By Julie Miller, Vanity Fair
On Monday, The New York Times published an exhaustive opinion piece by TV critic Neil Genzlinger about the "Really?" epidemic -- what he sees as a troublesome trend in which lazy comedy writers resort to the one-word rebuttal for a cheap laugh and members of the general public use it instead of formulating solid arguments or "approach[ing] new ideas with genuine curiosity." Genzlinger somewhat dramatically accused the snarky retort of "undoing 2,000 years' worth of human progress," although in his defense, he could have been driven to that extreme after watching episodes of the CMT reality cheerleading series, Cheer, which he references two paragraphs before name-checking Einstein. A day later, the Times printed a letter directed to Genzlinger by Jerry Seinfeld, perhaps one of the most successful perpetrators of the term.
Your Critic's Notebook column about the overuse of the term "Really?" was so deeply vacuous that I couldn't help but feel that you have stepped into my area of expertise.
Really, Neil? Really? You're upset about too many people saying, "Really?"? I mean, really.
O.K., fine, when it's used in scripted media, it is a little lazy. But comedy writers are lazy. You're not fixing that.
So, here's the bottom line.
If you're a writer, fine, don't use it. But in conversation it is fun to say.
Seinfeld ends the letter with a simple request to the author: "Don't preach to us about 'Really?'" Feel free to continue this debate in the space below. Suggested "Really?" topics: whether "Really?" is ever a valid comeback in an argument (even if it is well timed and executed), whether Einstein himself would use the "Really?" retort if he were alive in 2012, and -- most important -- what other polarizing topics might inspire Jerry Seinfeld to immediately write a personal letter to a journalist.
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