Yeah, we probably are fascists now…

Is Gary Lineker right to say that UK government rhetoric is similar to Nazi Germany of the 30s?

Well, I don’t want to go nuts deep into the collection of Nazi propaganda (again) but… in a technical sense probably not. We’re not at ‘Triumph of the Will’ just yet (cf Dan Olson).

Nazism is a specific ideology that makes value statements on a range of issues from architecture and art to racial hierarchies. They combined this together in a very specific way to spread their rhetoric and propaganda to the People. The overlap with Conservative Party rhetoric is not that strong. For the moment, at least. Though put a pin in “Aktion T4” and the “60,000 Reichmarks” poster. Focusing on how much “undesirables” cost us is very Conservative, and has Nazi precedent.

The complicating factor in judging Lineker’s statement is that because (a limited and dumbed-down version of) WWII acts as a foundational mythos for the United Kingdom, Nazi Germany of the late-30s and 40s is the only widely-known cultural touchstone we have for what fascism looks like.

We saw this when people reacted to the design of the US Space Force uniforms. Everyone just jumped to “fascist”, when really the overlap was “they’re grey”. Years of war movies encoding “good guys wear the green helmets, the bad guys wear the grey ones” has eroded most peoples’ ability to spot far deeper problems.

So, naturally, anyone making comparisons off the cuff without having done some pre-requisite reading on the subject that isn’t titled “Harry Potter and the…” will probably jump to “Nazi” and be kinda half-right/half-wrong, but at least understandably so. We should really be looking at Franco and Mussolini for comparison. Or at least late-Weimar Germany. We could get very bogged down in that last one if we talked about the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft…

Anyway, the point is that there are wider things to learn from history than just the jackboots, marching and occult symbolism of Nazism.

So, let’s just look at one Conservative statement for a moment. Just in isolation, as a piece of rhetoric because it’s very recent, and prominent, and the start of a bigger speech from Suella ‘Only Following Orders’ Braverman.

The law abiding patriotic majority have said enough is enough. This Conservative gov will act now…

Curella Braverman

So that’s some opening rhetoric that says they, the Leaders, should Do Something, and Act, and Act immediately, because the People said so.

At which point, obviously, I’m going to direct you to my boy Umberto, and one of the most famous essays on the subject.

Specifically, point 3 on the ‘cult of action’ — action for action’s sake, to be seen doing something without necessary reflection and, in fact, deriding and looking down on any intellectual analysis of the course of action — and also point 13, on the use of the public as a rhetorical device to prop up and manufacture consent for the cult of action:

“For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction.”

Umberto Eco

[as an aside, if you’re confused by the idea “no large quantity of human beings can have a common will”, I recommend Jordan Ellenberg’s ‘How Not to be Wrong’, which demonstrates this principle mathematically]

Actually, let’s not undersell it with just two of Eco’s points.

Going back to Braverman, she specifically says “law abiding patriotic” people have said something. Which immediately makes the implication that anyone disagreeing with the action for actions sake is both unpatriotic, and non-law-abiding. Now, any dweeb who read a book on skeptical inquiry in the ’00s will spot ‘No True Scotsman’ there, but this one also falls under Eco’s 7th bullet point on Ur-Fascists feeling besieged by a plot, particularly from enemies within. Basically, this sets up the idea that dissent makes you an “enemy of the people”. Which was also an infamous and relatively recent Daily Mail headline. Also, you can easily illustrate all of Eco’s 14 points with Daily Mail headlines. Make of that what you will.

Did I mention that this was written in 1995 about living under Mussolini and not in 2016 about the Vote Leave campaign? Wild stuff.

Banning LGBT+ content will not make you happy…

According to the UK government petitions site, the petition to remove LGBT content from the school curriculum has reached over 200,000 signatures. The counter petition, to keep it, has less than half of that…

First, two caveats

  1. I’m under no illusions that the petition site means anything. The numbers are usually a function of social media popularity campaigns, and I’m not aware of one that has ever made a tangible difference or generated anything but thy government fobbing it off by just stating the problem.
  2. The official response is in: LGBT+ education is not required, but is not banned either, and there are no plans to change that optionality. So, either petition cannot really be acted on. This is a little nore complicated than either statement can capture. Go figure.

Still, that’s beside the point. The numbers alone are staggering, and they show immense support for a reactionary political statement against LGBT people across the country, at a time where the media and political parties are rabidly circling people, looking for scapegoats and lightning rods for hate. The UK has never had an excellent track record with LGBT rights, and there’s no reason to believe it can’t possibly regress, and very very quickly, too.

So, an important message to everyone who has signed up to remove LGBT content from schools: this will not make you happy.

Whether you’re a right-wing conservative who thinks it as a matter of course, or a centrist liberal who thinks this will magically stop at trans people only, it doesn’t matter. Banning this content, successfully, will not bring you the happiness you crave. It will not fix your problems.

You can utterly annihilate LGBT+ content from school. You can cut it out of the media forever. You can never see a gay character in fiction again. You can never have to hear the word “pronoun” again. It won’t make you feel better.

From here on, every relationship could be one man in a suit marrying a woman in a pretty A-line dress who does all the cooking. You never need to see two men holding hands again. You never have to worry about your kids seeing two women kiss on TV — that can stay as a secret between you and your internet service provider as God intended.

It will do nothing to protect children.

LGBT+ people have never been the threat, and you know that. Probably not even that deep down, you know that. It could all disappear tomorrow, having never existed, and you still wouldn’t be happy. It can be wiped from the past, present and future, you would still be miserable.

That’s because your actual problem is that you can’t stand the fact that people who are not you can be happy.

Your problem isn’t with the specifics. If it was, your arguments would make coherent sense. You’d have evidence, and you don’t. You’ve made stuff up time and time again, misrepresented things time and time again, and you just trick people into thinking that there’s a danger from a group of people who have never harmed you. All you have to go on is moral panic and lies. Why? Because you just don’t like other people being themselves, being happy, and doing so on their terms.

That implies being a miserable, grouchy, gutless, spiteful piece of shit who hates your fellow humans is your own fault and you might have to take responsibility for that. That’s your ultimate fear: you’re miserable and hate everyone, but you don’t have to be, if only you stepped outside the dull status quo you inherited but lack the imagination to change.

You can say otherwise, but I don’t believe you. Because I’ve read your opinions. I’ve seen what you have to say. The entire media and socio-cultural landscape we live in is based around your views. The very language we must use to discuss things in gives undue deference to your political views. For every backwater blog post like this that exists, a half dozen mainstream newspaper articles will be circulated to tens of thousands of people saying the opposite. You’re very, very transparent with how you feel.

In short: you’re winning, but you’re still fucking miserable.

Turning Point Memes are the Fucking Worst

Content warning: This post will use the word “text” in the literary theory sense.

Let’s talk about memes for a bit.

First, let’s look at your basic, classic, Old Skool quote-unquote “advice animal” style meme. Such square. Much 2000s. Wow. These are so out of fashion pretty much everything has been said about them already, but mentioning them here will make sense. Come on Gen Z, bring these things back. I double-dare you.

You also have the post-meme, with their happy cartoon illustrations and asinine quotations favoured by Facebook Moms. Oh, good god, even these are old now. Less of a “meme” in the sense of the above, and more like a slogan t-shirt. One-part sassy backtalk, one-part clowning, and one-part inoffensive attempts at offense.

There are also exploitable comics and edits that go around. Personally, I like these. That’s the shit right there. Fucking sue me. Society peaked with the invention of these and I shall be taking no questions at this time.

And there’s whatever the hell the InstaTok does that… look, guys, I’m at the “take two ibuprofen in the morning for your back” age. I’m not going on there looking. But imagine I’ve just embedded a video of someone doing a sea shanty or whatever. You know, I watch my TikToks on Instagram, 2-3 weeks after they were first popular, like a fucking adult.

But, then, oh-my-oh-my, we have Turning Point memes.

Now, to be painfully fair… Turning Point have had a more-recent (by which, I mean, about half a year’s worth) tendency to just put quotes from people on photographs of them with some coloured branding, but they still do the occasional “zinger” meme in the setup/punchline format, and older ones still do the rounds. They also produce a lot of it. I must confess to getting half these examples from Cropped Boomer Memes purely to save my eyeballs the pain of scrolling through more of it than strictly necessary to sample the most pertinent ones.

Where to start? I suppose let’s do a bit of basic analysis over memes for a bit.

Memes, in the general interwebz sense and especially for the pictorial ones, carry two messages within them.

  • The specific message of the text (its most direct content)
  • The broader idea of the text (what it references)

In the specific text, Good Guy Greg might sleep on your couch but make up for it by making breakfast, and Bad Luck Brian might find that even his pet rock runs away. But in the broader text (a context, if you will), Greg does a thing you expect has negative consequences but he makes up for it in the end, Brian does a normal thing and an unfortunate thing occurs because he’s a bit of a dweeb. With exploitable comics and edits, Anakin will always horrify Padme by subverting her premature hopes; Bobby will always draw something terrible that is the opposite of art; and no matter what was on the sign, if those kids could read they’d be very upset.

If I was feeling especially pretentious and insufferable — you know, really Stephen Pinker-esque — I’d point out how the humour derives from projecting a specific content onto the broad context, and recognising the connection between the two, which increases the salience of the specific aspects of text. This is particularly true when we project current events onto existing memes in order to convey sometimes-complex feelings about them simply, and quickly.

Actually, that’s probably more insufferably pretentious than Pinker. Feel free to ignore that.

Even with the likes of ‘Plums in the Ice Box’ — which differs from typical memes, as its places the original’s content within a different context rather than the other way around — relies on you spotting the connection between the new version and the broad idea. If anything, spotting it is the joke. See also: the Game or Rickrolling.

This is also how they spread and evolve, in the memetic sense. We have a template for the text, the template can be modified and mutated. New jokes can be added, references can be made to other memes. But underpinning that, is the connection to the broad theme.

Now, about Turning Point memes.

What is the broad message, here? What is the recognition to be made? In short: where’s the fucking joke?

We see the specific part of the text, but not the broader context that’s meant to connect to. It’s not that right-wing or conservative types can’t do this — we’ve had that hippy chick and the triggered girl since forever, apparently — it’s that Turning Point cannot do this. This is their fabled memeing (in)ability.

If anything unifies these posts, it’s “liberals are dumb” and… that’s usually about it. There are no recurring characters, no individual themes to relate to, just “libs = dum, we smart smart”. And it is, more often than not, painful to look at under any critical eye. It’s humour, snark and wit, but as imagined for an audience who just want to be told they’re special and clever and so much better than everyone else.

In that respect, they’re Facebook Wine Mom post-memes. They’re Tweety Bird folding their arms and saying “I’m such a sassy bitch” or Minions declaring “I’m totally zany”.

Turning Point memes, therefore, occupy an odd space of mixing the older top-text-bottom-text, [Statement] / [Punchline], format with the (relatively) newer meaninglessness of the Boomer Facebook Wine Mom post-meme. They aren’t there for you to relate to a specific character in order to make it evolve, they’re there to reinforce a particular broad attitude to the target audience. A post that begins with “Hey liberals!” isn’t actually addressed to liberals, but to the conservative audience, who aren’t meant to engage with them interactively, edit them or evolve them, just share and gawp at their own cleverness.

(again, to be painfully fair, there is the occasionally exploitable one in the mix so they’re not all this exact format… but often I’m not sure they get why the exploitable is funny…)

These “memes” aren’t designed to be messed with and evolved by their target audience.

But, also, you can’t evolve them because the memes themselves are, frankly, very high quality. That’s technical quality, of course, of the stock photos, of the resolution, the colour pallet. The logo displays prominently over a professional stock image with an unobtrusive background. The bold font is carefully rendered by professional software rather than a hasty web-based editor or the undying MS Paint. It’s a far cry from exploitable memes where the remnants of 2-3 previous versions can just be seen, where the replaced text doesn’t match the original (and no one cares) or where the JPEG compression has piled up so bad it’s generated entire jokes just around that aspect. There is no genuine community here, there is no sense of collectively coming together to shout “dammit” when you’ve realised something was Loss all along.

To me, that makes the Turning Point meme the perfect microcosm of the world of Conservative astro-turfing. This organisation is meant to be a “student movement” or at least a vague youth movement. Yet the audience seems to be everything but that. The content feels perpetually middle-aged, like a gawky 40-something preacher trying to seem cool in front of 15 year-olds by rapping.

The whole exercise is a charade designed to offer some facsimile of the authentic original: it has image over text, it has the right font, it has the right structure. But, like a guy on a six-figure salary claiming to be poor and impoverished by a 1% tax rise in the top bracket, it has a glossy sheen that can’t rub off. The people making these things don’t have the experience of those who haunted forums, having fun, making jokes, and quickly scribbling over images they’ve shared with whatever software they had to hand, copyrights be damned, before the conversation moved on. They’re graphic designers, with paid-for Photoshop, putting together content generated by a team of writers under the direction of a trust-fund jock, funded by shady origins. It tries to ape the style, but always falls short of authenticity. It cares for branding and image. They can’t have the Turning Point logo get pixelated. They can’t get away with a visible ShutterStock watermark. It’s all sass and sizzle. It’s shiny-shoed business exec pretending to be a rough salt-of-the-earth regular guy. It’s a too perfect, too pristine attempt to copy a format that crawled out of a virtual gutter and rarely showers.

But if you ever scratch that sheen off, it’s just shit all the way down.

Is AI Art “art”? It doesn’t matter because that’s the wrong question….

I read a long rant via Mastodon about how AI art “isn’t art” because it somehow isn’t emotionally provocative or doesn’t have an emotional intent…

It’s a long argued question of whether AI generated artwork is art or not. I don’t have an answer except to say it’s a bad question. But, specifically, this argument about emotional intent and response is very easy to poke holes in. I think it’s a weak line if reasoning if we want to argue for/against AI artwork.

Forgive the pretentious numbered list format. It was easier than coming up with an actual structure.

1️⃣ Many self-identified artists deliberately eschew emotional engagement with their work, with many exploring deliberate alienation instead of emotional engagement.

2️⃣ The disconnect between the emotional response of the recipient and the emotional intent of the artist very well documented and discussed. How you feel viewing a painting and how the artist intended for you to feel does not need to align.

1️⃣+2️⃣ Conclusion — if the artist had no emotional intent, it doesn’t preclude the recipient having an emotional reaction. This doesn’t change whether the artist is machine or human. Tying specific emotional involvements to your definition of art simply doesn’t work for all things considered art already.

3️⃣ So… you’re saying that the emotional response to scrolling through endless generic big-titted anime girls made by real people is valid and authentic, but emotional response to scrolling through endless (AI generated) generic big-titted anime girls that, at first glance, is indistinguishable from art made by real people is invalid or even non-existent?

3️⃣. 1️⃣ Corollary — finding out at a later time that something was AI generated retrospectively invalidates your emotional response? If we want to talk emotional authenticity, we can’t allow initial reactions to be cast aside like that.

4️⃣ What is the anger over art theft in AI artwork if not a very potent emotional response directly to the generation of AI Art?

5️⃣ The question of “what is art?” and its definition has been so hotly debated and explored over decades, if not centuries, that the idea that the emergence of a new tool single-handedly settles the debate into a clear “is/is not” binary feels, to me, naive at best.

5️⃣.1️⃣ Addendum — this has been done to death with digital art and photography. More generally, the idea that any tool invalidates artistic worth has also been done to death. It never stands the test of time.

5️⃣.2️⃣ Corollary — this path is a very slippery slope. You may as well claim that no valid and authentic emotional response is possible to a print or digital image viewed on a monitor as, after all, these are tools that dilute artistic integrity.

6️⃣ You can absolutely use AI artwork to deliberately provoke people emotionally (see 4️⃣). You can argue that the “art” is the act of the artist around the resulting image, which is somehow not part of the artistic work, but that would be incredibly arbitrary.

Anyway, I don’t think anyone should approach questions like “is it art?” under the assumption that there’s a binary yes/no answer. There isn’t. The question is flawed, and at the mercy of people’s prior assumptions and their motivated reasoning to put some things in one category but not others.

The question you need to ask is whether these systems were developed ethically? That is: did the real artists who had their materials fed into the models properly consent to do so and did they receive proper compensation?

That question does have a straight answer: no.

We can also ask are these systems going to be used ethically?

Also, that has a straight answer: no.

But… and this is why you should actually analyse problems properly… most of the bad, unethical use is usually a side-effect of the system we inhabit, rather than a direct property of the technology. Technology is supposed to — and it genuinely can — reduce our workload, improve our lives, and mean we can work less and enjoy live more. Where it doesn’t, it’s usually the humans with power over it that are to blame, more than the technology itself.

It’s little surprise that we got artificial intelligence tech that aimed to displace a fun, creative endeavour long before we got one that could do things like the mindless tedium of, say, encoding multiple extension requests for our students on the VLE.

If a creative company fires its concept artists because AI is cheaper to bash out images, then that is highly unethical. If the concept artists themselves use it as a tool to reduce the donkey work involved in concept art creation, and so can get the same work done in less time, then we can imagine (and we have to imagine, because this never happens willingly under Capitalism) a situation where the company will pay them the same for the same output, but they can do it in 2-3 days instead of 5, leaving the artists more time to spend enjoying life. That would be a pretty ethical, but unfortunately very anti-Capitalist, anti-presenteeism, and pro-person, pro-worker use-case.

This is the thing we should grapple with. This is the actual problem.

After all, if you simply declare it “not art” then so fucking what?

More-or-less disorganised thoughts on the difficulty of leaving Twitter

I’ve heard that Twitter is “hard to quit”.

But, no. I’m going to hard-disagree with that. Twitter is easy to quit. Lock your account, just stop posting, and after a while you simply forget it’s there.

It is, in fact, remarkably easy.

Listen to your elders, kids. The ones who burned through dozens of news groups in the 90s and VB forums in the 00s. They’ll tell you that the quitting part isn’t that hard. You can leave communities and websites behind. In fact, you’ve probably done it while in possession of a Facebook or Twitter account — you’ve just left a sub-community behind, a Facebook Group slowed to nothing, you started to forget to check in with your favourite hashtag as it began to bore you, that sort of thing. You almost certainly left something already, but the base of the URL just happened to stay the same.

I think we need to be honest about why it might feel hard to quit a big website like Twitter.

What’s hard to quit is that little dopamine rush you get when your notifications go haywire because your clout-chasing finally paid off and you got yourself a hit tweet.

What’s hard to quit is the FOMO from not continually refreshing a feed, because you accidentally re-wired your life to get news at random intervals from strangers who are clout-chasing for hit tweets instead of a healthier and, frankly, saner method for staying informed.

Does that sound smug and self-superior on my part? Yeah, probably.

Sure, communities are hard to leave behind if you’re forced to do so early, before they fizzle out with a natural end. But consider Twitter, you’re going to be in one of two situations.


A) You’ve got a small account, with few follows and followers. You’ve met and replied to and post at the key people you like to talk to. That’s easy to pick up again elsewhere. If you actually care about others, you’ll find another platform. If it’s community that you’ll miss, it takes no time at all to rebuild it elsewhere.


B) You’ve got a much bigger account, at least in terms of follower number. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions even. I’ve seen these people say that it’s the community that they’ll miss.

But… let’s be brutal, and frank, and honest, here. If you’re in that second category, are you really in a community of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people? Do you really know the names of those 150k followers? Be real, here; you’re not. If you’re experiencing Twitter at that scale, you were at the centre of, and on the receiving end of, multiple parasocial relationships. You were getting that buzz from the endless on-tap attention that such a following grants you. You’re the person who could post a poop emoji and get a hundred likes in minutes. For you, it was never a two-way street of communal interaction, because the influence and power are so lobsided in your favour.

And, yes, it really is the case that on Twitter, followers equal power. That site can ruin lives the instant someone with 1M followers quote-tweets a regular person to say they’re wrong. Follower counts are leveraged to win arguments by sheer weight of numbers, in chasing that ratio and winning by numbers going up — and even the “good guys” do this. Some people get the hit of dopamine from the hit tweet sending notifications constantly, but the flip side is the dread that the little bell is going to show you, at best, just some offensive slurs.

The splash damage from that culture is very real, and not imaginary because the website is somehow virtual. It’s an extension of, or part of, the Real World, not a separate entity that is somehow free of consequence for the meat and blood humans typing those words.

For some people, yes, the high follower count has been a vital part of their job. Authors, artists, anyone who used it to simply broadcast their work and gain an audience. Fair enough. It’s not right that those people are going to have their livelihoods threatened because some dick with money to burn decided to fire all the staff, alienate advertisers, and ban accounts at the request of literal fascist trolls. But, also, if you were sensible, you shouldn’t have bought into one specific URL only and should have a diversified presence to fall back on. After all, Twitter was not your job, it was just one tool, of many possible tools, to help with it.

Everyone else…? Just get the fuck over yourself.

The Trash Pile – 2022 in Netflix

I watch a lot of Trash. That stuff that people scoff at for being cheap, trope-ridden genre fiction. Well, guess what? I don’t care. It’s great. It’s TV that gives back way more than it asks of you. It sustains me. Please take the ratings below not as actual reviews, but as niche, dumb jokes. Here’s a celebration of 2022’s finest genre trash!

First Kill

I felt quite offended at First Kill wasn’t recommended to me until after I saw Rowan Ellis’ video on queer TV shows getting cancelled. It was a hit with the LGBT+ audience for its sapphic lead characters, playing supernatural Romeo and Juliette as a vampire and vampire hunter who fall in love – because of course they would.

But, to be honest, it’s pretty clear why the numbers completing the series were low. Despite a strong enough start, it suffers from some unimaginative vampire/monster lore (it could be straight up fan fiction of any number of other series from Buffy to Supernatural) and held together with some ropey, confusing moments — like, does the world know that these monsters and vampires are real? Or are they playing at mass hysteria? The show doesn’t seem to know. Or, at least, it glossed over it very quickly.

Still solidly entertaining if you’re into this sort of thing. At its heart it’s a queer love story if the kind we need more of. You could spend 10 episodes doing much, much worse.

6 sapphic wall-pinning moments out of 10

Fate: The Winx Saga (season 2)

As an adaptation of the cartoon series The Winx Club — about fairies and their adventures in a magical school and the wider conspiracies and threats to their realm — this series has made a lot of fans of the original very, very angry. Of course it has. It’s an adaptation. Fans of an original hating the adaptation is a given, it’s hardly “man bites dog”.

I quite like the setting of this one more than the story. It isn’t afraid to throw social media and mobile phones at a magical world (unlike other stories set in magic schools that contrive to remove the mod-cons that might be inconvenient to the plot…), and it really feels like a functional world with people and politics. There’s wholesome friendship themes throughout, making a nice change from the Grimdark of other popular shows. Though it jars with some of the plot, which can be pretty heavy, even gruesome at times.

I’m unsure about Season 2. Some interesting twists, focused plot, clear stakes, but… did they toss out a bunch of things set up at the end of Season 1? Or felt like a self-contained aside compared to get broader themes if Season 1. If it’s got this far, hopefully a 3rd will bring that all together.

5 slightly dodgy VFX shots out of 10

Fort Salem (season 3)

Good god I love this series. Absolutely unironically. The premise is that witches are real and, after the Salem Trials, witches were conscripted into the army to do the United States’ dirty work in winning the War of Independence. Now they have to face off against magical terrorists (including a unique and terrifying use of the term “suicide bomb”) and then later a secretive inquisition and the government itself.

The thing I really noticed is how the world building works seemlessly. Witches aren’t just conscripted into the Army, they are the Army. So, since witches do all the fighting magically, and can communicate telepathically, firearms and communications technology are pretty far behind the real-world — everything from the helicopters to TV cameras and even the light bulbs, and the complete lack of computers and phones makes sense. The show never labours this point or even points it out to you, it’s just in the setting and direction. The characters act like they already know what is going on. Add to that a well-developed magic system based around witches voices and sound (and some grisly corollaries about how normal humans can steal that power…), and it’s little wonder that many people assume (incorrectly!) that it’s a book adaptation.

Season 3 continues with the remarkable world building as the main cast go on the run into the Chippewa Cession — a feature of this alternate North America that divides the United States in two, retained by Native Americans.

It won’t get another season. But that’s the decision of the producers, not because it’s fading in quality and ratings (apparently). It’s come to a natural end, with plenty of scope to explore the working world it’s set in, but it’s raised its stakes about as far as it can get before it gets far too silly and incomprehensible. More TV should go out like this rather than hanging on and degrading to nothing.

Also, they’re hawt nubile witches who (at least in the first season) power up by fucking their harem of equally hawt, ripped, young studs. So, let’s be clear, even though I think this is a genuinely good series in the urban fantasy genre, this is absolutely God Tier Trash.

9 My fucking god! These witches gay. Good for them! Good for them! out of 10

Warrior Nun (season 2)

This is very, very loosely based on the comic series Warrior Nun Areala, which you can look up, but if I say “90s comic book” and “fighting nuns” you’d probably get the gist of it without help. Anyway the TV version strips out the split skirts, suspender straps, crotch-hugging body suits and wimples in favour of more leather, tactical gear and sensible footwear.

I genuinely think that the first 10 minutes of the very first episode is a masterclass in how to introduce a series. It lays out the rules of the world you’re in. It shows, rather than tells. And, impressively, the dialogue says everything you need to know without sounding lile forced exposition — the characters talk to each other like they already know what’s going on. So, I was a little disappointed that the opening episode of Season 2 took nearly half an hour to get going. It jumps around, trying to catch up after events that weren’t shown — and unfortunately couldn’t even be filmed due to the sudden departure of one of the actors that would be needed for it. So the connective tissue between the two seasons has been left as something of a mess.

Oh well, shit happens…

Once you get over that, Season 2 definitely raises the stakes and the action much more. It keeps the pace up where Season 1’s mid-game slowed to a crawl (if you happened to leave at that point, do give it another shot!) and they’ve toned down some of the voice over that left a cringe aftertaste during the first season.

Blood, guns, knives, magic, mystery, mayhem, demons, and minute-long single-take fights. There is nothing not to love about this. What? Check the title of the post, you weren’t expecting high brow Citizen Kane stuff were you?

8 overproduced fight scenes out of 10

October Faction

October Faction was released in 2020, as an adaptation of a comic that, obviously, I hadn’t heard of, so I got around to watching it this year and I’m including it now. (maybe I can retroactively do 2016 and talk at length about The Shannara Chronicles…)

Anyways, this is fairly normal monster hunting stuff. Secret societies protecting the world from invading supernatural beasties etc. So far so good. But this one does a good bit of storytelling about family, and parents coming to terms with getting older and their children becoming independent. That’s at least a novel feature of a densely packed field of supernatural dramas with a 15 Certificate. Like First Kill, the supernatural elements are the setting, not the story, so it doesn’t really need that uniqueness — even though it does weaken it a bit.

But, overall… meh. It didn’t quite grip me, and it looks like it didn’t grip many people as it got canned after one series. Which is a shame, as it does have its moments! Such as the two leads getting baked on weed before having to go on a monster hunt and that the high school angst that’s done pretty well. It could have grown a lot — but that’s the world we’re in now, and it won’t get the chance to.

5 stoned Gen X parents out of 10

The Imperfects

I went into this fully expecting it to be terrible. And, let’s be clear, I like terrible. Or, at least, my definition of ‘terrible’ greatly differs to most normal and well-adjusted people. But I did not have the highest expectations.

But, I was pleasantly surprised!

The Imperfects has a lot going for it. It’s a nice mix of the standard tropes — like one character who I’m pretty sure is referred to as Sexy Science Glasses Lady in the script — to the unusual twists on the usual and played-out tropes — our typical vampires/werewolves are replaced by a banshee, a succubus, and a chupacabra, to start.

Okay, sure, they’re basically C-List vampires and werewolves. Fine.

Rhys Nicholson’s camp take on a mad scientist might grate most people, but it’s a refreshing change to “grey haired men with serious faces and fake German accents” you see normally for far stock character. And there’s some unexpected but clever twists I didn’t see coming, along with its surprisingly high body count delivered by often-comic, accidental violence.

The whole thing is more “science gone wrong” than supernatural, but despite playing very fast and loose with the science it’s all… kind of plausibly done? The jargon seems like it’s come from someone who knows what they’re talking about, but gives it enough artistic licence not to kill the fun of the series. I had to take a moment on hearing cyclodextrin and t-butyl lithium used more or less correctly. Someone on the production has to be a chemist, surely.

Also, it’s always a good sign when your show could have someone’s shoe collection act as a character in its own right.

8 gratuitous bondage scenes out of 10

Honourable Mentions (the non-trash class of 22)

Stranger Things 4 was a huge hit, and felt to me like a much more focused, stronger story than the rambling 2 and 3. Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville upgraded its budget from “IOUs for back rubs” to “more money than god” and was totally worth it. She-Hulk and Ms Marvel got review-bombed by sad-act arseholes who hate fun. We got another Space Force, which was totally stupid in all the right ways, but I still think it could learn a lot from Armano Ianucci if it wants to be a satire. Speaking if whom, Avenue 5 came back after an extended pandemic-induced break. There was another round of Love Death & Robots, which was a good mix of tense and silly. And of course, the year was dominated by Gaiman’s The Sandman, which bravely asked the question “what if Doctor Who was depressed?”, and is an absolute no-brainer to get renewed, so get to it, Netflix, you bastards!

In fact, Netflix, you bastards, does come out of my mouth more often than it should…

FFS, I’ve always disliked Harry Potter…

One key reason that I hate JK Rowling’s speedrun of “I have legitimate concerns” to “send them to camps!”, is that she’s destroyed my ability to dislike Harry Potter on its own terms.

I have never been a fan of it.

Obviously, I never will be.

Yet that’s now fundamentally inextricable from the bloody author’s best attempts to make life hell for a number of my friends — and the complete denial of this from her most dedicated fanbase. That’s been covered better elsewhere, Shaun’s video on the people that have driven her radicalisation is pretty comprehensive, and Lyndsay Ellis’ contribution on Death of the Author explains why I think its fans are morally complicit in her views…

However, I just cannot stand this series, and it has nothing to do with any of that.

The memes are a saving grace of the series, I’ll give it that.

I tried reading a book in 2000-something. On a family holiday, I got handed it and told it would be enjoyable. I got fundamentally bored within pages. I cannot remember which one it even was. All I remember of it is:

Harry Potter was a special boy. Because, you see, Harry Potter was a wizard. That made Harry Potter very special. Because, of course, you should know, wizards are special people.

At least, that’s the impression I had literally at the time. Then, it turns out that this is exactly how she writes even in her serious, adult fiction.

Sure, you can get away with the conversational “settle down, children, while I tell you a story” method in a literal kids book, but a detective series that supposedly isn’t Richard Castle style satire? Good grief. This is an author that people fawn over as good!

A few years later, I tried another one after I knew the story from the films later. Whatever one opens with the exceedingly boring conversation with the Prime Minster that reads like political commentary written by someone who has only ever seen two episodes of Grange Hill. You’ve got to have quite a writing talent to lose my attention to staring out of a train window, instead.

“It’s so clever because the werewolves are named “Sirius” like the ‘dog star’ and “Remus” like the Latin or whatever for wolf!” Jesus Shitting Christ that is not clever. That is barely high school poetry level.

The films are, at best, so-so for me. They spend that much time gurning through this magical world that they actually forget to explain the plot. It’s borderline-incomprehensible if you haven’t read the books and don’t have someone next to you to explain plot holes. I have not read most of Lord of the Rings, I followed the films just fine. I haven’t read Song of Ice and Fire yet, but the TV show was perfectly understandable! They adapt, they cut, they merge, they add… all in service of moving people through a coherent and consistent plot in that format.

The Harry Potter movies? I’m still not entirely sure I know who it was that stole the thingy and left the note at the end of the film where they… I forget, it blurs into one. And who was the… werewolf one that was running around a corn field setting fire to things…? I’m sure I’ve seen these films more than once. But, honestly, without leaning on people who have read the books for explanation, these films make no sense. They’re so beholden to people who think “true to the book” means adapting the dialogue word-for-word, whether that makes sense or not.

I also don’t think the premise is that clever.

The “boy in a cupboard” and the practically-comic abuse he gets from his adoptive family at the beginning of the story is knock-off Roald Dahl at a best. I don’t think setting it in a stereotypical public school is that imaginative (the Worst Witch was released in 1974, please read a second fucking book). I don’t think the world is as fleshed out and well-realised as people claim, at least not compared to something with the momentous mechanics of Discworld. See, in Night Watch, Pratchett bothers to consider that, as a living, breathing thing, the city of Anhk-Morpork would have countless deliveries of food and materials heading toward it, and that would pile up in the event of a revolution. In Harry Potter, our hack of an author invents time-travel and then has to profusely apologise for it by accidentally destroying all the time travelling stuff off screen. Except for when it’s needed again.

I know it’s all opinion, but, come on, this is not good writing.

I especially dislike the reliance on paratext, with the author continually updating and ret-conning things in a way that, at best is cringe-as-fuck (such as naming a character after Elizabeth Warren in hindsight) but extends to outright fucking-offensive (Dumbledore is gay for the liberal cred, but, you know, not gay-gay, as in, visibly-gay or doing anything gay, ewwww). Still, I miss the days when this was the most objectionable thing on the author’s Twitter account. All being lapped up by a fanbase that’s rapidly ageing, with no threshold for cringe, and with no sign of every wanting to read a second book.


Then, you end up digging more into the subtle-maybe-not-that-subtle racism in it. The stereotyping. How the main character is an obnoxious jock if you stand back and look at it. I really cannot relate to this, and the only reason I think it ever took off was an accident of publicity sometime in the late 90s.

I’m openly not a fan of Lord of the Rings. But I don’t actively think it’s bad. I may even get around to re-watching the films or trying to get through the book again. Harry Potter, I actively dislike, and always have. I wouldn’t willingly turn one of the movies on again. I would not be paying Actual Money to see the stage production thing. I will not read a book, because I have tried it and failed miserably to care about a single word written on the page. I admire the sheer strength and belligerence of the people who have managed it to critique it as literature.

These are opinions on the series I have held for years and they’ve never really mellowed. From that first tedious attempt to get through the pages to sitting in a cinema in 2013 and shrugging as we were meant to feel sad about the deaths of characters that had 8 seconds of screen time to introduce them.

But, no.

Apparently, I just want to “cancel” her for “disagreeing” with me. I must dislike the series because I dislike something the author said. It’s my only possible motivation. After all, it’s popular, I must be wrong! I have to “separate the art from the artist”.

Fuck that noise. It’s not mere “disagreement”. I hate that she uses her wealth and privilege and platform to demand that several of my friends get erased from existence to satisfy her and her mates’ absurd conspiracy theories.

For that, sure, I do think she’s personally an odiously catastrophic fuck of an individual.

But, no, that’s not why I dislike Harry Potter. I formed the opinion that her writing is asinine, boring, trite, dragging, tedious, lame, clunky, dull, morally awkward and unimaginative 20 years ago. The only thing that’s changed is that I’m less bothered by letting people know that.

Now, look at yourself. You’re in your 30s. That Hogwarts letter is never coming. Grow up. And for the love of God read another fucking book.

The Twatterpocalypse – where next?

Given the inevitable implosion of Twitter following Pylon Crunk’s (really stupid) takeover of it, people are wondering “what now?”

Or, more specifically “where now?”

Which site will come rescue them? Where do they need to abandon ship to?

To me, I don’t particularly mind and don’t think it matters too much. Indeed, not thinking about it too hard and spreading around multiple sites might be beneficial. We all know the joke that the internet since the 2010s has been just five websites, filled with screenshots of the other four. Seeing that era die off feels like an exciting potential development.

I’ve certainly gained a lot from Twitter since kind-of-accidentally signing up in late 2016. I’ve created many new professional connections, reconnected with former colleagues, got conference speaking invites, and various inspirations for how to do my job as people share their work and ask to learn as much in return. Without that, I probably wouldn’t be in the (reasonably successful) position I am now compared to when I last published to this WordPress backwater.

But none of that is really to the credit of the site. It’s all down to the community that it happened to host. As someone else recently pointed out; if you buy Twitter, you’ve bought a community, not a tech company. I agree with that assessment. I also agree that, as something ran on ads and selling data, that community is your product, not your customers. It’s probably best not to destroy your product. Best not to alienate customer or product, either, but I digress.

The point is that it’s not a site, it’s a community, and it’s a (sub) group of people, that have made it worthwhile for me until now.

As a site, and as an overall culture, I actually have very little to say about it that’s positive.

Let’s be honest, it’s a bit crap

As technology, it’s remarkably limited. I don’t think I’ve watched a whole video via the platform, even a 15 second clip, before an endless buffering loop — but at least the interface is dominated by people shilling their crypto scams via the Spaces feature that I can’t get rid of. I can’t direct my posts to dedicated audiences, but I can buy a hexagonal Enn-Eff-Tee profile picture. I can’t edit out spelling errors, but it’s possible for hidden accounts to send abusive minions toward me for it.


Culturally, Twitter is almost terminally self-obsessed. As if we’d get the UK back into the European Union if you simply follow everyone who tweets a single “follow back!” hashtag. As if you can swing an election by writing 200 characters on a website where only a tiny fraction of the population is actually active. People have acquired countless thousands of follows for simply following prominent politicians and replying “zingers” to them, in the hopes of mining it for likes. Entire personalities exist around “having a twitter account”. An entire cottage industry of people tweeting “Sir, this is a Wendy’s” was destroyed the day Donald Trump was finally banned.

Exceedingly tedious stuff that’s often difficult to mute.

The massive objections to an “edit” function seemed to reek of a weird “Twitter Exceptionalism”. The argument goes something to the effect of: what if you liked a tweet about cute puppies, and then they changed it to be a racist comment, and then they forwarded the screenshot to your employer? Certainly, such a convoluted plan that would fall foul of anyone ever checking the original post and seeing the edit history. And if someone isn’t going to check, then any of the fake-screenshot generators online — or, hell, even MS Paint! — could do the same job with or without editing tweets being possible. Web forums have allowed some kind of editing since forever, and yet no problems. Politicians have prominent Facebook presences, which allows editing, and yet no grand conspiracies to hide their mistakes have emerged. To Twitter’s userbase, that site is magically special, and different.

How? It just is!

But it is not.

Sorry to put on a costume and get on stage to play the “Grumpy Old Internet Guy” character, but it is not the centre of the universe. And, frankly, the site’s overall attitude is utterly insufferable. Flaccid internet drama doesn’t become less tragic and sad just because you’re on a social media site with millions of users in 2022 instead of a VB forum with 35 users in 2002.

Twitter’s centring in discussions and discourse is largely an accident of journalism. The posts are publicly visible, and various court rulings granted them a fair-game status for reporters to cite and use. Your posts, and your comments, are now a potential source of free content for everyone else. Suddenly, “So-and-so tweeted about…” becomes a headline. Pop-cultural reviews have descended into endless articles about how a particular episode or movie has attracted ire and criticism which, once you dive into the article, turns out to be two tweets with 6 likes between them.

Journalism ate itself in the last few decades for a multitude of reasons, but Twitter certainly provided some tasty seasoning for it.

The bad and the ugly…

Then there’s the abusive aspects of the site.

Twitter might not be unique in having problems, but it is very structurally based around promoting abuse. Tweets themselves — being short, isolated posts — aren’t so much easily removed from context, but exist atomically in a way that means they barely have any context in the first place. Caveat your points in the replies all you like, that won’t save you from countless people making those misinterpretations anyway. The site is one of the few of Web 2.0 social media that, to quote someone else, rewards being deranged more than being hot.

If you can’t say it perfectly in 280 characters, the site is designed to punish you.

The “quote tweet” feature, while valuable for sharing content you like with your own take, context, or a description to advertise it to your own followers, is the core mechanism for abuse to be spread. The site is filled with accounts whose main schtick is to use that quote tweet feature to send their hundreds of thousands of followers to spam and reply, and further quote tweet, the original — making life unbearable for one poor user who accidentally crossed the path of the bigger account, until the smaller victim locks or simply deletes their account.

And everyone feels like they’re justified in doing it. Chasing the euphoric high of that “like” number going up, up, up as you stick it to the Bad Person. The cultural obsession with the “ratio” of likes/comments/quotes drives it further. The “main character” trope where one person is the willing or unwilling victim for that day. It’s all structurally horrid.

Twitter showed no signs of curbing that behaviour, nor holding people to account for their followers’ actions, even actions driven by them. The plausible deniability of not being responsible for your following remains strong.

Moderation is frequently patchy — and the fear is that it’s going to become non-existent. That’s par for the course for any large site, let’s be clear. When your user base cracks into the tens of thousands (never mind millions), you either have to outsource your moderation decisions to under-paid people, forced to spend mere seconds on a decision to block/ban/suspend, or try your hand at some algorithmic magic to speed it up. In either case, context, background and intent are impossible to convey in your reports, and you end up in a situation where user “H1mml3rFan69” can say he has “14 words” for “globalists” and hopes they “88 themselves”… and it doesn’t break the rules.

Not unique to Twitter, of course, as the crypto-fascists of the world are very good at making themselves look reasonable to those without any knowledge. But Twitter seemed to put even less effort in than most large sites.

So, divesting out of it has been a goal of mine for a while, now feels like a reasonable time to start winding it down.

I don’t believe I’ll miss it, though. Some of the people? Maybe. If they care enough about me, they’ll find where I am. I’ve gone through half a dozen forum communities since the early 00s. Some of those people I still hang around with in other spaces! Some of those groups fizzled out slowly. Others died in a hellfire of profanity-laden drama. Some friendships burn bright for months and then end. Others become strong, almost intimate, over years or even decades, and yet can still evaporate overnight as you wake up to find someone has unceremoniously deleted their account.

“This, too, shall pass” should remain in the back of your mind whenever you join such a group. It’s the flip side of building a community not restricted by geography, but by membership of a platform stored on a disk somewhere. This is no different. It was never too big to fail, or too big to come to an end.

So what, or where, now?

After 4-5 years, is it worth returning to blogging? In fact, let’s do this all old-school! Everyone get a blog. Read them via RSS! Maybe. It’s tempting, sure. But might run the risk of being a bit rose-tinted about the period of transitioning to the social media era. But I think I might try it again. Twitter will die. One day, Facebook, too. I have long-form posts and material on there I might want to keep around, and a blog is a better-kept archive of that material.

So, yes, I might make this page more active again. What theme? Probably none, as before.

I spent some of today re-reading old posts and… actually, it’s not that bad. I expected to be far more embarrassed by some of it, having matured and developed further over half a decade.

It’s certainly not how I’d write now. We can be sure about that.

I’ve spotted a lot of instances where I’d approach things differently. In the specific, I’ve made a few odd references to “western / first-world democracies”, which is fine if you take the intent of addressing an audience that largely lives in those places, but still ignores a more global view. Some of it is less well-researched than I would otherwise do now. There are a few corrections I’d shove in. There are more diverse series of viewpoints I’d be capable of locating and acknowledging now. Some aspects contain slurs I wouldn’t use now — I used to hold a stronger use/mention distinction, whereas now I believe mentioning is still a deliberately form of usage. I can edit those out as I find them, although, contrary to the “I’ve been cancelled!” crowd, people can smell the difference between such mentions and deliberately malicious use.

The big, abusive creationist rant that hit Reddit and pinged my phone with endless notifications for 48 hours? I probably wouldn’t write that now, but I suppose I still stand by it. There’s a fair argument that you cannot shout and shame someone into changing their mind but, also, that wasn’t the intent. Also, they’re creationists. Any creationist capable of altering their opinion on the subject will do so of their own accord, and pretty quickly.

I’d have less patience with people in comments. I can take so much on good faith, but otherwise it’s so much less productive than it appears. In my earliest days on Twitter, I’d actually try to convince the transphobes (aka “TERFs”) that they were wrong. But, no. That never works. That’s a group, along with the forced-birth/anti-abortion crowd, are so used to lying to themselves and others that there is no point. Now they’ve all coalesced into a fanatical, single-issue pressure group, the best course is to just dump them into your blocklist. Pre-emptively if possible. I have better things to do with my life than deal with people like that.

And that’s where we’re up to… if you give a shit — and I highly recommend that you do not — I will see you the next time I hit the “publish” button.


Apparently some guys say they have backing to remake The Last Jedi.

Clearly, they need a script. So I would like to offer the following, which I believe addresses many of the totally valid criticisms levelled at The Last Jedi by True Fans of Star Wars:

Image result for The Last Jedi



It is a time of GREAT CONFUSION. The REPUBLIC, which was reformed after the Battle of Endor across several systems, has been destroyed. The REPUBLIC isn’t the same as THE OLD REPUBLIC though. It formed separately, see the appendices about who runs it.

The FIRST ORDER, which exists because several surviving senior members of the EMPIRE banded together to form it, has risen and is searching for the RESISTANCE Rebellion (who have renamed themselves to save confusion).

Hopefully this fills in some “plot holes” so you can go add it all to WOOKIEEPEDIA the instant the credits roll.



So… you have found me, my…




I’m your daughter?

Yes. We hid you on Jakuu 18 years ago to hide you from the Empire. Because you were super-special and strong with the Force. MACE WINDU’s Force Ghost told me to hide you because you’re special. And, also, you’re the new CHOSEN ONE. Also, Midichlorians aren’t real after all.


Yes, really. Now, let me introduce you to your mother…


Mara Jade!



That’s enough speaking lines from you now. You might make people uncomfortable.


Now what do we do?

We fight. That’s what Jedi do. They’re the Guardians of Peace and Justice in the Galaxy™ and we also fight with lightsabers. Isn’t that right… OBI ONE?!


Yes, of course. You must fight to prove yourself.


Please stop. I can’t defeat you!

That’s because you’re a girl.







Yes, I am Finn.

I’m pleased to see you and would like to remind you that you ARE AND ALWAYS WERE A CLONE and not some nig… erm, you know.


Yes. Isn’t it great that we’re manly alpha dude-bros.



So I hear you’ve retired from being a general. And I hear that outfit is more comfortable than everything else you’ve been wearing.


Now you’re not a general. I hear you’ve transferred all power to Poe, who is now in charge of everything. He needs to be told of all plans.


Don’t go using any force powers, now! Don’t forget you’re not actually a Jedi and only Jedi can use the Force.





How do you know so much about the Force?

When it came to my research, I never took any shortcuts. Over the past five years, I’d worked my way down the entire recommended reading list. The Lost Tribe of the Sith, Dawn of the Jedi, Tales of the Jedi, The Old Republic, Darth Bane, Legacy of the Jedi, Shatterpoint, The Cestus Deception. I read every novel by every single author and I didn’t stop there.

If it was one of Yoda’s favorites, like Rogue One, Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan I rewatched it until I knew every scene by heart.

I spent three months studying every episode of Rebels and memorizing all the key lines of dialogue. Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive. You could say I covered all the bases.

I wasn’t going to cut any corners. I wasn’t going to miss something obvious. I wasn’t some dilettante. I wasn’t screwing around.

You’d be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week, is a lot of study time.

You’re so cool and totally get everything this franchise is about!


Enter, Kyo Ren.


Did I ever tell you the story of how I came to be here, and who I am and who I was?

But I thought the entire point of you was-

I was once called…


Oh Jesus…


Please stop.




I hate everything even more now.


About negative criticism…

No, no… this post isn’t because I’ve been heavily criticised recently and am about to have a cry. No, not that. The majority of “critique” I attract publicly is beyond inane and isn’t worth bothering with, anyway. This is about reviews and criticism of the subjectivity of art, movies, music, the theatre, painting, and so on. It’s a passionate subject — because for better or worse people’s very identities can be wrapped up in what they do – and don’t – enjoy. And those opinions are useful as they can tell us whether to it’s a worthwhile use of our time experiencing it first hand and coming to our own conclusions and opinions.

In that respect, reviews and critique are more than academic. They’re vital to ensuring we don’t spend 200 hours a day keeping up with the immense pace of art production from around the world for fear of missing out.

But is all that criticism equal?

Almost certainly not. There are bad reasons, or at least excuses and justifications, for reviewing something positively or negatively. Here, though, I want to focus on just negative criticism and opinion. Specifically, why I lend less weight to it when deciding whether to let it influence me.

This is not to say it’s invalid, just that it has to be a good reason before I let a negative review affect me. Besides, I can still be swayed against spending time on something even by a relatively positive review providing it’s an honest one that I can relate to.

Anyway, here are the reasons I don’t lend too much thought to negativity.

1. Expectation

Probably around 8 times out of 10, a negative review is an expectation issue. These are complaints along the lines of going into a production of Romeo and Juliet and complaining that it isn’t an action-comedy buddy cop movie. That’s an extreme example, sure, but how many times have you seen a negative review effectively amount to that? Reboots that change too much, or look too different. Comedies that weren’t to someone’s taste in humour – not everything needs to be dry, subtle wit and wordplay, and not everything needs to be Freddy Got Fingered. And sometimes mindless action films do set out to be all about the mindless action. It’s all about target audience, and if you’re intentionally outside that, then is your opinion really worth that much? In no possible universe could you actually feel salience toward art that literally isn’t for you and to your expectations by design.

The reason I admire Roger Ebert’s movie reviews is that this was his approach — he held a movie up to its own purported standard. Did the movie do what it set out to accomplish? If so, then I suppose it’s good by its own standard. If it didn’t accomplish specifically what someone else wanted, it doesn’t automatically mean the opposite.

See, when I watch, listen to or read something I want to see something someone else has made, I want to see their ideas. If I don’t happen to like it and it’s not for me, then meh. It wasn’t for me. I won’t hate something just because it refused to kneel down and cater to my every whim. I do feel the need to be surprised every now and then, and often that means consuming something that may healthily go against my expectations, and challenge me a little.

2. Actual Opinions

In my experience, I rarely see negative views really phrased as opinions. I have a fairly simple view of what counts as an opinion: can you disprove it? If not, it’s an opinion. You can’t disprove “I like mint-chocolate ice cream”, you can’t disprove “I didn’t like The Book of Henry“. You can disprove “I think the world is flat” — even appending “I think that…” doesn’t automatically mean it’s opinion, it just means you might well think something that’s wrong.

If someone likes something, they’ll usually say “I liked it”. If they loved it they’ll preach that out loud with a giddy joyfulness that I feel bad for not holding too. “I love it!”, “I enjoyed it so much!”, “I had so much fun!”, “it made me think a lot!”. People can just just be allowed to like things, you know, right?

But… if someone hates something, they say tend to “it is shit” and “that is bad”. It’s a phrasing that implies strongly that good/bad are properties of the object itself — they’re not, it is what it is, regardless — and not properties of the beholder. To me, that feels as if the opinion is so insecure they have no choice but to recast it as an apparently-objective fact about world instead. That way they can’t be wrong, at all. They’re right, and right objectively. Even though a true opinion is always right practically by definition, that doesn’t matter — it needs to be an objective truth otherwise they might just have a wrong opinion.

I don’t particularly care for that attitude, it implies (and often people will make this insultingly explicit) that people who like something are objectively wrong.

…And coupled with the point below, inherently inferior for it.

3. It’s “smart”

People treat negative opinions as “more intellectual”. I’m pretty sure that’s an established fact in psychology, but I can’t (currently, I might be back later to edit) track the down the source of that.

If you negatively criticise something, you have to do far less work to be seen as intelligent for it. Do you think Harry S. Plinkett would be as popular, and as praised for insightfulness, if he made a 90 minute YouTube show on why Star Wars is great as opposed to why Phantom Menace isn’t? I don’t think so.

You can see it in review videos — “why it fails” videos outnumber the “why it wins” ones by some margin. It’s especially true if it’s something that has been shown to be successful and popular. Any conversation with a metal or alternative music fan about Justin Swift and Taylor Bieber will prove this pretty quick; successful, popular artists are liked by the majority, but the minority are Just Too Smart for that. This is perceived as inherently better, but I think it’s an illusion caused by rebelling against the mainstream. Knowledge and views that a minority possess is rare, and rarity means value. It’s valued more highly, it’s perceived as more intelligent. These people aren’t haters, they’re the enlightened! See that time Corey Taylor said Bieber was actually a decent songwriter, see that time Tool fans did anything, you know.

It’s easier to hate, and people will more-readily bow down to your superior mind for hating something rather than liking it — even though you might not really have the nuanced, thoughtful view that you think you have.

So it takes a lot more work for someone to produce negative criticism that I feel I want to pay attention to and let influence me. I’ll respect Dan Olson shredding Suicide Squad’s editing for 30 minutes because he knows editing and backs it up with examples. But I don’t really care for a 30 second screaming whine about how Star Trek Discovery “isn’t really Star Trek because it just panders to SJWs”.

As I said, I don’t think all negativity is invalid if it’s a true, unfalsifiable opinion, just that I, personally, don’t put as much stock in it unless it’s a damn good rationale where I can see the workings and reasons.

It’s taken a while for me to purge myself of that kind of asinine elitism, thinking that I was better than others for disliking something. But I feel better for it. Understanding a diversity of actual opinion, and appreciating people for it, goes a long way toward spotting when people try to hide foul assertions and nasty, harmful bullshit behind cries of “it’s just an opinion”.

Except for La La Land, because Jesus Fucking Christ how the hell was that the greatest thing ever? I mean, it’s awful. Just the worst. All those people who loved it and rave about it are idi-

Oh… crap…