Why the word “arguably” isn’t in my vocabulary.
Because it shouldn’t be in yours, dammit. Because anything can be argued until the cows come home, fat lady sings an aria and the sun comes up. Because all it does is weaken your stance on something. Because all it does is show me, the world and everyone you know that you are afraid of expressing your opinion. Because Canada and America were “arguably” right in interning the Japanese during World War II and the Tea Party down south are “arguably” right in saying some of the most downright mean things that can be said about their President.
As you may know by now, I’m not the easiest man to get along with. I know this about myself and I seek to change it every day. I haven’t succeeded yet, but I’m still trying. One of the things that makes people hate talking to me is that I seemingly refuse to budge on any argument. This is because when a counter-argument begins with “Well, x is arguably–” you’ve already lost the fight to yourself. Everything is arguable. That’s why you’re making the argument. My grade twelve philosophy teacher, Ms. Dick, was an incredible woman. Still is–I’m pretty sure she’s alive. My grade eleven philosophy teacher, Mr. Smith, was also a good man. They both had one rule in their classroom in philosophical arguments: no one says “I think”.
You know why no one says “I think” in their classrooms? Because we know you’re thinking it, dummy, you’re the one saying it. I took this further to heart than most kids. I banished those terms from my vocabulary. If it’s coming out of my mouth and it isn’t a quotation, I’m the one who thinks that. Hell, even if it is a quotation sometimes, I’m quoting it because I agree with it. Because I think it. Because I argue it.
All discussion of film is necessarily an argument. You are attempting to convey your point of view to another human being, via your reflections on what you saw. The same goes for music–that person has ears, yes, but they don’t have your ears or your experience. When you talk to someone about any creative effort, you are making an argument for or against it, based on your personal history and your experiences and your expertise and your knowledge. Remember, I brought this up in Oh Daddy! We’re All Homer Simpson!? Remember? That article’s becoming a real Midnight on the Firing Line, ain’t it. Any creative effort is comprised within you, solely of your reaction to it. This is why movies are hard to talk about, this is why music is hard to talk about, this is why arguments over the arts get so heated, yet discussions of politics are more likely to remain civil.
Movies and music–any creative effort, really–is philosophy manifest. One of my favourite writers, Ayn Rand (cue flame war), took this idea and ran with it. She ran with it so far that to even like her books a tiny bit is to agree with her philosophy. You have to. You have to find part of it appealing, or else it is the least worthy dreck you can find on a bookshelf, comprised solely of characters she thinks are so great but are actually total dicks. Her novels are philosophic essays in narrative form. When she asked “who needs philosophy?” her response was “everyone”. We all have a personal philosophy, but most of us (including me) go without really examining it.
Eventually, I had to start examining mine when I started giving detailed and comprehensive yeas and nays to creative works. See, as I said back there, all creativity is philosophy manifest. The work may not reflect your beliefs as much as Ayn Rand’s works do but they reflect your opinions about the beliefs of the characters. Works you like also tend to reflect your philosophy as much as the works you create. There are people who love Tarantino and people who hate him and no one in between. Same goes for Ayn Rand, same goes for Stephen King, same goes for Mohiro Kitoh. We like the author because either their point-of-view reflects ours or it appeals to us for its differences.
And here’s where my war on the word “arguably” comes back around. See, my ex-girlfriend hates me whenever we debate something, and her stance has regularly come around to “You always say it as if it’s fact and you don’t know anything with 100% certainty, so you’re wrong!” (<– massive generalization, Gillian’s really a very nice girl and I’m just using this to make a point, please don’t hurt me, Gill) See, I’m well aware I can never know everything. I keep it in mind that I will never know everything. I don’t expect to know anything for certain, at all, ever in my life. Well, except for what’s between my legs. I know what’s down there for certain. (aw yeah)
Except, all of this is a necessary part of who I am and how I word things. I speak with certainty because my uncertainty is a guaranteed factor in everything I say. I can’t say whether any movie has universal appeal, because I know someone who will find nothing good in anything I love and will say, with confidence, that Marmaduke is the best movie of 2010. And I love talking to that girl about movies because she legitimately believes, with every fiber of her being, that Marmaduke is better than Kick-Ass, Inception and Toy Story 3 combined. She never apologizes for this, and doesn’t see why an apology would be necessary. I know it’s her opinion that stuff like Last Airbender is fantastic, she knows it’s my opinion that it’s awful. But I like her because she says, with certainty, that it’s so good she’s seen it twice.
I could argue that The Last Airbender is a fantastic movie, but to say it’s “arguably” a fantastic movie is redundant. Of course it’s “arguably” a fantastic movie, that’s the argument in that sentence. All it does is open wiggle room and show that the speaker doesn’t have any confidence in their beliefs. And that means that maybe, just maybe, there’s a little niggling doubt at the back of their mind as to how good it is.
And maybe, just maybe, they know, in their heart of hearts, that I’m right when I say it’s definitely awful. (trademark moment of evil)