"It's not over-analysis when every stray thought about the film has to be quashed lest you realize how stupid the movie is."
Moff's Law: Never try to dismiss critical analysis by asking, "Why can't you just enjoy it for what it is?"
When pop culture and fans intersect, there are sure to be discussions on a work's merit and message. These discussions take place on blogs, message boards and even on this wiki. Sometimes certain subjects (such as race, gender, etc) will come up and serious analysis will take place. At some point, someone will say a variation of this question: "Why can't you just enjoy it for what it is?" This statement is usually meant to derail discussion and protect their favorite work from criticism (although it may also be done in order to prevent Serious Business from escalating too much).
Moff's law tells us not to do this. The name "Moff's Law" was introduced in a blog post in race-meets-pop-culture blog Racialicious; it refers to a then-recent comment by Moff (known in Real Life as io9 contributor Josh Wimmernote ) on Annalee Newitz's io9 article When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?. Here is an abridged version of this comment, minus some vitriol:
Of all the varieties of irritating comment out there, the absolute most annoying has to be “Why can’t you just watch the movie for what it is??? Why can’t you just enjoy it? Why do you have to analyze it???”
If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. [...] SHUT. UP.
First of all, when we analyze art, when we look for deeper meaning in it, we are enjoying it for what it is.
Because that is one of the things about art, be it highbrow, lowbrow, mainstream, or avant-garde: Some sort of thought went into its making — even if the thought was, "I'm going to do this as thoughtlessly as possible!" — and as a result, some sort of thought can be gotten from its reception. That is why, among other things, artists (including, for instance, James Cameron
) really like to talk about their work.
Now, that doesn't mean you have to think about a work of art. I don't know anyone who thinks every work they encounter ought to only be enjoyed through conscious, active analysis — or if I do, they're pretty annoying themselves. And I know many people who prefer not to think about much of what they consume, and with them I have no argument. I also have no argument with people who disagree with another person's thoughts about a work of art. That should go without saying. Finally, this should also go without saying, but since it apparently doesn't: Believe me, the person who is annoying you so much by thinking about the art? They have already considered your revolutionary "just enjoy it" strategy, because it is not actually revolutionary at all. It is the default state for most of humanity.
This "law" has spread to other blogs, and in some cases, is actually enforced by bans. It was certainly a welcome voice to many a poster. Roger Ebert actually mentioned this on his Twitter account.
This is NOT a "Stop Having Fun" Guys trope. It's not saying that you have to analyze a work as if it were the results to a scientific test searching for the cure to cancer. There is nothing wrong with liking a work for what it is without thinking about it too much. Moff's Law is a response to those who tell critics that they're being stupid by analyzing the work and should just sit back and enjoy it mindlessly.
Contrast Bellisario's Maxim and Measuring the Marigolds. Not to be confused with the other Moff's Lawnote , the Tarkin Doctrine, the other other Moff's Law note , or the other other other Moff's Law note . Compare It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars, a similar defense used to derail criticism.