Broadly speaking we tend to see society become a little more open towards different groups over time, and with that comes slowly but surely increasing media representation of them. A cynical way to look at this is that it’s simply because their existence has become profitable, and that’s certainly a very valid way to look at it given the slew of middlebrow oscar bait exploiting historical prejudice and hamfisted tokenism. A more positive way to see it is that media representation gives us a platform to humanise different groups, to become aware of their existence and their validity as individuals. I believe both perspectives can be true at once, and in that sense there needs to be conscious thought about how representation is implemented.
As it has been known for quite some time, and as has grown tenfold with the expansion of net culture and the agency it gives people to yell at one another more easily than ever before, there’s a very clear subset of people who cringe at the simple idea of “art”, of interpretation. You really can’t get too invested in any media analysis or criticism without being called a pretentious blowhard at some point or another. It’s a basic inevitability. Maybe they didn’t like doing English in High School, maybe they had a bad personal experience with an snooty elitist or two; but I’m not here to assume why they might feel annoyed or even threatened by the notion of “art”. What I want to discuss is specifically the mindset itself. I want to discuss the relationship this thought process has to how people consume and discuss media. It’s a subject that’s come up many times in many circles, but I think it’s still a subject as pertinent as ever.
Criticism is one of the best means by which someone can intellectually engage with the media they consume. Whether it be towards literature, paintings, music, video games, TV or film, critique can strengthen your relationship with media by allowing you to understand how it communicates with you from its ideas to its themes to its presentation to its emotional resonance among other aspects. At this point in my life it’s one of my greatest passions, and yet one of the most toxic damaging things within the My Little Pony fandom. There seems to be a broad collective issue within the Brony fandom regarding how people critically engage with it. After a recent video by Tommy Oliver wherein he discussed how criticism has, in its own way, made the fandom overwhelmingly jaded and divided and a recent post on EQD about Digibro’s channel being taken down filled with malicious comments towards him for looking deeper into the series (e.g. use of the dreaded term “pretentious”), among other smaller incidents and personal experiences, I decided this was a topic I wanted to touch on.
If you’re on MAL or Hummingbird or AniList frequently, chances are you’re pretty accustomed to ratings, particularly scores out of 5 or 10 or 100. I rate most of my Anime and so do most frequent users of those sites, but just how much meaning do those scores really have? I would honestly have to say not much. Scoring is always based on arbitrary personal standards, no one person rates the same and no personal way of rating has any legitimate inherent value. Does a 10/10 mean an Anime is perfect in your opinion or that it’s simply a favourite of yours? Does a 5/10 mean you thought a series was average or does a 7/10 mean you thought a series was average? There’s just so many different meanings each score can take. Continue reading
So… fanbases… there’s a whole lot of them. Amongst Anime alone we’ve seen the growth of numerous pretty sizeable fanbases for certain shows and franchises. One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, Evangelion, and, more recently, Madoka Magica, Mirai Nikki, Steins;Gate, Guilty Crown, Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, Hunter x Hunter, Kill la Kill, etc. etc. etc…. I could literally sit here for days listing off Anime with big fanbases, and potentially months and years if I go beyond Anime to other media fanbases ranging from your My Little Ponys to your Pokemons to your Walking Deads to your Frozens to your Harry Potters to your Justin Biebers, etc. etc. etc… Each and every single fanbase I’ve listed is, to some degree within some notable circle, not very well liked, and 99% of the time it boils down to two fundamental criticisms:
1. They’re obnoxious about what they like.
2. They overrate what they like.
NOTE: Old post, sorta rambly. Also, my perspective is different on this issue today.
With Sword Art Online II beginning in this season, Anime communities from all across the world both in real life and on the internet have been rampant with discussion. There’s lots of love for it but there’s also a lot of hatred. I would call the series divisive, but depending on where you get your facts it could be construed as overrated or overhated. If you’re looking to its average scores on websites like MyAnimeList and AniList and Hummingbird it gives the impression of the series being one of the most loved Anime out there, but if you look to Anime forums which seem to almost all be dominated by pure hatred for the series you’ll see an image of the series practically being the laughing stock of the entire industry. That would probably strengthen the argument that the series is divisive, but I think the latter is more concerning because people who gave the series incredibly high scores aren’t exactly doing anything except adopting an opinion most of the time in many of these discussion places.
NOTE: NOTE: Old post, sorta rambly. Also, some opinions expressed are different to my perspective as of now.
As film critic Gene Siskel once said, “There is a point when a personal opinion shades off into an error of fact.”. That is to say, while there’s an emphasis on subjectivity in critique, you have to draw a line and realise that certain things are pure fact. That’s something I strongly believe, and it’s inspired me to discuss things in relation to that. What I’ll be doing right now is looking at Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a series that has become a fairly big deal. Though it is largely pretty well received, its popularity leads to it becoming divisive with some crowds. I’m not saying you’re wrong for disliking Madoka Magica, but what I am here to argue is that certain criticisms I’ve heard people give the series fall into what I deem “errors of fact”, criticisms that I believe are just flat out wrong.