My three cents worth …

December 11th, 2014

What is a troll? No, I’m not talking about the naked giants from the Hobbit movie. I am talking about the people who annoy us online with their malevolent, disparaging opinions based on cluelessness, spiteful frustration and zero relevance. Those we call trolls.

There are trolls to be found in online (book) reviews. They are some few people who basically only ever write bad reviews, and who do not stop at disparaging the medium (book, film, etc.), but also launch massive personal attacks on the authors and media makers and on all those who have the audacity to like what they dislike.

It is perfectly all right not to like a book or a movie. We cannot all like the same things. We also do not necessarily all have to like Tolkien. And it is equally acceptable to say so and state the reason for your dislike.

Massive attacks on the creative minds behind – whatever – medium plus on those who confess to like the creative product will, however, put the reviewer very much in the proximity of trolldom.

Mr. Frank (Spiegel Online) seems very close to overstepping this troll borderline line in his critique about the last Hobbit movie. He not only criticizes the movie – I have not seen the movie, so I cannot comment on that, maybe it is bad? – but he goes on criticizing everything and everyone who might somehow lurk and work in the “vicinity”, including those creative in the area as much as those who like the products of this genre. One full scale round of kicks in the shins. We are all stupid. He is the only one who is wise.

That tends to be the overall problem with trolls. It’s never about the actual opinion but basically all about self-manifestation. But should one really use one’s considerable media clout to flaunt one’s somewhat dusty 70s culturally highbrow ego and offend large groups of the population in order to portray oneself as a kind of aloof and windswept King of Culture?

Fairy tales and legends have always existed. They belong to humanity. Archetypes are fixed in our thinking and feeling. Mr. Frank surely knows the word.

Yes, fantasy – or rather speculative fiction – is entertainment. But entertainment is not necessarily objectionable as such. Mankind has always been entertained, has run competitions, told stories and made music. All this is entertainment. Only in Puritanism and comparably rigid religious or ideological systems is this a “sin”. Escapism is the derogatory term used in modern parlance. Everything is escapist. But let’s face it, even driving an SUV in a big city is already escapism, since you will not need your four-wheel-drive to brave the wilderness of suburbia.

In the 70s there was a literary theory of Christian Enzensberger (not Hans-Magnus, that was his brother), the theory of sense deficit. To give a very simple and short explanation, this was the approach that EVERY kind of literature only served to embellish and mask the absurdity of the world through fiction. With this approach practically ALL literature would be escapist.

But declaring escapism to be the sole purpose of speculative literature has already been chewed over many times and rightly disappeared into oblivion – particularly since the works and contents of speculative literature have evolved their own academic study field in which the researching academics actually know what they are talking about. Escapism – my goodness, does one really have to go back that far to find some ammunition for self-complimenting literary bigotry?

They say that we, the “fantasy fans”, cannot distinguish between reality and unreality. But we can. We can because we know BOTH. It is the unimaginative “realists” that generally tend to fall for religious / ideological extremist groups, because they take the ludicrous at face value and have no experience with the reception of the fictitious. It is the “fantastic” that fine-tunes our sense of reality.

Last but not least let me say a word about the LARPERS – so much disliked by Mr Frank: I much prefer people playing fairytales with plastic swords for recreation on the odd weekend to those who want to beat reality into shape with the right-wing slogans and oh so real baseball bats.

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