Revisiting Life of Pi (the movie) after ten years

No, I haven’t read the book.

When I first watched it, I was immediately awed by the experience. Initially, I found that baffling.

Yes, I do love ethereal visual aesthetics and stories with magical and spiritual themes. But, I have also watched other similar films. None of them – not even the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, one of my favourite directors – have spiritually galvanised me like Life of Pi has.

Seriously, I spent months arguing with my online friends and reading online essays about the film. I tried to decipher the magical happenings by relating them to Pi’s religiously syncretic spirituality and his relationship with his rationalist father. Inevitably, I ended up in self-contemplation about my own life.

From all things in life, I get much of my spiritual awakening from a Hollywood film. Why the hell is that?

First thing first, I have the MBTI AKA Myer-Briggs Type Indicator hypothesis.

Around the time of the film’s release, I was extremely obsessed with the personality type classification due to my early stage of “self-searching”. I identified as an INFJ (Google it yourself) and the film’s titular character was identified by many as one as well. I might be subconsciously influenced by the words of strangers.

But, this hypothesis falls apart quickly as I still love the film even after I become disillusioned with MBTI (it is basically horoscope with psychology veneer). Besides, there were also many other fictional characters and real-life public figures perceived as INFJs, none of which I could relate to (one of them was Hitler, for god’s sake).

Maybe it is indeed the films’ depiction of spirituality. After I dissected it again for the first time in almost ten years, the film does feel different from the others.

While “raw” is not how I describe it, the depiction is certainly not understated. Pi is not just a person who identifies with three different religions, he is also one who endlessly explores spirituality; his metaphysical journey is always at the frontline of his life story.

But, it does not feel like the film imposes his worldview upon us. Instead of keeping us as emotionally-detached spectators, it wants us to empathise with his experiences. It also refrains from utilising any explicitly philosophical dialogues; they can get too technical, overt and sanctimonious.

Unusual for a story with a religious main protagonist, it also wants us to be considerate of the opposing worldview. Now, my experiences with some self-proclaimed rationalists tells me they can be as insufferable as religious zealots. But, Pi’s father, Santosh, is not one of those pseudo-intellectuals.

While he can comes across as cold-hearted*, he teaches Pi to not fall for blind faiths and to not let sentimentality controls his life. In fact, not only his son ends up as a spiritually and emotionally well-rounded individual, the latter skill helps him surviving the perils of getting lost at sea; in such situation, even vegetarians like him have to kill animals for food.

The open-minded contemplation of the other worldview also gives us a nuanced paradigm to interpret Pi’s story.

On one hand, we can take his fantastical story as his attempt to suppress his memory, which is horrific as it involves surviving as a castaway, witnessing murders, killing the murderer and cannibalising his rotting cadaver. The memory suppression is a natural response.

At the same time, the film is not robotic enough to dismiss the story’s possibility. Would I believe it if someone claimed to experience it? No, I wouldn’t. But, I also acknowledge that the world is a bizarre place.

I mean, just take a look at nature. Tectonic plates are basically giant chunks of land who always bump into each other. Many of those deep sea creatures look like aliens. The outer space has black holes. Every single living being on earth is each other’s very distant relative.

While the living island cannot scientifically exist, carnivorous plants do exist and the water surrounding the Italian island of Castello Aragonese has significant content of carbonic acid, which can be corrosive if nothing’s done about the climate change. Nature is one giant weirdo.

Scepticism is indeed a must. But, if nature – the tangible and measurable nature – is weird, we shouldn’t dismiss any human experiences simply because they sound weird.

Maybe this is why I was so obsessed with the film. It goes beyond simply depicting a character’s spiritual journey. It tries its best depicting one that is emotionally exhausting but ever-lastingly rewarding… and it wants us to have a taste of it.

And, as I was in the early stage of “self-searching”, I (probably) subconsciously craved something more nuanced than the glorified pigeonholes of MBTI.

Oh, and I have mixed feelings about the film’s multicultural nature.

On one hand, the film could have been more multilingual. As Pi is from Pondicherry, a Tamil-majority Indian union territory that is formerly a French colony, there could have been more Tamil and French dialogues. Instead, most of them are in English.

But, I also acknowledge the film does a relatively great job in depicting the universality of human experiences. From my eyes, while the titular character is inseparable from his cultural and religious identities, people from all over can easily feel for him in spite of the differences.

The film feels even more multicultural when you learn about Ang Lee, the director.

He is a US-based Taiwanese director. His first two feature films are about the lives of Chinese (mainland and Taiwanese) immigrants in the US, his third is about the clash between Chinese traditions and western-influenced modernity, his fourth is a Jane Austen novel adaptation and many of his subsequent films are set in America and feature American characters.

He is certainly a filmmaker who has experiences traversing cultural differences.

As flawed as the film’s multiculturalism can be, I don’t find it tokenist at all. It does help reminding me about the universality of human experiences.

I don’t see Pi as someone who belongs to the “others”. I see him as a fellow human being.

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*A bit of tangent about Pi’s father, Santosh.

He does come across as cold-hearted. But, I don’t believe he is. There are times when his emotions are glaring for everyone to see.

He looks genuinely sad when he announces the family’s migration to Canada, he tries to physically fight the French cook for disrespecting his vegetarian wife and insulting Indians like him as “curry eaters” and he – along with his family -looks red-faced afterwards.

Oh, and he names one of his sons – the titular character – Piscine Molitor. Why? Because his friend is a swimmer whose favourite swimming pool is at the Piscine Molitor Hotel in Paris. There is nothing rational about that.

He is just as interesting as his youngest son.

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The Orange Girl

I am talking not only about the Jostein Gaarder’s novel, but also about the film adaptation. After immersing myself in both, I realised something: I actually don’t care for Jan Olav’s love life.

For me, it is not about how ‘beautiful’ his romance with the orange girl was (it is less beautiful and more sickly sweet). It is about how his son Georg utilises the tale as a tool for contemplation.

Even though I have read only three of his novels, it is obvious that Jostein Gaarder’s specialty is philosophical fiction; the contemplativeness is expected. Therefore, it is not far-fetched to say romance is not the novel’s main focus. As much as some of you may dislike it, the mind of Georg the pretentious is the main focus.

While the pretentiousness can be off-putting, I actually think it is understandable. If you receive something similar to a sentimental letter from your long-deceased loved one, existential musing is inevitable. If you are a teenager, the musing would be inevitably unrefined.

Of course, it may seems I am excusing it, considering Gaarder’s other novels Sophie’s World and The Solitaire Mystery are not (as) pretentious; it shows he has the capability to write (relatively) well-rounded philosophical fictions.

But, here’s the thing: they have leverages.

Sophie’s World revolves around an interaction between a student and a teacher of philosophy; the presence of an authority figure may help the titular character to be more grounded. The Solitaire Mystery is not even explicitly philosophical; it prefers to express ideas through allegorical means.

The Orange Girl, on the other hand, is explicitly philosophical and none of the living adult characters serve as the main character’s “philosophical mentor”, leaving him “unsupervised” with his musings. So, not only the pretentiousness is hard to evade, it also makes perfect sense.

It is a reason why I can still re-read the book to this day despite everything.

Now about the film adaptation…

Just like many people, I am also disappointed when the adaptations of my favourite books liberally change the stories, especially when the changes do not improve them, if not worsen.

But, in this case, there are two changes which may seem trivial for some, but personally infuriating for me: the setting and Georg’s love interest.

Why does Georg have to go on a skiing trip? Why can’t he simply contemplate inside his bedroom?

Okay, this is not one of those ‘finding-yourself-while-travelling’ stories. The skiing trip only lasts for a few days and it ends before the climax.

But still, I despise the belief that you can only “find yourself” by leaving home. It ignores one crucial element of such experience: the genuine desire to learn. It does not matter if you have visited every country on earth; if you don’t have the desire, you would always be the same pathetic loser of a person.

And why the love interest? The point of the letter is to appreciate life as a whole! But, it seems the filmmakers believed otherwise. Maybe they idiotically mistook the novel as a romance one.

Either that or they thought protagonists must always had love interests.

In both changes, it is shallowness resulting in dumb changes.

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Moving Onward with Onward

*Spoiler alert for Onward……AND Finding Dory (Yes, really).*

Sadly, I am disappointed with it.

The premise itself is interesting: a teenager dealing with his own insecurity (I have a soft spot for such story) longing for a deceased loved one he has no memories of. It is obvious the problem lies on its execution.

It may has something to do with Manticore, a character that is crucial to the plot and yet treated as a comic relief. There is also something about the film that prevents me from emotionally immersing myself in it; I cannot blame its action-oriented and fast-paced narrative because many films, including other Pixar ones, can still be emotional despite being action-oriented and fast-paced. It feels like I am not given enough time to fully relate to the character.

The film is so forgettable, I forgot that I just watched a new Pixar film literally minutes after leaving the theatre.

But, Onward is still way better than Finding Dory.

As disappointed as it is, I have to commend Onward  for having a main character who actually moves onward with his life. Both Ian and Barley are excited to meet their temporarily-revived deceased father. But, amid the (self-inflicted) commotion during the climax, only one of them can meet him for a short while. Ian decided that Barley is more deserving of the one last meeting.

Why? Because, unlike Ian, Barley has actual memories of their father and Barley felt guilty for not giving a proper goodbye to when he was on his deathbed. Ian felt the experience would be more meaningful to his older brother.

Ian also realises his obsession about meeting their deceased father drove him into snubbing the wonderful time he has had with his brother. The list scratching scene near the climax is my favourite in the film.

Moving onward, indeed. The complete opposite of Finding fucking Dory.

If this story is simply about reliving her memories of her parents, then I would be just find. But, somehow, the story has to be about finding them alive! It would be better if they are dead!

Okay, I know I sound heartless. But, hear me out first (or read me out, I guess).

Obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong about wanting to find one’s parents. But, I hate how the film insists that Dory has to find them or else, the absence of family means she would never be emotionally fulfilled, forgetting that Marlin and Nemo are her fucking family; the film’s predecessor clearly shows how Marlin’s mere presence makes Dory feels at home!

Despite my disappointment, Onward‘s emotional maturity shows it is still a Pixar flick. Finding Dory feels more Disney-ish. Yes, I know Disney bought Pixar. But, you get the gist.

I actually don’t have a good reason to bring up Finding Dory. I just hate the film and I am using this opportunity to kick its groin.

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Parasite: what a treat

Yes, there will be spoilers. Click away if you haven’t watched it.

Seriously, click away!

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This essay is a two-parter. Part one is about my analyses of the film; they are brief and surface-level because many people online have done great jobs with the dissections and I don’t have anything significant to contribute. Part two is about why I personally love the film.

Part one

First thing first, I am annoyed by how some people interpret the significance of Jjapaguri; they think the two instant noodles represent the two poor families while the sirloin represents the rich one.

While it does make sense, people seem to miss one fact: the rich characters are so rich, they easily put expensive Korean beef to their late-night instant noodles meal without a second thought! Don’t let one’s obsession with symbolism makes one misses the obvious.

Another obvious thing people miss is Min-Hyuk. They feel bad for him because Da-hye, whom he has a crush for, ends up falling for Ki-woo.

Why should we feel sorry for him? Yes, Min-hyuk chooses Ki-woo as his replacement because he wants to protect her from perverted college boys. But then, he also says he will date her once she has reached the age of consent.

To paraphrase the situation, Min-hyuk wants to fuck Da-hye once she turns eighteen and he assigns Ki-woo to protect her virginity. Yes, it sounds worse if I put it that way. But still, he is obviously not a saint. Oh, and don’t forget that the scamming was his idea.

As an Indonesian, I am taken aback by the depiction of the wealthy couple. Even though they are Korean characters written by two Korean screenwriters, they affirm the clownish caricatures of wealthy people that have been lingering in my mind for a long time. It actually increases the universality of the already-thematically-universal film.

I don’t know if others experience the same thing. But, I find atmosphere turns sinister once we are first introduced to the Parks’ household. I attribute it to Lee Jung-eun’s performance as the housekeeper; she did a great job portraying a seemingly-innocent person who harbours a great secret underneath.

Seriously, the first time I saw her, I was instantly suspicious. She gives the film a really nice slow burn; the plot twist and unexpected ending feel natural.

Somehow, a part of me also want attribute this to the house, even though I cannot put my finger into it. Yes, the house is indeed what I expect from cartoonish rich characters: expensive, spacious and yet too soulless to live in. But, it is not necessarily sinister.

Maybe the soullessness adds to the slow burn. Just maybe.

Dammit, I almost forgot about Song Kang-ho’s performance.

The day after the flood, his character Ki-taek starts to get visibly upset after realising how rich people like the Parks are leeching off the misery of the poor. One can tell that he is going to snap, without knowing how and when; it makes the atmosphere even more sinister.

If Song was a shit actor, this would not work at all.

Part two

Admittedly, I was worried.

Before I watched the film, I was already hyped out by the online excitement of filmgoers. I was even more hyped out by its victory at the Oscars, triggering those emotionally-fragile, xenophobic Anglo-centrist Americans. I feared that I would be disappointed. But, I watched it anyway….

…. AND HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WHAT A FUCKING MASTERPIECE!

Obviously, I did not act like one of those demented preachers giving Friday sermons when the credit rolled. I spilled my overwhelming excitement solely to my online friends.

You can tell how much I love the film.

Despite the massive hype, I am still deeply impressed by the film. I already knew that bad fate was awaiting the characters and yet, the finale still hits me hard. The film is so technically masterful, it is extremely dense with visual and verbal figures of speech, resulting in seemingly never-ending interpretations. Don’t forget the performances of the actors, whom I believe should had been nominated for the Oscars.

As a result, I get extremely excited. For me, when dealing with the cinema, ‘excitement’ is an unpredictable feeling and hard to run into; I cannot foresee which films that would enliven my soul.

If I show you an exhaustive list of my personal favourites, you would see a significant chunk of them being critically-acclaimed arthouse works with metaphysical themes. Surely, if I want to constantly feel the excitement, I need to simply watch films that fulfil those categories, right?

Well, no.

Being critically-acclaimed and arthouse does not guarantee that I will love them; I have watched award winning arthouse works that I either despise or don’t care for. Metaphysics is also such a broad field and not every metaphysical theme will intrigue me. In fact, a handful of my favourite are not critically-acclaimed, arthouse and laced with metaphysical elements.

Statistically, Parasite has a small chance of becoming a personal favourite of mine. Yet, here I am.

It shows how special this film is for me.

 

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A childhood treasure I didn’t know having

When I was a toddler, I remember watching feature films from those gigantic laser discs and one of my favourite films to watch was Disney’s Fantasia.

The original one, NOT the so-so sequel.

Back then, I didn’t try to comprehend the plots. I was simply mesmerised by the beautiful colours and shapes, adorned with harmonious classical music. It felt like I was watching a magically-animated painting, accompanied by a live musical performance.

Along with my beloved encyclopedias, I credit the film for making my childhood a colourful and vibrant life chapter where even the sky was not a limit. It felt like every inch of the universe was worthy to unearth.

When I started attending primary school, VCDs had become widespread. I started to watch more movies on the smaller discs and I started neglecting their bulkier predecessors. So, between pre-school and adulthood, I forgot about the existence of the film.

Yikes.

I managed to watch it again when I was eighteen. As I already started becoming a snobby cultural critic, I started to appreciate its merit.

Even though I don’t think it was an extraordinarily groundbreaking film*, it still effortlessly stands out among many Hollywood flicks. To this day, I am still surprised that one of my childhood favourites is of high quality. Most of them tend to be shit.

And, because of its uniqueness, it shapes my taste in the arts and entertainment as an adult.

Magically, absurdly and subconsciously realistic

The segments that feature abstract animations are my very first exposures to abstract art. Now, I am one of those weirdos who genuinely enjoy staring at abstract paintings.

I don’t care about the lack of coherent narrative. As long as the combination of shapes and colours impress me, I will consider the paintings beautiful regardless.

I also have to credit it for inspiring me to love surrealism and magical realism, making me attracted to the weird and inexplicably fantastical.

Nowadays, some of my favourite films include ones with strong metaphysical themes and/or ones that portray the inexplicable. They include Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and The Shining and much of Andrei Tarkovsky’s works.

While Fantasia is of neither genre, its sublimely fantastical depictions of natural phenomena certainly help opening the path.

And it is certainly metaphysical.

Unhinged sophistication

When I listened to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring supposedly for the first time, it felt like an inexplicable surge of nostalgia ran through my veins, as if I had heard it before. It turned out I had: it is one of the soundtracks of Fantasia!

My early exposure to the modernist composition possibly influenced my taste in classical music. I prefer the more stylistically-eclectic and/or “unhinged” newer works -like ones by Stravinsky (obviously) , George Gershwin and John Cooliged Adams- over the older ones, many of which I find a bit too saccharine.

In fact, I now love to complain about how films, especially fantastical ones, are too dependent on cliche-sounding orchestral music and are too afraid to utilise more ambient, more eclectic and more “untraditional” compositions.

The lovely dread

Chernabog is probably one of my first exposures to “scary entertainment”, even though I was never terrified by it. Again, I was too busy mesmerised by the beautiful animation.

Beautifully haunting and sinister animation, showcasing something one can describe as a symbolic representation of the dark side of humanity.

As an adult, I have a weird thing for entertainment with ominous atmosphere, as in you feel scared even though nothing scary is happening on-screen. You know, actual horror instead of cheap jump scares.

I am not a fan of the show Criminal Minds due to its dehumanising depictions of mental illness sufferers. But, I do love the episode where the heroes unwittingly cooperate with a police station where virtually every officer is corrupt; it genuinely feels like they can be ambushed at any time. It feels like real life horror.

Horror is not about what you explicitly show, it is about the feeling of terror you induce on your audience.

Connecting non-existing dots

Admittedly, what I just said do sound far-fetched.

It is indeed absurd to claim one feature film dictates my entire taste as an adult. There are many things that can be taken account as the influencing factors.

As I hinted in the beginning, I also read encyclopedias frequently as a young child and some of them not only discuss “weird” paintings and sculptures, they also display the photos. Basically, they partook in the exposure.

One of my favourite musicians is Chrisye, an Indonesian Pop singer whose early works reek influence from Genesis -a Progressive Rock band- and the band’s genre does sound “unhinged” to the “untrained” ears. After discovering that particular musical style, I ended up craving for more “weird” sounds.

And those films that I love, I also have to credit my time wasted on Wikipedia and my Media Studies classes as contributing factors; I would not have heard of Andrei Tarkovsky if it wasn’t for the former and I would not have watched a single film from West Africa if it wasn’t for the latter.

My love of ominous entertainment may also be rooted by many years of watching horror films and eventually ended up frustrated with the excessive amount of cheap jump scares, craving for actual feeling of terror.

Oh, and don’t forget about my personality. Our personalities not only dictate how we interact with each other, they also dictate what we love and hate.

I am a weirdo and have been called such since forever.

Therefore, my current taste can still come to being even without Fantasia in my life.

But, still…

As I said before, the film is a huge part of my childhood. While it is clearly not the only factor that shapes my taste, it certainly is a major one.

It certainly accelerates its formation and it certainly aggravated its potency.

Without the film, it would probably take me a much longer time to love the things I now love.

*I refuse to call Fantasia a groundbreaking film because I don’t think it is.

Yes, it certainly has a relatively unusual approach in regards to moving image narratives and may be unappealing for those who want more glaring expositions, who think escapism equals quality and who cannot give more damn about visual artistry.

But, if you dig deeper into the history of cinema, you would see there were already ground-breaking cinema movements -like surrealism and Italian futurism- that predated the film’s existence.

And works of those genres are bizarre and incomprehensible for the masses. Not matter how weird Fantasia is, I still think it is relatively comprehensible.

If anything, its audio and visual aesthetics were already conventional at the time of its release.

The risk-taking was indeed high. But, it was not that high.

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Harry Potter and the fitting fashion

I have made an essay where I argued the film adaptation of The Half-Blood Prince boasts more artistic merit than its source material for its ability to convey the characters’ psyche and the story’s general atmosphere more effectively.

I wrote that because I am annoyed by how easy it is for people to dismiss screen adaptations. While it is true filmmakers enact unnecessary changes and omit certain crucial elements from the narratives, we also have to remember literature and films are two different formats.

The former tells stories entirely through written words (with bouts of illustrations) while the latter does so through audiovisual means. Surely, there bound to be differences in how each format unfolds the same narrative! If you expect the films to be the exact copies of the novels, then why bother adapting them in the first place?

While I have condemned the Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix for their unfaithfulness to the original stories, there is one change in every HP film which I do appreciate.

When I first watched the films, I noticed how the Hogwarts uniforms include neckties, similar to the real-life British school uniforms, albeit with robes replacing the blazers. I also noticed that while some adult characters wear clothes we associate with witches and wizards, some also adorn muggle-ish attire, albeit with pointed hats and longer coats. So, I was shocked when I finally read the books.

I was (and still am) rather disappointed by how the characters’ original costumes are very much cliches of the fantasy genre! Unlike the films, the source materials determine clear boundaries between muggle fashion and one of witches and wizards. In fact, Rowling also made recurring jokes in which wizards and witches try to emulate the ways muggle dress and, more often than not, end up with hilarious results.

For a long time, I didn’t know why the alteration was enacted. I still don’t. But, on a personal level, I am glad it happened.

As I said before, literature narrates through written words. For me (and I don’t know if this is common or not), any written descriptions of physicality never leave strong mental images in my head, unless they are accompanied by illustrations; so, when I have the mental images, I am influenced by the illustrators’ interpretations.

The copies of Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix I possess contain illustrations by Mary GrandPré (at the time, the Indonesian editions lazily used her works). Sometimes the characters are drawn with muggle clothing, sometimes they are drawn with forgettable and bland-looking robes and pointed hats. This is why even after reading the illustrated copies for countless times, I still don’t associate overtly-cliched fantasy outfits with the Harry Potter universe.

Now just imagine if the films base the costumes entirely on the source materials: the cliches would be even more pronounced for me! Visually, the film series would be just another fantasy motion pictures featuring ‘weirdly-dressed’ characters!

(Okay, admittedly, there are many other fantasy films featuring characters wearing ‘muggle’ outfits; Harry Potter is not the only low fantasy series in existence. But, I will explain later why I support the filmmakers’ decision to alter them.)

Because my mind still associate magical human beings with pointed hats and robes -especially the colourful ones-, the fact that HP characters wear muggle-ish clothing is very refreshing for me.

But, at the same times, the characters’ outfits are still not entirely muggle-ish. The style seems to be a hybrid of muggle and ‘magical’ fashion; they look realistic enough, while still looking from out of this world… literally. Oh, and the muggle-fication is very gradual.

While the film version of Philosopher’s stone does feature muggle-ish costumes, they are mostly worn by the students as their uniforms and casual dress; the adult witches and wizards wear very much stereotypical ‘magical’ outfits. Then, as the series progresses, the costumes become more and more muggle-ish; the men wear more neckties and both men and women wear more suit jackets.

The characters’ muggle-ish outfits make them more real to me. The way they dress (somewhat) remind me of how real-life humans dress, remind me of how I dress! Their fashion, in a way, makes them more relatable. Admittedly, it does sound unnecessary and shallow.

Unnecessary because the Harry Potter universe’s thematics already includes grittiness with characters often put in situations not unlike the real-life injustice and prejudice any sane individuals know persistently exist. Shallow because judging a character’s relatability should be based on his/her substance, NOT her/his look. Surely, not only grittiness is more than enough to increase the relatability, it is also a significantly more profound way to do so!

While the arguments made by imaginary people living in my head do have points, I can provide some justification which is greatly influenced by my own bias.

One thing we should acknowledge is the characters live in a world almost entirely different from ours (apart from undeniable social and political parallels); don’t forget that despite the physical coexistence of both worlds in the same universe, the magical one is virtually concealed from the muggles. Inevitably, the (somewhat) lifelike clothing does significantly increase their relatability to me.

I also notice that, as the film series progresses (spin offs included), the increasing muggle-fication of the costumes and the increasing thematic grittiness (Order of Phoenix excluded) occur synchronously. As a result, the costumes as an indicator of relatability seems neither shallow nor pointless in my eyes.

But, I also do have an issue with muggle-fication. As said before, he source materials feature wizards and witches’ inability to dress like muggles which often ends with comical results. This running gag will be more hilarious in the films than it is in the novels due to the former’s strong emphasise on the visuality. There would be more reasons to love the screen adaptations!

But, as disappointed as I am by the missed opportunity, I accept we cannot have it both ways. If we want the filmmakers to muggle-fy the outfits, we have to eliminate the running gang and vice versa. Speaking solely for myself, I will be happy either way.

I have never discussed it with my fellow potheads regarding this. After finishing the previous paragraph, I was curious enough to do some googling and, unsurprisingly, I found out I am not the only one who have noticed the alteration.

There are forums dedicated to the discussions of films’ muggle-fied fashions. A Tumblr user actually sketched how Hogwarts’s uniforms originally supposedly look like in the novels. Even Bustle made an article (if you can call it that) about how fashionable the characters look in the film! Unsurprisingly, I also found an article written by the author herself.

She mentioned about the International Statute of Secrecy which requires wizards and witches to blend in by the means of fashion, their failure to comply, whether on purpose or by sheer incompetence and how the children and teens are more up-to-date with the muggle culture than the adults are due to intermingling with their muggle peers. Nothing new and mindblowing, really. Well, except for the last paragraph.

She stated that even muggle-hating individuals can’t help themselves from wearing the more practical muggle fashion in their daily lives! Interestingly, they try to express their sense of superiority by embracing ‘a deliberately flamboyant, out-of-date or dandyish style’, a sound tactic if you are a fashion snob with surface-level priorities, of course.

There are two reasons why I find this interesting:

Reason number one: it reminds me of real life bigots who enjoy the cultures of the people they have prejudice against. There are Chinese-hating Indonesians who love Chinese cuisines and there are Mexicans-hating Americans who love Mexican cuisines. Bigots love what the ‘others’ contribute to mankind while still refusing to humanise them. I wonder if this counts as cultural appropriation.

Reason number two: it defies how I imagine the books deal with clothing. While Rowling’s essay still draws strict boundaries between muggle and ‘magical’ fashion, I always thought the novels’ characters wore the former exclusively for entering muggle territories. And, to my surprise, it does not harm the overall narrative!

At times, Rowling’s authorial intent can be a nuisance; the revelation of Dumbledore’s sexuality, for example, seems to come out of nowhere as it was never hinted and his relationship with Grindewald is a shameless queerbait. But, regarding the fashion, it seems to complement the already-established universe.

While I indeed haven’t read the first three books, I clearly remember the characters utilising magically-powered muggle inventions like cameras, cars and radio sets. Hence, the idea that even the most prejudiced wizards and witches adorn themselves with the more functional muggle fashion is still within reason despite the absence of signs.

Before encountering the essay, I was very happy with how the filmmakers’ decision to muggle-fied the costumes, was disappointed by Rowling’s inclination to utilise cliched fantasy costumes (even though I still love that one recurring joke). But now, even though I am still delighted by the muggle-fication, I appreciate how this particular authorial intent compels me to see a previously unseen layer of the HP world-building.

It feels like a puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing.

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Your Name (and the true human bonding)

Just another of my very late film ‘review’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Crimes of Grindewald… a crime against Harry Potter

I hope you can survive my cringeworthy title, dear readers.

I am sure some of you immediately disagree with me. How about the Cursed Child, some of you may ask. Well, I haven’t read the script nor have I watched the live stage performance. My thoughts about it are purely formed out of other people’s synopses. So, apart from it being an official fan fiction, I cannot say much about it.

Besides, just like its predecessor, The Crimes of Grindewald was written by Rowling herself and deserves a space in the Harry Potter canon more than the other motion pictures in the franchise… and its high status is also the reason why it is one of the most disappointing among them. Before going to that, let me tell you one of the many reasons why I love the series: its revelations.

Obviously, I am not the only one who do for that reason. But, the mysteries and foreshadowing are often overlooked by anyone outside the fandom. I love how masterly Rowling places subtle clues all over; they make really good answers to the mysteries and good tip-offs to incoming events. Every revelation feels natural; they feel both surprising and foreseeable the same time, if that makes sense.

Devoted readers will definitely re-read the books and they will notice how the clues were sneakily implanted chapters or even books prior; devoted and observant ones will easily recall the clues without the need to turn the previous pages again. The fact that we, the readers, are allowed to play detectives even after encountering the revelations gives us an intense sense of joy! Despite the series’ many flaws, it still makes a compelling reading!

And The Crimes of Grindewald does the exact opposite.

Instead of dropping hints for future episodes, it prefers to dump a fuckload of information in a relatively short time slot! The audience is being denied the excitement and has to endure something comparable to a university lecture… if a university lecture is more than two hours long and the lecturer condenses most of the important bits near the end. Basically, it is worse than a university lecture! There is no captivating mystery and foreshadowing that makes Harry Potter fun in the first place!

I don’t know why this happens. Maybe she is forced to speed up the plot, maybe she no longer has the passion to write and she now sees her job as a mere job…

Or maybe, if we bring Occam’s Razor into this, she is an inexperienced screenwriter.

Prior to the first Fantastic Beasts film, she had never written a single script for a motion picture; her resume was all prose-writing. She does not know how to audiovisually convey the Harry Potter-esque detective role-playing. So, she ends up making an avalanche of information.

Of course, she could have hired an experienced professional as a co-screenwriter. She could also have delegated the job altogether. But nooooo! Despite having let screenwriters adapting her novels into films, despite having a fan fiction included in the Harry Potter canon, she now thinks it is her turn as an inexperienced person to write the scripts solo! It just does not make any sense!

Actually, after I think about it, that flaw is the least of the film’s problems (and, because I am already too emotionally invested in the flaw I just talked about, I need to write about it). In the end, we should be concerned about its focus.

When I first heard about the series, I actually expected it to be all about Newt Scamander’s (mis)adventures. After watching the first instalment, I really didn’t mind how it involves Grindewald. There is no doubt Newt will encounter humans who impede his quests. Not to mention Grindewald is a character that Dumbledore used to associate himself with and is often mentioned in The Deathly Hallows; his appearance signals to devoted potheads that this is indeed a Harry Potter story.

And the sequel happens. Its title needs no explanation. Even before watching it, it is obvious how he’ll be the lead protagonist whom our lead protagonist must defeat.

WHY???

The series is called Fantastic Beasts, for fuck’s sake! It should be about Newt Scamander’s journey as a magizoologist, NOT a fucking action hero! If they want the main character to have such cliche characterisation, why can’t they be honest from the very beginning? Why do they have to double-cross us with that deceptive title? That’s like naming a series as Harry Potter and it turns out to be mainly about the fucking Dursleys!

I should also point out that the betrayal exposes how repetitive the franchise has become. The seven novels are already about ‘good versus evil’, which itself was already a cliche even before Philosopher’s Stone was first published! Why do they have to repeat the already-conventional theme?

The first film has been hailed by reasonable people for its main male protagonist who refuses to be stereotypically aggressive, insensitive and cocky. Such defiance of a tradition is a novelty in pop culture!

Just imagine: an entire series that tells the story of an unassuming young man discovering, protecting and learning about magical beasts, where combating fellow human beings is a mere part of the arbitrary subplots! Not only the series would be a pleasing anomaly in Hollywood, it would also be a trend-setter, altering the cultural norms for the better in which tenderness are not perceived as incompatible with masculinity and heroism.

But, nope. For whatever the reasons (to play safe, perhaps), someone decides they should continue upholding the status quo because progress is something that everyone should thrive to avoid.

If you think I am being judgmental cynic… well, can you blame me? Even if you hate or are unfamiliar with Harry Potter, you still can easily determine how Fantastic Beasts deliberately fracture its own backbone by chapter two. The flaw is just too great to ignore and, more importantly too sinful to turn a blind eye to. I deeply hate the adaptation of Order of the Phoenix and yet it is still far less insufferable than The Crimes of Grindewald.

If you pay attention, you would notice how the film perfectly symbolises this act of treachery:

In the beginning, our (supposed) hero Newt is being offered to have his international travel permit reinstated in exchange for assisting the ministry in fighting the dark side. Being a relative pacifist who seems uninterested in joining the establishment, he refuses the offer. His brother Theseus is disappointed with him, wishing he was the kind of person who is willing to take a bold moral stance. Near the end of the story, after experiencing a massive emotional toll of what he and others have just experienced, Newt decides to take the offer and finally taking a side.

In the eyes of his brother, Newt has decided to grow up and take a strong stance against evil. If you take the character development for granted, you would easily share Theseus’ perspective. But, this is Harry Potter franchise we are talking about here.

Anyone familiar with it knows how corrupt the Ministry of Magic is! I cannot talk for other potheads. But, in my eyes, Newt sells himself out to the brother he does not always get along with and the sleazy political establishment he works for, sacrificing his own ideals he had been holding on since the very beginning.

Symbolically, it exposes how a male lead character that defies long-held conventions regarding masculinity is being transformed into another stock character that pleases the cultural establishment who seems allergic to any signs of slight changes.

I am trying to be optimistic, forcing myself to believe that Rowling may have a delightful surprise for all of us. But, The Crimes of Crindewald has clearly revealed the true purpose of the series and I cannot ignore that! In the end, unless someone has a sudden change of heart, my optimism is and will always be a wishful thinking.

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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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