Acting Like Northrop Frye; Thoughts On “Real-Life” Trolls From An Avid Blogger

Of all the opinions I have of writers, artists, musicians, and their work, I feel that Frye is the one who I’ve been picking on the most lately. Don’t get me wrong, after writing my last article I made sure to reread The Educated Imagination properly. Moreover, I made sure to look at literature and writing from his point of view and I even made a habit of taking notes again, just so I could compare them to my earlier ones and see where the differences occurred. Sadly, however, I learnt that my problem isn’t that I don’t like Frye’s opinion, because I agreed with him a few more times during this read-through, and it’s certainly not that I think Frye’s uneducated, because he’s not. Trust me when I say that after really trying to form a connection with Frye and his words, I’ve come out a wiser and more developed person; Frye’s writing has that effect because he’s so well versed and because he genuinely knows what he’s talking about.

In fact, in terms of everything else that I’m going to say, you must understand and recognize that it’s not that I don’t like Frye, because I genuinely do. I just don’t like his tone, the way he writes, his condescension, his pretentiousness, and his overall “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude. In his defence, however, the problems I’ve just listed are not specific to Frye but to anyone who makes a habit of giving opinion (I understand the irony, but if you’re still so inclined to complain and point out the humour and irony in my last phrase, do so in the comments). Romance novels, online therapy columns, radio therapy shows, televangelists, comedians who take themselves too seriously, and even characters such as Frasier Crane and Emma Lloyd (from Frasier and The Accidental Husband respectively) all have the same problems as Frye in his book; instead of offering opinion, they instead opt to offer advice.

The problem with making such a statement, however, is the same problem with listing two words and complaining about them; no matter how much I grovel and kick at the ground, because they’re words, the argument becomes a matter of semantics and etymology. To allow for a smoother reading, I’m going to be simplifying the two words down to their core tenants (I normally abhor such an action, but taking time into consideration, this is far faster; I digress once again). Opinion is offering a different point of view to the one already provided while advice is ignoring the other point of view entirely and instead opting for a more direct “I’m right about this because I know more than you” approach.

If the speaker doesn’t allow a counter argument and they choose to mask condescension and pretentiousness as a way to enforce and subdue foreign thought, it’s advice. If the speaker continues to speak and doesn’t even allow foreign thought, it’s advice. If the speaker has an extreme point of view that doesn’t allow for middle ground (you’re probably dealing with a tiger mother, but also) it’s advice. My problem with Frye is that he does all of those things and even more throughout his novel, and my biggest problem yet is that he’s allowed to. He’s Northrop Frye, one of the most educated and decorated literary critics of the 20th century (let alone the fact that he’s one of the most educated and decorated literary critics of all time) and it’s because of his vast knowledge and considerable experience that he’s allowed to speak in such a manner; under every circumstance, he’s deserved it. On a side note, the mere fact that I’ve been able to drone on for so long about my dislike of his character and overall writing style is evidence enough of his prowess, not to mention his years over me; he makes his readers think, he makes them disagree with him, he makes them agree with him, and he does everything that any good writer should: keep the readers interested long enough that they’ll leave with more thoughts in their mind than when they entered.

Up until now my complaints have been launched at a man who’s been dead for over 20 years. It should be abundantly clear that this article isn’t about Frye; it’s about the people who act like him because they believe that they have the education and experience to warrant such behaviour (do remember that despite my opinion of his so-called “advice” Frye is still infinitely wiser than I am and is, most likely, wiser than I will ever be). These are the individuals who flaunt their knowledge as if it’s a trophy or medal of their, often insubstantial, achievements; the critics who launch into a 15 minute speech about every minute detail that wasn’t up to par in the latest Winner the Pooh film (which was easily one of Disney’s best movies since their renaissance) just because they’ve seen Citizen Kane; the talkers who rant for hours about the lack of grace and tact in society all the while not letting anyone else contribute for fear that they may be disproven or, infinitely worse, “disgraced.” It’s the people who spend hours upon hours dissecting every intricate detail about someone’s height, weight, or body type just because they’ve seen a few episodes of Project Runway; that’s what truly and utterly irks me.

For a moment, I’d like to mention that, excluding the film, I’m guilty of each and every one of those actions; in the written word, however. Writing, whether in a magazine, on a blog, on a website, or even in the comments section of a YouTube video, allows one to “peddle” their advice, but it also allows others to provide counter arguments and their own opinions once the original writer is done. Yes, internet trolls are admittedly incredibly annoying, but so long as they keep their comments and complaints limited to Batman and Star Trek minutiae online, they are entirely tolerable. Once they leave the protection of their homes and online lives, the commenters, trolls, and enablers are all forced to become another part of society and are, therefore, forced to adhere to the convention that one does not ramble to their cashier about the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory that “Wasn’t that funny because Sheldon would never find a real mate anywhere in the real world…ever.” Assuming that they’re tolerable individuals outside of the internet to begin with, though that’s a matter for another time.

I suppose the point that I’m trying to make is that there is a noticeable difference between speaking one’s mind, and writing it. When speaking, we must be sure to follow conventions and if we don’t do so, we have to be prepared for the logical consequences; writing, on the other hand allows us to say what we want to say and it also insures that whomever is listening will do so without interruption (presumably, or hopefully rather, thinking about what you’re writing). Which is an incredibly significant point that many seem to forget; just because we have an opinion and we think we’re right, that doesn’t mean that we should spend hours defending that opinion during otherwise mindless discussions. The “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” principle applies to speech, and not to writing because in writing, anyone reading can close the book or magazine, or just close the window in their browser. When listening to someone deliver their opinion to you orally, especially in a relatively nonacademic situation, a person can’t just walk away, and they certainly can’t force the speaker to stop talking without using a stapler in many, slightly illegal, ways.

It’s not a matter of “Don’t say dumb things,” but a matter of “Control your opinion and let. It. Go.” I mentioned earlier that Frye keeps his readers thinking even after they’ve concluded reading his essays and lectures, and that’s exactly what internet trolls and letters to the editor allow us to do; vent or provide our opinions during otherwise impossible to speak situations. If you want to do that; if you have an opinion and you feel that it’s not heard, and if you feel that your opinion is worthwhile, then start a blog. Otherwise, just let it go, because it wasn’t important anyway and the people around you are not interested in having to deal with, or maintain a discussion, with a real life internet troll. Trust me, I’m a blogger, I know.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


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