Sunday, 27 November 2011
A Twitter tenet: broken
Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Today I did something that I swore to myself a while ago that I would not do: I made some negative comments about someone famous on Twitter.
I think most of us have done it - I certainly have, although more recently I have tried not to. I've put up a tweet about someone famous - say someone on X-Factor (in this particular example I use the word famous wrongly) - because I thought that I was being funny, without stopping to think whether what I was saying was hurtful. Recently I have tried to censor myself more and not tweet something if I thought it would cause offense to the person it was about, if they discovered it.
The problem is that Twitter is deceptively impersonal. You can put something out there into the ether; make the inner monologue outer (and anyone who has worked with someone who talks to themselves will know how annoying this can be), and forget that it can be read by anyone on Twitter - including the person that the tweet is about. I think it is a good rule that you shouldn't tweet something about a person on Twitter if you wouldn't feel comfortable to say it to their face.
Of course, the argument is that any famous person gets used to negative comments; that it goes with the job. But I came to the conclusion that it doesn't make it right for me to add to that barrage of criticism and personal comments. My personal opinion is fine - that I don't think someone is right for a part, for example - but a personal comment about something over which they have less control, such as weight, is something that I would try to avoid. I have recently felt quite uncomfortable with some of the negative tweets about competitors on "Young Apprentice." These are, after all, people who are very young and are trying to work out who they are and who they want to be. Yes, some of them are quite annoying, but I doubt there are many of us that aren't a) rather ashamed of some things that we said or did when a teenager and b) don't still rankle with something critical that was said about us at the time when we were younger (no? just me then).
This morning on Twitter I had a rant about Michael Ball being cast as Sweeney Todd (sorry, Alicia). Actually I don't think my rant was too bad as it wasn't so much disrespect for his talents - Dad told me he was great in "Hairspray" - as the fact that it is one of my favourite musicals and I really felt that he wasn't good casting for that part. Sweeney Todd should be powerful and threatening (I still haven't found a version that beats Len Cariou on the OBC), and I didn't believe that he is capable of that menace.
Since my rant, I picked up a spirited defence from a Michael Ball and musical theatre fan on Twitter. I had tweeted that I had a bad experience seeing him in "Passion," which she quite fairly pointed out was now over 10 years ago (which had also occurred to me now that I have calmed down after my initial indignation). She also told me that Sondheim has seen and enjoyed the show, and I am sure he knows a lot better than I do what makes a good Sweeney.
I've realised that maybe my crime in this instance wasn't making a personal comment on Twitter: it was passing judgement on something before I have seen it. I know that the great Mark Kermode says that he tries to go into a film with an open mind, even if it is the latest in a franchise he dislikes, or, even worse, a film by Michael Bay (or, worse again, a Michael Bay franchise). This is a good tenet to observe, and I am not very good at this. I sometimes enjoy the chance to have an unreasonable rant about something in the arts about which I have a preconceived bias. In the past I have scared someone with one of my rants, as he seemed unable to make the distinction that he was on the receiving end of an abstract rant and I wasn't angry with him. But when you put that rant on Twitter, you put your unreasoned bias in the public domain.
I love "Sweeney Todd," and I have nothing to gain if I am right in believing that this is a bad piece of casting. Apparently it has already tried out in Chichester and got great reviews, and he does look completely different and more threatening in the promotional material. My parents have asked me if I would like to see it with them (Mark is allergic to musicals, so isn't keen), and I am thinking about it. I like Imelda Staunton a lot, and I think she will be a great Mrs Lovett. If I do go to see it, and he turns out to be the best Sweeney I have ever seen, I will be very happy. And hopefully, if that happens, my Twitter rant will have been forgotten by then so I don't end up looking like an idiot.