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My Thoughts on Those Reader Comments

August 28, 2015

If you’re in the screenwriting know, you know which particular set of reader comments I’m referring to.  It’s this set:

“It’s great to see a group of four women friends take on the sophistication level of THE HANGOVER. Seriously, the gals here drink a bunch and have a lot of fun, but there is not nearly enough density to carry the piece. There is a big secret that has spoiled the friendship between two of the gals, and it turns out that the slutty one slept with the fiancee of the one who is getting divorced. Wow, quite the reveal.
The prose maintains a brisk pace, though often at the expense of any great detail. It is conversational in tone, and we instantly understand who these people are and what we are dealing with, not that that is saying alot. The vocabulary utilized is not particuarly stylish – rather, it can best be described as casually utilitarian.
There is some fun banter, especially at the outset of the story. The four freinds are distinct, and they emerge as real people over the course of the screenplay. That said, there is not a helluva lot of insight into la condition humane here – people get jealous when their mates are unfaithful. Got it.
When it is drunk, which is often, this script might believe that it compares with BRIDESMAIDS, but in the sober light of day, this is much more simplistic. The drunken conversations in the college bars go on for days, with no plot advancement taking place.
With some judicious alterations, it might make a decent porn picture, as the gals do seem kinda hot, at least on the page.”

Most people’s reactions jump to the final line of comments, but I’m going to skip over that for now because a) it’s been beaten like a dead horse and b) I have some other thoughts I’d like to address.

Some people also focus on the use of the phrase “the slutty one.”  I don’t feel like I could possibly have issue with that, as I don’t know if the character was originally written as “the slutty one” in the script.

The issue I have is with the sarcasm.  I can’t understand for the life of me why a reader would utilize sarcasm in their feedback/comments/notes.  It would seem to indicate to me that if you’re using sarcasm even within this realm that there’s no realm of life in which you do NOT use sarcasm.  To me, that’s worrisome.  It raises questions in my mind about the reader.  Major questions.

But, beyond that… anyone that’s attempted to utilize sarcasm in typed form (such as on the internet or in comments like these) has probably figured out that sarcasm can be lost in translation.  The intent can be confused, as tone, inflection and verbal cues are unavailable.  Now, given that knowledge, it seems like a horrible choice to use sarcasm in reader comments (which are supposed to HELP the writer).

It seems apparent to me (and others) that “Wow, quite the reveal” is sarcastic.  I can’t help but wonder why the reader couldn’t say, “I found the reveal predictable or cliche.”  Instead, they seemed to feel the need to mock the writer.  (That’s what sarcasm does, by the way, it mocks people.)

Such as when the reader says “not that that is saying a lot” referring to understanding the people and circumstances.

Later, the reader says:

“That said, there is not a helluva lot of insight into la condition humane here – people get jealous when their mates are unfaithful. Got it.”

This reads to me like an insecure person who wants to appear smart by inserting a French phrase into their reader comments.  Got it?

Of course, the whole use of sarcasm within the comments reads similarly.  The only reason I can think of for someone to use sarcasm in their comments is to sound clever.  Of course, this isn’t the time or place.  Comments are supposed to be helpful to the writer; they are not intended to boost the reader’s ego.  It seems to me the reader doesn’t understand this.  Furthermore, I’m not even sure if the reader understands what they’re doing a la condition humaine (see what I did there?  I even spelled it correctly, unlike the reader).

I initially read these comments two days ago, and since gave myself time to process them.  As I re-read them again, I’m a little bit floored upon reading:

“When it is drunk, which is often, this script might believe that it compares with BRIDESMAIDS, but in the sober light of day, this is much more simplistic.”

I can understand how someone doesn’t take much umbrage with that line.  In that case, I’ll offer my own analysis, of the reader, in a similar vein:

‘When the reader is drunk, which is often, the reader might believe their comments compare with the best French critics, but in the sober light of day, the reader is much more simplistic.’

Whether you want to hide behind sarcasm or supposed wit, the truth of the matter is the approach is more interested in taking jabs than anything else.

But, here’s the thing, when you mix sarcasm and non-sarcasm in written form, it can, at times, be hard to tell the difference.  In other words, you create a set of comments that is unclear, when clarity should be the main goal.

Let’s return to the opening statement:

“It’s great to see a group of four women friends take on the sophistication level of THE HANGOVER.”

I think the reader has properly assessed what the writer is aiming for, as in the “sophistication level of THE HANGOVER.”  But, in the process I assume the reader is using the word “great” sarcastically.  It’s hard to be fully sure, just reading the line by itself, because if that’s the only line you’ve read the commenter could very well think it is great (after all, the Hangover did awesome financially, and became a franchise.)  But, I think the “seriously” starting the next line and other clues throughout the comments belie the sarcasm.  So, if you’re saying that sarcastically, what are you really saying?

You think it’s bad that the writer’s written a raunchy comedy?  Then, why are you reading it?  Why didn’t you give this back to Nicholl ASAP, and say, “sorry, this isn’t my style.”  But, it IS your style, if your comments are any indication.  So, I’m lost.

But, you know that little investigation I had to go through with your use of the word “great”?  When you inter-sperse sarcasm in your reader comments the writer has to go through an investigation to glean anything useful from what you’re saying.  The writer has to determine which parts are sarcasm and which parts are not.  This is highly unhelpful.

Reader, you may think you’re God’s gift to writing, and so you can write whatever you want in your notes and people will magically love it, but that’s not the case, sorry.  Please try to be helpful next time.  And leave your attempts at cleverness at the door.

They’ve obviously backfired.  (This is where I refrained from a porn joke, and am mentioning it as a teaching moment, dear reader.)

Thanks for reading.

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