What I think about the Shane Dawson and Bobby Burns ‘drama’

Yes, I know. This essay is many months too late and this is my fourth Shane Dawson writing. But, I need to write it as the toxic section of Shane’s fandom still spew venom to Bobby. Now, I also have venom to deliver.

It is quite obvious the problem is on Shane’s fandom. They cannot accept the fact that their idol is not being universally and unconditionally loved by the world! For them, their idol is an all-perfect deity who cannot do anything wrong. And someone dared to pop their bubble of delusion.

Bobby made a critical video of Shane being a conspiracy theorist. Even though he can be self-righteous mean and hypocritical with his Youtube commentaries, you have to admit he has made great points.

As much as I love Shane, his conspiracy videos are indeed full of shit and, even though he still possess some level of skepticism in him, he does a shitty job on emphasising it. Considering how impressionable many media consumers can be, Shane is being irresponsible. You cannot claim to be a reasonable person and claim there is nothing problematic about some of his content.

The only thing I hate about the so-called ‘hate’ video is the mentioning of Shane’s past black face controversy. While it is not a trivial matter, it is irrelevant to the topic being discussed and he is being petty about it.

Of course, I have to mention polygraph. While its accuracy is doubted by some scientists, watching Shane and Ryland getting tested by the device is still very entertaining. But, when it is Bobby’s turn, the enjoyment slips away.

It is obvious how much he suffers from anxiety and the thing about lie detector is it only detects how anxious we are, NOT whether we tell the truth or not! With the intense nervousness, Bobby easily fails the test. In that situation, some people will react by making jokey confessions; in Bobby’s case, he jokingly confesses about using Shane for fame. Unsurprisingly, the brainless fans use these as their smoking guns.

No matter how much you try to instill scientific literacy to their brains, it seems theirs have become a lost cause; pop culture has made them believe in the imaginary effectiveness of polygraphs. They also cite its usage by the law enforcement as an evidence of its usefulness… because we all know the authorities are all-knowing entities who never do anything wrong. I mean, just ask the bootlickers.

Their inability to understand subtexts coerces them to take every word uttered by other human beings for granted and, as Youtube is a platform where jokes, sarcasm and deception flourish, that makes them a bunch of obnoxious media consumers. We have to pity the reasonable individuals who have to put up with them offline.

You would think the hatred would die down after many months. But, one cannot never expect much from snakes. Days before I started writing this essay, Bobby had an accident while driving a car gifted to him by Shane. While Shane seems relieved he is okay, the fandom is not.

In his instagram account, Bobby is being condemned by Shane’s fans for being ungrateful about the car, accusing him of causing the accident without any solid evidences of his guilt. Some simply state their worry about the car and ignoring the human life inside it, subtly hinting his lack of human worthiness.

Others aren’t subtle at all. They are openly disappointed that he wasn’t killed in the accident… because it is morally acceptable to behave like Muslim fundamentalists who wish death upon every person who insults the prophet, because incitement is literally the only way to discredit the person you hate, because you will definitely look like the good guy here.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot…

Shane fucked up by giving away the expensive car and the Sunday slot on his channel. Besides for reasons I will explain later*, these acts of goodwill intensify the unreasonable hatred against Bobby, no matter how well-intentioned Shane is. This incites fans to believe the bigger Youtuber has been successfully manipulated by the smaller ones.

Many believe Destery Smith, another Youtuber who also has been given a slot in Shane’s channel for years, deserves the gift more than Bobby does. Of course, they expressed their support of him spewing toxicity in the comment sections of his subsequent videos. Because there is no better way of loving someone than dragging him/her along to the poison cloud you willingly breathe in.

Also, why do they have to bring Jordanne, Bobby’s girlfriend, to this? Why do they have to hate her as well? He is the one who made the so-called ‘hate’ video, NOT her! Heck, she even does not make much appearances in Bobby and Shane’s videos! Some people use her so-called ‘vibe’ as a solid evidence of her allegedly ugly personality.

Actually, they also use that argument to discredit Bobby because he also supposedly emits a bad ‘vibe’! How fucking desperate are you that, in order to defame someone, you are using an ‘evidence’ so intangible, even metaphysics cannot support it?

Just admit it, Bobby Burns-hating Shane Dawson fans. You don’t hate him because he is using Shane for fame and fortune. You don’t hate him because he has an ugly personality as supposedly shown by his fucking aura.

No, you hate him because he refuses to deify your idol, he dares to portray your fucking beloved idol as a fucking flawed human being! Just own up to that!

As much as I loathe idolatry for undermining human dignity, I still hate dishonesty even more.

Dishonesty and hypocrisy. If you really love Shane for being a kind and gentle soul, shouldn’t you honour him by being kind and gentle yourself instead of being a demonic retard?

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*Even if Bobby is not a target of intense hatred, I still think it is a bad idea to gift him a car and the Sunday slot. For one, at that point, they still barely knew each other!

Also, both make entirely different content! At that time, Bobby made Youtube commentaries and Shane… well, I still find it hard to put him in any boxes. I mean, Shane may as well gave the Sunday slot to Pewdiepie! In this decision-making, he used feeling instead of his head.

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My thoughts about Shane Dawson’s concluded Jake Paul series

Well, I will go straight to one of the most glaring problems: the therapist.

Unlike some people, I actually don’t have a problem with her having an ‘irrelevant’ specialisation; when you are specialised in a subdiscipline, you HAVE to know the basics of the overall discipline! Whether she accurately described sociopathy or not, that is an entirely different problem and I am not confident enough to comment on.

What I do have a problem with is the possibly unethical practice as seen on episode five and six where she became an ‘undercover therapist’. I would feel violated and betrayed if a therapist does that same thing to me! If I am having my psyche evaluated, whether it is for my sake or science’s, I want to know about it! For me, those particular episodes are the most exploitative, not episode two as some people argue. But, I do think it is also problematic.

Its portrayal of sociopathy is too exploitative. Shane was condemned for his manipulative editing which utilises visually metaphorical stock footage and ‘scary’ sound effects, making the personality disorder sounds scarier than it is. With the existence of socially reckless entertainment like Criminal Minds, this will exacerbate the already-severe stigmatisation of sufferers of mentally illnesses!

But, I am also a fan of Shane. So, let me make an unsolicited apologetics, defending him on his behalf.

Even though Shane was being irresponsible on his part, we should remember that he is an entertainer first! His main duty is and will always be to entertain! It is obvious how his so-called documentaries look less like quest to obtain objective truths and more like the fulfillment of his own curiosity! Even though his cameraman Andrew was a also contributor of opinions, Shane’s personal outlooks defines the series’ angle.

Every scene that mentions sociopathy was made to feel ‘scary’ because Shane, an emotionally sensitive person, was genuinely terrified by its existence! Heck, even I am deeply unnerved by the existence of a personality disorder that can impair one’s empathy; I still cannot comprehend the existence of such condition on any human beings and the fact it is more common than I would like to believe!

Well, that’s why I call it an apologetics. As it is purely motivated by my fanboyism, my defence of Shane’s exploitative inclination is built on a feeble foundation which can crumble by the slightest gush of comebacks. But, I do have stronger defences for the humanisation and the so-called ‘stalling’.

I refuse to call it ‘stalling’. Whether Shane was a good researcher or not, it is up to a debate. But, he did try to be a thorough one. While others think the series dilly-dallies, I think Shane didn’t want to keep his viewers in the dark about many crucial information and about how he obtained them! If he went straight to interview Jake Paul, he would not know how to make his prime interviewee to open up.

When the series was announced, many people were angry because they deemed it as an effort to humanise Jake. Why was that controversial in the first place? Besides the obvious thing that he is indeed biologically a human being, it will also be easier to criticise him.

If you keep portraying a public figure you hate as a monster from another realm, how are you going to convince people who are either supportive of or apathetic about him/her that he/she is an earthly being we must condemn for moral reasons? In the end, you look like a paranoid person… or worse, the monstrous one who loves to dehumanises others!

As I mentioned in my previous Shane Dawson article, one of his strengths is his desire to connect with fellow human beings on an emotional level. Admittedly, it can be a weakness if one is not careful. But, in this series, it pays off.

During the humanisation process, which peaks in the last episode as shown by Jake’s increasing vulnerability, Shane confronts him regarding his horrible Youtube content, simultaneously reminding us of its existence. While he may be a genuinely pleasant person to hang out with, he is still a socially irresponsible content creator!

Instead of watching an unearthly creature as people believe him to be, the viewers watch a seemingly amiable yet deeply-flawed and insecure human being who still has lots of things to learn in life. For me, that’s a relatively perceptive and realistic judgment of an individual!

Again, as I also mentioned in the previous article, humanising our enemies is easier said than done. If I were a Youtuber, I would create mean-spirited commentaries. If I try harder, I can be just like Youtubers like Nerd City, who is praised for his excellent research and sound arguments. But, following Shane’s footsteps will require me painstaking self-reflection which, while essential for my growth, is not something I can do effortlessly… or willing to do at all!

The humanisation aspect makes me wish the series also enquire into the minds of Logan and Greg Paul as well. From the limited information we get, it seems they are among the reasons why Jake’s personal and professional lives are a big mess. They are also entangled in the spider web. Some viewers (me included) start to believe they are the sociopaths; interviewing them would probably refute or confirm the accusations.

Actually, I believe it is a good idea to interview individuals who have been professionally and personally involved with him.
As imagined, the interviewees give contradicting statements regarding certain controversies. While Shane seems cautious enough to not take sides, some of his viewers may not be hesitant to do so. Personally, I refuse to take sides because I need to do my own research as well… which I am unwilling to do. But, I am confident to say this: the interviewees, including Jake himself, have very believable claims about each other.

Let’s use the Team 10 kinship/membership as an example. Ex-members claim Jake was being abusive and greedy. Jake, current Team 10 members and Nick Crompton claim those individuals took advantage of Jake’s familial affection and were on it only for the fame and fortune. I find both sides believable.

Jake is an immature young man whose fame commenced rapidly, who is strongly implied to have been raised with toxic masculinity by his allegedly sociopathic father and have a purely physical, one-sided relationship with his dominant and also allegedly sociopathic big brother. Even if he lacks any ill intentions, he may unintentionally abuse his friends with his transgressive fun; regardless, he still needs to sincerely apologise and changes his behaviours for the better.

But, Jake is also a celebrity. Inevitably, having such status means one would be attractive to bloodsucking leeches who yearn for quick fame and fortune; if Jake really does regard the team members as his family just like some people claim, they betray him on a deeply personal level and, in spite of what I said on the previous paragraph, I can’t help but feeling sorry for him and feeling hateful of them.

I think this topic is more interesting than the horrible content of Youtube videos (which I still find compelling nonetheless). I am always intrigued by the (in)sincerity of human relationships, particularly when one lives in a society where human bonding is judged by its quantity, not quality. In fact, such discussion is a major reason why I love the series. But, when judging it in its entirety, my feelings are very mixed.

As mentioned earlier, I am still uncomfortable about its unethical production with the ‘undercover psychiatric analysis’ on episode five and six and the exploitative editing on episode two. Even a big fanboy like me can do nothing but being an apologist for him. Citing my previous Shane Dawson article again, he may unintentionally indoctrinate his viewers with falsehood.

That fact alone convinces me how entertainers need a sense of social responsibility. No matter how good the intentions are, every content creator, especially ones with large followings, needs to be more considerate with their endeavours. While social responsibility is not an objective occupational duty of theirs, it sure can elevates their moral standing as artists and entertainers.

Outlook wise, it feels patchy considering how he did not interview Logan and Greg. But, overall, it is still very well-rounded! The interviews of individuals associated with Jake not only dispel the accusation of giving him full and compliant platform, it also convinces me (and hopefully other viewers) about the intricacy of the problems. Even though one cannot help from making one’s own so-called ‘theories’, it is more righteous to assume ignorance.

Oh, and I cannot stress this enough and I will repeat this till the end of time: humanisation is key! It will ease your efforts to discredit your target on the eyes of doubters and it will keep you on a moral ground higher than your target’s, whom you claim to be immoral. Shane is sublime regarding this and it is a shame he is ethically-challenged in other aspects; otherwise, the series would be much more wholesome.

I don’t know how this will affect anyone involved. But, regarding Jake and Shane, I hope they listen more attentively to the criticisms against them and thrive to become better content creators. It will be good for their fans, the overall Youtube community and, most importantly, for themselves.

I do realise many of the criticisms I directed to Shane are also relevant to Jake. But, we should learn that commentaries reveal nothing about their subjects. Instead, they reveal the true nature of the commentators.

This series reveals more about Shane than it does about Jake.

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The unimagined perspective of my ‘heritage’

I love (some of) the works of Bjork, George Gershwin, John Coolidge Adams, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Kurzgesagt, Jacksepticeye, Enya, Jostein Gaarder, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Phil Collins, just to name a few.

You probably haven’t heard many of them, let alone knowing what their jobs are. The ones you have, there’s a chance you aren’t familiar with their works. That gives me mixed feelings.

On one hand, it is isolating. I am very conscious about how my distinct taste is from other people’s. If I am a more social and talkative person offline, the isolation would be more intense as I would probably tell more people about my idols and hence stressing the differences between me and the others.

But, on the other hand, I feel like I am possessing an exclusive knowledge that not everyone knows about! I mean, even the most popular creators in history are not beloved by or familiar to every person in existence! Just imagine being a fan of creators of significantly more niche audience.

Call me pretentious. But, I feel special because I am intimate with the bohemian and unrivalled beauty of Bjork’s alien-sounding music, Andrei Tarkovsky’s incredibly unearthly films, John Coolidge Adams’ simultaneously surrealist and realist music, Ingmar Bergman’s unabashedly psychological films and Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s politically cynical literary works.

I should mention that Pramoedya Ananta Toer was a critically acclaimed Indonesian novelist whose works had been translated into dozens of foreign languages; This Earth of Mankind (Bumi Manusia) is one of my favourite books ever. While he was infamous back then for being an alleged Communist, a result of the then-regime’s slander who was too fragile to deal with his criticisms, I doubt most Indonesians nowadays know who he is.

Oh, and speaking about Indonesians…

I also have the same feeling about mainstream Indonesian entertainment which I find insufferable with its shameless lack of originality and veneration of mediocrity. But, there are occasions where I still love it (and hence why the word ‘heritage’ in the title has quotation marks on it).

At one point, there were two Indonesian TV shows I used to love: Opera van Java (or OVJ for short) and Kick Andy. I no longer love watching them because of the repetitiveness and the realisation of their poor quality. But, admittedly, I have some fond memories watching them.

The premise of OVJ was comedians making sketches which were chronologically linear and interconnected with each other. From that description alone, the show did not sound special. But, it still had its charm.

For one, while being told to enact or reenact certain scenes, the performers were not given any scripts. They had to improvise. As they were humans with their own minds (and they were Indonesians who love to take advantage of the slightest laxing of rules), the end results were always chaotic!

The last time I watched, there was a large amount slapstick (and sometimes, the performers slapped each other) which was encouraged by the mostly styrofoam-based props, a heavy use of drag (even though last time I heard, cross-dressing was no longer legal on TV broadcasting), extremely politically incorrect jokes that would not go well in the west, the performers’ rebellious tendency who had no interest in enacting the desired stories and the absurd, nonsensical nature of the humour. Even though OVJ was not funny all the time and some of the performers weren’t just that funny, I often found myself laughing out loud while watching the show.

Kick Andy was a talk show who often invited guests for their guilt-tripping inspirational and/or sob stories; to think that I used to love such monstrosity. But, what I love the most about the show was its occasional bouts of humour.

The host himself was one cheeky fellow. From time to time, he loved to make fun of Central Javanese accents. When interviewing the oldest Indonesian to ever get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate (yes, really), he asked if her typewriter was older than her. When interviewing a man whose job to eradicate corruption, he cheekily said many people would love to see him dead; in this particular context, it sounds like the host jokingly wish for his interviewee’s death. I love this kind of cheekiness. It feels like a slap to the face of double-dealing politeness which one is expected to conform to when living in Java.

I haven’t mentioned about the guests themselves. Some loved to troll the hosts by intentionally giving ridiculous answers. They also loved to make fun of his curly hair; after he shaved his head, the bald jokes were easily born.

Okay, I have lingered too much on just two TV shows. I should transition to two of my favourite Indonesian pop musicians before I state the point of this article.

Even though I love many Indonesian pop songs, there are two Indonesians musicians of such genre that I admire the most: Chrisye and Guruh Soekarno Putra.

Obviously, both have their own flaws. Guruh can be quite pretentious every time he expresses his nationalistic pride. Whether knowingly or not, Chrisye occasionally let some of his collaborators to plagiarise Western pop songs. But, from my perspective, their strengths stick out more.

Chrisye was a pop singer who did a relatively good job balancing his idealism and his realistic need of money. He occasionally composed songs for other musicians as well. Despite what I said in the previous paragraphs, he was very particular about choosing his collaborators. For some reasons, every time he did covers, they ended up as good as or even better than the originals.

Guruh Soekarno Putra is a songwriter notable for the traditional influences in his melodies and some of his most well-known works were originally sung by Chrisye. He sincerely appreciates both traditional Indonesian cultures and western ones equally and that’s a rarity considering many snobby Indonesians often choose one over the other.

Their first collaboration was Guruh Gipsy, an influential and ambitious one-time project where traditional Balinese music is fused together with prog rock and Western classical. Their experiences with fusion music make them stand out among Indonesian pop musicians. Not only they exude humble sophistication, their subsequent works also end up feeling distinctively Indonesia in spite of the western influences and the lack of traditional instruments in the arrangements.

Every time I listen to their songs, I always feel a strange sense of nostalgia, even though many of them were released years before I was born. On rarer occasions, the feeling is a weird concoction of nostalgia and contentment; maybe, the fact that a shithole country like Indonesia can still create beautiful melodies make living here significantly more bearable (and makes me realise Indonesia has strengths that other countries lack and it is not as bad as it seems).

Now, to why I write this article in the first place…

I tried my best to describe why I love certain features of Indonesian pop culture. Even if I try to be more descriptive, I doubt any foreigners reading this would relate to what I am saying. Why? Because it is Indonesian.

Even though Indonesian traditional performance arts are being taught all over the world, Indonesian culture in general is still poorly promoted abroad. Our national language is still not a popular language for foreigners to study. Our sensibility is still a mostly undisclosed entity on the world’s stage (no wonder some people think the we are entirely governed by Sharia!). The popularity of Indonesian pop culture only extends to our neighbours, whose national languages are intelligible to ours and members of the diaspora who are still Indonesian citizens.

When interacting with foreigners, I often feel isolated because I cannot share them some of the things I am passionate about. I did share them some Indonesian songs which they considered catchy or artistic. But, they (understandably) don’t get why those songs are culturally significant to Indonesians.

But, because of the isolation, I also feel special.

Yes, I know I am talking about Indonesian pop culture, which is mainstream in one of the most populous countries on earth. But, I have to remind you that its popularity is still geographically limited…

… And because of that geographical limitation, it feels like I am enjoying very exclusive cultural entities that not everyone will appreciate! I feel like I belong to an exclusive club which membership is notoriously difficult to acquire!

This begs the questions: do citizens of countries with globally influential cultures possess such sense of exclusivity?

When it comes to countries like Japan, South Korea and India, I am not sure whether their citizens possess such feeling or not.

Japan and South Korea obviously use Japanese and Korean respectively to convey their cultures. While English is widely spoken prestige language in India, the (bountiful) native languages like Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu and Tamil are still the preferred choices for songs and films.

But, at the same time, Japanese and Korean are widely taught as foreign languages overseas. Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil and many other Indian languages are still widely spoken by members of the diaspora who are no longer citizens of India. So, I have to assume the sense of exclusivity does exist, albeit less intense than the one I am personally experiencing.

So, how about the Americans and Brits?

Their entertainment is still distinctively theirs. But, not only it has a very strong global marketability, it also expresses itself using English which, while not the most spoken language in the world, is arguably the most widely taught foreign tongue.

With those facts in mind, it is extremely easy for British and American pop cultures, especially the latter, to penetrate (I am so sorry) every present-day cultural sphere. While American and British sensibilities are not universally embraced, there is no doubt many citizens all over the world are heavily exposed to at least either one!

There is no doubt some citizens of the US and the UK develop pride (and arrogance) seeing the muscularity of their ‘heritages’ on the world stage… and for that reason alone, they surely believe their cultures can be enjoyed and understood by everyone! Surely they don’t experience that sense of exclusivity!

Did I just use conjectures to assume what other people are thinking and feeling? Yes, I just did.

Obviously, I am projecting my own bias. I judge the exclusivity (or the seclusion) of pop cultures based on the territorial span of their popularity, NOT on how distinctive they are.

There are probably Indonesians who don’t see anything exclusive (even I get tired of this word) about our pop culture. They may cite its popularity in our neighbours, they may cite its inherently pop nature or they may cite reasons that I don’t have the mental faculty to anticipate.

Citizens of culturally powerful countries like the US probably see their pop cultures as exclusive entities. They may assess the exclusivity based on peculiarity, NOT on geographical limitation. From their perspectives, my shamelessly unoriginal pop ‘heritage’ may not be deserving of such characterisation!

Objectively, I also agree with said frame of mind. I believe unfeigned and harmless uniqueness is something we should celebrate or, at least, should not be judgemental about (easier said than done, I know).

But, even though I can be uncompromising and odd in social settings, loneliness and solitude are the more conspicuous parts of my social life and, for reasons I have yet to grasp, I let it affects how I perceive pop cultures.

As bizarre as it is, I am glad that is the case. It gives me a perspective that I didn’t know I could have… or need.

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2018 Asian Games opening ceremony… a big pile of meh and WTF

Yup, among the bedazzled Indonesians, I am of the ones who is not entirely impressed by it. Let’s be real here: it still has glaring problems here and there. Now, where should I start?

Ah yes, the mediocre artistic merit.

The fake mountains that almost subjugated the rest of the stage obviously copied the turfed hills of the London Olympics ceremony.

The Ratoh Jaroe dancing (often mistaken as Saman) obviously copied the Beijing Olympics drummers. The dancers were in a rectangular formation, just like drummers were. They wore colour-changing costumes which allowed them to create coloured patterns without moving places, just like the drummers with their illuminated individual drums, which allowed them to form giant Chinese numerals and perform the countdown.

The anthology of folk songs and traditional dances, while successfully depicted Indonesian diversity, is something that has been done many times before! It has become a go-to method of introducing the country’s cultural richness to the world.

While the cauldron looked nothing like the one in London, the general atmosphere when it was set on fire was similar. The fireworks, the lighting, the song. Even though it may be coincidental, I cannot help thinking this was also a copy.

I am not sure what is wrong with most of the dancing. They felt lackluster. Maybe it was the choreography. Maybe it was the dancers who didn’t spend much time practicing. Either way, the dancing failed to emanate the intended moods.

The event’s original songs are not impressive. Unlike many old-school Indonesian pop songs, they do not have an impact on my soul (pardon my pretentiousness). Heck, even the one composed and written by Guruh Soekarno Putra, one of my most favourite songwriters ever, felt like just another of those mawkishly-written ‘inspirational’ pop songs that will bring nausea to every single Indonesian who are not brainless enough to easily fall for immodest sentimentality.

Because of the ordinariness, the ceremony does not have the thought-provoking disposition of the Athen Olympics nor does it possess the emotional climaxes of the London and Rio ones. It does not have a lasting impact on me.

Okay, okay! I know how unfair it is to compare an opening ceremony of a continental multi-sporting event to ones of global calibre. It would be fair to compare it with the other Asian Games ceremonies. But, I am too lazy to watch them. So, I am resorting to an uneven comparison which is a lot easier. But, I do have more easily vindicated criticisms about the event’s ideological substance, which I find detrimental for our own good.

It openly promoted patriotism through the pretentious voice-over narration, which no one bothered to translate to English, despite its original purpose is to promote cosmopolitanism and the opening ceremony is meant to be an introduction to the host country and making guests feel at home! But, believing in one’s country’s non-existing perfection is more important, it seems.

Speaking about that…

I hate the speeches of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah (or 4As for short), the president of Olympic Council of Asia, and Erick Thohir, the organising committee chairman. Al-Sabah pandered to the Indonesian audience by praising about their so-called suaveness and saying how much he loved them… repeatedly… in Indonesian. It was cringeworthy to hear. But, it was relatively harmless. Thohir’s, on the other hand, was quite dangerous.

He prided himself as a citizen of a country with the largest Muslim population that still manages to retain its interreligious peace. Yes, religiously, Indonesia fares way better than countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh and Maldives. But, only toads living under coconut shells believe our interreligious life is in pristine condition.

Literally days after the ceremony, a Buddhist woman was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for complaining about loud calls to prayer (which, believe it or not, many Indonesian Muslims also complain about) while Buddhist temple vandalisers were sentenced for three months! We let Aceh implement its own provincial Sharia! We only officially recognise six religions, none of them indigenous! Ahmadi Muslims are treated worst than adherents of indigenous beliefs! Oh, and Ahok is still in jail for non-existing blasphemy!

Peace, my ass! The ceremony’s poor aesthetics may be tolerable. But, his speech really ruins the event’s moral integrity for me.

Of course, I should not be surprised by this. Preceding the traditional cultures anthology was a so-called re-enactment of Indonesia’s early history. Accompanied by that tastelessly nationalistic narration, it showcased how Indonesia is a peaceful and pluralistic nation and has always been since the dawn of time. It is pretty much historical negationism.

Now, going back to how unfair I am for comparing it with ones of bigger calibres. If I can completely ignore the denialism, I would see the show as a big pile of guilty pleasure!

Those cheesy pop songs have appropriately upbeat arrangement and cheerful lyrics. Even the introverted and cynical creature in me was invigorated by their sounds and I actually wished I was there!

As much as I find the anthology a major cliche, I also can’t help myself from loving it! There is something about the parade of my country’s diversity that makes the Indonesian in me warm and fuzzy inside. Besides, it is indeed the easiest way to showcase our cultures; I can’t think of any other effective approaches.

I also love how they booked Joey Alexander! It was a short performance. But, his sublimity as a Jazz pianist bestows the spectacle with a dash of elegance! I believe Jazz can be as exquisite as classical music… or even more so. The Jazzy rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya, two folk songs from two culturally distinct provinces, is a refreshing deviation from the usual utilisation of classical-sounding, pop-ish and/or ethnic music.

Actually, it was not the only display of elegance. I almost forgot to mention the moonlight dance (I name it myself, don’t remember its actual name), which preceded Joey’s appearance. While a foreign friend of mine rightly said it looked picturesque, I would love to add another adjective: ethereal.

The fake full moon made the segment feels unworldly. It was supposed to symbolise worldliness, but it didn’t. It made the overall show slightly more extramundane. If they substitute the conventional orchestral soundtrack with something more ambient like New Age music or something more daringly postmodern like Minimal music, I can guarantee the immersion would intensify. Of course, it would be too creative for the viewers; we Indonesians hate anything too creative.

In spite of my criticism, I also have to commend the Ratoh Jaroe dancing. Not only it was the only dance number that I enjoyed, it also fired up the audience’s spirit just like those pop songs did. The colour-changing costumes, which impressively did not involve any electronics, also contributed to the liveliness.

Right from the beginning, the show made great and triumphant efforts to protect itself from the lethargic virus, unlike those shitty ceremonies of the 2012 National Sports Week and the 2013 Islamic Solidarity Games. While not as dull as the two, the 2011 Southeast Asian games one also failed to stir up my spirit.

While I can be pretentious, I am not pretentious enough to completely hate escapist fun. Sometimes, entertainment is just all about entertainment. Sometimes, the absence of artistry is tolerable.

But, again, the immorality of Thohir’s speech still bugs me. I don’t think there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying anything that comes from a human rights-violating nation. But, if that something tries to legitimise the violation or, in this case, denies its existence, every well-informed person with a functioning moral compass would have a hard time enjoying it.

I am disappointed how I haven’t found a single article or video that condemns Thohir’s speech. Maybe, I just haven’t found one yet. Maybe, as a nation, we are seriously in denial about our past and our current state of being.

Knowing my people, it is probably the latter.

Correction: I stated that Joey Alexander performed his rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya. It is incorrect. He only performed Gending Sriwijaya. Angin Mamiri was, in fact, the soundtrack for the preceding moonlight dance.

I don’t know why I bothered making this correction, considering my lack of significant readership.

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How to review entertainment (and the arts)

*puts on a mask*

First thing first, be a simpleton! A good reviewer must be able to remove intricacy out of their ways of thinking. Embrace the glory of black-and-whiteness!

There are two ways to implement this superficiality: either become a snob or an uncultured swine.

In general, a snob hates entertainment. He/she thinks a good creation must be entirely artistic and meaningful. An uncultured swine is more or less the same, just replace ‘artistic’ and ‘meaningful’ with ‘entertaining’.

Let’s start how to be a snob first.

If you want to be a snob, you have to be watchful of any leisurely elements. I am speaking about traces of lightheartedness and escapism. Of course, some creators successfully meld low brow ingredients with high brow and that makes them a menace to your profound sensibility.

Visualise yourself immersing in an ostensibly artistic work. Suddenly, the thing you are profoundly appreciating makes you feel… amused… pleasured… entertained. Entertained? ENTERTAINED?!

HOLY SHIT #$@$#@$@@^@!! Drop everything you are doing and stay fucking calm!!!

Whew, you nearly cascaded into the escapist trap. After you have fully recuperated from such harrowing occurence, you have to immediately lambaste the work! Lambaste it for having the audacity to be whimisical, lambaste it for shrouding superficiality with wisdom! Flush its entire merit which it is worthy of anymore down the lavatory!

Just be heedful to not clog the pipes. You will do a lot of flushing in your lifespan.

Oh, and don’t forget to be a complacent prick. You must devote a large fragment of your time to disparage every single mortal who still can revel in entertainment! You may as well declare them guilty of egocentric detachment from the world we live in!

Whether your social awareness is whole-hearted or not, it does not matter. What matters is you seem to possess it in your heart. It is all about boasting a so-called higher moral ground!

How about being an uncultured swine? It is the opposite of a snob. Therefore, all we have to do is the complete opposite, right? Well, yes and no.

When it comes to dealing with purely artistic works, a swine must react the exact same a snob reacts to entertainment. If a creation seems boring or incomprehensible from the start, then it is artsy! Stop enjoying it immediately! Believe me, one near-depth experience is unpleasant enough, let alone hundreds of them!

After you recover from the shock, you should proceed to berate the creators and their admirers for being self-righteous, pretentious pricks! You don’t care about depth. Therefore, caring about it is a sign of deviance. Treat your personal interests as if they are the ideal criteria for ‘sanity’!

Now, what happen if the works blur the line between art and entertainment? Well, there is nothing to worry about. As the pleasure elements exist, you can only focus on them and disregard the profundity entirely. What you should be cautious of is the entertainment reviewers.

When you find ones who use their intellect, call them out! Employ the same method you use to put artists and art lovers to their places: by calling them self-righteous, pretentious pricks!

How dare they exploring the deepness that our favourite entertainment provides? How dare they resist against pure escapism? How dare they encourage us to contemplate about the world we live in? Fuck those bullshits!

Uncultured simpletons define what it means to be humans. Like it or not, they are humanity’s greatest assets! Sophistication literally kills humanity!

So, there you go! Those are the two ways to be entertainment reviewers! They all boil down to this:

Be a simpleton! Life is all about proselytising your absolute, black-and-white mentality! Life is all about establishing divisiveness among mankind!

And entertainment is the easiest way to achieve such state of being!

*takes off the mask*

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Cherishing chronicles through unwonted means

I have made an essay defending the Let’s Play format on Youtube by comparing it with sports spectatorship. I love watching Let’s Play because it is fun, the same reason why people love watching sports. But, I always find the answer unsatisfying.

While the majority of such videos are purely entertainment, it is not always so. Some Let’s Play Youtubers, including the most popular ones, are willing to play story-driven video games. Horror games like Ib and Witch’s House. Emotional ones like A Beginner’s Guide and To The Moon. Ones that are both horror and emotional like The Crooked Man.

There is something satisfying about witnessing Youtubers getting unnerved by the disturbing plots and imagery, getting frustrated by the frustrating narrative, laughing at the jokes, trying to hold back tears due to the emotional heaviness. I love seeing them getting personally affected (and deeply traumatised) by the storytelling.

Maybe that’s why I love Let’s Play videos. The storytelling.

Maybe that’s why some of my favourite Youtube channels are all about pop culture exegeses.

I am not surprised some of them are about cinema. Even though I have not watched many of those Hollywood classics (and that makes me uncultured, according to Hollywood film snobs), I have watched enough films to have a long list of cinematic favourites. Not to mention cinema studies classes were some of the best and probably most worthy features of my university life.

I did grow up with certain mangas and animes like Ninja Hattori, Detective Conan, Kobo-chan, Kariage-kun and Doraemon. But, in Indonesia, they were also staples of bookstores’ comic sections and Sunday morning broadcasting; Doraemon has become an integral part of our cultural psyche. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t know or care about their existence.

There are also animes other than the aforementioned ones that I love, like Anohana, Spirited Away and Your Name. But, I haven’t watched other works of Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai. I haven’t watched enough animes and read enough mangas to make a long list of personal favourites. Even then, me subscribing to anime Youtubers is less bizarre compared to me doing so to game analyses ones.

I have played videos games on extremely rare occasions. But, so far, the only video game I have been fully immersed in is Pokemon Ruby. I have not played any games from the Earthbound, Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hills series. I have never played any of the RPG games my favourite Youtubers played.

From all game analyses Youtubers, Matpat is undoubtedly one of the most famous and also one of the most derided. Some of his so-called ‘theories’ are plagued with implausibility and infantile make-believe. But, if you pay more attention, you would notice how he plays a character in many of his videos.

The character seems to be a parody of over-zealous fans who believe in the figmental soundness of their fan ‘theories’. Admittedly, because Matpat has a very trained (and ungodly plastic) accent due to his musical theatre background, it is often difficult to distinguish him from the real person.

Here’s a tip: pay attention to his intonation and choice of words. If his voice sounds more dramatic than usual, if he acts like his theories are the most flawless, then he is in character. Heck, even in this video, he stated how he himself does not believe in every single ‘theories’ he has made!

(Come on, people! Youtubers play characters in their videos! It is not even a secret anymore! Unless your brain is less functional than one of a dead chicken, you can clearly see how they ‘possess multiple personalities’! But, what can I do? Idiots only see what idiots want to see.)

That Matpat persona actually hits close to home. I love to make my own fan theories. I love to investigate subtext and symbolism. I love making infantile make-believe! At one point, I dwelled in determining the meanings behind The Crooked Man. I discussed it with some of my friends and, because I want more data to develop my ‘theories’, I watched not one, but four different Youtubers playing the game; mind you this game feels long due to its unhurried pacing.

My friend’s criticism of my ‘theories’ didn’t bother me at all. As much as I was (and still am) pleased with them, I formulated them because it was fun! There is something gratifying about dissecting a chronicle clouded with grey and seemingly impenetrable mist. This is one reason why I am not bothered by how popular and influential Matpat is. While he is my go-to Youtuber for fan theories, I prefer another channel if I want more scholarly routes to and social commentaries related to video games.

I love Extra Credit because not only they offer handy game development advices, they also showcase us paradigms which I can safely say many gamers don’t care about. They believe the essences of gaming also includes business, aesthetics, politics, ethics and the human psyche. They believe giving those aspects equal amount of attention will enhance our appreciation of video games. I also share the same outlook regarding cinema and Youtube culture.

I hate the thinking which deems entertainment as a purely fun entity. Not only it is intellectually unsatisfactory, it is also extremely dishonest. I think the word escapism misleads us to believe entertainment belongs to a realm completely out of human reach. It does not. In case you didn’t know, entertainment is created by living human beings! It is and will always be affected by the world we live in!

Whether consciously or not, creators channel their worldviews to their creations. The most staunch ideologues among them may intentionally turn their works into propaganda; my blogs are good examples. The less committed or the more sophisticated among them will be subtle about it; only after intense scrutiny we will start to discern the subtext.

The merit of works of entertainment is also dependent on the producers; do they thrive to balance profit and quality or are they greedy capitalist pigs? There is no doubt the latter encourage us to believe wealth is worth the murder of artistic integrity. If the producers are also staunch ideologues, the creators can kiss their freedom of thought goodbye and start kissing orifices for a living!

Even in the most socially liberal countries, strict socio-cultural norms and legally-mandated censorship prevail. Granted that only the latter has lawful authority to ban, the former may have the power to socially outcast any works and creators that dare to be deviant. Conformity is God. Heresy is literally more sinful than murder!

Subconsciously, we often treat fictional characters as truthful representations of real life humans. It should not be that way. But, reality begs the differ. Therefore, mindfulness is crucial in how we shape narratives, especially when it comes to portraying marginalised groups. Ignore that and we will reinforce the presence of already-existing social illnesses!

Yes, consumers’ gullibility is also an issue here and we should tackle it as well. But, with that knowledge in their minds, it is revolting how some creators insist how dehumanising portrayal of their fellow human beings is an important part of freedom of speech. They carelessly disregard their actions’ impacts on the real world!

I don’t think censorship will benefit us in this case. But, the fact that we use freedom to validate the ugliness shows how ugly our inner selves can be. If they are revealed in physical manifestations, I am sure they would be ugly enough to make Satan cries tears of blood.

Enough with the poorly-transitioned tangents. Trust me. The content of Extra Credit is more wholesome than the self-praising paragraphs I just typed. Now, off to the next Youtuber!

Besides having fun with fan ‘theories’ and pretending to be a pop culture savant, I also love Youtubers for their personality-driven approaches to arts and entertainment. The Anime Man is one of my favourites.

The punily-named content creator exhibits traits that I also possess. First and foremost, he is a self-described sarcastic cunt who has an alter ego that satirises weeabos and anime fans whose opinions have less worth than decaying roadkills. I am also a sarcastic cunt who has made essays so satirical and mean-spirited, even I feel concerned about my own mental state.

Second, he is an outspoken nonconformist. He will candidly express objection to popular opinions, risking massive backlashes from anime zealots, some of whom may be a part of his own fan base. Even though I have yet to receive equally harsh backlashes in my personal life, I am often subjected to remarks with hints of subdued spitefulness; living in a country where honesty is regarded as a sin means one runs into genteel snakes everywhere one goes.

Third, because of the thing I just mentioned, he is often misidentified either as an anime elitist and an anime casual. Anime casuals call him an elitist for having the guts to crucify certain mainstream animes while elitists call him a casual for still loving some of them. Personally, I have been called pompous for not loving everything mainstream and unsophisticated for still loving pop culture. Too snobby for uncultured swines and too much of a swine for snobs.

Lastly, as far as I concern, he never cites scholarly sources in his analyses and has no knowledge of relevant technical concepts, solely relying on reason and limited information he has about certain works and artists. I am also one and the same concerning Youtubers, films and the entire Harry Potter franchise. As a result, our dissection feel sparse at times (even though his is more logical, more coherently conveyed and laced with funnier jokes).

But, that does not matter. None of us are interested in becoming scholars (just pretend that my conjecture about him is accurate). All we want to do is to have fun, to express our frustrations about certain creations and their creators, to indulge our childlike and playful passions for them. We do what we do because it feels personal for us.

This is why I love storytelling in general: it feels personal.

For one (and it should be predictable to you), storytelling expands my horizons. Fictions are a constant reminder about how the universe we live in stretches beyond its fragile, bleak and nihilistic physicality. They, even when poorly-conceived, encourage me to push the limits of my imagination. It may be a surprise to some. But, such benefit can also be gained from creative non-fictions.

They foster ingenuity in how we determine the angles and the delivery of the stories. As they are inherently neither journalistic nor academic, playfulness is allowed. Fine exposition can make relatively dull and mundane stories look compelling. It makes us care about lives other than our own.

Because of my preferences for arts and entertainment over human interactions, I am often accused of being self-centered and anti-social. But, the older I get, the more I feel sorry for every pitiful individual who make such accusation.

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Never mind they abuse the term anti-social, which is what we use to describe sociopaths. They also dishonestly equate the quantity of human interactions with how much we care about our fellow human beings. The more we chatter, the stronger our sense of humanity is. Of course, every person whose brain is no bigger than an ant’s can easily fall for such idiocy.

Non-fiction storytelling constantly reminds me that I am not alone. It reminds me how I am not the only one who experience what I experience. It reminds me how I am far from the most authentic human. It makes me a humbler person. I never thought non-fictions would spur personal growth in me.

Of course, I have to talk about the sense of humanity… which I mentioned earlier and almost forgot about it.

Besides imagination, it is one benefit I acquire from both fictional and non-fictional storytelling. They acquaint myself with real life inhumanity and they make me care about them, in spite of their superficial depictions. As I have learned to not take any portrayals for granted, there are times when I can receive information critically. Still have lots to learn, though.

To make it weirder, certain stories give me strong hope about humanity, in spite of their pessimism. Maybe my hopefulness is cultivated by how they reassure me that humanity still exists. I mean, if it doesn’t, why would there be storytellers who revile the said inhumanity?

Before I conclude it all up, I should mention one benefit of storytelling that I have mentioned to other people: storytelling is a mirror. Whether we like it or not, our reactions to stories, including fictional ones, are reflections of our true nature. How we react to anything, really.

I feel like Captain Obvious here. But, some people refuse to believe it; instead, they accuse me of overthinking and complacency. Admittedly, I am often guilty of both. But, ask yourself this: if our reactions to works of fiction are not representative of our true selves, then where do they come from? They are our reactions, not someone else’s. They exist because you exist!

My prior and subsequent interactions with those denialist cretins were always contaminated with the ghastliness I condemned them for.

I actually have quite a few examples… and I will list them one by one, from the most trivial case to the most worrying. Here we go:

If you, a self-proclaimed horror fan, think a horror game or film is not scary without jump scares and scary visuals, then you have no idea what fear really is and you know nothing about the genre you supposedly love!

If you think calmness makes a dull storytelling, then you never care about the story in the first place. All you care about are imaginary actions and loud noises to make up for your dull, uninspiring personality. Heck, I am sure you make up for it by being obnoxious in your daily life!

If you think Newt Scamander is a boring male lead and negatively compare him to other male characters who fulfill outdated expectations of masculinity, then you are one of those reactionaries who believe upholding shallow, arbitrary and ever-changing gender roles is everybody’s moral duty!

If you are easily touched by a work that embodies self-righteousness and extremely on the nose ‘positivity’, then you are not ‘woke’. You are just as skin-deep as the next person. But, at least, you possess something that he/she doesn’t: a towering erection of self-admiration!

If you are able to sympathise with a character meant to mock ‘your kind’ and anything you stand for, then you are a nuance-hating dumbfuck who view human identities through black and white lenses. Your footing is either shaky or non-existent altogether. In many cases, it is surely the latter!

If you condemn Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix for allegedly teaching kids to disrespect authorities and dishonestly snubbing its scathing commentaries about the corrupt political establishment, then you probably have licked more boots than every child in the world has licked lollipops!

If you believe non-stereotypical depictions of the ‘others’ is too PC, then you are a bigot. Contradicting your professedly anti-PC stance, you are offended by their depictions as human beings. From where you are standing, they are anything but. The world is a better if everyone adheres to your bigotry!

Either that or your brain is not strong enough to sustain itself without a perpetual stream of offensiveness!

With all of those intimate and pretentious musing, it should not be a surprised I love those Youtubers.

Yes, in case you forgot, this essay began with their ‘discourse’.

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Why I love Dan and Phil: a perspective of one biased, know-it-all fanboy

Let me start by pointing out their weaknesses: their videos lack artistry.

They can’t act and they have all-right visual effects, cinematography and editing… and that’s the extend of my criticism. Despite the uninspiring visuals, their videos have solid substance. More solid than people give them credit for.

Back then, Dan and Phil -or Phan as they are often affectionately called by their fans- were often compared with Smosh when the latter were mostly just Anthony and Ian; some people insisted the comparison was 100% accurate to the bone. But, apart from being popular Youtube duos, there is nothing similar about them.

Even though there are a handful of Smosh videos that I truly love (like Anthony is Dating a Fan, which I consider somewhat surreal, and The Haunting, which is ambiguous and strongly emphasised on fear of the unknown), I think their humour is too forced and simplistic most of the time (at least, that was how they were when I last watched them years ago). Phan, on the other hand, have made lots of puns, accidental double entendres, non-sequiturs and, the best of all, wits.

Puns require mastery of the language and sincere playfulness. The unintentional risque innuendos convince me they are just normal human beings who make innocent mistakes. The nonsensical humour indicates some level of admirable non-conformity. Wits are essentially the results of intelligence having a sense of humour. Oh, and I should mention a large number of Phan’s jokes were unfiltered; they were made on the spot and derived from their genuine personal quirks. And those are just some of the reasons why I love them.

Their phandom is still strong to this day. But, from time to time, I encountered comments made by former fans who stopped watching them because their videos barely change. From the surface, that seems to the case. From the surface.

I actually believe their videos have changed significantly. Not visually, but substantially. In order to discuss that, I have to separate them as two individuals. Let me start with Phil.

Unsurprisingly, his very first video is unedited and tediously-paced. When he started making videos on a more regular basis, the pacing was still unremarkable despite the editing. It always took him some time to go straight to the point. Nowadays, he still does that sometimes… which I don’t mind at all.

Back then (in some videos, at least), the fillers he inserted between the intros and the main topics were uninteresting. Nowadays, the fillers are a lot more interesting and may even subtly compliment the main topics. His editing is also a factor; while his older videos felt tiringly slow, his newer ones have significantly steadier and more absorbing flow. But, Phil’s evolution seems less momentous when you compare it with Dan’s.

The content of his videos is more or less the same as his best friend’s: the retelling of life mishaps. While Phil treats his stories as tales of goofs, Dan has a different approach. A more personal approach.

In the earlier years, he treated his stories as if their sole purpose was to make him look #relatable. Gradually, he became more self-aware; contemplation regarding how he lived his life slowly materialised. Of course, ‘contemplative-ness’ can be shallow and high-sounding. Thankfully, he is never associated with any of those adjectives.

He never pretends his thoughts are more profound and authentic than they really are. He downplays his own intelligence. He is also not a cultured snob, being open about his enjoyment of pop culture. The personal stories he tells indicate how far from well-adjusted his life is. Also, unlike Phil, Dan’s videos are more solemn overall.

‘Daniel and Depression’ is one of my favourite Youtube videos. He talks about his personal struggle with depression while performing his trademark funny skits tastefully. Darkness and light. Poignant and humorous. I have a soft spot for such emotional equilibrium.

I should mention younger Dan was not humorously sophisticated. As much as I am able to enjoy crass jokes at times, everyone can create more refined ones if we just try. Dan tried and, with the amount of wits he has made, I believe he is successful regarding this. While Phil’s humour was never crass, it also gets wittier as his career progresses.

Now, back to Dan and Phil as a duo. Even though they have been collaborating since 2009, it wasn’t until 2014 when they made a shared channel: Dan and Phil Games.

When I first heard about the announcement, I was not immediately excited. I mean, they were not the first non-gaming Youtubers who jumped to the Let’s Play bandwagon. Well, their first video made me hooked and I still love their shared channel to this day.

Unlike many Youtubers, they don’t follow trends willy-nilly. When I watch other content creators doing trending Youtube challenges, the results are often bland and monotone. Phan don’t always do them. But, when they do, the results are fun to watch.

Instead of relying on the trends to generate clicks, they prefer to rely on their personalities. They also make sure they don’t fake the enjoyment; considering how much they love video games (and Phil made his own computer game when he was fourteen), their gaming channel’s creation is also driven by passion, is not entirely profit-oriented and is not about being in fashion. Their idealism is still in charge. One can clearly see it in the editing.

In many Let’s Play videos, the Youtubers’ faces (when shown) are restricted to one corner of the frame and mostly stay there throughout the gameplays. Phan, on the other hand, constantly show their faces in full frames, usually in the intro of each video and when they are immersed in their own conversations (which may or may not have anything to do with the games). This system asserts Phan, not the games, as the stars.

Okay, if you frame it that way, it does reek of self-conceitedness. But, we often fail to acknowledge how channels’ long-term success are not entirely reliant on genres and fads, how the personalities behind the videos are as crucial, if not more! Being plastic may award you quick fame and fortune. But, it also promises you quick downfall.

Their gaming live streams also intrigue me. I am shocked to see how similar they are to the videos that have gone through the post-production stage. If I don’t pay attention the word ‘Streamed’ in the description, I wouldn’t know they were broadcasted live! The pacing of the live streams and the edited videos aren’t starkly different, with the former being only slightly slower. Phan’s mannerism in both formats is also identical.

The fact that their unfiltered live broadcasts encapsulate atmosphere similar to their polished videos show how good they are as hosts. Even though I was initially shocked by this, I realise I shouldn’t be so. After years being Youtubers and not-so-short stint as radio DJs for the BBC, it would be deplorable of them if they don’t develop the skills.

It also shows their sincerity as beloved Youtubers. Their on-screen personas turn out to be their real selves, not characters. Their relatability is not manufactured, it is authentic! Phil is indeed prone to make accidental double entendres (one must not forget ‘lady door’ and ‘female exit’), Dan is indeed an aggressive screamer when under duress. Even though I detest likening idols to your best friends, I also cannot blame anyone from being clouded by such sentiment.

Now, it’s time for potentially-mined conjectures.

Every person’s transformation, to some degrees, is driven by his/her personality and Phan are no exception. But, my so-called analyses of their personalities are… well… almost entirely unfounded.

I have seen comments stating how Phil has become more confident and I agree with them. Others may have better evidences for this claim. Not me. My main one is his collab video with Connor Franta which he seemed at ease; compared that to Dan’s collab with Connor which was awkward. But, it is one and relatively old video. The rest of my evidences are just my gut feelings.

When it comes to Dan’s transformation, he seems to become less insecure by the years. Again, my evidences are mostly my gut feelings. I cannot tangibly prove the cockiness and crassness shown in his earlier videos were meant to compensate his sense of insecurity. But, I have one evidence which many of my fellow fans can visibly see: his hair.

Fans, including me, love his wavy hair, affectionately known as ‘hobbit hair’. We think he is more good-looking with it. But, he seemed to hate it. For many years, most of his on-camera appearances embodied it in the straightened form. To our delight, he ends up embracing the natural waviness, albeit the journey to get rid of his synthetic hair is very sluggish. Self-acceptance, no matter how trivial it is, warms my cold, cynical heart. Well, to some extend.

I also have to point out that, to my knowledge, Phan have never publicly expressed disenchantment about the state of their careers. Among major Youtubers, this is an anomaly. Personally, I have two hypotheses which may or may not explain its existence:

It is either Phan are extremely private who filter every personal info they want to share, stricter than the US government vets refugees (yes, I just went there)….

OR

They are sincerely happy about their careers. Maybe their pickiness about which trends to follow, their insistence to retain some level of idealism, prevent them from losing their passions. Maybe they are one of those entertainers who successfully balance out the idealistic and moneymaking facets of their occupations. Just maybe.

God, I should stop this essay soon. It was meant to validate and rethink my impassioned admiration for two of my favourite idols. Obviously, being a fanboy, my desire for validation wins. Oh, well.

Oh, and one more thing before I conclude it:

In the beginning, I tried to make Phan look good by throwing Smosh, a Youtube channel I am not a fan of, under the bus. Admittedly, it seems unfair and unethical. But, I did that not because I am big Smosh hater, but because I want to take a piss on the people who superficially compare both pairs.

When you insist two individuals are similar just because of their skin-deep attributes, then you should expect spiteful reactions! If Phan are the same as Smosh, then they are also the same as PrankvsPrank, ASAPScience and Rhett & Link! I mean, they are also Youtube duos!

Like, come on! You have to be one proud nitwit if you see profoundness in trivial resemblances! In fact, your confined focus to outward appearances show how illiterate you are about the Youtubers you are supposedly critiquing!

*sighs*

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The unwholesomeness of ‘goodness’

Everyone who has watched The Incredibles (and pay attention to its dialogues) know one thing about the film: it denounces the elitism of superheroism.

Well, the villain does that. In the film, every single superhero character was born with their power. It us undeniable that elitism based on something biologically innate is unfair. Those superheroes obtain an unjustly earned special status. They are almost treated as Gods. The villain has a point.

Of course, you may argue the superheroes have actual contributions to the societies they live in. Without them, who is going to protect the citizens from the bad guys? Who is going to bring the collective sense of security?

Well, The Incredibles 2 answers the question: the ‘ordinary’ citizens should be the ones who have help themselves!

The villain equates superheroes-worshipping with consumerism. Superheroes are extremely handy products the ordinary citizens become too dependent on and the dependency discourages them from doing anything to improve the societies they live in.

Improve the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies, make use of the armed forces for domestic purposes (instead of constantly sending them overseas), enquire into why the crimes exist in the first place. The ordinary citizens should have done those. But, as those require self-introspection and acknowledgement of unflattering truths, they prefer to do the easy thing: sticking to the status quo. Once again, the villain has a point… and one of the good guys is naive.

As heroes-worshipping is liken to consumerism, heroism in the sequel does not parallel to heroism in real life. For me, it is more of a commentary about our misguided approach regarding making the world a better place; it reminds me how some people still think social media can bridge the gaps between different human beings, still unaware the problem lies on humans’ sectarian tendencies, not on technological limitation.

In the first film, on the other hand, heroism is liken to undeserved elitism. That has a direct parallel in real life… which can be extremely contentious to point out, even in very liberal societies. I am thinking about soldiers.

I am proud to say I was never guilty of the ‘all-soldiers-are-heroes’ mentality. Not only it feels like worshipping conceitedly unprogressive institutions, it also does not make sense. Somehow, simply joining a formal and rigidly-structured collective instantaneously make you worthy of any honourable titles associated with it. Your labels determine your worth.

Yeah, no.

Many soldiers in some parts of the world are conscripts; in countries without alternative services, the citizens only have two options: enlistment or jail. Soldiers have the right to benefits which are reserved exclusively for them; poverty is enough to motivate people to enlist. It is also no secret that soldiers have committed countless human rights violations; it is either they become desensitised by violence or they were already suffering from bloodlust in the first place. Not to mention that even in relatively small countries, soldiers are huge collectives of distinct individuals. Believing heroism exists in every single one of them betrays facts and reason.

Of course, as it is the case with unreasonable creatures, those military worshippers also suffer from cognitive dissonances. My mom is a big admirer of the military; she was a military brat who was born merely a few years after Indonesia’s independence, who was a teen when the Indonesian-Malaysia Konfrontasi occurred, who thinks Indonesia was absolutely way better under the authoritarian rule of General Soeharto, who thinks soldiers only care about doing service for their countries.

She also wants me to enlist for the financial benefits, manliness and social status. No explanation needed for the first two. With the third, it is both baffling and frustrating. Baffling because she somehow thinks that I, her disappointingly rebellious and underachieving son, will easily climb up the ranks. Frustrating because it is a reflection of her irrationality and classist tendency. Not once she expresses a desire for me to be a patriot; she only cares about the so-called perks of military life. In the US, however, there is a cognitive dissonance worse than this one.

Being loud and obnoxious about their so-called love of soldiers also means ridiculing PTSD-suffering and/or homeless veterans, supporting budget cut for VA, dodging conscription during the Vietnam War era and worshipping those dodgers. When they say ‘support the troops’, they refer to the dead ones… and any pro-military ‘patriots’ who never enlisted and will never have the desire to.

The older I get, the more I realise how ‘goodness’ and any can related concepts damaging; in many cases, ‘goodness’ is meaningless. I believe it is rooted in our debilitating upbringing. At least, that’s the case if we use my anecdote.

Since I was young, I have been bombarded with guilt-tripping rhetorics about the greatness of virtue and the sin of not falling for those guilt-tripping rhetorics. That’s one of the many ideals I was indoctrinated to. For many years, I fell for it. The indoctrination climaxed when I became an internet addict. Not long after I reached adulthood, I started to realise how questionable this mindset is.

Instead of encouraging genuine altruism and social consciousness, it champions self-righteousness, reward-seeking open-handedness, the unfounded belief that artistic preferences and our level of ‘wokeness’ are inherently correlated and the mindlessness that makes us exploitable enough to fall for meaningless articulation. It also puts off cynical humans from seeing the beauty of benevolence and earthly cognisance; eventually, their cynicism intensifies, not subsides.

To exacerbate the nauseous feeling even more, those loud and self-praising zombies have the gut to direct the heroic light on themselves! Unfortunately unsurprisingly, they see themselves as the enlightenment the unkind world needs and does not deserve. They are literally one of those humans who unknowingly make living parodies out of themselves! Instead of invigorating the world they supposedly love, they only give it more burdens to bear!

This is why I love entertainment where morality is depicted a grey entity. This is why I have a strong inclination to admire aloof, crass, cynical and/or sarcastic public figures.

It is lovely when popular entertainment subtly encourages the audience to rethink their stances regarding good and evil, when it cunningly reminds us of our own ill-defined reality. The two The Incredibles films are great examples.

Those unpleasant individuals may not be unpleasant as we think they are; even though it is not always the case, we may be able to identify courtesy, down-to-earth intellect or even heartfelt virtue once they uncover their true colours… or once we actually pay attention. Felix Kjellberg, the most subscribed Youtuber and the media’s favourite Youtube punchbag, is probably one of the best examples.

So, to sum everything up: characters, NOT labels, should be the basis of our judgement of fellow human beings! Of course, like everything in life, it is easier said than done. But, I have some inadequate, anecdotal and scientifically unproven tips that may or may not improve your perceptiveness.

When a film you just watched seems to have extremely kind protagonists and a perfectly happy ending, be suspicious. Re-watch it, pay attention to the characters, dialogues, settings and plot.

Once you notice the small details, you will realise how our beloved main characters are shrouded in unexpressed sinfulness, the ending only serve them and the villains may not as bad as they seem. This can be a result of deep OR shallow thinking on the filmmakers’ behalf. The subtext betrays the film’s true nature.

Yes, a scripted film involves fictional characters. But, that can prepare you to be more observant and critical when assessing the facade of your surroundings. Obviously, using real humans as our ‘subjects’ is a lot better.

When a public figure attracts your attention, try not to let his/her public image clouds your judgement. Instead, try to enquire about him/her yourself.

If he/she is known for his/her obnoxious and unsavoury personality, watch and listen to his/her interviews; if he/she acts surprisingly nice and polite, it is possible you just encounter his/her real personality.

If he/she is known for being open-handed and moral, investigate him/her; research about the charity he/she has supposedly accomplished, find out if any of his/her claims have factual and scientific validity, break down the soundness of his/her philosophies and find out if he/she practices what he/she preaches. More of than not, such public figure habours unmistakable yet ignored ungodly qualities.

While both individuals intentionally manufacture their public images, they are driven by different objectives. One believes in the ‘bad-publicity-is-good-publicity’ mantra while the other wants to build a strong, highly-devoted following and a pristine, almost saint-like persona, disfiguring the wholesomeness of ‘goodness’.

Guess which individual is more menacing.

I am such a hopeful person, am I not?

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Half-Blood Prince: when the film outperforms the novel

Well, for me, at least. Spoilers alert, obviously.

I doubt Half-Blood Prince (HBP) is the first of such case. But, the notion that ‘film adaptations will always suck’ has been deeply ingrained among different fandoms. Understandable considering film studios constantly betray our trust. Unfortunate because it drives us to close-mindedness.

Traumatised by Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix, I had a very low expectation of HBP the film. In fact, it is the only Harry Potter film that I watched years after its release, as in years after part one of The Deathly Hallows was released. I first watched it on DVD; obviously, I was blown away. I should have watched it in the theatre.

I will go into details of why I love the adaptation more than the source material. But, first, I am going to briefly explain why I love the film as an entity in its own right.

Unusual for today’s for-profit cinema, HBP embraces a calm-paced and dialogue-driven manifestation of storytelling; it shows how fast-pacing, exuberance and physicality are unessential for engaging the audience. The tinted cinematography perfectly evokes a combined ambience of mystery and serenity, darkness and lightness. The abundant special effects look wonderfully seamless and visually enhance the narrative instead of distracting us from it. Despite the long duration, I don’t feel exhausted watching it. The acting has greatly improved. I think it is the most artistic film in the entire franchise.

And the novel does not have the film’s level of thoughtfulness.

Yes, it also wholeheartedly embraces calmness and dialogue-driven storytelling. But, the blandness is just overwhelming. The mystery does not arouse the curiosity in me. The depiction of the dark side of humanity fails to unsettle me. It does not share the enthrallment of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. It feels like I am just reading meaningless stacks of letters.

Let me first go into details with the Pensieve scenes. If I remember correctly, the film Dumbledore only retrieved two memories; one shows Tom Riddle’s first meeting with Dumbledore in the orphanage and another shows teenaged Riddle asking Slughorn about Horcruxes. The novel Dumbledore retrieved a lot more, including ones that occurred after Riddle’s Hogwarts years and even one that occurred before his birth!

And yet, film Tom Riddle has been way more compelling to me! We all know that adaptations have been plagued with a disease called ‘shallowness’ because they cut out too many crucial elements! But, for some reasons, HBP is immune to it despite doing the same thing and that has been baffling me for years! Right now, I have one hypothesis for why this counter-intuitiveness came into being.

Maybe the cut is the secret. The film successfully insinuates Riddle’s true sociopathic nature through those two memories alone; with a combination of good acting, good dialogues and greenish colour tones (which may symbolises grotesque non-human quality), they are able to capture one of humanity’s darkest manifestations in which immortality is worth the immorality.

The book, on the other hand, fails to evoke the same sinister air. In those two particular memories, young Riddle is also strongly insinuated as a sociopath. But, the other memories overload us with ‘unnecessary’ information to the point of diluting the omniousness. Oh, and mind the air quote on the word ‘unnecessary’.

Judging from some comments I read online, other potheads take issue with how the film omits other memories which not only contain more information about Riddle’s life when he still had a nose, they also contain information regarding the origins of his Horcruxes. They want more exposition from the memories.

Obviously, this is a matter of preferences. As much as data are important for better understanding of the fictional universe, subtlety is the winner for me. I prefer to gain my knowledge of the worldbuilding through subtexts and ambience. The less tangible it is, the better. I love the challenge of exploring what is beneath the frequently void and deceptive surface.

I know this is subject to diverging interpretations. In fact, this makes a work of art and entertainment more captivating for me to study. Besides, it is not like hard data are convincing anyway. For example: many potheads still refuse to call the entire Marauders bullies despite the incriminating evidence in Order of Phoenix. Why? Because they cherry pick the data and refuse to accept that heroes like James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are flawed human beings. They cannot accept that you can hate both Snape and the entire Marauders, that you can hate both the greater evil and the lesser evil! For fuck’s sake! Why can’t fans be more reasonable for once?

Now, back to the topic…

Feeling things

Not everyone will agree with the omission of memories. But, I am sure a large portion of the HP fandom would agree with this statement: the film adaptation has more emotional weight than the original source material, especially on two particular scenes. I think you can guess which ones.

One is where Harry encouraged Slughorn to relinquish his Tom Riddle memory. Just in case not everyone can guess.

In the original book version, Slughorn was being his usual selfish self and the only emotion he felt was fear, the fear of being judged. And Harry was extremely odd here; he had a sinister, somewhat threatening vibe. He was not his usual self, acting like a predator drooling over the sight of a vulnerable prey. Maybe it was the liquid luck talking, acting like a mind-controlling parasite. Overall, it is a bizarre and displeasing scene.

Compared that to film version. Besides evoking the same fear, the potion master also felt guilt; he believed he contributed to the death of his beloved student, Harry’s own mother, by unintentionally feeding Riddle’s sociopathy. Beneath the self-serving mask, film Slughorn has a great sense of humanity, so great to the point of claiming responsibility for the murder he didn’t commit! And he was not the only sensitive soul in that scene.

Film Harry was also kinder. Instead of being a psychological predator, he encouraged the potion master to confront and overcome his own demons. It felt like he genuinely cared about Slughorn’s emotional well-being; every single one of his word is laced with heartfelt sincerity. In fact, at this point, it feels like the liquid luck has worn off completely; no longer Harry has his brain contaminated by the potion. Oh, and don’t forget about the emotionally-enhancing symbolism.

Slughorn recalled when Lily gifted him a lily petal that turned into a fish when it sank to the bottom of the fish bowl. On the day of her death, the fish disappeared without a trace. For me, it is a hurtful reminder of how death is the end of our earthly existence; no longer we sustain any forms of physical presence in this world. Eventually, we will exist entirely in fond yet painful memories. Without this symbolism, the expression of Slughorn’s personal pain would be stale in comparison.

Another heart-rendering scene I have in my head is, of course, Dumbledore’s death. Again, I don’t have the precise reason why the film version has the stronger emotional punch for me. But, again, I also have a hypothesis.

In the book, there is no doubt that the characters are struck with grief. But, the story seems to focus less on the emotion itself and more on the matter-of-fact consequences which, in this case, is the decreasing sense of stability and security. Less like the death of a loved one and more like the assassination of a public figure whose presence brings hope among socially-conscious individuals. It is almost like the readers are encouraged to sentimentally detached themselves from the scene.

The film version, on the other hand, does not care much about the event’s social and political impacts on the wizarding world. It believes grief is a very human reaction and it just appropriate to give it most of the spotlight after the earthly departure of a major and beloved character. And yes, the film version of this scene also contains powerful symbolism.

After seeing the sight of the headmaster’s lifeless body, almost every Hogwarts resident in the vicinity was unable to hold back their tears. McGonagall held her wand upward to the sky in respect and others follow suit, each tip of their wands illuminates mournfully. Then, those lights dispersed the menacingly-hovering dark mark. Slowly but surely, it disintegrated entirely, swallowed by the dark night sky. Even in our most harrowing moments in life, love and unity can still outshine hatred and evil. It does sound naive. But, the film makes it sound hopeful.

Unlike the Slughorn scene, I actually love Dumbledore’s farewell in both versions. I love the more emotional approach of the film and the more sociopolitical one of the novel. Ideally, it would be delightful to combine both (even though it is easier said than done). But, if I have to take a pick, it would be the emotional approach.

I am delighted every time a work of entertainment touches on real life social issues; if done right, it can be intellectually intriguing and won’t come off as pretentious. But, I crave the ‘human connection’ even more. I find the completely unemotional approaches to storytelling exceptionally cold and as a reader/an audience member, I feel detached from the characters. I want intimate immersion, I don’t want to be a mere observer.

No more glory

At first, I wanted to group the scene where Harry lets go the potion textbook along with Slughorn’s memory relinquishment and Dumbledore’s farewell. But, I realise that, unlike those two, this scene is more psychological than emotional*. Well, in the film version, at least.

After casting Sectumsempra, novel Harry scrambled to save his ass by hiding the textbook in the room of requirement; he was trying to avoid backlashes from the teachers (and he failed, of course. Seriously, he cast a potentially-fatal spell! What did he expect?). Just like Dumbledore’s farewell, it seems to be mostly motivated by pragmatism. The guilt is faintly present as we mostly see Harry’s frustration with his punishment.

The film does not imply any forms of penalties at all. In this scene, we only focus on Harry’s own psyche. Realising what he had done, he felt tremendous guilt for letting his lust of glory made him harm another human being. Ginny offered a hand by taking him to the room of requirement where they could hide the blasted book. He closed his eyes as told while she was searching for the hiding spot. Then, after storing it away forever, she calmly kissed him on the lips. He opened his eyes to find him alone. He smiled.

Besides guilt, romantic love seems to be one of the main subject matters here. But, from my point-of-view, contentment is the culmination. Contentment of how his loved ones will always help him in his lowest points in life, how they will always be on his side when others will eventually abandon him among the filth. The quietness of the room does not represent loneliness or solitude, it represents serenity that accentuates Harry’s personal contentment.

Once again, I prefer the film version over the novel one. I love the former for revealing how self-aware our hero is of his own vice. The latter’s mostly focus on him getting frustrated for being deservedly punished (and getting constantly pestered by Hermione). It is obvious which version displays maturity.

Oh, I almost forgot about the humour… which I have no problem with. In both versions, it is subtle in nature and modest in quantity. No stupid and forced jokes in sight.

‘It is not canon!’

(A disclaimer: the words below are based on the arguments that happened inside my head. I love having imaginary arguments with imaginary people)

One may argue that the adaptation is not a part of the canon. It does not matter if Rowling approved it herself; she did not write the script and therefore not representative of the official Harry Potter universe. I accept such statement because it is still within reason. But, in this particular discussion (as if this is a direct two-way communication), it is completely irrelevant.

Yes, Rowling established the story idea. But, that does not mean she will always act out the storytelling impeccably. Like it or not, the one who came up with it may make use of ill-suited approaches and may not realise of its full potential. Like it or not, being a part of the canon is not a benchmark of excellence, having a delightful presentation is.

We are dealing with fiction here. If artistic merit is your main concern, don’t focus on the storytellers and idea conceivers. Focus on the storytelling itself!

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*’Psychological’ is something related to human psyche in general and ’emotional’ is related to emotion, which is a part of the human psyche. In the context of my essay, ‘psychological’ means it strongly asserts itself through the writings and screen. ‘Emotional’ is similar to that, but you take it to the heart. I know it is confusing. But, that’s the best way I distinguish both from each other.

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The missed opportunities of Harry Potter films

Obviously, spoiler alert. Also, I have to make this disclaimer: I have not read the first three books. So, the only thing I can criticise about the first three films is their cinematic quality, not their faithfulness (or the lack thereof) to the source materials. But, I am more confident regarding the other adaptations.

Here, I will solely talk about Goblet of Fire (GoF) and Order of the Phoenix (OP). So far, they are my favourite books in the series and I love them for distinct reasons.

In spite of dark and intense moments here and there (especially during the climax, falling action and resolution), GoF is still a generally cheerful book. To this day, I am still gravely excited about the Quidditch World Cup, the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, even though the real me is far from a sports spectator and a party animal. I also adore the expansion of the magical universe where it is portrayed as a global community in which our hero’s home country is a tiny part of it, not its entirety; I am a sucker for such theme. It is mostly a festive of jolliness that makes the child in me rejoice… unlike its direct successor.

OP is gritty AF. In contrast to its more colourful predecessor, the fifth book is nothing but a barrage of grey and ferocious socio-political disheartenment. Dangerous misinformation. Political restrictions of the academia. Institutionally-sanctioned prejudice. The establishment embracing unsavoury individuals, opting to make enemies with ones who are innocent and/or more tolerant. Those are real life issues. To top it all, our hero has to deal with them while suffering from PTSD, adding the emotional severity. For the standard of escapist literature, this novel is a tough read; a reflection of the reality is inescapable.

I have high praises for both and I also had HIGH expectations of their screen adaptations. GoF was literally the first film I watched whose original source material I read beforehand. I was deeply disappointed because, back then, I expected any good adaptations to be literally exact copies of the source materials, albeit in different formats. Took me some time to recognise my own stupidity.

But, even after the slap on the face, I am still disappointed. The feeling of excitement is the only thing it got right. Well, not entirely. It explicitly depicts the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, two of the three main sources. But, it does not show a single second of the Quidditch World Cup match!

Like, why? No, time constraint is not an excuse! Even when shown in snippets, it still could exude the feeling! Exclusion of the entire match means the audience members who have not read the book cannot experience the excitement in its totality. Therefore, they don’t know the whole story and I am still scratching on the surface here.

I mentioned that GoF is a cheerful book with dark moments. Well, those moments give the story more layers of depth. Ludo Bagman, Bertha Jorkins, Dobby and Winky! They are characters with secrets and their erasure from the film is regrettable, considering they have the potentials to expose the tangling webs of secrets and deceit that grip the novel. I find it intriguing when lightness and darkness balance each other out in a work of fiction. As a result, the film’s darkness is still very lightweight in comparison. But, at least, it is still partially faithful to its source material, unlike its successor.

The novel’s embodiment of desolation mostly did not make it to the screen. Instead, the film is more of an adventure-comedy. Yes, I said comedy. Admittedly, I love its youthful sense of humour and I believe, when done correctly, it would blend well with the bleak storyline. But, the filmmakers preferred to drench the story in sickly sweet syrup, removing the acquired tastes for the sake of palatability.

Where’s the socio-political grittiness? Where’s the mental anguish? Never mind that they are the driving forces. They are the reasons why Order of Phoenix possesses such outstanding profundity! They are the reasons why the novel stands out! They are the soul of the story! The film may call itself Order of Phoenix and some moviegoers believe that. But, deep down, it has an entirely unrecognisable heart. It is a fraud who is beloved by the ignorant and most gullible among us.

Also, the climax of OP the novel is not the fight at the Ministry building; it is, in fact, Harry’s outburst at Dumbledore’s office. It is an accumulation of the suffering he has been experiencing for the past twelve months (and possibly his entire life) and Sirius’ death triggers the cascade of negative emotions. Its climax centres on raw emotions rather than superficial physicality. It can only be achieved by the embrace of emotional depth. You know, something that the adaptation refuses to do.

God, I sound like a total fanboy. I even haven’t reached to another problem present in both adaptations: how they conclude the plot lines.

The novels’ endings are rather bleak. GoF’s marks the beginning of the sufferings our protagonist will endure in the next volume. OP’s shows that, even after everyone believes and starts revering him, he still cannot feel joy because of his godfather’s death. Oh, and I said rather bleak, not completely so. For me, there are still shreds of warm yet unsentimental hope in them. How about the films’ endings? Horrible, of course.

GoF the film ends with a cheerful farewell for the foreign students and Cedric’s death as the only moment of sorrow; there is no foreshadowing of Harry’s own incoming misery. OP the film ends with a sentimental monologue by Harry; his own grief is given a half-hearted presentation. They are all about cloying sweetness. Again, no depth.

Okay, this is the part where I pretend to know what my readers are thinking (LOL! Who reads my blogs, anyway?).

You may argue I am being too harsh against OP and I sincerely acknowledge the possibility. You may also argue that not everything has to be profound which I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I feel sorry for those proudly flatulent dweebs who think having fun is beneath them. But, after much contemplation, I can say I am fair with my judgement.

People will hate me for saying this: I believe that an adaptation can still be faithful even with significant alteration to the characters and the storyline, as long it cherishes the source material’s deep-rooted spirit. In spite of being a fantasy novel, OP’s spirit is neither escapist nor fun; the narrative commands us to acknowledge our own wretched earthbound existence. Based on what I illustrated before, it is clear how the film refuses to share such burden.

Also, it feels like its script was written by an elitist Pothead with no experience in filmmaking who thinks Harry Potter films must be exclusively made for anyone who have read the books and inclusivity besmirches the prestige of his/her beloved series. To simplify my words: the film’s confusing AF.

Yes, exposition makes a horrible storytelling. But, the audience deserves any implicit hints about why and how the story came into being! Also, Tonks is not properly introduced, Lupin is not properly re-introduced and Percy suddenly appears out of nowhere, inexplicably working for the corrupt ministry! If an adaptation cannot stand on its own and still needs the source material for intelligibility, why bother making one in the first place? Oh, wait. Never mind! Of course, it is all about money…

Now, I am going to be slightly SJW-ish here.

In GoF the film, the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students make a hell of an entrance. Of course, I am referring to the gender stereotypes-affirming scene that portrays women as unnaturally tender and men as laughably brute. Disappointing, but expected from a Hollywood film. But, in this case, I am infuriated because the original scene is actually very gender-less (I made up that word).

When the visitors enter the school ground, they just walk straight in! No spectacles whatsoever! There is nothing about it that makes us think about genders! If I have to make an assumption, it feels like someone involved in the filmmaking read the books, became infuriated with their debatably feminist nature, decided to transform the co-ed schools into single-sex ones and shoved outdated gender stereotypes to one gender-less scene. It is too PC! Too liberal! We must protect our traditions of lumping complex human beings to superficial and repressive boxes!

See? I told you I would sound SJW-ish.

Now, to finish up my winding rant:

If only GoF the film also has the same complimenting and intricate subplots as the novel does and refrains itself from unabashedly committing gender pigeonholing…

If only OP the film opens itself to non-HP fans and embraces the novel’s dark and fierce spirit that makes it great in the first place…

If only both films do not conclude on such unrealistically positive notes…

I can confidently say that not only they would be of outstanding quality, they surely would elevate the merit of Harry Potter films or even the entire franchise! Even if they fail to elevate the artistic prestige of fantastical and commercial cinema, they surely would have special places in it.

GoF the film would probably not be hailed as groundbreaking regarding this. But, surely, it would not elongate the already-long list of motion pictures that unintelligently depict genders!

If the existing OP film balances its childlike humour with the novel’s sense of desolation, it could result in a high-quality drama-comedy. Who knows? Maybe the film’s merit could surpass the novel’s! Such a rare phenomenon would historical, convincing fans of certain works of fiction that film adaptations have the potential of reaching excellence!

After watching those wonderful adaptations, some Potheads would probably end up being blessed with higher sense of cultural sophistication, enriching their lives through inquisitive musing and love of cinematic beauty.

But, none of those matters, of course! The only noble goal in life to earn profit! Who cares if you have to exploit the feelings of devoted fans?

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