We Need to Talk about the ‘We Need to Talk About’ Headline Culture

When I read the “We need to talk about (insert something you may or may not find offensive about a celebrity/movie/etc.)” headlines, I think I’m being invited to partake in an intervention.

we need to talk about kevin.jpg

Somehow the someone mentioned in the body of the story made some grievous error that we should all sit down and “have a talk” about them. The film “We Need to Talk about Kevin” with all its tension and unease invades my mind so vividly I almost don’t click for fear of learning what my precious star perpetrated that would warrant so scathing of a headline as “We Need to Talk about Them.”

Then I click and read. Invariably, someone simply made an off-hand statement that goes against the current grain of what the ever-changing culture deems appropriate, and the writer pens a prima facie article within the first second of the incident occurring. Give it five minutes, then begin to think about what that person said.

These headlines are disingenuous. They tell me what to think about a particular person or subject before I even read what they did. The targets of these types of clickbait articles are often either not in the wrong, or completely overblown. If a writer wants to uncover injustice, write an article worthy of the subject.

I know. My headline is the same. I hope you, dear readers, will appreciate my hilariously intelligent attempt at humor. Aside: this may come across as nothing more than a rant from someone looking back on the “good ole days” of journalism, when it strived to be as unbiased in reporting as possible – and perhaps it is. But some topics are worth a spirited rant. Anyway, back to the article.

I shift to other similar articles that permeate headlines across the internet waves. “Someone Threw Shade at Someone,” “Someone said Something: Here’s what They Really Meant and why it Should Worry You.”

Entertainment news is the worst offender, standing next to Fox News, Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed as the leaders in misleading headline writing.

A few examples come to mind which I think highlight the current culture that degrade the journalistic integrity of entertainment news; reasons why they will never be seen in the same vein as the greats in journalism, and why they may end us dragging them through the dredges with them as they prey on our baser impulses.

The Russo Brothers make a comment about how they would use their same strategy if they were in charge of the DC Cinematic Universe. Thirty minutes later, a glut of one to two paragraph articles (I shouldn’t say articles, for articles they are not) fill our newsfeeds saying that “Russo Brothers threw shade on the DCEU.” Worse yet, how unruly Star Wars fans clung so tightly to Mark Hammil’s words when he said he did not like his character the first time he read the script to The Last Jedi. His words were fashioned into arrows by the self-proclaimed caretakers of the Star Wars Universe and fired at anyone who dared to say they enjoyed the film.

Praising Wonder Woman was so in vogue last summer. But as soon as Black Panther arrived, immediately the consensus shifted to how the Amazonians were not as forward-thinking in their armor as the battle-clad women in the Black Panther film. So writers for websites penned and peddled their words to the masses that said to stop praising the Amazonians you praised last year, something new is here to supplant it. You can’t be like me and praise them both at the same time. No. Condemn the past. Praise the future. “All hail Wakanda!” Until something new takes its place.

Chronological snobbery at its finest.

In the marketplace of entertainment news, the currency is the hottest take or the latest scoop; doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. All that matters are the clicks and staying up-to-date, that leaves us returning for more.

Something is always out there to outrage us. Someone will always take pleasure to concoct and operate the rumor mill that runs on our inherent desiderium to return to that feeling of joy found in being outraged in the way we are told to be, or informed on a rumor that may not be true (but treat it as fact until told otherwise). To quote the remake done by Naked Eyes, “There’s Always Something there to Remind Me.” These stories are the junk food shoved down our throats when we should be “saving room for dinner,” as my mother always reminded me when she caught me sneaking a snack or a cookie when I returned from school. Scooping a story is not wrong; just make sure the scoop is the truth. and the titillation of being the first friend to share the latest news on your timeline is hard to deny. The problem lies when we don’t mind our mothers (or parent) and keep on eating, gorging ourselves on junk articles and news until we’re too stuffed to read an in-depth article of inherent value. As I wrote earlier, we focus too much on the “perception” of racism, sexism, or breaking the latest #MeToo story that we undermine the seriousness when the actual story arrives. The #MeToo movement requires writers willing to take the time, sift through the facts, and make sure the Duffer Brothers’ and Henry Cavill’s aren’t cobbled together in the house of horrors along with the Harvey Weinstein’s and Bill Cosby’s that make up the foundation of the deplorable decadence of Hollywood. To use another analogy employed by the God-man, a little yeast leavens the whole batch. Lumping a bad work experience or an off-hand comment in with actual rape, sexual assault, or workplace violence, weakens the force that should be felt in those truly horrific accounts of terror performed by those men.

The purveyors of these clickbait headlines and articles need to learn how to stop telling us what to think or, more perniciously, how to feel about a subject. Rather, let the articles give us a reason to think and a reason to feel. Don’t demand our emotion; rather, let the facts presented drive them.

About Joseph Hamrick

Hello, my name is Joseph Hamrick. I enjoy reading stories I find, which provoke thoughtfulness and introspection. I am a Christian, so most of my writing and thinking comes from a theological perspective. I am currently engaged to Jesse Berden, and will Lord-willing be able to call her my wife (and subsequently update this profile) on March 23. I love contemplating on the moral, philosophical, and theological aspects of what I read and watch. I keep a weekly column, "Something to Consider," for the Greenville Herald-Banner. Along with that, I write on a regular basis at www.servantsofgrace.org.
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1 Response to We Need to Talk about the ‘We Need to Talk About’ Headline Culture

  1. Pingback: What We Learned This Week: July 29-August 4 - Feelin' Film

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