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02 February 2008 @ 08:01 pm
Writing: Days of Whine and Razzies, Part 2  
This post will make no sense without reading Part 1. It was disallowed from posting in the comments section on the author's article. Apparently, Mary Beth Ellis will give up writing forever if she should see a negative review.



As attempted to be posted at FreelanceSwitch:

One really shouldn't complain about the reception of poorly written satire, especially when one's managed to get a lot of traction from it.

While I'm willing to agree that some of the comments on MSNBC.com's message board made one wonder whether some had mortgaged their funny bones along with their common sense, Ms. Ellis wasn't barraged with hundreds of irate comments before breaking the cardinal rule of writing: Don't take it personally.

Her first response (including typos) is logged as Message #12: I fear that some of you are misunderstanding the piece. The point of it was to purpously [sic] view these special [sic] through the eyes of an adult-- which, of course, ruins them. By showing the ridiculous reactions that we can have if we don't suspend our disbelief, I was arguing that we should view the specials as their creators intended. So you see, I really do agree that these specials still are "magical," and we ought to see to it that they remain so. If you have any other anxieties about this article, feel free to email me or visit BlondeChampagne.com. I'm sorry if you didn't like it.

As for the commenter who had the temerity to address her as -gasp!- "honey", was she more upset by the use of the word "honey" or the fact that they found her satire lacking:

Message #16 & #17: Well, Mary Beth, honey, if that's what you were trying to do, you failed miserably. . . . Your writing could use a big brush up, if everyone commenting here got you wrong - it isn't their fault, it's yours, for not getting your message across clearly.

That's what journalists used to do, before having a blog and spouting off at the mouth became enough to make one a "writer".

[T]he responsibility lays with the writer, who didn't make her sarcasm or comic relief particularly clear. Many other writers have managed to do so, and Mary Beth completely missed the boat. As satire, the article failed, full stop.


Obviously, Ms. Ellis was not happy with this criticism, as she felt the need to respond to TjFo (who apparently does have a posting history on MSNBC.com, and didn't single her out for a hit-and-run comment):

Messages #21: This piece went through about three different editors, all of whom seemed to think that the point got across, or it would never have made it online. I've received several very nice emails from people who liked the article, and again, if anybody has any questions about it or my qualifications (which, I assure you, extend beyond blogging), you may email me directly. I've been an online commentator for several years, and it always amazes me that many kind words come from personal email addresses, whereas any nasty comments tend to pop up in anonymous situations such as this. Should any of you wish to have a civil discussion with me via email, I welcome it. [emphasis mine]

Message #22 & #24: It wasn't a backpedal at all. I haven't disavowed the article. I was merely explaining that it was a satire . . . I'm sorry if some of you here did not like the piece, but it truly was satire.

The comments revert back once more to a discussion among the dullards, and Ms. Ellis ignores them -- as any writer with a thick skin and a lick of common sense should. Until Message #35, when another reader gives an unfavourable review, stating that Ms. Ellis is no Jonathan Swift.

With another critique, she once more is compelled to respond at Message #37: One more comment here: I certainly don't expect every person on the planet to agree with or love each word I've written. If you don't understand that this piece was satirical, that's one thing; if you understood that it was satire and still didn't like it, that's another. It is the nature of writing. Everyone is welcome to his or her own opinion. I have just as many emails from people who thanked me for the piece and liked it.

What troubles me is the insulting nature of some of these responses. I have always beleived
[sic] that a vital part of writing is the discussion with readers, so I came here to reiterate that this is indeed a satire. In my responses, I've calmy [sic] explained myself and even apologized to those of you who didn't like a piece which didn't cost you a dime to read. However, some of you, never having met me, have decided that I am a nasty, miserable person, even after (presumably) reading my explanation. If I truly am such a brooding termagant, do you really think I would have responded in this manner?

Comments continue along for a grand total of 87 by 56 posters, and most of those certainly were not the troll-filled invectives she's claimed. But they were critical:

Actually, I think you recognize it now for the poor writing it is, Mary Beth. I sense back peddling. Please spare us your lecture on satire. This wasn't satire. Satire tends to be funny. Your Christmas gift to us was wasting our time.

I read the article again, and it just sounds to me like you're trying to blame some innocent cartoons for problems in society. The one thing I did find funny is that you took time to call out one of your competitors (CBS), for airing these shows, without taking a look at your own networks choice of programming.

Sounds like Mary Beth was trying to be the "Art Buchwald" or "Erma Bombeck" writing satire about children's Christmas shows . She bombs miserably.

Your post did not seem "satire". Yes, there was satire IN it, but even the link from MSNBC to this message board was labeled "What problems do you see with Holiday Specials", and the TITLE of this message board is "Social Issues in Christmas Specials". There is a LOT of indication you wanted to make an issue of social problems in these films. Certainly you used "Satire", but I think you had some serious points you needed to make and sorry if you didn't like the reaction. Now you see people are annoyed with your article. So you now pawn it off as "it was ALL satire". I am not biting.

I'm not offended, because the 'point' that the author is making is just so transparent and sophomoric. . . . The entire article just smacked of being utterly pretentious garbage being passed off as smug editorial. That's the problem with the internet... It gives a voice to people who think that they alone have a unique idea simply because they have a podium. The irony perhaps, is that Mary Beth as an author was unable to see past the very thing that she claims to be satirizing.


Mary Betth Ellis has managed to garner an 800-word blog entry and a 2,000-word paid article from an initial investment in a 1,000-word holiday throwaway. That's not a bad haul.

Ms. Ellis, being an author means accepting the good reviews, along with the bad. Do you really believe that all negative reviews are trollish? (Your editors must love you.) Frankly, I found you amusing -- not your MSNBC.com article, but your flailing away over its reaction. If there was humour to be had, it was from your reactions and not your readers.

I sincerely worry that if you're still whinging about such an insignificant incident by people you believe to be little more than trolls, perhaps you should consider stepping away from the keyboard and viewing an innocuous Christmas classic to raise your blood sugar and reduce your depression.

Cheers,

Pepper