One-Sided Satire: A Look at the Video “Modern Educayshun”

So I bumped into this short film called “Modern Educayshun” recently (see it’s funny because they spelled it all stupid like).  It was created by Neel Kolhatkar, an Australian comedian.  On his Youtube channel, Kolhatkar lists the video under a playlist called “Short Films and Cultural Satire”.

Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

The short film opens on a spooky hallway filled with spooky music (with stock spooky noises too).  Before our hero (played by Neel himself) manages to enter any of the classrooms someone screams, causing him to stop in his tracks for a moment.

 

Neel Kolhatkar (in video form!)

 

Our hero enters in a math classroom that inexplicably has only four students (including him) in it.  The lesson begins with a simple question:

“What’s one plus one?”

The protagonist slowly raises his hand and answers “two”.  But the teacher says no, he’s incorrect.  Mr. Turtleneck then raises his hand and gives us our true answer:

 

 

Time for another question, “what’s three times three?”  The protagonist raises his hand again, answering “nine”.  But of course he’s wrong, because the real answer is “gender equality”.  At this point the hero of the story asks “is this a joke?”, to which the girl student (Penelope) replies “you think gender equality is a joke?”

 

She looks like she’s ready to devour someone…

 

Our hero responds “no…but isn’t this a math class?”

“Don’t be so racist,” exclaims Mr. Turtleneck.

Do you see the trend now?  I’m sure you do.  This is one of those videos…you know, the ones that people share all the time to assure themselves that they’re right and everyone who thinks differently is wrong.  That’s actually how I stumbled into the video in the first place, because a couple conservative people on my friends list shared it.  I have to admit that the first time I saw the video, I clicked away right after the gender equality line because it became clear to me what the video was doing.  But for the sake of this blog post, I dove back in and watched the whole thing.

And it doesn’t get better.  No…it just gets worse.

The story continues with the students taking out their research projects.  Mr. Turtleneck and Penelope are given six out of ten on their projects.  Sunshine (the student wearing suspenders) is given a one.  Then, she gets to our hero, who gives an eloquent explanation of using math to predict heart attacks.  She gives him a seven, to which he responds “you barely even read it.”

“You used red pen,” she says.

“Red is considered offensive in many religions,” Mr. Turtleneck helpfully adds.

Now, it would seem that our hero earned the highest score in the class, but then the teacher averages out all their scores.  In the end, everyone ends up with a five out of ten.

Because equality!

It’s not over yet though.  Then they have to add in “privilege points” (at which point I rolled my eyes so hard I saw the inside of my skull).  According to the logic of this universe, privilege points are awards or detriments based on your traits.  For example, you get minus points for being white and male but you get plus points for being bisexual and female.  Once everything is said and done, the protagonist ends up with a five instead of a seven.

And then we get to Sunshine.

 

 

Why is he only wearing suspenders? The world may never know.

 

“I’m gay, I’m trans, I’m Asian,” he begins.  “I’m overweight, I’m lower-class, I’m unintelligent, unattractive…I’ve got hairs on my nipples.  And I also got body odor.  And I can’t really run properly or tie my shoelaces by myself.”  He pauses.  “And I once watched a pigeon die.”

After adding all his privilege points together, the teacher gives Sunshine an eighteen out of ten on his project (because maths).

This is when everything hits the fan.

“Let me see this,” our hero proclaims as he stands up.  He goes and forcefully grabs Sunshine’s “research project”, revealing to be little more than the word equality written on a piece of paper with hearts drawn around it.

 

The beginning of the end…also yes “equality” is spelled wrong.

 

At this point, our hero is fed with everything.  “This is wrong,” he says.  “You’re all crazy.”  And that’s the last straw.

The three other students and the teacher all get up from their desks and advance on him.

“Prepare to die and know that social justice won,” declares Penelope as our hero is backed into a wall.  The teacher approaches with a roll of black tape and they start taping his mouth shut.  But before they can finish, he screams.

We’re then treated to another shot of the hallway, where a new student hears the scream and jumps.  She then enters the very same classroom, starting the cycle all over again…

 

Analysis

Now, it’s fairly obvious what the point of this video is.  It’s an exaggerated parody of political correctness.  And I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually hate the video as much as I thought I would.  There are people like Penelope and Mr. Turtleneck in the world, people who are so obsessed with being politically correct that it dominates all aspects of their lives.

And I despise that kind of hypersensitivity myself.  It’s the kind of thing where you’re not allowed to criticize Black Lives Matter without fear of immediately being called racist.  While I agree with their message, I sometimes disagree with their methods and actions.

But I digress.  That’s a story for another time.

Merriam-Webster defines politically correct as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”  So by this definition, political correctness can span a whole heap of subjects.

Which brings me to my issue with this particular video: it’s a very one-sided look at the topic, focusing only on what extremist liberals use as talking points.  And that’s exactly why some people are going to share it, so that they can point and say “ha ha ha this is such a perfect representation of liberals ha ha ha man they’re stupid ha ha ha!”

For all pandering the anti-political correctness crowd does, they certainly seem to have their own issues they get all “triggered” about.

For example, what about welfare?

What about burning the American flag?

What about gun control?

Hell, what about abortion?  Now there’s a topic both liberals and conservatives are liable to lose their damn minds over.

This is what happens when you reduce a viewpoint down to a few talking points.  You lose perspective.  And it’s far too easy to feel contempt for anyone who disagrees with you when you don’t take the time to hear them out.  That’s basically all this video seems to be, a knee-jerk reaction to the extreme-left of the political spectrum.  And while schools do tend to be more liberal, I’ve never seen any real evidence of them being all that stifling to different opinions.  In fact, I can only remember one teacher I’ve ever had who openly displayed her political views, and she was arguing against the existence of global warming.  For all its attempts at being witty and clever (I will admit I did chuckle at the “sexually ambiguous” line), this video seems to boil down to seven minutes of liberal bashing.

I’m just gonna end this by saying that a best friend of mine from high school was once sent to the principal’s office for not saying the pledge of allegiance.

Because people were “concerned”.

So yeah…it goes both ways.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

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Generational Idols: Youtube vs. Hollywood

Everyone has at least one role model when they’re growing up, someone they look up to.  Role models teach by example, with younger people observing how they think and act in certain situations and then trying to emulate that.  Role models can be good or bad, depending on the person.  They don’t even have to be real people.  Some role models are the fictional characters actors portray on television or in movies, and some might even be characters in cartoons.

Traditionally, of course, role models have often been celebrities in Hollywood.  But that’s starting to change…

Recently I stumbled across a Variety article from 2014 that revealed that the most influential people among teenagers ages 13-18 are actually Youtubers (a term for people who make videos on Youtube).  This isn’t just a fluke either.  All five of the top spots in the survey were populated by Youtube stars.  The first Hollywood celebrity to appear on the list is Paul Walker at number six.  And honestly (not to be insensitive or anything), that might have something to do with the fact that he died.

Now, the tone of the article bothers me a little bit.  Here’s the beginning:

“U.S. teenagers are more enamored with YouTube stars than they are the biggest celebrities in film, TV and music.  That’s the surprising result of a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen.”

I might be reading too much into it, but it’s almost like the writer was aghast at the fact that the folk in Tinseltown aren’t on teenagers’ radars as much as Youtube content creators.  Later the article comments that “despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media, another comedy duo, known as the Fine Bros., Benny and Rafi, finished a close second…”.  In the end, I only have one question.  One, simple question…

Have none of you been paying any damn attention?

This shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.  Maybe Hollywood celebrities were important for older generations, but for newer generations their popularity is slipping.  It’s not some big secret either.  Plenty of people within my age group (including myself) have made it obvious how we feel about celebrities and their lives.  When we see the stories about how Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breaking up their marriage, we roll our eyes and ask “who cares”?  The news business as a whole seems to have this obsession with celebrities.  They dominate the headlines and fill up our browsers with click-bait articles.

So yes, the Fine Bros. may be highly influential “despite having minimal exposure in the mainstream media”, but that’s because we simply don’t care what the mainstream media thinks anymore.  It’s become increasingly obvious that the media regularly fails to do its job.  News stations are often owned by bigger corporate people or entities that have slanted opinions which trickles down into the news broadcasts, depriving us of a objective view on the story.  And sometimes the media even tries too hard to be objective, refusing to delve deeper into a story for fear of sparking controversy.

Do you know why Edward R. Murrow has an award named after him?  Because he stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy and exposed him for the demagogue that he was.  He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind or tell the truth.  He showed us that what McCarthy was doing was wrong, and played a large role in his downfall.

But now?  We see stuff like this and wonder if our newscasters are even human anymore:

 

 

Youtubers, on the other hand, seem like polar opposites to the stiffness of newscasters and celebrities.  They seem natural and excitable.  They seem passionate about their work, passionate about the things they love.  As the Variety article points out, teenagers feel that they have a far more authentic relationship with a Youtuber.  They enjoy that Youtube stars don’t have a strict filter and that they have a more straightforward sense of humor.  Youtubers aren’t defined by PR marketing strategies created by professional spin doctors.  They’re still putting forth an “image”, so to speak, but one that appears far more believable and relatable than most of the people in Hollywood.

Sure, the liberal-minded among us can stand up and cheer when Meryl Streep calls Donald Trump a bully.  And we can applaud when Leonardo DiCaprio preaches about the necessity of fighting global warming.  But when we are confronted with a tough problem in our lives, we don’t find ourselves asking “what would Leo do”?  Because, in the end, they are still distant from us.  Most of them were born into families that had more money than they knew what to do with.  They grew up in lavish homes and never wanted for anything.  Now compare that to someone like Pewdiepie, who has the most subscribers of all on Youtube (as of this writing he has over 54 million people subscribed to him).  Pewdiepie (real name: Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg) was completely unknown until he was already in his twenties and going to college.  Even when he started Youtube he didn’t immediately have a massive amount of subscribers.  It took a combination of tenacity, luck, and other factors before his channel exploded and he went from two million subscribers to over twenty million in the span of a single year.

Instantly, Pewdiepie as a person is more relatable to us.  He wasn’t born into millions of dollars.  He had to work for it.  And when he gets on camera and records a video, it doesn’t feel like he’s reading things off of a teleprompter.  His image isn’t one crated by professionals.  His image is one he created by simply being an extension of himself.

 

And seriously, who could hate that face?

 

And that’s the key thing here: being relatable.  Youtube stars will always seem more relatable to teenagers than celebrities because of how they carry themselves.  Youtubers, at their core, usually started out by setting up a camera and recording themselves doing what they loved.  By contrast, Hollywood celebrities always seem to have a facade between them and us, whether they’re acting out a character or giving an award acceptance speech.  We can’t relate to them because most of us have never and will never have the same experiences.  But so many of us can relate to the more common experiences of playing video games or reacting to movies, experiences which Youtube has in spades.

Not everyone will enjoy their content or their personalities.  But like it or not, Youtubers are the celebrities for a new generation.

And if that still surprises you, maybe it’s time to stop judging and start paying attention.

Kids, Technology, and the Generational Divide

About two years ago a Youtube channel known as The Fine Bros released a video called “Kids React to Walkmans (Portable Cassette Players)”.  You can find the video embedded below:

 

 

As you can probably predict from the thumbnail alone, these kids are absolutely mystified by the Walkman.  One of them even laughs and comments “I feel so judged right now.”  Which is funny, because it seems that’s exactly what the internet did.

Back when this video first came out, I saw it pop up in my Facebook feed every now and then.  It was being shared by people around my age who were usually commenting things like “this is sad” and “how can these kids not understand how a simple cassette player works?”  You can even see this attitude in some of the Youtube comments.  “Wow this is very sad,” comments one person.  “Considering most of them were born in the 2000’s, they should’ve seen VCRs and VHS tapes and cassette players.”  Another person comments “this is not adorable, its sad. walkmans aren’t really that old at all. It’s mainly because of the fact that parents just buy technology so kids can leave them alone. kids now a days lack social skills and problem solving skills. even in this video you can hear the arrogance they have and they are young.”  The person finishes by saying “Prime example of how the future will hold for this generation… brainless and brainwashed.”

Although not everyone has such a negative outlook on things.  One person writes “I feel this is making fun of young childen. How are they supposed to know what a walkman or cassette is? They never seen one in their life. They are all like 10 or younger. It would be like asking me what an [8-track] was like when I was 10. These kids are used to flash drives and ipods.”

First things first: we have to consider the fact that this is a video that has been edited for our entertainment.  Essentially, The Fine Bros wanted to show us the “funny bits”.  And it’s not like they’re entirely oblivious to what it is.  One of the kids gets close to guessing what it is and then another one manages to get it right.  But judging an entire generation based off of a reaction video made for our entertainment seems foolish, especially when you consider that this is but a handful of kids out of a generation of millions.

Secondly, we have to ask ourselves…exactly how clueless are these kids anyways?  Well…probably not as clueless as a forty-five year old adult trying to use a laptop for the first time.

Yeah, that’s right.  I went there.  As this article I found notes, “where older people fear they’ll either break something or change the settings beyond repair, the young understand that everything can be put back the way it was quite easily. Technology doesn’t scare them.”  And that’s just the way it is.  Older people are afraid of breaking things like that because it takes them longer to learn new things.  It’s well-known that as you grow older your ability to adapt and learn new things can become impaired.  So as it stands, children are predisposed toward understanding technology more than adults.

And this whole “technology rotting the brain” attitude the older generation has is nothing new.  Rock and roll was the devil’s music…rap music and video games made kids violent…and so on.  But what does the actual science have to say about the effects of this horrible technology?

Well…not much.

Like the article I linked to above says, the touch-screen era is still very new.  Regardless, it seems that moderation is still a good idea, but some studies have found that there might be beneficial effects to “screen time”.  The fact of the matter is that we as an older generation can stamp our feet and protest as much as we want, but in the end there’s no clear indication that this technology is “rotting” kids’ brains.

Besides, how can we determine all of that from a seven and a half-minute video?  Let’s face it, the Walkman is an archaic piece of technology that has been on the decline ever since portable CD players were introduced.  Sure, you can still buy them at some places, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were introduced here in the United States during the summer of 1980…almost forty years ago.

We were born in an era when technology was jumping ahead by leaps and bounds.  Of course the things we loved and grew up with were going become old and outdated.  Back when I was a little kid, floppy disks were still around, those little square things that could hold barely over a megabyte of data.

 

Yeah…one of those.

 

By contrast, the flash drive I use today for storing my short stories and the like has a storage capacity of four gigabytes, which is nearly four thousand times as much space as a floppy disk.

It’s funny really.  People from my generation will often make fun of our parents and their parents for pining after “the good ol’ days” of the 1950’s.  But in the end, many of us are simply pining after the days of the ’90s and ’80s.  And if technology continues advancing at a similar rate, there’s a good chance that in forty years kids will be looking back at today’s technology with a similar attitude to the kids in the Walkman video.

“What do you mean this can only hold four gigabytes,” they’ll exclaim.  “That’s crazy!  And you’re saying that you actually had to plug it in to use it?  It’s not wireless?  That’s ridiculous!  Man, how did people live back then?”

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.

36 Questions Women Have For Men: The Answers

I’m a bit late to this party, but in January of this year BuzzFeedYellow, a BuzzFeed Youtube channel, posted a video entitled “36 Questions Women Have For Men.”  And honestly, the video comes across as condescending and rather insulting, a thin attempt to disguise man-hating as feminism.

I thought I could have some fun with these by writing some answers to these questions.  So here we go.

 

How does it feel to be the same sex as Donald Trump?

Well, at least he has great hair.

 

The magnificent Trump hair.

It looks even better after Jimmy Fallon is done ruffling it.

 

But in all seriousness, how does it feel to be the same sex as the CEO of Mylan, the company that jacked the price of the Epipen up hundreds of dollars?  Or better yet, how does it feel to be the same sex as Delphine LaLaurie, a wealthy slave owner in the 1800’s who beat, abused, and tortured her slaves?

Bad people exist everywhere, regardless of gender.  Being male doesn’t automatically equal a tendency towards doing bad things.

 

Why do you hate rom coms?  Or do you just feel like you need to hate them?

I…don’t really?  I mean, out of my preferred choice of movies, romantic comedies are not exactly high on the list.  Most of the time I find them boring.  The plots are predictable and the characters are uninspired.  I’m sure there are good examples of the genre, but I don’t exactly go out of my way to watch them.

So no, I don’t hate rom coms automatically because I’m a man.  Do you hate action movies automatically because you’re a woman?

 

Everyone likes The Notebook, everyone likes Beyonce.  It’s just a fact.

No it’s not.  Also that’s not a question.  NEXT!

 

Why do you make women sit around and talk about men in movies when y’all easily just sit around and talk about boobs for hours?

You know, for supposedly being a critique of female stereotypes, this video is certainly feeding into a lot of the male ones.  Not every guy is some dude-bro walking cliché who thinks that sex is the key to being a man.  Now THAT’S just a fact.

You hear that?  That’s the sound of the mic dropping.  I don’t even need to write the rest of this post.  I’m just that good.

 

Why do you automatically assume that you won’t like TV or movies that star a female lead?

Why do you automatically assume things about people you haven’t even met?

 

Also your outfit sucks.

Also your outfit sucks.

 

The original Alien is one of my favorite movies, and it stars a female lead.  I also really like the TV show Fringe.  And guess what?  One of the lead characters is female.

I’m not even sure where this one even comes from.  I have yet to meet the person who’s like “oh a woman has the starring role in that movie?  Well to hell with this, I’m out!”

 

Why are you surprised when women are funny?

I’m not.  I like Ellen DeGeneres among others.  Enough said.

Also this question is stupid as hell.

 

I’m probably funnier than you.

This is your third appearance in this video.  So you’re zero for three right now.  Better step up your game.

Again, this is not a question.  NEXT!

 

Why do you think that we’re obsessed with you when we hook up?

Lady, I don’t even know you.  And after how condescending you were in this video, I don’t think I want to know you.

 

Why can’t I sleep with as many people as I want to without being judged?

Why would I care?  Our whole evolutionary drive means that we want to spread around our genes as much as possible.  So go nuts if you want.

But seriously, stop reinforcing stupid male stereotypes.

 

When men do it, they’re congratulated.

WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!

 

Why do you consider a woman a tease if she doesn’t sleep with you after three dates, but a slut if she sleeps with you on the first date?

Damn is there like, a rule book for this now?  I gotta write this down…

(raises hand) Is this going to be on the test next Tuesday?!

 

In what world does no mean yes?

Opposite World.

 

Why do you say women are too emotional to be leaders then justify catcalling by saying men just can’t control themselves?

I don’t.  Catcalling is stupid.

 

Why do you think that just because you’re nice to me, I owe you my body?

It’s nice that you can take a few choice anecdotes and use them to label an entire gender as sexist and perverted.  Really shows your progressive side.

 

Why would you ever send an unsolicited dick pic?

BECAUSE CARLOS DANGER SAYS TO HELL WITH THE REPERCUSSIONS!

 

Why do you feel like it’s okay to harass women or make offensive comments about women but when somebody does it to your sister it’s not okay?

Uh…I don’t have a sister?  And even if I did, are you saying that I shouldn’t be standing up for them if they’re harassed?  That doesn’t make any sense.

 

How does it feel to interrupt me when I’m in the middle of making a point during a meeting?

I already interrupted you several times by pausing the video.  And let me tell you, it felt good.

 

Why do you have to sit with your legs so wide open?

Yes hello, I have 36 questions too.  And they’re all “WHY DOES THIS VIDEO SUCK?!”

 

I get that you have balls, but I don’t stand around with my arms wide open to make room for my boobs.

Your boobs are not the same thing as my balls.  You are not crushing your boobs together by not having you arms wide open.

Also don’t flatter yourself.  Me keeping my legs open has nothing to do with you.  It’s just more comfortable for me that way.

 

Why are women perceived as the weaker sex even though we literally birth you?

Because women are generally physically weaker than men.  That’s just science.

SEXIST SCIENCE!

SEXIST SCIENCE, UPHOLDING THE VALUES OF THE PATRIARCHY!

 

Why is it so bad to show your emotions?

It isn’t.  Moving on…

 

Why are you always trying to prove your masculinity to me?

BECAUSE ME MAN!  ME STRONG!  ME HIT THINGS WITH CLUB!

Is that to your expectations milady?

 

Why the fuck isn’t it ladylike to cuss?  When did words get genders?

Yeah wouldn’t it be funny if like Spanish had masculine and feminine designations for every word in the entire-

……

Ah crap.

 

Why is it your first instinct to doubt women who have been sexually violated or raped?

Why is it your first instinct to ask loaded questions?  And isn’t it “innocent until proven guilty”?  Does a man just have to be guilty if a woman accuses him?  Is that what you’re trying to say?

That, my friends, is called a double standard.

 

Why do you assume a woman’s angry because she’s on her period?

Because the first thing I do when a girl is angry is ask “HEY ARE YOU ON YOUR PERIOD?!”

 

Why do you think women that wear makeup are false advertising?  We could say the same thing about your dick size.

Wait…I was supposed to be putting makeup on my dick?  Well shit, I’ve been doing this all wrong!

 

Why isn’t it weird that there’s a bunch of old white men sitting in a room making legislation about what I can and can’t do with my body?

Because family values and Jesus.

 

Do you have a coochie?

No I don’t.  Do you have a penis?  No you don’t.  But that doesn’t seem to stop you from assuming you know what men are all about does it?

 

Why are straight guys so obsessed with lesbians?

Sounds like someone’s jealous…

 

How does it feel to get kicked in the balls?

Like having to watch this vapid excuse for a video.

 

Do you ever get tired of trying to be manly all the time?

I used to cry a lot as a child.  So no, I don’t get tired of “being manly” because I never made much of an attempt to be manly, whatever the hell that means.

 

Why are you so afraid of gender equality?

Oh no, women being equal to me is so scary and horrible!  They should just go back to the kitchen and make me more sandwiches!

You know maybe gender equality would have better luck if certain feminists weren’t so busy trying to reinforce bad male stereotypes.

 

Why do I deserve to be paid less than you?  In what world does 77 cents equal a dollar?  In what world does 68 cents equal a dollar?  How is that fair?

The whole “77 cents on the dollar thing” is brought up a lot when it comes to gender equality in the workplace.  But the problem is that it’s total crap.  They basically just took the average wage for men and the average wage for women, stacked them together, and came to this conclusion without taking into account any other factors like age, experience, time spent working at one particular job, so on and so forth.

If it was actually true, then no it’s not fair.  But we don’t really know that it’s true now do we?

 

Why are you intimidated by a woman who makes more money than you?

Because women scary, me stupid sexist man!

 

Why are opinionated women seen as bitches when opinionated men are seen as bosses?

Have you been on the internet in the last five years?  Everybody’s opinionated and nobody likes anybody.

 

Why aren’t you speaking up when you hear your male friends behind closed doors make jokes that are offensive to women?

Maybe because my male friends aren’t a bunch of raving chauvinists?  And maybe because the whole concept of something being “offensive” has been so twisted around that just disagreeing with someone else can be seen as offensive?  Or maybe it’s because I find the whole concept of being “offended” heinously stupid in the first place?  I mean come on people, that’s why freedom of speech exists, to protect the unpopular ideas from being phased out.  Obviously if you use your free speech to harass someone and negatively impact their life you should be punished, but are we really going to forbid people from making a slightly off-color “dumb blonde” joke?

 

Why are you so afraid of recognizing your own privilege?  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just recognize it and do something about it.

If it doesn’t make me a bad person then why did you spend the entire video trying to make me feel like a bad person?  I recognize that men have had unfair advantages for a long time.  It hasn’t even been a century yet since women were first given the right to vote.  But I’m so sick of this stupid attitude that says I should feel like a terrible human being just because I’m a man.  They claim that “oh it’s okay, just recognize that you’re privileged and work to fix it”.  But disagree with them in the slightest, and you’re a pile of human garbage.

 

Now look, I recognize that sexism still exists today and that we still have work to do on that front.  But outright male-bashing?  How is that going to solve anything?

I think the key issue with this video is that these questions don’t seem like they were meant to be answered.  They’re extremely loaded and condescending.  They don’t do anything to further the progressive cause but rather end up stifling it.

But there is a happy ending to this story: apparently the Youtube comments section agrees that the video is bad.  So there’s that.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

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Why Open-Ended Constructive Criticism is Good and Necessary

So I was recently watching a video by one of my favorite Youtubers, and I came across a comment that irked me (yes I strayed below that unholy line into the Youtube comments section…god forgive me).  The comment basically said “if you can’t make anything better than don’t criticize the creator of the game”.  The game in question was a fan-made game that was a clone of another game called Five Nights at Freddy’s, a horror game where you play as a security guard monitoring security cameras on the night shift at a fictional Chuck E. Cheese style place.  In the game, the animatronic mascots wander around at night, and if they manage to get to you it’s game over.

Anyway, the game in question that I was watching was a straight up re-creation of that game, just with a different setting and different characters (and they’re actual ghosts this time instead of animatronics).  But my point is that I read that comment and found myself annoyed.  “If you can’t make anything better than don’t criticize”?  What kind of logic is that?  Does the game creator belong to some exclusive club where only the members can critique whatever he or she makes?

The whole point of criticism is to allow in viewpoints that you wouldn’t normally consider.  That’s how it works.  You want these different viewpoints, because it will help you craft your work into an even greater version of itself.  You can’t narrowly select the type of people you want to critique your stuff, otherwise you run the risk of getting inadequate feedback.  For example, if you’re a writer, you can’t just get critiques from other writers.  That’ll certainly help, but they’ll always look at your stuff through a writer’s perspective, meaning that they’ll normally focus mostly on stuff like grammar, punctuation, and word choice.  They might not give you feedback on plot development, characters they liked, or scenes that stuck out in their minds.  Getting feedback from someone not in your chosen field is a great way to get the viewpoint of someone who is in your potential audience, so to speak, someone who is looking at your work as a piece of entertainment rather than a lofty piece of art or expression.

Basically, even someone who maybe can’t write at all can still provide input on something they’ve read.  They’re not excluded on the sole basis of being unable to produce anything near the creator’s level.  That’s just plain stupid reasoning, used by people who just don’t want to deal with criticism in an open and honest way.

Think of it like this.  If we made criticism this elite club that only certain people could belong to, then what would be the point of free speech?  We would be constricting people’s throats, silencing them because we deem them “not worthy”.  Sure, there are people out there who have little more to say than “this sucks” or “ur a fagget”, but how do we silence the bad speech without stopping the good?  In a lot of ways, we have to let the jerks win to allow the truly decent people to win as well.  We can’t just create exceptions to the rules whenever we want.  It’s on us to separate out the mindless chatter from the critiques that are actually genuine and honest.  There will always be those people who just want to push others around, who take sick joy in making others feel bad (Schadenfreude is a fun word…German word by the way…).

We need constructive criticism because it helps us see the issues in our work that we may have missed.  As anyone with a passion project can tell you, sometimes you need a second set of eyes because you become too close to the work.  Even if you believe you aren’t blind to the flaws, you can still be overlooking things.  It’s a sad fact of human nature.  Our eyes will glaze over, so to speak, if we’ve been working on the same thing for too long.  That’s why it’s always recommended to take a break every once in a while, so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective.

So next time you see someone using that line of logic, remember that they’re probably just unwilling to deal with the criticism and so they’re most likely trying to distance themselves from it in whatever way possible.  Remember the importance of constructive criticism, and how it’s different from meaningless “this sucks” criticism.

Of course, if you are one of those people who believes that if you can’t make something better than don’t criticize?  Then I hate you.

Well…not really.  But I disagree with your sentiment because if everyone thought that way, criticism would serve no valid purpose anymore.  There would be no reason to criticize anything, because the people doing the criticizing would be a bunch of like-minded people with little to say.  You need those people from different walks of life and different fields of study because they show you different perspectives and ideas.  And they will see things that you didn’t.  That I can guarantee.

So I hope you can understand why I think the whole “don’t criticize unless you can do better” line is an absolute load of crap.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and until then, have a wonderful week.

The Youtuber Phenomenon

They call him Pewdiepie.

He’s currently one of the most subscribed to people on Youtube, and the most subscribed to Let’s Play channel (a channel devoted to playing video games while someone makes commentary over it).  Now, depending on your position, he’s either someone who brightens your day and makes you laugh, or someone who raises your blood pressure from the mere mention of his name.  But that’s not what I want to discuss today (like or don’t like whoever you want, but don’t push others around because they disagree with you…that’s just stupid).  Really, he’s just one part of a phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm in recent years.

They call him Pewdiepie, but they also call him a Youtuber.

 

That face though...

That face though…

 

In the most basic sense of the word, Youtuber is slang for someone who creates videos and then uploads them onto Youtube.  But there are certain connotations to the word.  Namely, it’s that Youtubers are consistently generating content on a regular basis (I mean most people wouldn’t consider someone who uploads only two or three videos in the span of ten years a Youtuber, let’s put it that way).  But what interests me the most is not what these people do, but what they represent.

It’s hard to deny that there hasn’t been a major shift in our culture over the last few decades.  Just looking back at the 1990s, you can see a world of difference in how we handle ourselves.  Technology is leaps and bounds above what I had when I was growing up.  It’s amazing, terrifying, and brilliant, all at the same time.  One of our major cultural shifts over the years has been in how we determine what is and what isn’t a job, and how we work these jobs.

If you look back at the generation before mine, people were often molded into specific roles.  The old cliché goes that the husband works and the wife stays at home, which has fast become little more than an old stereotype often played off on in sitcoms and the like.  But more so than that, we had the notion that you go to work a nine to five job, go home, eat dinner, sleep, and then do it all over again the next day until the weekend.  It was very structured and repetitive like that, which is what a lot of people wanted (and still want).

Things are different today.  Many people, instead of working one full-time job, take on two part-time ones to make ends meet.  The economy has shifted, and our perceptions have shifted along with it.  Still others will work out of their homes, freelancing stuff out for people and companies on a job-by-job basis.  We can no longer adhere to the nine to five, full-time employment idea because there just simply aren’t enough full-time jobs out there anymore.

This is where things like Youtubers come in.  They are proof that even as the world economy is in dire straits, there are still ways for people to live a fulfilling and successful life for themselves, doing something that they truly enjoy.  They’re not necessarily the easy way, but life isn’t easy right?  Life is full of struggle and joy, success and failure, happiness and sadness.  Life is a journey, and no journey was ever said to be easy.

Youtubers are a sign of the rapidly changing times.  Look at Pewdiepie for example.  He went from having two million subscribers to having over twenty million within the span of a year.  I can’t say for certain what sparked such an explosive growth, and I doubt anyone really knows for sure.  I’m guessing there were a lot of different factors in play: the growing popularity of Youtube and Let’s Plays, the growing number of people with access to internet, and even something as innocuous as Google changing the algorithms behind its search engine (Youtube is a subsidiary of Google by the way, has been since 2006).  Regardless of the reasons, his success sparked the creation of probably hundreds of Let’s Play channels on Youtube, full of people who just want to make money doing something they love.  Unfortunately, many of them probably discovered, that was incredibly difficult due to the over-saturation that occurred.  The problem with change is that you can’t predict it.  And sometimes, if you’re not ahead of it, you get left behind.

But don’t be discouraged by that.  Things are constantly shifting, the gears are always turning, and the landscape is always transforming.  Much of life is about finding your place in the world, finding somewhere where you are comfortable.  Maybe sometime in the future things will shift back your way, bringing you success beyond measure.  And maybe you’re just comfortable working two part-time jobs.  Who knows?  No one can tell you how to live your life, so on and so forth, blah blah inspirational message blah.  But in all seriousness, just be happy with who you are.  That’s all you really need in life isn’t it?

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for the first post of 2015 (woot woot).  As always, have a wonderful week, and have an awesome New Years.

The Power of Words and Context

Words have power right?  That’s what we’re taught from a very young age.  From adages such as “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” to admonishing the use of swear words, as a culture we generally see words as powerful instruments.  This is why certain words become culturally taboo, such as many racial slurs.  These make sense, because those racial slurs usually have only one function: to degrade an entire group of people.  But what happens when people start trying to police a word that has multiple functions?  Well, an example occurred earlier this month.

Jon Jafari (alias Jontron) is an internet comedian who makes videos on Youtube.  He’s generally a silly guy, making weird faces and weird voices while reviewing things like video games and movies.  But recently, he got a lot of flak over something he said.  He posted a status on Twitter, which you can see below, and it was this status that caused an intense backlash.

Jontron Twitter

At question here is his use of the word “retarded”.  This is what people online latched onto and got angry about.  Let’s take a look at the context.

“‘Playstation Now’ is the most painfully retarded thing I’ve seen in a while”.  The context, combined with subsequent posts on his twitter, shows that his focus was on the idea of Playstation Now, which is a sort of video game streaming service.  It seems clear that he was calling the idea or the service itself “retarded”.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t so clear to a lot of other people, who either assumed that Jon meant it in another light or just simply don’t like hearing the word at all.

What followed quickly swirled out of control.  It all resulted in a bunch of so-called “social justice warriors” on the site known as Tumblr creating a smear campaign against Jon for his use of the word.  For my part, I was unable to really find any of this campaign due in part to the fact that it occurred a couple of weeks ago, and mostly due to the fact that I do not have a Tumblr profile and personally do not wish to make one.

My issue with these events is not what Jon said in that status.  In fact, the only thing I can really fault him for is trying to use sarcasm on the internet to express a point.  Sarcasm doesn’t translate well in text, even if you know the person very well.  I commonly get caught up mistaking sarcasm for seriousness when talking to people on Facebook or Skype.

My issue with these events is that it shows a kind of trend going on in our culture.  In the past we’ve been extremely vitriolic and hateful toward people with differences and disabilities.  We still are in a lot of ways, but  we’ve also course corrected in many areas.  But in some cases we course corrected too much it seems, as in the case of the word “retarded”.  It’s become a little taboo of its own in spots, being hated as a word because certain people automatically assume that its use is meant to denigrate the mentally challenged.  The problem is that the word has multiple uses, multiple definitions.  It has indeed been used to put down people with metal disabilities, but if we deny its use based solely on that one aspect of it, we might as well deny the use of other words including but not limited to: stupid, imbecile, moron, idiot, and dumb.  These all mean similar things to “retarded”, and yet no one is out there questioning their use.

Here’s another example, the word “chink”.  In its literal context, chink refers to a break in a piece of armor.  You’ve probably often heard it used in the metaphor “a chink in someone’s armor”, meaning a glimpse into their inner self, that part of a person usually hidden due to fear of not being accepted or being hurt.  But, in the right context, “chink” is also something much worse.  If used at the wrong time, it becomes a racial slur for those of Asian descent.  The thing is, we don’t go around policing the word for two basic reasons.  One, it has too much of a proper context to be forbidden.  And two, racial slurs are so culturally taboo that anyone who used it in that way would be rightfully ostracized and despised.  Here’s a scene from a TV show that hilariously depicts the distinction.

But this cultural over-sensitivity is a dangerous thing.  We censor swear words on television because we’re afraid of their affects on children.  We question the impact of video games on our youth, sometimes taking steps to try to ban the violent ones outright.  We attempt to police what people say because we think that it will negatively impact the lives of others.  We draw lines in the sand, attempting to control and restrict patterns of thought and behavior.  And while such things can be good, we often try to overstep our bounds.

Words exist to be used, as simple as that.  Words are not, by definition, evil.  It is their context that makes them what they are.  In the case of Jontron, the context of “retarded” explicitly shows that he did not intend to use it as a means to demoralize people with disabilities, nor would he ever do such a thing.  But it is this cultural sensitivity that caused people to lash out at him over his use of the word.  It was our own insecurity that caused the controversy in the first place, our assumption that anyone who uses this word is doing it for malevolent purposes.

And then people band together, calling themselves “social justice warriors” and fighting over things like this.  Honestly, there are so many other problems out there, even just in our own country, that need attention that focusing on someone’s use of the word “retarded” is, well, retarded.  It’s different from racial slurs, because most racial slurs exist only as racial slurs.  The word “retarded” does not.  It has multiple meanings, and legitimate uses.  That’s the fascinating (and frustrating) thing about the English language, our words can have so many different meanings and applications.  To ban one of those multifaceted words, just because one of the meanings may be offensive to some, would be absolute lunacy.

And that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a great week everyone.