In the creative life, there are certain rules about how you handle criticism—no matter how unfair it may seem. Golden Rule Number One tends to be just this: Don’t rise to the bait.
Unfortunately, it would seem that Robert Orci (responsible for the rebooted Star Trek screenplays with Alex Kurtzman), forgot that golden rule the other day. Which led to some serious online ugliness that it would be nice to forget.
On the TrekMovie.com site, an article ran on September 1 titled “Star Trek is broken—Here are ideas on how to fix it.” The going logic was that the most recent film, Star Trek Into Darkness, had betrayed some of the original tenets laid out by the original incarnation. Ways to fix it included ideas that many fans had hashed out since the films’s release—more diversity, a focus on exploration, more time enjoying the characters. The discussion continued in the post’s comments where user “boborci”—later confirmed as legitimate by TrekMovie’s moderator—then added to with lovely tidbits like this:
I think the article above is akin to a child acting out against his parents. Makes it tough for some to listen, but since I am a loving parent, I read these comments without anger or resentment, no matter how misguided.
Which would have been fine (maybe) if he had left it there (okay, probably not), but then he began gloating about his position as masterful writer:
Having said that, two biggest Star Treks in a row with best reviews is hardly a description of “broken.” And frankly, your tone and attidude make it hard for me to listen to what might otherwise be decent notions to pursue in the future. As I love to say, there is a reason why I get to write the movies, and you don’t.
That is... exactly what you don’t say. Ever. Maybe at home to your spouse, to your friends, your cat-dog, but saying it in a public forum is just unprofessional and equally-to-more rude than the criticism of your work. Which loses you the high ground in any conversation. Full stop. And it didn’t end there! Next he went after a fan who decided to compare Into Darkness to Raiders of the Lost Ark:
STID has infinetly [sic] more social commentary than Raiders in every Universe, and I say that with Harrison Ford being a friend. You lose credibility big time when you don’t honestly engage with the FUCKING WRITER OF THE MOVIE ASKING YOU AN HONEST QUESTION. You prove the cliche of shitty fans. And rude in the process. So, as Simon Pegg would say: FUCK OFF!
Apparently, fans are now required to engage with writers when they ask questions about how wrong you are for criticizing them. For some reason. And if they don’t, that makes them “shitty fans.” And then he drags poor Harrison Ford and Simon Pegg into the tantrum because that proves that he knows them? Or something? I don’t know, it’s just getting worse. He then called for fans to pitch a better movie, which would be fine and dandy for all involved—provided he’d get us the meeting. (Sorry, it’s just, getting to talk to people in Hollywood isn’t exactly a thing that happens magically.)
Apparently this is a common occurrence for Orci, who later stated that people shouldn’t take him too seriously because “twice a year I explode at the morons.” Those morons who are fans of the thing that you are hoping makes money. Thanks for that. He then reinforced the fact that Star Trek fans get listened to all the time, but it was still his call at the end of the day, quoting George W. Bush’s infamous “We’re the deciders” schtick.
It’s not that creators and writers and actors should just “deal with” abuse from fans, absolutely not. And everyone can agree that handling criticism is one of the most difficult things that any human being has to endure. But there are ways of tackling it that don’t involve doling out more abuse. That don’t involve stooping to someone else’s level, or being vicious toward people simply for having opinions. Orci, Kurtzman, and Abrams have the reins for Trek currently, yes, but that doesn’t make their choices infallible or worthy of nothing but praise. If you’re not happy with what people are saying about your work in a public forum designed for that sort of discourse, it’s not the most difficult thing in the world to remove yourself from the room, talk a walk, and get an ice cream cone.
Sorry, but this really calls for a few weeks in the Time Out Corner.