As a working actor and writer since the age of 10, I've read lots of reviews of my work, not all of them flattering. I still remember when I was 18 and the local newspaper reporter said, of my community theater role as Conrad in Bye Bye Birdie, I "wasn't much of a singer." Sadly, he was correct.
I've been reading my reviews since, whether for acting, directing or writing. Sometimes I've found reviews to be extremely helpful, pointing out flaws I saw myself but couldn't quite figure out how to resolve. There have also been times where I've disagreed with a critique and moved on. I take reviews especially serious since, for about three years, I was employed in New York as a theater reviewer. I understand the responsibility involved and the effect your words have on other people.
In today's Internet world, reviews have become harder to read because everyone really is a critic. Many, unfortunately, never applied for the job. Amazon reviews are the hardest for me to look at because there are so many blatant lies written about my books.
After I wrote my first gay wedding book, a woman wrote a negative assessment, in part because "the book is authored by a gay male and a straight female. So, the true lesbian point of view is kind of lost in the shuffle."
Fair enough, except that my co-writer was and is an open lesbian and never once says otherwise or denies this fact. Why the reviewer decided she was straight is beyond me, but her statement should be discredited for lack of research. Yet, there the comment remains, 10 years later, telling potential buyers false information about my work.
Another "well-read woman" wrote a disparaging review, saying "First, there was no information about finding a reception or ceremony site," which would be a terrible omission on the part of my co-writer and myself were it not for the fact that chapter four is devoted entirely to finding a reception and ceremony site. She then says, "I was hoping for concrete information on choosing a gay-friendly site, working with vendors, signing a contract and ways to hold your wedding at bay. Nada."
Nada a stitch of truth in her comments, as all those topics are also covered in the book. Her review is still there as well.
Ten years, and three books later, I've grown more accustomed to the world of online reader reviews, and the sites that pay for five-star reviews and all the competition to get a universal thumbs up. I also understand that struggle, given that anyone can go online and give your book one star, without even revealing their name or proving they read your work. Given the horrifying state of "discussion" in discussion sections of articles, I'm also somewhat immune to the uncivilized nature of humans with a keypad and a grudge.
What I won't accept is the need for personal attacks, which is why a glimpse today at a review guided me to my own keypad. A man named Adam one-starred my last gay wedding book, The Gay Couple's Guide to Wedding Planning, and said it appeared as if it were written by a "sad old queen." I have no objection to the one star, or his other comments, but I refuse to be quiet in a community that is becoming increasingly hostile, petty and shallow to its neighbors.
I once wrote that Perez Hilton is a wonderful example of gay rights because he has shown that gay people have the right to be as reprehensible as their straight counterparts. But that doesn't mean it's a goal we should strive to achieve. There's no reason for a gay man to review my book by calling me a "sad old queen," especially in a country in which gays have spent decades fighting for rights and awareness and equal treatment. If the younger generation of gay men and women don't understand why we need to show dignity, then we have failed to evolve. Since, I'm assuming, this reviewer is having or attending a wedding himself, all the more reason he should be respectful of the people who helped him get there. It didn't happen by name-calling.
The gay singer, model and actor Quentin Elias died on February 25, and since I once interviewed the man, I was anxious to read the articles about him in magazines like Instinct and Queerty. The tributes were great, but I stopped reading altogether after perusing comments that were so vile and hateful I felt like I'd entered the world of Rush Limbaugh, not a memoriam write-up. I don't care what your personal thoughts of Elias are, but use a little decorum when attacking the deceased, and remember how many of his friends and loved ones are on the receiving end of your synopses.
As for me, "sad old queen" is nothing compared to what I've been called while growing up gay, but they are words that have no business in a review of my work. While I love humor and sarcasm and satire, I also know there is a place for them where they contribute to our growth, and a place where they only contribute to the disintegration of our existence.
On that note, Adam, I hope you have or had a lovely wedding. And just so you know, I am not sad.