The entertainment industry exists as means to explore this very sentiment and, no doubt, others like it. We crave the fantastic and the make-believe, the edgy and controversial, the thought-provoking and humorous, and anything else to stimulate our inner spectator. It’s the preferred method of encountering new things, and we “pay” good money to keep them around, or uncover yet another Hollywood fantasy to obsess ourselves over time and time again.
But what can you say is the reason YOU, the viewer, exists?
To watch their films? To enjoy their performances? To continue to support their reason to exist? Fair enough.
But could there possibly be an even larger role to simple task of “enjoying the show”?
As viewers, consumers, readers, and listeners, we’re surrounded at every turn by various forms of media competing to rope us into hopping on the bandwagon. Businesses, organizations, and other marketers promote their releases by catching our attention with witty quips, relatable metaphors, and casual banter that reel us subtly into the franchise and keep us rooted there with the merchandise or content they provide. They establish a relationship with us, and we develop an attachment to them. Groups everywhere appeal to consumer gusto to gain notoriety—because through it they also garner support—from world-renowned corporations to community “Like Pages” on Faceboook. They do whatever it takes to pull you in, and if they’ve done it right, they’ll have successfully convinced you to interact with them as part of their community.
They’ll provide every mode of contact so you can stay involved with them and keep you hooked in at all costs. Corporate addresses, company emails, telephone lines, and more are shared, all in the hopes that you stay in touch with them. Right down to the “Comment” bar on Facebook, you’re warmly encouraged to share whatever it is you thought about whatever it is they’re selling. And the best part about it is that once you’ve played “the consumer,” they reap the benefits of your feedback to improve their products, effectively creating a market reasearch team composed of the market itself.
But what happens when what you have to say isn’t the ever-so-sought-after consumer endorsement? Or more importantly, a word of criticism?
For some, this is where the controversy begins. But for me, it’s the point where I stand immovably behind the voice of the people instead of the selective and biased ear of what might otherwise be identified as institutionalized cliques. It’s where I personally maintain that consumer input is equally as valauable on the positive side as it is under a negative or criticizing slant.
Quietist remarks are sure to fire the moment we express sentiments contrary to the ones that all but litter the community of a beloved group. “If you don’t like it, leave,” “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” and sundry other pacifist jeoinders like this are tossed our way the moment we voice our disappointment, disagreement, or disapproval of something we don’t actually like. We’re effectively forced into a like-it-or-leave-it dichotomy where all other opinions beside a) Praise and b) Accolade are strongly discouraged.
The thing that most people fail to realize, though, is that if the venue is public, if it markets toward all, if it earnestly seeks to discover the what everyone thinks, then you as a member of their audience are well within your right to share your stance, regardless of whether it aims to promote or not. If it seeks to acknowledge everyone’s thoughts, criticism should be welcomed. Telling others not to voice their dissenting opinions undermines the priniciple of “free speech.” And marginalizing the voices of the minority is an act of censorship, undermining that the integrity of the feedback will represent everyone’s stance equally if the ones sporting a negative view are rejected. It’s narcissism to think that popular opinion is the only opinion, and we as an audience shouldn’t have to worry about pandering to anyone’s egos in order to get our voices heard.
Leaders aren’t posed with a true challenge to the strength or quality of a group without the presence of some useful criticism. And what purpose do they serve if they fail to cater to the people who subscribe to them? It’s unprofessional to dismiss mildly castigating remarks, and doing so reflects the lack of fortitude they possess if they cannot take criticism from the people they’re advertising to. A group becomes nothing more than emblem of vanity and a travesty to real marketers once they begin to discourage a diversity of opinion in a public atmosphere. If it isn’t harassment, it should be just as encouraged as popular opinion. People should jump at the opportunity to challenge others, as businesses should welcome the opportunity to be challenged.
There are the exceptions to the matter, of course, but it is a fine line to tread. Where the community bears a specialized purpose, where the cause is expressly to garner support, where the community is private, allowances can be made to silence or discourage opposition. Where a (specific) target audience exists, it would be no short of ludicrous to insert yourself with an opinion contrary to majority consensus. One wouldn’t simply go to a restraurant and demand for it to change its cousine, in the same way you wouldn’t raise your hand to dispute the limitations of gender roles for the maidenly in Women’s Studies 101. It becomes harrassment if you ignore the rules of a one-way community, and it becomes necessary to leave if you don’t like what they’re serving (or brace yourself for measures they reserve the right to take to remove you from said community).
But ultimately, for a unbiased survey of the public at large, the playing field is fair game for all.
So you’re no longer just a seat-filler at the cinema or in front of the TV the next time you see something that raises a few questions. You can do more, which is get involved, because you’re entitled to sharing that voice within that yearns to be heard when these things come around. You’re not encouraged herein to go around disrupting close-knit communities, but don’t be afraid to dish out criticism, provide a unique point of view, or point out that there are other things that can be improved when the floor for opinion is yours. Challenge, debate, and discuss, because it’s your job to represent the less-heard voice whenever and wherever feedback is solicited, for a (wholesome and accurate) measure of representation of the audience.