree all the way home.  But when people hate you, it’s useful.

It means you’ve poked them with a stick, touched a tender place, stirred up their feelings of protectiveness about something they love. You’ve made them ever so slightly question their worldview. And the faster they lash out and the more mouth-frothy they get about it, the more you’ve hit them where it hurts.

It means you can go back and examine your work and ask, “How did this offend someone who believes thus-and-such, and do I want to offend them again? Or do I want to see if I can reach them and change their mind with a different tactic?”

It means your work was powerful.

You got someone angry.

There are tools to hold your tongue, soothe your own feelings and keep working. I write thank you notes to reviewers—all reviewers. Good reviews get an “I’m so pleased you enjoyed it.” Bad reviews get “Thank you for taking the time to review my show.” Sitting down, writing that note, that makes me a colleague engaged in critical dialogue instead of a pathetic starving artist grubbing for the scrap of a good review. A show at the festival I performed at last week had two quotes on their poster:

***** AMAZING—FANTASTIC!”

and

* OFFENSIVE—HORRIBLY CRASS”.


That speaks to their audience—that tells the people who want to see a controversial show, or a cynical show, or a crass show, that’s what these guys do and they own it.

Works for the Farrelly brothers.

People “like” things that are pleasant. Unchallenging. Easy. Do you want to make work that is pleasant? Easy? Would you like to be Thomas Kinkade or Picasso? When Stravinsky premiered his now-classic ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913 the audience hated the atonal, complex rhythms so much they rioted, ripped up chairs and destroyed the theater. There were fistfights in the aisles between defenders of classical music and those who embraced the new style.

There is a balance to be found—if you have a zillion haters but no-one passionately adores your work enough to throw some punches on your behalf, you may need to recalibrate.

But the next time you get a terrible review or an audience member walks out or someone writes, “Shud b a ‘dislike’ bttn!!!!!!!” be proud. Be thankful you stirred up the haters, mobilized the reactionaries. Be thankful you’re not just “liked”. Because if everyone likes you, you’re probably not very good.



_________________________________________
whipchick's most recent reviews have been two positive and one indifferent. Fucker.

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {22}

Ellakite

My $0.02 USD

from: ellakite
date: Aug. 3rd, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
Link

On the one hand, I remember the joking insult from my childhood:

"What's-his-name is so insignificant that he couldn't get arrested if he tried! "

And there's Oscar's famous bon mot :

"There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

As you say, getting a reaction - *ANY* reaction - shows that people give a damn about you.

On the other hand, when you suffer from social anxiety as bad as mine, those negative comments seem even worse than death. And the way my mind used to work, I sometimes emotionally beat myself up over trivial shit which happened *DECADES* before.

I had already convinced myself I was a failure… so there was no point in my trying to do anything new, other than to add to my misery.

I have had some success in changing my mindset, but it is still a struggle for me. Still, it helps me to know that someone else has experienced that pain and persevered.

Thanks for sharing. And don't let the turkeys get you down.

Edited at 2012-08-04 04:52 am (UTC)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

Re: My $0.02 USD

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 5th, 2012 09:53 pm (UTC)
Link

Totally. And yeah, it stings EVERY TIME. Bad reviews still hurt. People not liking me still hurts. But it's better than everyone thinking I'm "good enough".

Reply | Parent | Thread

Pika the Brazen Ninja

(no subject)

from: porn_this_way
date: Aug. 7th, 2012 08:55 am (UTC)
Link

I LOVE THIS ENTRY SO HARD. (Kind of ironic commentary on a piece espousing the importance of negative feedback, but whutevs :P)

You make a ton of really, REALLY good points here, and there's soooo much food for thought. I've definitely found myself, many times, on the receiving end of feedback that was the complete opposite of what I was going for (got my arse flamed off when I was trying to go for a few harmless laughs, *or* got cheers and applause when I was trying to be an obnoxious little troll and start a flamewar) - and while unexpected praise is definitely easier to take than unexpected vitriol, any strong, unexpected reaction is incredibly valuable as feedback tool. And I think it's easy to forget that, to be so busy breaking out the fire extinguisher (or breaking out some gasoline and a flamethrower of your own) that you overlook the fact that if flamethrowers and fire extinguishers are on the scene at all, it means that whatever you did or said or put out there got the attention of more than a few passing crickets.

You also raise a really good point about examining the ratio of haters to non-haters, and I also think that examining the source of the criticism can play a role as well. I don't mean doing some dumb-ass thing where you're like "Yeah, well, if you think I suck, it's just because you're too stupid to understand my ART", just that getting flamed or boo'ed by a herd of sexually repressed religious fundamentalists telling you you're being offensive and jerky can be excellent praise, whereas getting flamed or boo'ed by people whose opinions you normally respect can be a warning bell of "okay, maybe this piece\performance\etc isn't coming across how I'd intended." But even with that aside, you're totally right - if you're putting stuff out there that isn't boring, or that exposes people to a new perspective or experience, then it's going to inevitably cheese some people off, and you're not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by striving for benign mediocrity.

Oy, tl;dr! Sorry 'bout that. Was sort of processing this post as I typed, I think.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
Link

Thank you - I'm so glad this resonated for you!!

"if flamethrowers and fire extinguishers are on the scene at all, it means that whatever you did or said or put out there got the attention of more than a few passing crickets."

YES. This. Totally.

And you are so right on about considering the source, too.

Reply | Parent | Thread

Myrna

(no subject)

from: myrna_bird
date: Aug. 7th, 2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
Link

Wonderful attitude!

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks :) clinging to it hard helps when hurt!

Reply | Parent | Thread

blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Aug. 8th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)
Link

I love this way to reframe the nastygrams.

I hold all the criticisms in my head, too. On a loop.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
Link

You're not alone in that :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

alycewilson

(no subject)

from: alycewilson
date: Aug. 8th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
Link

Boy, can I identify with this one! I still remember the nasty little swipe someone took at WildViolet.net, criticizing minor things. He clearly didn't get what we were doing. Somehow, all these years later, that sticks out more than all the positives.

My husband likes to say, after he attends the feedback section at Otakon, that if there's about half positive remarks and half negative, we've hit the right balance.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
Link

Love your husband's perspective! That sounds right on.

Why is it that the negatives stick out so much? I try to repeat the positives or write them down to make them stick, too :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

alycewilson

(no subject)

from: alycewilson
date: Aug. 15th, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)
Link

Right now, as I wait for the poll results but am about 99 percent I'm going, I know how you feel about those negatives. I've spent the last two hours thinking about all the positives I got out of this contest. Being introduced to your writing has been one of them. I hope you don't mind my friending you?

Reply | Parent | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 17th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
Link

Wow, thank you! Let the friending commence!! Can't wait to read more from you :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Aug. 9th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
Link

I need to remember this, all the time. Also, each italics is hilarious, btw.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks on both counts! I love doing the little afternotes :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

(no subject)

from: whirlgig
date: Aug. 9th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Link

"Because if everyone likes you, you’re probably not very good." Stephenie Meyer. That's all I'm saying.

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
Link

Bingo.

Reply | Parent | Thread

(Deleted comment)

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
Link

This one refers to an American show I was on, which for the purposes of my entry a few weeks ago, Reality (Straw That Stirs the Drink) I called America's Got Lawsuits :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.

(no subject)

from: n3m3sis42
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
Link

Yeah, I do think being hated can be better than being completely unmemorable. Though I don't think that everything people hate is necessarily good, either. Anyone can provoke a reaction by screaming something controversial, you know?

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Link

Very true - and I think part of our path as artists is to learn when we are being provocative and when we are merely being asshats, as Gary would say :) And there's a difference between "provocative" and "bad", too!

Reply | Parent | Thread

Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Sep. 3rd, 2012 05:22 am (UTC)
Link

*hugs* It's like math -- two negatives make a positive. :)

Reply | Thread

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Sep. 23rd, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks :)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Sep. 24th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
Link

You're welcome. :)

Reply | Parent | Thread