MCN’s David Poland let his guard down a couple of days ago: “I am, like my father, a softie. This always feels odd coming out of my mouth (or fingers) as there seem to be so many people who want to tell me what a mean person I am. And I certainly have been mean at times. But I tend to believe that by ‘mean’ what is really being expressed is that I hit a tender spot with my words and left a mark.”
Wells comment: You can be mean with your keyboard but not with your fingers. All writers are softies of one kind or another. I’ve never found David to be especially “mean.” Judgmental, yes — he’s the only guy who’s ever dropped me as a friend. But judgment and condemnation go with the territory. I remember listening to a couple of Poland tirades about my shortcomings that were so severe that the only commensurate response, it seemed, was suicide. I decided to push on.
Back to Poland: “There was a time when I was more reckless with this skill. In those early years of The Hot Button, I just hit ‘publish’ and kept working. I was amused by my ability to cause an emotional response (good or bad) from people more powerful than I. As time passed, I came to understand — finally — that we are (mostly) all vulnerable in similar ways. [So I gradually] got out of the business of reporting on misery — jobs lost, companies failing, etc. The failures of others are not a form of amusement.
“Of course, this didn’t preclude some people and/or studios from having insanely thin skin. If you are playing in the big stadium, you have to be able to take the shots you have coming. The same is true of journalists. Much of the anger held towards me comes from headlines in the early days of Movie City News. I could be brutally direct. And 17 years later, it still comes up. But the age of Finke-ian entertainment journalism and the support of it by non-journalists like Jay Penske has led to an era of all-suck-up or all-rage coverage. [In this regard] I am a tweener. I believe in people. I believe in forgiveness. I believe in the inherent kindness of which we are all capable.”
Wells comment: I’m sensing that David sees Hollywood Elsewhere…oh, that’s right, David ignores me. But if he didn’t he would probably categorize HE as an all-rage thing. Well, I see myself as a samurai tweener. Nothing is more fearful to me than community opinions that the stuff I write is tedious or humdrum. And every writer knows that the only stuff worth posting comes straight from the heart or gut. But if you don’t feel love now and then (you need to show it roughly 15% or 20% of the time, which corresponds to the percentage of movies, cable series and whatnot that are worth watching) you’ll bore your readers. All-rage, all-the-time is just as bad as suck-up journalism. So I really do strive for some kind of balance. And when that’s not working, I can always dive-bomb into some quirky personal episode or opinion. Or something political.