A few years back, a friend of mine recommended the movie The Mothman Prophesies, which happens to star Richard Gere (more on that film in another post). Beyond really enjoying the film, I decided that I really liked Richard Gere as an actor again. It was then that I realized that I had no idea why I didn’t like Richard Gere in the first place.
Why do I mention this? A recent post by PZ Myers on Pharyngula rather cynically, for my taste, took some shots at the Harry Potter series as a whole:
Too formulaic. I can’t get at all motivated to read any more of the books, I don’t care what happens to Harry in the final volume (I predict Harry fights the big bad guy, poof, Harry wins) so all your spoilers will leave me unconcerned, and the movies just drag on.
What does this have to do with Richard Gere? Bear with me for a few moments. After PZ’s initial post, lots of other commenters jump in to deride the HP series as vacuous crap. A telling comment comes a little later by PZ himself:
One other random thought: it’s a minor thing, but one thing that turned me off the later books is the fact that one of the characters is killed off, and that was treated as a major event. All the news was full of aghast articles where people would speculate about who it would be, etc., and even in the hype for the last one there was this dread that something irreversibly bad would happen to one of the characters.
Here’s the thing: the last straw against the HP series doesn’t seem to be the actual contents of the final books themselves (which he hasn’t read), but rather the media hype surrounding them. This is what I refer to in the title as the ‘cult of anti-personality’: a dislike and condemnation of something not necessarily on its merits, but instead on its merits relative to the hype it experiences. Lots of commenters seemed to verify this, by slamming Rowling while pointing out their particular favorite author who didn’t get nearly as much attention as they deserved:
I was just finishing Proust’s Swann’s Way when I read the 7th Harry Potter book. No kidding HP isn’t the greatest literature of all time.
Remember how much everyone hated Leonardo DiCaprio after Titanic came out? He was just an actor working with the (admittedly) limited script given to him, but his sin seems to have been the lead actor in a movie that people decided didn’t deserve to be so popular.
I’m not entirely sure what my point is here; I’m essentially making an observation of a curious social phenomenon. I don’t mean to pick on PZ or anyone else for doing this, because it is a common behavior. It’s probably worthwhile to realize that we often form our opinions of fiction based not only on its merits, but also on how those merits compare to the accolades given.
Anyway, back to Richard Gere. Once I thought about it for a while, I remembered that Gere suffered a similar anti-personality backlash (including some completely false rumors being spread) after he made Pretty Woman, which was wildly popular but evidently more popular than it deserved. I apparently just joined in on the fun without thinking about it too much. Thanks to Mothman and later Chicago, I’ve decided I like Gere after all.