(Badly) Defending Netflix’s Dahmer

When I first heard about the show and the controversies surrounding its disregard of the victims’ families, I thought there would be people who defend the show, saying they have the right to enjoy even the most exploitative entertainment.

But, it seems there are people who defend the show for moral reasons.

Disclosure: I haven’t watched the show and I have no interest to. I am more interested in breaking down the opinions which argue not only for its moral justifiability, but also moral necessity.

First thing first, they argue this show is an exposé of police ineptitude and bigotry, which can be an eye-opener to many people.

Second, they argue the show showcases the dark side of humanity, how humans can do the most despicable things to each other, how life isn’t all flowers and rainbows. In fact, they believe the dark content can be a cautionary tale for all of us to be more vigilant, especially in the presence of strangers.

Now, let me break them down.

We are in 2022. At this point, you should have heard many discourses regarding police incompetence and bigotry. If the show opens your eyes to their existence, it is not a testament of its quality. It is a testament of how out-of-touch you are.

Also, there has been so many works about serial killers… and about Dahmer specifically. If something is depicted once or a few times, it would be emotionally impactful. But, once it becomes a recurring and overused theme, people will be desensitised to it.

Oh, and if their abundance fails to make us vigilant against serial killers, what makes you think this one show is any different?

So no, the so-called “benefits” are not worth retraumatising the victims’ still living families. What’s the point of reopening old wounds when you have no intention to heal them permanently?

I don’t know exactly why people make those defenses.

It may be naivety.

They may naively believe the show’s creators care about educating the masses, despite the fact that media people are infamous for their greed, and every person who watches the show only cares about learning, despite the fact that some are entertained by exploitations and others love glorifying serial killers. They contradict themselves: they want to learn about the dark side of mankind and yet, they assume others have nothing but the purest intentions.

They may naively believe entertainment is the best tool to enlighten the masses, despite the fact that entertainers often oversimplify, exaggerate and dramatise the facts and aren’t obligated to be unbiased, despite the fact that people won’t learn anything unless they have the desire to.

It may not be naivety.

It may be their attempts to mask their love of exploitative entertainment, fearing they will be judged harshly for their inability to enjoy anything which isn’t remotely edgy.

I tend to believe it is mostly a naivety issue. But, knowing humans, the latter is a high possibility.

Does that mean people need to stop making Dahmer content until all of his victims’ families die?

Yes, the answer is yes.

I believe that we are allowed to make any content as we desire; banning can be a dangerous slippery slope. But, we should always remember that heartlessness is an option.

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Late to the Smosh fandom

When I was exposed to Youtube culture for the first time in 2014, I was not impressed with Smosh.

I found the humour too juvenile for my taste. It was baffling how its fans Anthony and Ian compared to Dan and Phil, who make entirely different content. To make it more baffling, some even said Anthony and Ian were the funnier version of Dan and Phil, even though latter made much wittier jokes.

Considering I only liked two of their older videos, I am surprised that I clicked on more of them.

Now, fast forward to 2022.

It has been six or seven years since my last Smosh videos. I don’t remember how I stumbled back to the franchise. But somehow, I clicked on their recent Smosh Pit and Smosh Game videos and I was surprised that I was laughing at the jokes!

The cast and even some crew members are able to create witty, bizarre and even dark off-the-cuff jokes. No scripts needed! I don’t remember encountering this kind of humour on Smosh videos years ago. I even never realised how dark and bizarre Ian Hecox’s humour can be.

But, I am not a big fan of the Try Not To laugh videos. While they do have some gems, the cast members often end up trying too hard to be funny; many of the jokes fall flat, feel like inside jokes or end up being too abstract.

I also tried watching their recent scripted sketches… and I was not disappointed.

The scripted humour is still over-reliant on exaggerations. But, I love how it has significantly matured. Nowadays, many of the sketches revolve around the frustrations of lives as adults and media consumers; they even spoof the daily life at Smosh office.

In fact, I notice that Smosh and Saturday Night Lives share something in common: their style of scripted humour works best when their sketches include blatant commentaries. It successfully highlights the human stupidity they critique.

But, despite the improvements, I think the sketches are not the best things about the main Smosh channel. I prefer the Funeral, Gives Relationship Advices and Interview Exes series.

Like the sketches, they involve scripted narratives. But, unlike the sketches, the jokes are made not only by a handful of selected writers, but by the cast members as well. Hence why those videos have the most dynamic and lively content in the main channel.

Of course, there is also this annoying nostalgia of the former fans.

I do have my own nostalgia. The original Scooby Doo TV show, the first two English-dubbed Pokemon films, S Club 7, 1990’s comedic supernatural-themed Indonesian TV shows, those are some of the things I feel nostalgic about. Seeing and hearing them always give me fuzzy feelings.

But, at the same time, I also acknowledge their undeniable mediocrity. No reasonable minds consider the things I mentioned above as masterpieces.

And those former Smosh fans fail to comprehend that. Not only they are unable to be critical of anything feelgood, they also refuse to grow up together with their idols.

They think their lack of growth is a badge of honour.

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What non-Harry Potter fans don’t get about Rowling’s transphobia controversy

The transphobes think her detractors are just random haters who always join any hate bandwagons. The pro-trans group think her defenders are either transphobic Harry Potter fans or zealous fanboys and fangirls who always defend their idols even when they are wrong.

Both sides are right; some people love joining hate bandwagons and many Potheads are indeed a bunch of sentient diarrhea (remember how they treated Katie Leung?). But, they are only partially right. In reality, many of her detractors are also her own fans.

Well, more like former fans who hate her while still loving her works. We hate her because she loves preaching about acceptance through Harry Potter and yet she ends up as a well-known hate preacher. We believe she must be held accountable not only for her bigotry, but also for her hypocrisy.

For many fans, Harry Potter inspires them to be more accepting of fellow human beings regardless of the trivial differences; in fact, a “study” (which must be taken with grains of salt) even claimed that reading Harry Potter decreases our chance of becoming bigoted.

Obviously, it is ludicrous to think works of art and entertainment can single-handedly mould our worldview. But, they certainly can be inspire us to think and feel in a certain way. It is remarkable if you actually know how Potheads perceive the series throughout the years.

It is a popular belief that Potheads started criticising Rowling when she mindlessly extended the worldbuilding through her bizarre tweets. But, their criticism against her and her works had been ongoing for much longer.

In the late 2000’s or early 2010’s, I loved browsing the internet for Harry Potter-related blogposts and sites. Not only I gained more facts about the HP universe (as I still haven’t read the first three novels and I might miss certain details), I also gained more perspectives about it.

And that was when they pointed out the problematic aspects of the series. Hogwarts’ disregard of its students’ welfare (e.g. having Snape ‘teaching’ his students), the mocking depiction of Hermione’s elf-right activism and the nonchalant depiction of love potion AKA magical date rape drug, just to name a few. That was one of my first exposure to critical analyses of entertainment.

Either those potheads got inspired by the moral gist of her works despite the complication OR they were already more progressive than Rowling ever was. Both make sense to me.

It is very easy for us to overlook problematic elements when they are small details or are subtextual; we may take heed of them long after we get the overall moral messages. While it is not always the case, it shouldn’t be a suprise that the younger generation is more progressive than its predecessor.

What’s the point of my babbling?

I do acknowledge that Harry Potter fandom has venomous individuals among ourselves; some undoubtedly defend Rowling’s transphobia (and, again, remember how they treated Katie Leung). But, we should also acknowledge the Potheads who are not only more enlightened than she is, but also have been scrutinising her works long before it was cool to do so.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the potheads, the backlash against her wouldn’t be as severe and, if it wasn’t for non-fans chiming in, the support for her wouldn’t be as strong.

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“Everything is political!”

I first encountered that remark in a video by Extra Credit, a Youtube channel partially dedicated to video games.

At first, I found it off-putting. I thought it was pretentious and sanctimonious. I thought they were trying too hard to sound socially-conscious. I remember that people in the comment section also shared my discontent.

But then, years later, I changed my mind. Admittedly, as off-putting as it sounds, that remark has some truths. But, I prefer to phrase it differently: everything -literally everything – is affected by politics.

What kinds of entertainment we consume and enjoy are affected by politics. The governments set rules about which works are allowed and prohibited, which require age restrictions, which require “alteration”; in some cases, there may be endorsement of certain works and/or styles.

And yes, even the foods we eat are affected by politics. The openness and closeness of trades affect the variety. Political stances, especially of the ruling classes, may also affect what styles of foods considered acceptable to eat; cultural cringe compels people to look down on their ancestral/local cuisines while pride compels them to be proud of the ancestral/local ones.

In more extreme cases, ultra-nationalists want everyone to eat ONLY ancestral/local foods and some revolutionaries (e.g. Italian Futurists) want everyone to break up with the past by stop eating ancestral foods.

My problem with that Extra Credit quote is the phrasing. It sounds like we have to make be political every second of our lives! I don’t think so and I would be disappointed if that was what they meant.

We have the choice to be tactful and tactless about our political opinions. We have the choice to take heed or be dismissive of politics. But, we don’t have the choice to be free from politics because it is very much interested in you (I am sure some of you have heard of this before).

One can also the same thing about cultures, religions and the economies. On one way or another, our lives are affected by all of them and they are unavoidable.

This is a reminder that humans don’t live in vacuums. We live in a world where everything is inevitably interconnected. In fact, I can also argue not only politics influences entertainment and foods, it can also be the other way around!

But, I am not going there now. I am not into the mood of plunging myself into the rabbit hole.

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I like quarantine Colbert better

Stephen Colbert Steve Carell Peabody Awards 2021 Late Show Win – The  Hollywood Reporter

On the official Facebook group, I kept seeing fans who were genuinely angry that the show was in “quarantine mode” for too long. They acted as if the deadly and still-ongoing pandemic was just a lame excuse for Colbert’s supposed laziness.

Obviously, anyone whose heads are not deep inside their own unwashed rear ends know how idiotic the claim is.

It also does not help that some also complain about Colbert’s more casual attire and him shooting in his office, even though the second quarantine set was obviously in a studio. Their thinking is as deep as a ditch clogged with dead rats and they have the media literacy of prehistoric toddlers.

It is not to say I don’t like non-quarantine Colbert. He seems energised by the presence of live audience and I do love his banter with Jon Batiste. But, the quarantine mode has a more wholesome and organic charm… thanks to the absence of live audience.

I do think their excitement can be infectious. But, it rarely happens. I despise how unnecessarily exuberant they are most of the time. Why do they have to cheer almost every few seconds? It feels like they are cheering just for the sake of it. If it wasn’t for them, the excitement would have felt more sincere.

Compare that to the quarantine mode. His wife Evie and the minuscule crew members did not laugh at every joke. But, when they did, they released wholehearted cackles.

The thing about the sound of laughter -whether they are live or canned- is they can make jokes sound funnier than they really are. Evie and the crew members’ selective laughters reveal which jokes are so-so or unfunny and which are truly hilarious.

The angry monologues are also untainted by the sound of approving audience. While I understand their frustration with their country’s politics, their noise hinder us from truly feel Colbert’s anger.

Basically, quarantine Colbert was more emotionally sincere.

The sincerity is also amplified by the more personal and cosier setup. It feels less like watching a TV show and more like chilling out with Colbert, Evie and the crew. Dreadful for party addicts who don’t know pleasure beyond partying, wonderful for my introverted homebody, party-hating self.

As you can see, I prefer quarantine Colbert over the live stage one. But, unfortunately, it is also reminder of the still ongoing pandemic. Traditional media people are unlike Youtubers: when they work remotely, then there is something wrong.

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Violence needed?

Before I talk about violence, let’s talk about sex for a moment.

I don’t remember who made the quote. But, reading it, I felt stupid for not realising it sooner. Basically, it asserted that depiction of sex should be more acceptable than the depiction of violence.

Why? Because sex is nice and violence isn’t. Religious sins aside, I am certain every non-asexual person who has ever lived finds consensual sex pleasurable. I would be surprised if you can many people who enjoy getting stabbed and shot at.

Unnecessary depiction of sex -even in a small amount- can be distracting. But, unless I am a small-time actor who cannot opt out from performing the scenes, I prefer that over excessive violence.

This makes me wonder: why do creators love depicting violence?

Obviously, unless they need psychiatric help, the answer is not that they love it.

If they openly admit they create anything that is popular, they are profoundly intrigued by the existence of violence or they just love action-oriented scenes, then I get why they create violent works.

If they dwell with stories of superheroes, criminals, martial artists, soldiers or adventurers and claim such stories won’t work without violence, then my feelings are mixed.

On one hand, I do get why said stories need violence. All of them deal with lots of physical actions and may feature violent characters, which are not inherently out of place.

But, on the other hand, what I said above is arbitrary.

Superhero and war stories can focus on the nature of heroism and morality and how the actions psychologically affect the protagonists; the latter can also focus on the validity of patriotism. Crimes do not always involve violence and their stories can also explore the nature of morality. Martial art stories can focus on the characters’ journey of improving their craft and that can be very psychological. And adventure stories? I am certain we don’t need violent villains to experience greater risk in our lives; life will provide it for us.

If you want to depict abusive relationships, the depiction of physical aspect is just a bonus; the most painful part about it is – once again – the psychological effects. Words – even ones uttered by the calmest and honeyed voice – can hurt more than cuts and bruises… and I personally can attest to that.

From my perspective, those creators appear to possess limited amount of imagination; they are unable to conjure narratives devoid of violent acts. They are unable to be creative with their supposedly beloved genres.

I have very limited experiences immersing myself in works of various genres. And yet, I can easily conjure war, superhero, martial art and adventure story ideas that do not involve violence.

Admittedly, I have problems writing stories inspired my own life using magical realist and surrealist styles – styles which I find most comfortable writing fiction in – , let alone writing genres which I clearly have no skills and knowledge in. It would be a miracle if I ever finish more than ten short stories in my lifetime.

But, one thing for certain: I don’t feel insecure about my own imagination.

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How to depict violence

There is a spoiler alert for the Amazon show Invincible, assuming you are not exposed to its memes.

I genuinely don’t mind about the presence of violence in arts and entertainment. My problem lies on how it is being depicted.

For one, it is obvious many in the creative industry are either too lazy or too incompetent to depict violence off-screen. I prefer the violence to be insinuated and having a greater focus on the aftermath. I am sure even adequately diligent and skilled filmmakers are able to create such scenes.

But, I won’t dwell too much on the undisguised depiction. As much as I love complaining about it, I am still able to tolerate the lack of subtlety. What I don’t tolerate is the trivialisation.

Here’s the thing about trauma: literally anything can traumatise you. Something does not have to be violent or injurious to be traumatic. It can be so by simply being significantly bad in your life.

And yet, most entertainment works love depicting violence as something which won’t traumatise us, as something we can brush off easily.

Even in superhero stories, I find that problematic. Yes, superheroes have superhuman physical strength. But, immunity from mental disorders is never explicitly mentioned.

I make a big deal out of this because we are accustomed to perceive mental disorders as either weaknesses or things we choose to suffer from. The fact that the media we consume do the same thing means our false perception is constantly being affirmed. It certainly does not help that many characters in our favourite entertainment are relatable, even those who are not (fully) human beings.

Even if they don’t or won’t suffer mentally, at least mention how desensitised they have or will become.

Oh, and there is a reason why I mentioned superheroes and non-human characters.

Recently, I have been watching clips (no, not entire episodes) of Invincible; if it wasn’t for a comic book nerd friend of mine, I would have never heard of the show.

Just by watching the snippets, I cannot help but feeling impressed. The voice acting performance is great, it is emotionally impactful and the inclusion of humour is seamless (love the scene where our protagonist almost catches his parents “doing it”).

And then, there are the scenes the show is infamous for.

Disappointed that Mark is too soft, his father “toughens” him up by using his body to mutilate innocent people. When the method fails, his dad beats him literally almost to death.

Mark ends up hospitalised for two weeks and is obviously saddened by his father’s betrayal. But, there are no indications of impending psychological trauma.

I don’t know why. But, if it wasn’t for the show’s existence, I would have never thought about this.

There are indeed exceptions. But, they are too rare for my liking.

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The only episode of Criminal Minds that I love

Overall, I despise the show like a plague. Even without the ungodly demonisation of mental illnesses sufferers, it would still make a lame horror or thriller TV show.

I mean, come on! Do you expect me to watch people murdered in unusually grotesque manners and get deeply unnerved? Why should I be fearful of horrible things that are mostly hypothetical and not experienced by most people? Why should I be fearful of things that are not close to home?

Most of the time, the show tries too hard to be terrifying. Most of the time.

Season nine’s 24th episode is an exception. Titled Demons, it features corrupt cops instead of mentally unstable characters as the bad guys.

As the main characters need to travel all over the country, they often get assistance from the local police forces, using their headquarters as makeshift offices. In this episode, they unwittingly enter the lion’s den, thinking it was a safe space.

Once they realise how corrupt the entire police force is, the ominousness starts creeping in. It genuinely feels like they can ambushed at any time… and anywhere.

The fact that the main characters are FBI agents make the situation even more tense. If federal agents are fearful of the local cops despite having self-defence training and more legal power, it would be idiotic for ordinary citizens -especially noobs like me- to not feel fear.

It took a while to realise this: a police force’s headquarter is not just a mere building, it encompasses an entire specific region. Basically, the entire city is the lion’s den! Unless they leave town immediately, they are not safe everywhere they go!

Obviously, this is not the best thriller work out there. In fact, I have watched TV episodes and films far more terrifying than this. But, I make a big deal out of this episode because it is what the entire show could have been.

It could have lived up to its title by focusing on the psychological aspects of crime solving! It could have been a compelling TV series for the masses!

Instead, it chooses to mindlessly give what the masses want: surface-level visual horror and vindication of their dehumanising hatred against mental illness sufferers.

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Bad excuses to prefer dub over sub

Do you have problems with your eyesight? Do you have an actual problem reading rapidly appearing and disappearing texts on the screen, either because of a learning disorder or because you had limited access to formal education growing up?

If you answer yes to at least one, then I have no right to shame you for preferring dubbing. You have no control over your conditions and you have the right to demand its availability.

Here are another questions.

Do you feel uncomfortable hearing languages other than the ones you speak? Do you dislike reading in general because you are lazy and NOT because you suffer from actual learning disorders?

If you answer yes to at least one of them, then you can go fuck yourselves.

Millions of people all over the world have no problems befriending and even marrying those who don’t share their ancestral languages. If the mere presence of other cultures upsets you, then it is your problem. Get a fucking grip and accept that differences exist and will always do and not all of them are a big fucking deal!

Lazy to read… do I have to explain why that is bad? Do I really need to treat you like a child? I don’t know how you can live your life when reading short sentences is too much of a burden for you.

Stuck in a bubble, lazy to read. Even though they are obviously weaknesses we can easily overcome, you refuse to do so. Worse, you have the gut to demand others to respect your flaws.

It is either you genuinely don’t see them as defects OR you are one of those entitled losers who think your unwillingness to grow must be respected.

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A fan of things

Films, TV shows, songs, books, why do I have my personal favourites among them? Why am I a fan of anything?

I always wonder how critics compile lists of works they consider to be the objectively greatest. If I ask them, it is very likely they would claim that they only take things like originality, executions and legacy into account.

But, do they, really? Do they actually care about the quality? Or do they only pander to self-righteous snobs? Or are they the self-righteous assholes who think their tastes are objectively the most refined?

Regarding the self-righteous pricks and the panderers, they are relatively easy to detect. All of you have to do is to see if the right to opinion or appeal to authority fallacies are being used. As long as they are a bunch of big mouths and you are capable of reading between the lines, you won’t fall for their deceit.

I do know people who can only enjoy arts and high-quality entertainment exist… and I have no doubt those on the opposite side of the spectrum also exist. Obviously, they frustrate me.

On one hand, I understand why some people can only love escapism; life truly sucks, after all. But, on the other hand, I hate it when they go full pseudo-intellectual populist and assert how there is no such thing as ‘bad taste’.

I also hate the ‘high-quality’ crowd because they can be a hoard of sanctimonious pricks; I have complained about this lots of times. But, recently, I noticed something potentially eerie about them. Let me explain.

When one thinks of a work of high quality, one thinks about the techniques. From my experiences, techniques can improve the human expressions. Can, but not always.

Sometimes, I encounter works of high quality (or seen as such by critics and snobs) which I have a hard time liking. I have a hard time finishing the unnecessary visceral films of Quentin Tarantino, I find Kanye West’s songs undistinguishable from many other pop songs, I find ‘common practice’ classical music too sugary at times and I am inclined to believe some ‘realistic’ films are emotionally heavy-handed just for the sake of being so.

Here’s a list of my favourite works and the reasons why I enjoy them.

I enjoy films like Your Name, The Man From Earth and My Dinner With Andre and anything by Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick. They thrive to understand humanity through metaphysical means. Even Bergman’s psychological films incorporate metaphysical themes at times.

I enjoy compositions by John Coolidge Adams, George Gershwin and Igor Stravinsky. Unlike ‘common practice’ music, they don’t sound saccharine. If anything, they have an ‘edge’ which I find lacking in ‘common practice’ music.

Despite Rowling exposing herself as a shit worldbuilder and a TERF, I still have to commend Harry Potter for turning me into a book reader and for creating escapist works dense with social commentaries which I wholeheartedly support.

I love Michael Jackson for introducing me to music in general, Phil Collins for introducing me to more offbeat pop music and Chrisye for introducing me to quality Indonesian music.

I love Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code for providing me nuanced takes on religions’ place in our lives, despite Brown’s poor writing skills and the inaccuracies.

I love Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Bumi Manusia for changing the way I see myself through the lens of Indonesian national identity.

I love Enya for her ethereal, borderline-spiritual music and I love Mahavishnu Orchestra for their ethereal Jazz Fusion.

I love some Marvel films for their ability to incorporate genuine emotions within  action superhero narratives.

From all of them, you can easily tell they have something in common: I love them because they personally mean something to me; it is obvious I don’t always care for virtuosity.

I thought Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite was an anomaly. Immediately after watching it, I was mesmerised by the acting, directing and unpredictable plot. Not long after, I was mesmerised by how fun it was to analyse the film; the interpretations seemed never-ending!

I was surprised that I would have a black comedy crime thriller as a personal favourite, that I would like a work simply for its virtuosity. But, after I thought about it, that was not the full story.

The film is a cynical satire… and I love cynical satires; in fact, much of my earliest blogs are cynical satires that felt cathartic to write. The film also has an ominous atmosphere almost right from the beginning… and I am a sucker for subtle sense of terror, which I find more ‘traumatising’ than the conspicuous one.

Speaking for myself, I love the arts and entertainment because they make feel like a human being in a world where cold-hearted pragmatism is king and make robots out of us. Loving them solely for their techniques feels antithetical to what arts and entertainment are meant to be.

As frustrating as the exclusively low brow crowd can be, I still can relate to them on some level; their desire to ‘escape’ feels perfectly human.

On the other hand, I cannot relate to the exclusively high brow crowd at all; their inability or unwillingness to ‘escape’ does not feel human at all. What I am saying is I often wonder if they are even humans.

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