Normally this would be my writer report. But I haven’t been writing as much as I should for a variety of reasons, most of which are flimsy excuses so I’ll spare you. I was going to engage in a little thought experiment to try and grease my wheels, but something of impact happened yesterday that bears some discussion.
Roger Ebert’s dead.
I grew up with Roger and Gene Siskel. He was one of the first film critics I was exposed to, and his back and forth with Gene introduced me to intellectual discourse. I was very young at then so I didn’t get out of it what I might now, but I was at least shown what it’s like to have two adults who respect one another professionally disagree on something. Sure, voices got raised from time to time, but it was still constructive and positive discussion, a far cry from a great deal of the Internet upon which many of us now pontificate.
And yet, much of his work set the precedent for several careers on the Internet. His work and persistence and intelligence and willingness to work with his audience, not necessarily against them, demonstrated that criticism as a career was more than just a tiny niche to be filled on the inner pages of newspapers; instead, they could be voices on their own, and possibly even celebrities.
I know there are some people in the video gaming community who weren’t fond of him. He wrote an essay saying that he didn’t see video games as art. In the face of the backlash from this, though, he neither retracted his statement nor closed off his avenues of feedback. He engaged, discussed, and fostered thought. More progress and discourse came out of this back and forth with Roger Ebert than with just about anybody else out there, and it came out of one essay. One. That’s powerful, thoughtful writing, and any critic or blogger or journalist out there should aspire to have that sort of impact.
He battled cancer. He lost parts of his body in that fight. And he kept on writing. He kept on thinking. He never gave up on movies, or art, or his audience.
He’ll be sorely missed.