When I launched the Nobody’s Favorites feature (over ten years ago, apparently) I made a public point of striving for more than just a “Mort of the Month” angle where I’d find lazy ways to snark on soft targets. Instead of a litany of smug cheap shots, I forced myself to find some angle — artistic, historical, personal — to approach the subject material and perhaps make a broader statement about, well, something or other.
I’d like to think I succeeded on that front. The feature stopped because the “value added” hooks became harder to find and there are only so many ways to summarize what an absolute trainwreck the Nineties funnybook industry was. Yet even at my conscientious best, Nobody’s Favorites still slipped in at least 50% more snark that originally intended.
Why? Because that stance is so easy to fall into. I can’t plead the lousiness of the source material because it’s a tendency I must force myself to curb even when writing about stuff I genuinely adore. Combining armchair criticism with “wittiness” and the metaphoric kidney punches start coming of their own accord. The jokes literally write themselves, and holding them back becomes the real test of one’s skill.
It’s a skill I’m still trying to master. It’s not easy when even comedic idioms use the the language of physical assault — “punching up” or “punching down.” It’s not that I’m aspiring to be a better person, but I’ve gotten too old to unleash my sneering wrath at petty targets. No one goes to their grave wishing they spent more time finding the right scatological pun to use for the alt-text of an out-of-context Green Lantern panel.
Plus, it feels like some generational curse in need of casting off. The cynical ‘n’ jaded Gen X’er hand waving their way through a world gone bullshit, a cliche as pathetic as the “whoa, heavy” made-for-TV hippies of Nixon Era cop shows or the polyester-wrapped disco lizards of the Carter Era. A dubious survival mechanism became an all-consuming posture, to the point where you’re left wondering “okay, dude, you’ve made an elaborate show pointing out everything you think sucks, so what the fuck do you like?”
That was my train of thought while I was trudging through the thing which inspired this mini-rant — various capsule record reviews in 1987 issues of SPIN magazine. Every venue and reviewer is going to have some form of genre/artist/scene bias going on, but SPIN’s seemed to be “everything sucks and I’m above it all.” The Go-Betweens were too “yuppified” and anodyne but the Dead Milkmen were too snotty and Big Black were trying way too hard and, oh, here’s half a sentence of faint praise to make it seem like these are well-considered criticisms and not parts of a pose.
I’d call it “adolescent edgelord” but it doesn’t even rise to that level of maturity. It more closely resembles a petulant seven year old shouting “NO” to each lunch suggestion offered by their harried mother.
The kicker was a guest column by Richard Meltzer (yeah, I know) in the in-your-face by design “Anti-Hero” feature in which he savages his late pal Lester Bangs for sincerely caring about music and genuflecting about things like “ironic” sexism/racism/homophobia in the scene. If only he’d calcified his earlier “fuck everything” posturing, he’d might have avoided an early demise. It’s an obvious put-on, except it really wasn’t when so many folks did — and continue to — take this shit as both moral compass and creative roadmap.
If giving a shit is a fatal disease, then fuck it, I don’t want to be cured.