Monday, August 25, 2014

The Moffat-Nerdist Complex


This is MY guarantee to you, my readers: in the words of Shirley Chisholm, I am 'unbought and unbossed'. 

I do not think I can say the same about Chris Hardwick and his crew at The Nerdist.

I have been relentless in my criticisms of Doctor Who/Sherlock writer/producer Steven Moffat.

The Nerdist, on the contrary, has been euphoric in praising Moffat.

Now I know that Mr. Hardwick and his minions may see things entirely different than I do.  They may all truly believe that Moffat has ushered in a new Golden Age of Doctor Who, that Moffat is greater than someone like a Robert Holmes, and that Sherlock may be the greatest adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories in all human history. 

I, however, do not accept that their adulation for all things 'nerd', such as Doctor Who and/or Sherlock, is built purely on fandom alone.

From Singled Out
to Whoring Out

The problem with Hardwick and The Nerdist is that they are simply too invested in culling favor with the people they cover to be truly objective.  In short, they are not honest dealers. 

Their reviews I don't believe can be trusted because above all else it is important to entities like The Nerdist to keep on the good side of production companies like the BBC or major studios.  The Nerdist, in short (no pun intended), need to please their masters (like Moffat) or risk losing the exclusives that the studios give Hardwick & Company, who in turn use them to get the fanboys/girls and the world at large to listen to them as 'experts' (and/or provide revenue through advertisements or perhaps personal appearances). 

This is why Doctor Who and Sherlock episodes are almost always praised (and perhaps create an echo chamber of positive press).  Yes, there may be an off negative review (though I have yet to find one), but by and large even the most bizarre or flat-out disaster will find something that will please The Nerdist.  How can you criticize the work of someone like Steven Moffat when you depend on the person you are covering (example: Steven Moffat) to provide information to parcel out to your readers? 

Hardwick and The Nerdist are simply too close to the source to be trusted as objective, impartial arbiters of what does and does not work.  You can't criticize someone you are in bed with, and who provides a big chunk of your livelihood. 

The best example of this is the After Who Special, which aired post-Deep Breath on BBC America.  While the DVR description described Hardwick as 'super-fan', suggesting a run-of-the-mill fellow, the nefarious nexis of sycophant to production company is clear by the line-up.  One of the guests was Sherlock/Doctor Who writer (actor frankly is too much for me to accept) Mark Gatiss.  If one reads the closing credits to After Who, guess who happens to be an executive producer of said special? 

That's RIGHT: Mark Gatiss.  You really expect 'super-fan' Chris Hardwick to find any flaw with Deep Breath, or Doctor Who/Sherlock in particular when your guest is also paying your bills?  I think not.

Even nerds thought it was bad,
save for one Nerdist...

A strong example would be After Earth.  Despite looking high and low online the only thing I could dig up in regards to a formal review from The Nerdist about After Earth was a brief article about the potential for a teaming of Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan being 'intriguing'.  Yes, their teaming might have been intriguing at the beginning, but the end results were so disastrous no one with any real credibility would say they were good.  Curious that I could not find a formal Nerdist review for After Earth, unlike one for a highly-praised film like Guardians of the Galaxy (which I myself was enthusiastic about in my own take on the film).  In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy had pages and pages of articles devoted to it (cast tours of the set, fan art, video of Vin Diesel recording his dialogue, mash-ups with other films, more GOTG films/crossovers), but for After Earth, only two (and the other one had nothing to do with After Earth, just a quick mention of it being among big-budget films like Pacific Rim, which was the actual content of the article). 

After Earth was just a bridge too far for even The Nerdist, so perhaps I am wrong...they may be redeemable.

However, back to Doctor Who and Sherlock, the main thrust of my growing disdain for all things Nerdist.   Let us look at a few examples of the sycophantic cheerleading that passes as objectivity at The Nerdist.   Our first example is The Nerdist review for The Rings of Akhaten, from Doctor Who's seventh season.  In its opening, it acknowledged that there wasn't much plot, but far from being a hindrance, it was not as important as the fact that Kyle Anderson, the reviewer, found it "surprisingly very sweet and touching".  He praised Jenna-Louise Coleman, whom he called "the absolutely perfect companion" (begging the question, 'As compared to whom?  Perfect compared to a Sarah Jane, a Romana, an Ace, or even a Rose Tyler or Donna Noble?') and hoped that the rest of Season Seven could be at the same level.

If we are to believe Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge), Rings of Akhaten received mixed reviews, so Anderson's ebullient commentary put him in the minority.

Next, we turn to Nightmare in Silver.   This episode, also from Series Seven, was much more negative.  Among the kinder comments were The Radio Times, which called it a "Cyber-flop", The Independent, which bemoaned the lack of logic in the story, and myself, which put it as one of the worst Doctor Who stories of all time.

Anderson, for his part, could not be more enthusiastic about Nightmare in Silver.  He declared that with Nightmare in Silver, there was no 'sophomore slump' against Neil Gaiman's previous Who script, The Doctor's Wife.   He praises the battle between the Doctor and "Mr. Clever", the Cyber-Programmer inside the Doctor's head.  Anderson even mocks the Cybermen's fatal weakness of gold (something that the co-creator of the Cybemen, Gerry Davis, and Robert Holmes, arguably Doctor Who's greatest writer, had come up with and established as Canon in Revenge of the Cybermen in 1975).   It might have grown overused, but hardly the idiocy Anderson so smugly dismisses.  Despite some misgivings, Anderson again heaps praise on Nightmare in Silver, declaring the script 'clever and witty'.

Kyle Anderson is free to believe anything he wishes, and perhaps he is completely honest in his appraisal of Nightmare in Silver.  However, 'clever and witty'?

Perhaps more alarming and disturbing in Anderson writing about Sherlock.  I read his review for A Scandal in Belgravia with piqued interest.   By now, anyone who reads Kyle Anderson knows that as far as he's concerned, Steven Moffat is the new Rod Serling (perhaps even above The Twilight Zone creator/writer).  He called A Scandal in Belgravia, and I quote, "the archetypical Steven Moffat story; it's clever, it's full of sexual innuendo, it has a brassy woman, and in the end, everything is connected".

One wonders whether Kyle Anderson wrote this, or just quoted from the yet-unreleased documentary, Moffat on Moffat.

The fact that Anderson loved A Scandal in Belgravia is not the actual point.  Many people loved A Scandal in Belgravia and think it among the greatest moments in television history.  It was this section that caught my eye, presented in its entirety.

Now, let’s talk about Irene Adler. She is an incredibly smart, savvy, industrious, dangerous, and sexy woman, absolutely tailor-made for the Moffat treatment. Ever hear of a person named River Song? Moffat eats up women like this on a silver platter. It’s like he wants all women to be the screwball comedy version of Emma Peel. Within Sherlock Holmes, Adler is the closest thing he could possibly have to a girlfriend. He doesn’t exist in a physical or sexual world; he’s got no time for it. But he has the utmost respect for her intellect, which is the only thing that Sherlock Holmes values. She proves to be a match for him, a worthy mental sparring partner. Her allegiances lie only with herself, or to whoever pays her the most, and often, that isn’t Sherlock. Because Moffat is who he is, he’s made her a dominatrix and she wears very little throughout. Like all of his women, there will undoubtedly be allegations of sexism in the way he’s written the character, but I think he’s just writing women the way he wants them to be. It’s the same thing Howard Hawks did. They like sexy women who talk like men. (Emphasis mine).

First, Anderson supposes that Sherlock fans are Doctor Who fans too.  He does this by bringing up River Song.  I figure there are a few Sherlock fans who haven't seen Doctor Who, so the reference would be lost on them, and some Doctor Who fans who had never seen Sherlock (like myself, until recently), so that's no real point of reference.   Second, Anderson supposes that River Song is beloved by everyone, which is hardly the case.  In certain circles, River Song is detested.  I myself find her smug, self-absorbed, murderous, egocentric, and quite evil.  Hardly the stuff of legend.

Even all that, it is the second highlighted section that should be given special attention.  "Like all his women, there will undoubtedly be allegations of sexism in the way he's written the character."  Steven Moffat sexist?!  Perish the thought!

Perhaps Anderson knows that "Steven Moffat Sexist" is one of the most searched terms on Google regarding "The Moff", and perhaps Anderson knows about this, or this, and this, and this.   However, the phrasing of that last sentence makes me openly wonder whether Anderson (and The Nerdist at larger) went beyond reviewing A Scandal in Belgravia to actually advocating and/or defending Moffat against all enemies foreign and domestic.  It sounds less like an objective examination of the episode and more of providing cover against the oft-evoked accusations of sexism if not downright misogyny.  If Anderson wants to defend Moffat or serve as an advocate or champion of the same, he is free to do so.  However, he cannot be both a prosecutor and defense attorney (prosecutor regarding his writing, defense attorney regarding his writing) at the same time.      

Finally, in his comparing Steven Moffat with Howard Hawks.  Hawks' women were intelligent, strong, and unafraid.  Moffat's women are 'needy', in need of a man rescuing them, and reliant on them.  Women's greatest role is to be a mother (even if it makes them unattractive).  River Song: didn't she go into archaeology in order to find 'a good man'?  Wasn't Irene Adler "Sherlocked" and rescued by Sherlock in the end?  Wasn't both River Song and her mother Amy Pond's great hope to get The Doctor into bed (and perhaps with the sexual avarice of Song, a little ménage a trois entre mere et fille can't be ruled out)?

I think Howard Hawks and Steven Moffat are worlds apart in every way imaginable: in terms of talent, of style, and of how they saw women.  Sorry, Kyle: your assertion doesn't pass the smell test.

Me in league with the studios to promote their product
while pretending to be 'just a fan'?
That's unpossible!

In truth, Hardwick and his cohorts are no different than film critics who attend press junkets and wouldn't DARE say anything bad or point out to the artist in question that their product (film, television program, music) doesn't work.   They know which side of their bread is buttered, and won't do anything to embarrass their Lords and Masters. 

I don't expect that one has to give bad reviews in order to be 'honest'.  I have taken a lot of heat by anti-Moffat/NuWho groups for not trashing The Unquiet Dead or The Eleventh Hour.  However, I stand by my views.  A real reviewer (I don't like to call myself a 'critic' because that implies negativity) will judge something by how good or bad it did what it set out to do.  If I think Moffat, or Mark Gatiss, or any other writer did good work, I'll say so.  I have been invited to change my mind on certain reviews and on occasion, I have revisited something and found my views have changed. 

It is only when almost EVERYTHING that a particular writer/producer does is 'brilliant' that I am highly troubled.  It is only when a review takes up time to run defense for the subject of his/her review that I am highly troubled.  These are the reasons why I don't believe The Nerdist is a good review site.  It's a great place to get tidbits on things nerd-related (comics, films, television, video games), but when an organization that is suppose to cover something objectively instead becomes an unofficial advocate for them, they are not watchdogs but lapdogs.  The Nerdist can call itself anything it wants, but one thing it is not is a source of true objective reviewing.

Yes, I am Moffat's Bitch,
and I'm the richer for it.

1 comment:

Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.