The mystery of the never-ending discourse
The year may be nearly over, but The Discourse™ never ends. This time, Twitter has lost its dang mind over Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
Director Rian Johnson’s sequel to his wildly successful 2019 whodunit hit Netflix over Christmas weekend after an abbreviated run in theaters. Naturally, with the wider audience came a wider group of opinions about the film. The online discussion around Glass Onion is just the latest example of how stupid internet film criticism has become.
News cycles have always come and gone; that’s nothing new. But lately it seems like users on Twitter — by design, a website that rewards hot takes and tribalism — are so starved for anything Big and Important to talk about that they will elevate even the simplest things into A Big Deal deserving of a definitive opinion. A while ago it was Top 10 lists. Then it was whether Avatar has any cultural relevance (again). I’m sure we’re due up for another round of Martin Scorsese/Marvel chatter soon.
Glass Onion became Twitter’s Character of the Day over Christmas weekend after conservative commentator and edgelord Ben Shapiro posted a lengthy thread about the movie. In his 17-tweet thread, Shapiro complains that Johnson’s “politics is as lazy as his writing” and that the movie, which is partly about the absolute incompetence of a tech billionaire, takes too many potshots at Twitter CEO Elon Musk, “one of the most successful entrepreneurs in human history,” Shapiro writes. “How many rockets has Johnson launched lately?”
(For the record, Johnson has said in interviews that the billionaire character in question is a combination of Musk and other people like him, but the resemblance is definitely there.)
Anyway, people relentlessly dunked on Shapiro for his take, which sucked the fun out of watching this movie quicker than detective Benoit Blanc solving a murder. Frankly, if you’re that worked up over a whodunit movie, you deserve to get roasted online. That thread opened the floodgates for everyone else to comment on various aspects of the movie.
Everything from the film’s release strategy to its pandemic setting to its commentary on wealth in America was called into question with a seriousness reserved for public policy discussion. Film Twitter only knows how to have the same few discussions over and over, and a lot of this was reminiscent of the discourse around The Last Jedi, a much more controversial film from Johnson.
Because these same discussions keep happening ove and over, film fandom on Twitter has become a series of binary arguments. You’re either pro-Scorsese or pro-Marvel. Pro-The Last Jedi or you love “the real Star Wars.” Franchise or indie. Movie theaters or streaming. Marvel or DC. Assigning this level of intensity to something as simple as movie opinions can only lead to burnout. Since these arguments have such clearly defined sides, it’s easier to assign moral value to one side over the other. Twitter truly is a microcosm of society, just in the worst way its founders could have conceived. Ironically, resisting that kind of tribalism and worship of groupthink is precisely what Glass Onion is about.
As Blanc says in the film, “It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth.”
The Discourse™ surrounding Glass Onion hasn’t been all bad. A lot of great jokes and memes about Blanc have popped up as a result of its moment in the Twitter spotlight. Numerous people have pitched a Muppets Knives Out movie where Blanc is the only human. My favorite genre is the “Benoit Blanc describes [x movie]” format.
Glass Onion is a fun movie with a big cast and a mystery that keeps you guessing. You can like it, or not like it. Whatever choice you make is not a moral judgement; it’s an opinion on a piece of art. You can have opinions without being “a vainglorious buffoon,” as Blanc says. But that won’t get the retweets, so The Discourse™ marches on. May we all go outside and touch some more grass in 2023.