In an article posted this morning on Splice Today about the Roger Ebert-Armond White brouhaha called “Why Are Movie Fans So Sensitive?”, John Lingan criticizes Ebert for defending White and then recanting his defense, and especially for “perpetuating the ridiculous idea that film critics’ likes and dislikes matter more than their knowledge of movies.” Here’s the final paragraph:

“Only in film criticism will people with a purported interest in the art demean the opinion of an expert because he dares to disagree with them. The path to greater knowledge and appreciation of movies seems pretty obvious to me: watch as many as possible, and read widely about them, specifically the work of people who know more than you. If you disagree, fantastic; it means you’re developing your own opinions and values. But there’s no room in this equation for being as easily offended as contemporary moviegoers — including Roger Ebert, disappointingly — seem to be.”

Fair enough, but another way to look at the occasional practice of ripping into this or that critic in personal terms is that it’s analagous to hockey-game fights. Are they embarassing? If you’re a purist for the sport and in love with the art of great hockey-playing, yes. Are punch-outs reminders of our coarse tendencies and our low position on the evolutionary totem pole? Yes. Are they occasionally fun to watch anyway? Yeah, they are.

Watch George Roy Hill‘s Slapshot again and consider the crowd reactions to the Hansen brothers. Consider how attendance quadrupled after the Charlestown Chiefs started thugging down and demeaning the sport. Consider the look on Paul Newman‘s face when he realizes his team has tapped into something primal.

Readers of film blogs respect intelligent, impassioned discourse. You’re a dead man if you can’t honorably compete in this realm. But they also enjoy a good dust-up now and then. If everyone minded their manners to Lingan’s satisfaction online disputes would be more elevating and informative, but they’d also be less fun. Just sayin’.