Bizarrely mournful

Many years ago, me, my family and a friend of my sister were vacationing in Singapore (as my Indonesian hometown is just an hour of ferry ride away).

We made an impromptu excursion to the then-ongoing Titanic exhibition because it genuinely sounded exciting, especially for me, who thinks museums are way cooler than shopping malls and theme parks… and I will fight those who think otherwise.

After we bought the tickets, it didn’t take long for the strangeness to arose.

At the entrance, a ticket-checking attendant greeted us and cheerfully said something along the line of, “find out if you survive until the end!”.

Wait, what?

I don’t remember if others were shocked or not. But, me? I was personally so weirded out! The sentence itself is dark on its own. But, to exclaim it with a cheerful tone to visitors who just want to have a playful visit is bizarrely dark.

But, once we entered, I temporarily forgot my sense of bewilderment. I was too busy being enthralled by the content of the exhibition.

I don’t remember every detail of it. But, I do remember they showcased the actual objects unearthed inside Titanic, which include the passengers’ personal belongings.

I also remember a segment of the exhibition where they tried to emulate the feeling of being underwater; they did so by (if I remember correctly) installing clear glass floor tiles which revealed the bed of sand beneath, painting the wall black and designing the lighting so that it emits the underwater light effect. Probably the first time I realised curation was an art form.

But, the climax of the tour was the part when we were shown a list of the actual passengers. Their names and their survival status were on display.

At that moment, I realised every individual ticket tried to emulate one of an ocean liner by having each of them printed with one of the passengers’ names. Basically, showcasing the story of the Titanic also included making the visitors felt like we were also the passengers!

I was excited when searching for the fate of my passenger. But, I quickly found out that he was among the casualties. His life ceased to exist on April 15, 1912.

One or some of the people who visited the exhibition with me laughed at me for “being one of the casualties”. But then, I was too busy grieving to take heed of the mocking laugher.

Yes, grieving!

I was genuinely heartbroken the man whose name was printed on my perishable ticket died. It felt like he was someone I had known for many years and death took him away without warning.

I tried to get rid of the sadness off me… and it literally took me hours to do so. I was and still am an emotional person. But, even at that moment, I felt irrational and extremely mushy for grieving his death.

Every time I remembered that day, I was always baffled by the occurrence of this “phenomenon”. Basically, I overthought and not immediately realise the ticket was the answer.

It was very blatant from the start that they printed the passengers’ names on the tickets to enhance the immersion. So, an emotional person like me would probably experience grief after the visit.

But, that didn’t explain why the grief didn’t strike my mom and sister, especially that they are more likely to fall for sob stories than I am.

Well, I presume it has something to do with our intentions. Me and my family did visit the exhibition because we wanted to have fun. But, we had different reasons why we considered the visit fun.

My mom and sister were in it probably because Titanic is arguably the most popular ship in the world and its sinking the most well-known maritime accident. For them, it is pop culture.

I, on the other hand, just wanted to learn. Yes, I am patting myself on the back. But, I have been curious about anything “useless” since forever.

When I was young, I read encyclopedias as much as I read comic books. Nowadays, I browse the web to find out about information like the different systems of government and the different styles of postmodern architecture.

I went to the exhibition because I wanted to know more about Titanic beyond what James Cameron’s film showed. I wanted to learn about what makes the ocean liner so iconic… and, most importantly, I wanted to learn about the untold human stories!

The immersion made me emotional probably because my intention made me so.

Now about the intentions of the organisers…

I don’t know why they printed the passengers’ names on the tickets. Maybe they wanted to create a fun experiences for the masses. But, they might also crossed their fingers and hoped some visitors got emotional as a bonus culmination. I can only speculate.

But, one thing for sure: I am glad they printed the names. Thanks to them, I realised that empathy is a part of learning experiences.

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Why The Rewired Soul’s popularity is not surprising (for me)

I first heard about The Rewired Soul, real name Chris Boutté, when Bobby Burns had become a persona non grata in Youtube community; I did not watch any of his videos as I thought he was just another commentator who was disappointed in the young and talented Youtuber’s demise.

I started to know about his true nature when Primink made a critical video about him. I do think Primink screwed up by citing Kati Morton as a good therapist just because she is licensed; her appearance in Shane Dawson’s Jake Paul series clearly shows how unethical she is. But, in general, he was right about how Boutté’s lack of integrity.

I tried to watch any of The Rewired Soul videos and I couldn’t finish a single one. He, a someone without the credentials, does try to represent himself as a therapist, albeit implicitly. He does disregard the importance of informed consent. He keeps diagnosing his fellow Youtubers despite their plea for him to stop; he is literally harassing them!

By the way, I am describing his actions in the present tense even though he is on a break. Why? Because his now-deleted apology video where he played the victim card and the fact that he started to take a break after his own fans turned against him show how he has yet to express genuine remorse. Also, the fact that there will always be people who love what he is doing means he has no incentives to change.

For me, his popularity is frustrating, disturbing yet not surprising.

For one, I also love to ‘diagnose’ complete strangers, like Youtubers. To this day, I still believe they possess certain traits they hide from the public, despite me not having solid evidences; because of that reason, I only talk about them in private chats with my friends.

You may think I am just projecting myself onto others and that is a valid thing to say. But, others are trying to do the same to me and, unlike me, they are actually proud of themselves for doing this.

People whom I have never opened to constantly try to convince me what they think of me is accurate when it is mostly not and, every time I try to rebuke them, they try to convince me I am in denial. Whether I interact with them in the physical or virtual worlds, the less they know me, the more aggressive they are.

Yes, they are just my anecdotes. Unlike a certain political figure, I don’t think data is the plural of anecdotes. But, I can point out to cases where we harass public figures by forcing them to ‘corroborate’ falsehood about their personal lives.

Shawn Mendes has been forced to admit his homosexuality by people who lack any evidences. If we go to the world of Youtube, many fans insist that certain Youtubers, like Dan and Phil, are indeed gay and in same-sex relations with each other, again, by people who lack evidences. And those are just two examples.

On what can we blame this blatant breach of personal boundaries? I believe the problem lies on the delusion of bonding.

I was raised in a society where relationships were judged solely by quantities, not by the qualities and I have no doubt many societies are also guilty of the same sin. Apart from the demonisation of introversion -which is a completely valid personality trait-, one side effect of such societal ‘quirk’ is many people I have met pitifully believe more interactions equals greater intimacy; they cannot comprehend how idiotic they sound.

Of course, that is how relationships are in the physical world, where the delusion can easily take shapes due to the direct contacts. But, I also believe this can also occur even when no interactions ever occur.

Just admit it: you feel connected to certain public figures because you read their books, you listen to their songs or you are ideologically in tune with them; I am still guilty of such sin. But, the thing is I actually acknowledge it is just a feeling!

Many still believe feelings are facts. We feel we are a part of our idols’ private lives; not only we feel entitled to be included in them, we also feel entitled to our own so-called ‘facts’ about them. And it is not just fans. Even haters and ‘neutral observers’ also have such sense of entitlement’, just because they watch, listen to and read about those public figures.

When I watched Primink’s scathing video for the second time, I finally took heed of this screenshot he took when he argued with Boutté:

“So if you had a depressed friend, you wouldn’t recommend they try therapy?”

Friend. Boutté tried to present himself as a ‘concerned’ friend to Trisha Paytas, Bobby Burns and any Youtubers whom not only he has never interacted with, but also has publicly bullied. He is either delusional or pandering to his delusional fan base; in the light of the recent exposés where he is exposed as a scammer, I am more inclined to believe the latter.

But, whether he is genuinely delusional or not, it does not matter. His online persona condones the delusion of bonding which makes him alluring to ones who clearly suffer from it. Based on what I said earlier, I believe those individuals will always exist.

If he continues to defecate the same toxicity as before, his videos would still be watched by said individuals. If his career ends forever, others would be readily available to take over his place. So, not only I am not shocked by his popularity, I also would not be surprised if he can successfully pass his psychologically-hazardous baton to other content creators.

My belief in the existence of such delusion grows slowly over many years. The more I interact with my fellow human beings and the more I delve into the world of Youtubers, the more I believe in its existence. The screenshot taken by Primink really cements it.

Oh, and I have to say I am disappointed with PsychIRL regarding this. I respected her as an intelligent and level-headed commentator and I still do. But, instead of grilling him, she just let him used her channel as his additional platform; she let him use her video as a free advertisement of his channel.

Anyone who were not stupid enough to fall for his ‘compassion’ rhetoric would immediately see how toxic he was and Donna of PsychIRL is clearly far from stupid. It seems her embrace of civility can also be a weakness, as shown in this case.

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My thought about Shane Dawson’s Jeffree Star series

Yes, I know I am a bit too late. Yes, I know I should have written this before I wrote about Shane’s Jake Paul one. But, after reading the comments that equate Jeffree Star with the youngest of the Paul Brothers, I have the urge to make this essay, arguing how both individuals are different from one another.

And yes, the title is misleading. Instead of only focusing on Jeffree’s, I will compare both. Does that count as a clickbait?

Now, first of all, I have to point out the intentions of both series, which are indeed entirely different one another.

When it comes to Jake Paul, Shane never intended to befriend him in the first place. Throughout the production, he acted more like a sometimes-unethical documentarian/investigator who would do anything to know about his (seemingly) monstrous subject. There are eight videos in total and Jake appears only in three of them; the other five are all about Shane digging some info about him, sternly reminding us of the horrible things he has done.

Also, thanks to the much-criticised ‘manipulative’ editing (even though ‘manipulative editing’ is such a redundant term), the entire series feels like a psychological thriller; it feels like Jake will ambush Shane without warning and kill him. With Jeffree, it is the complete opposite.

Shane did not treat him like a mere subject. In fact, probably because they had had interactions prior, Shane genuinely wanted to befriend the personality behind the controversial beauty guru persona, bonded with him on an intimate level. Jeffree appears in all five videos and Shane did not spend a single second digging info about him behind his back. Apart from a handful of serious and emotionally-heavy scenes, this series shares goofy (and bizarre) light-heartedness of Shane’s other recent videos.

While we are also exposed his ugly side, the videos are not over-saturated with such details. Instead, we are encouraged to swallow our judgement temporarily and let him do the storytelling himself. We are encouraged to believe that we know nothing about him. In the end, both series possess two entirely different lenses.

Jake does appear as a normal human being with feelings. But, after being constantly reminded of his ugly side, his seeming niceness fails to gain my sympathy. In fact, months after the series’ conclusion, I end up viewing him as a frail and pathetic human being who uses his shitty familial background to excuse his horrible behaviours. Again, that’s not the case with Jeffree.

Unlike Jake, he does not seem to care about how he is perceived. For one, he swanks his pricy personal possessions, a gesture known in the Youtube community as ‘flexing’ (assuming you are not a part of); it is deeply frowned upon and is seen as a sign of insecurity.

And yet, I am not disgusted by Jeffree’s action at all! Maybe it is something to do with the intention: while others just want to show rich and successful they are, he seems to care more about boasting his taste in fashion, something he seems to be genuinely passionate about. Maybe it is just me.

While Shane may claim he can feel for Jake regarding the relationships with their respective fathers and regarding their status as personae non gratae, the bonding between the two seems superficial. I will never know if there is a genuine emotional connection or not when the camera is off. But, I can confidently say the on-camera relationship is purely akin to one between an interviewer and an interviewee. Again, not with Jeffree.

I (and possibly other viewers as well) notice how Jeffree and Shane are sincerely amused by each other’s antics, bonding through a kindred sense of playfulness. It is evident how there is a bona fide connection between the two contentious personalities and the effortlessness is what makes it wonderful! To make it even more so, Jeffree is seen interacting with other members of the squad, like Andrew the cameraman, Garrett and Ryland, with relative ease. In spite of his air of mystery and aloofness, he seems pleasant to interact with.

Now, I do have to say what I just described above are the things Shane and Andrew wanted to include in the final touch. Therefore, both series are shaped by their perspectives.

(Side note: I also did an essay about the Jake Paul series, in which I ignored Andrew Siwicki’s pronounced involvement even though I already knew about his existence. My mistake).

But, if you go back the very first paragraph of this essay, I said something about how people compare Jeffree and Jake not because of those series, but because who they are as individuals. Some people actually believe both are the same and should never be given heartfelt tributes.

Obviously, those people are idiots.

Jeffree is perceived as a toxic public figure for his shamelessly provocative tendency. But, even if everyone absolutely agrees he emits a large amount of toxicity online, he is still not Jake Paul!

In case you are one of those idiots, you should know Jake specifically targets his brands towards children! As exposed by countless Youtube commentators, he deploys manipulative marketing manoeuvres which ensure a large section of his impressionable young fans (presumably the majority of them) will definitely purchase his merchandise. Oh, and merch is not the only thing he is ‘selling’ to them: he also sells transgression.

His videos also showcase some of the most crass pranks one can think of and shameless display of eroticism. At one point, he also made videos about how he supposedly got tormented by a gang of evil clowns… and tried to present them as ‘real’. Just a reminder: many of his fans are young children!

Then, while being confronted by Shane, he asserted that many of his fans (whose brains are objectively not fully developed yet, mind you) are smart enough to identify native advertising and won’t be tricked into pressuring their parents to buy the merch for them, smart enough to distinguish what is real and what isn’t. He also asserted how the critics were being pedantic and were mad about nothing.

See what he did there? Instead of admitting and apologising for his sins, he insulted everybody’s intelligence by giving an assertion anyone with a strong footing in reality can easily refute. He was so arrogant, he thought he could ‘own’ his ‘haters’ by treating us like his juvenile fans. Even though Shane gave him the platform to humanise himself, the smugness makes me loathe him even more! Again (I am not sorry for this repetition), not the case with Jeffree.

No matter how toxic his online persona is, his behaviours are still bound by some degree of personal ethics. For one, he markets his brand towards cosmetics enthusiasts (did I use the correct term?) who can handle brutal honesty and sass. He never targets it towards young children, let alone manipulating them to do his bidding!

Jeffree also hates pretension. Since his MySpace days, he always wittingly introduces himself as an individual of poor and unrefined character. He deliberately makes it so easy for everyone to hate him! Even then, he still can feel guilty about his past actions.

After it was revealed he yelled the N-word in a video, he made a really good apology video in which he does not deflect the blame on others and does not try to make us feel sorry for him. While I find it a bit too long and not straightforward enough, it is as sincere as Pewdiepie’s after he was also caught yelling the same abusive word.

Despite my lack of familiarity with every single one of Jeffree’s dramas, I am very certain he is being mean towards people whom he considers are deserving, like his snakes of so-called friends. As mentioned before, he treated Shane and the squad with a pleasantness one would never expect from an individual of such reputation! Oh, and he also does consumer protection.

At least, that’s what a fellow Youtube commenter told me. He/she said, thanks to Jeffree’s reviews of certain cosmetics brands, he/she and his/her family were staved off from spending a fortune on useless products and they ended up saving lots of money. I don’t know if his/her case is an anomaly or not. But, my God, that was seriously unexpected!

I am certain my description of Jake is almost universally accepted; the ones who defend him are either his own juvenile fans or adults who are so tolerant of transgression, they should never be allowed to have children (but, I cannot force them to not breed because a part of me still loves liberty). In spite of the fame and fortune, he and his brother are popularly seen as the human incarnation of faeces that inexplicably grow its own tumour.

Jeffree, on the other hand, draws very divided public opinions. Some love him, some hate him and some don’t know what to think and feel; it may depend whether you have watched his content or not. But, despite the possible contention, I am confident my relatively-sympathetic description of him will gain some degree of collective acceptance.

And now, we go back to Shane.

If someone asks me who he is, I would answer he is an internet entertainer. Unless he has proven himself, I will never call him a journalist or researcher. None of his videos demonstrate his strong experience in objectivity and systematic analyses… and scientific methods, if I want to go further. I have to exclude Andrew from this as I don’t know the extent of his influence.

Without dismissing Shane’s intelligence (which he clearly has if one has actually watched him), he seems to think the combination of public discourse and personal curiosity is a suitable paradigm for his ‘documentaries’. And, because of that, both series end up as two distinct entities.

I have mixed feelings about this approach. Its results include the pointless Tanacon videos and, of course, the half-intriguing half-problematic Jake Paul ones. But, at the same time, the results also include the Molly Burke, the Grav3yardgirl and, of course, the surprisingly-witty and surprisingly-profound Jeffree Star videos.

Unless one does not care about ethical implications, the Shane Dawson formula should never be used when one enquires into figuratively and literally detrimental phenomena and big names who receive near-universal condemnation. It can, however, be used to enquire into big names who receive a greater degree of admiration as the ethical implications are minimal. My suggestion is, if one cares about journalistic and scientific integrity, one must avoid it at all cost.

(Side note: yes, it is not easy to determine whether one is universally-hated or somewhat lovable; but, just entertain the thought that it is easy to do).

Oh, and I actually made an essay about the potential problems with Shane Dawson. I know some of the things I state here should belong there. But, I published it too soon and since then, I have had more ‘revelations’ about him. Oh well…

Just like with my Jake Paul series review, this one will also use Shane’s picture in the thumbnail. Again, his videos reveal more about him than they do about his subjects.

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Your Name (and the true human bonding)

Just another of my very late film ‘review’.

Warning: while I won’t give details about the plot, this essay may still be a spoiler for you.

I don’t know how I ended up watching one of Makoto Shinkai’s works. I am not an avid fan of Japanese animation; most of the ones I have watched, like Doraemon and Ninja Hattori, were unavoidable in the first place as they were staples of Indonesia’s Sunday morning broadcast.

In fact, I don’t remember how I first heard about Your Name. Maybe it was the film poster in a cinema near my house and I was intrigued by its simplistic title and visually-conveyed ethereality. Maybe I was introduced to it by The Anime Man, whom I watch solely for his sarcasm and his ways of breaking down storytelling. Either way, it lingered in my mind for some time before I decided to watch it… and I am glad I did!

Visually, it is a very pretty animation! The animators made sure that even the backdrops are being held to a high aesthetic standard. But then, this is my first Makoto Shinkai’s work; I don’t know if this is a trademark of his. The beauty, while deeply appreciated, is not unforeseeable. The poster easily gave it away.

The story’s complexity, on the other hand, was surprising to me. The fairly intricate metaphysicas is not something one expects from one of the most highest-grossing traditionally-animated films, Japanese animated films and non-Anglophone films of all time. Maybe it’s like Life of Pi all over again, where the audience was too fixated on the visuals and ignoring the subject matters altogether.

Or maybe, they are smitten by how the film conveys emotions to the point where they become personally affected themselves. At least, that’s the case with me.

Because of it, I became an emotional wreck for days; one of the other times I fell into such bad shape was the first time I watched Jacksepticeye’s A Beginner’s Guide playthrough. I have had my share of emotional arts and entertainment works and yet not even the masterly creations of the likes of Bergman and Tarkovsky trigger a surge of neurochemicals in me.

One may go to a conclusion that Makoto Shinkai is an EQ genius who experience feelings like no other! Bergman, Tarkovsky and the rest of mankind should learn from him if they want to become more emotionally-intelligent human beings!

Obviously, what I just said was stupid. He may possess a high EQ. But, I doubt his is the highest ever. One thing I am certain about is his masterfully immersive storytelling, seamlessly taking us the characters’ extramundane world. But still, that explanation feels unsatisfactory for me.

For me (and presumably some people), the answer is a lot simpler. While immersiveness is indeed a factor for the sense of intimacy, it is not the be-all and end-all. Ultimately, the characters must be relatable to you.

Your Name chronicles the lives of two teenagers living in two different places and time who switch bodies. While the relationship was initially hostile, they end up seeing each other as their other halves whom they cannot imagine live without. Their bond is so strong, they still possess a sense of inexplicable longing after losing any pertinent memories. Years later, when they finally meet face-to-face, they quickly form a bond without remembering each other’s names. That facet of the characters’ life is very relatable to me.

Unless you – a nasty person that only exist in my head – are dumb enough to take the story literally and are accusing me of living a fantasy life or you are unaware of the age we are living in, there is a (small) chance you will understand why the film is personal to me: the internet.

Since I became active on Facebook, I started to have lots deep interactions with my fellow human beings. In fact, I met my first real best friends on the site! I can interact with them for hours and hours and I will never get bored by the wonderfully genuine human connections!

To make it even more delightful, almost all of my interactions involve internet users whose homelands are distinct from mine. I can form bonds with human beings in spite of their distinct environments, in spite of the terrestrially great distances, in spite of them living in very different time zones!

Of course, the reactionaries will fiercely disagree with me. They believe social interactions inherently require corporeal presence. For them, the lack of corporeal presence instantly invalidates every single reciprocity that has occured, no matter how genuine they are. Any person who possesses an open-mind will easily recognise how retarded such mentality is.

Let’s dissect the term ‘social interaction’. ‘Social’ means anything related to ‘society’, it is derived from the Latin word ‘socius’ which means ‘allied’ (I think). ‘Interaction’ is derived from ‘inter’ and ‘action’; basically, it is an action that directly influences every party involved.

If one lives in a mostly analogue world, one could be forgiven for still retaining such mentality. Of course, that world has become the past! Our lives have been heavily influenced by digitalisation. The gravity of social media today is comparable to the gravity of sexual repression in Indonesia.

Surely, after witnessing one of the great alteration of human foundations, the long-established meanings of ‘social’, society’, ‘interaction’ and ‘friends’ have inevitably become obsolete. So, sooner or later, we have to rethink the way we decipher them. For me, it sounds more reasonable than acting like grumpy, soon-to-die dinosaurs who hate how prejudice is no longer cool.

No, I am not dismissing the importance of offline relationships. Humans (still) live in an earthly realm. I (grudgingly) acknowledge that humanity cannot exist without physical contacts. Even if we don’t care about having friends and partners, we still need to buy groceries, to study, to work. Internet hermits like me need to go offline from time to time if we want to sustain ourselves.

But, traditionalists also have to acknowledge the strengths of online interaction. The cyber space gives us the freedom to be free from intrusiveness and toxicity, eases our efforts to search for like-minded individuals and, in spite of our current circumstances, still provides us the platform to meet anyone, no matter what their upbringings are and no matter where they live! Like it or not, ‘traditional’ interactions lack any of those advantages!

Now, about the quality of relationships: how does one determine it? Well, I believe emotional mutualism (I don’t know if it’s a real term) and sincerity are crucial determinants (people-pleasers will disapprove of the latter). While they are obviously my personal touchstones, I am confident some will agree with mine. And yes, I can say my Facebook friendships fulfill the requirements!

My interaction with fellow homo sapiens is frequently laced with deceit, vanity and unyielding distaste of liberty. But, thanks to the benefits I mentioned two paragraphs ago, they occur significantly far less in my internet social circle. Based on my anecdotes (as that’s the only thing I can provide), not only online relationships can be as good as the offline ones, they have the prospect to be even better!

I believe that’s the reason why I find Your Name very personal. No, I don’t think the story is a deliberate allegory of our digitalised world. But, the tale of a human bonding that transcends space and time will surely have an impact on someone whose personal relationships are almost entirely established in the cyber world.

I can’t say anything about other people who have watched it. How many of them were emotionally affected by the watching experience? For those who were, why? If the reason had nothing to do with human bonding, I genuinely would like to know what that reason is.

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