‘Spider-Man’ Producer: Turn Off Your Mouth
As I’ve stated before, I have serious issues with what I’ve heard about Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark as well as what people I know and trust have said about it. My previous article was based primarily on news reports as well as a Wikipedia entry for the musical. Some have taken me to task for what they assumed was my perspective—which they assumed was based on the staggering cost of this musical and hearsay—and while I said otherwise in the comments, the issue still stands as one of note in recent reviews. I will say this again: I genuinely don’t care how much it costs. If it can be done well for any amount, it’s money well spent.
However, recent comments that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark producer Michael Cohl allegedly made in an interview with Entertainment Weeklylead me to question Mr. Cohl’s understanding of what has happened, both under his watch as a producer and as a witness to the torrential waves of negative press. Is it bad form to review and judge a work before it is finished? Yes. Anything I have ever read about this has been under the explicit understanding that it is still in previews. Issues have been raised about just how unfinished it is, given when it’s supposed to open. Issues have been raised about how many people have been seriously injured, as well as in-performance delays that occurred due to technical difficulties. Yet these were all prefaced by the fact that it is still in previews and not judged as a final product.
Reviews of the preview for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark have come in from periodicals ranging from the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and the New York Post. I can sincerely understand that Mr. Cohl is feeling defensive, but to say, “the people who review the show and say it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period,” is juvenile, facile, and antagonistic. In effect, Mr. Cohl has put himself on notice by insulting every reviewer who has given a glaringly negative review of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. I can only assume that these reviewers will be none too pleased about being called out as such.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Mr. Cohl went one dangerous step further with, “It’s hard to have people that don’t get pop culture reviewing a pop culture event, isn’t it?” Really? Every single negative review was from someone with a gross lack of understanding of and appreciation for pop culture? None of them grew up with Saturday morning Spider-Man cartoons; the comic books that span a generation and a half; the movies, toys, or video games? In Mr. Cohl’s mind, would journalists have understood pop culture if their reviews were favorable?
This is flat-out insulting. Several comments to my prior piece on Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark have questioned if I was simply out to bash this instead of giving it a fair shake. I would love to give it a fair shake, and I would have loved to see how this would end up, but fairly or unfairly, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is being judged not only on its protracted run in previews, but how the creative forces behind it respond to the negative press. Mr. Cohl has not responded well; he has lashed out blindly and without any understanding or appreciation for his situation. He could have hoped for the best. He could have suggested again that it was unfair to judge a work in previews as a finished work. He didn’t.
Not in the least, my friend. I think the largest issue I have with this producer is his lashing out at those he assumes don’t understand pop culture. This in itself is a pop culture phenomenon, and you’re absolutely right – it has a considerable populist success. However to say that the harsh critics to this musical don’t get pop culture is insulting and reactionary.