A Defense of Snark


Now that Snark Week is over, I want to talk about snark.

I was recently told that a Frock Flicks post I wanted to share to a Facebook group was deleted by mods because of the word “snark.” I’m not really bothered by that because their sandbox, their rules. However, I realized that somewhere along the line I’ve become a defender of responsibly directed snark. What I mean by “responsibly directed” is that it’s not just a bitchy feeding frenzy designed to make someone feel like shit about themselves, but targeting things, like, well, film and television, media which has for decades made it no secret that they think their audience is a bunch of drooling idiots.

What we do with Frock Flicks is try to push back against this notion that actual history is too boring to be relatable in modern entertainment, that researching something means not allowing for creativity, and of course, that period clothing is stuffy and boring unless it’s been carved up, modernized, and made “sexier.”

I do think about the costumers and designers involved in the films and shows we feature, and most of the time they are the misguided target of the things that irritate people. The vast majority of the issues that ruffle our collective feathers are the result of decisions by the director and/or producers, not the people tasked with creating the clothes the actors wear.

That said, criticism is part of show biz. In an industry as big as Hollywood, it’s highly unlikely that anything we say here or on the podcast will ever reach the ears/eyes of the powers that be (though if it does, we are available for consultation).  We should still be allowed to talk about the dumbing down of history as entertainment, and I argue that we should also be ok with the fact that as a predominately female demographic, discussion is going to be at times sardonically witty, scathing, and even outright bitchy. And I’m not so sure that that’s a bad thing.

Anyway, I welcome your thoughts on this… Is snark always bad? Should we be ashamed of ourselves? Are we setting a bad example?


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

12 Responses

  1. Kendra

    This is why I frequently use the term “filmmakers” rather than “costume designer” when I’m talking about who is making decisions on costume movies/TV. Because I know that often, the costume designer is told what to do!

    • Sarah Lorraine

      Right! I think it’s easy to loose track of WHO is actually calling the shots, when you see some of the truly hideous stuff that gets passed off as costume. For instance, I’m 99% certain that the reason the costumes of The Tudors, especially in the first few seasons, was so horrific was because the producers could give a shit and had provided almost no budget for a cast that was going to be spending a significant amount of time naked anyway.

    • Trystan

      Or the generically all-purpose “they” — meaning, every damn person involved in the production. Because you never really know. Sometimes it’s the director’s wack-a-doodle Artistic Vision (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is an opera!), but sometimes the story was written as a riff on history before the director got to it. Sometimes (esp. with TV; hello The CW & “Reign”), market forces are more at play, & you have studios & producers giving creative advice. And then, at the last minute, sometimes an actor refuses to wear a certain thing that was lovingly crafted in a period fashion (Raquel Welch in “Three Musketeers”). Doesn’t make it right, but each production does have it’s own story.

      And because they’re in the public arena, they are fair game for snark, IMNSHO.

  2. mmeberg

    I think snark is absolutely legitimate in a context of the film/TV industry. So I basically agree with everything that was said in this post.

    That said: how will I deal with my withdrawals now that Snark Week is coming to an end? I’m at a loss. Can I suggest a recurring snark post, maybe weekly (e.g. Snark Sunday/Saturday in the spirit of TBT. Or any day, but alliterations are go)?

    Anyway, thank you for this week and all the snark! Your (all three of course) make posts that are interesting, often informative and make me laugh so I can ask for not much more.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      Thank you for enjoying Frock Flicks! And we will try to incorporate more SW type posts going forward because we also have been enjoying the heck out of all the discussion here and on Facebook!

  3. Natalie

    Responsibly directed snark is amazing, useful, and hilarious. I ditto the request for continued snark, as I have not laughed that hard in a long time. This week has been glorious!!

  4. Angela

    Your Snark Week has filled my Regretsy Void. Please don’t stop! Snark on, you beautiful bitches!

  5. Lhizz

    As modern media consumers, I think it’s our right and even our responsibility to feed back to media producers with our experience of their product, and snark in this case should be considered the same as satire. As Trystan says, once their creation is released into the public arena then it’s free to be responded to and against. As per the recent discussions about free speech and terrorism, this is a case of “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, but at the same time that doesn’t stop me from disapproving publically, loudly and colourfully ;-)

  6. Abby

    I spent my early career as a historical interpreter and became a colonial American history professor who teaches in period clothing and uses historical objects, films and music in my classes. I am on a research sabbatical this semester and am really missing the more playful historian I am when I’m in a classroom so I have thoroughly enjoyed everything that you have written in the last week! But one of the things I do as a professor is teaching my students to carefully assess all source material around them and those assessments can take many forms, whether it’s the formal criticism of an academic article or more lighthearted (but still carefully thought out) pieces like these. And yes, I think these are necessary skills for anyone to have.

  7. Molly

    Long live the snark! Mostly because I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

    As you said, “please snark responsibly”. Like most good comedy, you are punching up, not down. Media is fair game for criticism, especially when it is presented as history.

  8. Lauren Rachel

    I think snark can be bad sometimes, but I think what you’re doing is fine and funny. You have a set goal, which is a critique of how historically accurate the costumes/designs are, but you can also separate that from just having fun. And you never come across as mean, at least not to me, just precise. (Like when I do Dickens Fair in the Adventurer’s Club, and one of the ladies points something out to me about my dress/outfit that could be better or fixed. It’s not mean or cruel, it’s just saying, “Hey, you missed a spot there.”)