Do you hate trans and non-binary people? Traditions are not on your side

Well, some aren’t. I am certain some of you are familiar of what I am going to say below.

There are traditional cultures which recognise the third gender, in which you were assigned as either male or female at birth and then you end up identifying as the other gender, both genders or neither.

South Asian cultures recognise the Hijra.

Some Indigenous North Americans recognise the two-spirit (note: the English term for this concept is contentious).

Different Polynesian societies traditionally recognise third genders: Faʻafafine of the Samoans, Māhū of the Hawaiians and Tahitians (may be pejorative in Hawaii), Fakaleiti of the Tongans, Whakawahine of the Maoris and Akava’ine of the Cook Islanders.

The Balkans have the Sworn Virgins, people who were assigned as female at birth, identify as male later on and live a celibate life.

In the South American countries of Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname, the Warao people have Tide Wena, who identify neither as male nor female.

In Indonesia, the Bugis people take it even further by recognising five genders: Oroané, Makkunrai, Calalai, Calabai and Bissu.

Oroané and Makkunrai are males and females respectively. Calalai and Calabai are males and females who were assigned as the other genders at birth, respectively. Bissu are both male and female and they may or may not be born intersex.

In some cases, people who identify as the third (or fourth, or fifth) gender are highly revered by their respective societies due to perceived supernatural prowess. The Bissu are a good example.

No, I don’t think those third genders validate their modern (and western-centric) counterparts.

Apart from the poor comparability (I may have oversimplified descriptions or misunderstood the concepts), it is also intellectually dishonest to determine rightness based on how “traditional” something is; if that’s how we do things, we should also validate anti-LGBT+ bigotry as well, considering it is the tradition in many places.

But, at the same time, those facts demonstrate how humans have always had the ability to be fluid with genders. The rigid male-female binary is not as innate and “traditional” as you think it is.

You have to use other arguments.

And no, biology is not on your side, either. I can remind you that intersex people exist and non-trans women can also have high testosterone level in their bodies.

Even our corporeal existence isn’t black and white.

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How to build a civilisation?

Obviously, this requires complex answers. But, if I have to answer it simplistically, I would say civilisation requires good education and discipline.

Maybe it is just me. But, I doubt one can build great things by being disorganised airheads. I mean, it makes perfect sense. I state the obvious because it seems some people have other thoughts about this.

In the west, there are people with strong far-right inclinations who genuinely believe patriarchy, racial and cultural homogeneity, Christianity, cisheteronormativity and machismo built ancient civilisations.

In the Muslim world, there are people who credited Islamic theocracy and highly devoted populace for the Islamic Golden Age. While I encounter them way less, it is hard to ignore them.

If I try hard enough, I am sure I would find even more absurd shits people claim as civilisation builders.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend their notions about ancient societies are accurate (very likely not)*. It still does not make any sense.

Those ancient western civilisations might by misogynistic, homogenous and devotedly Christian. But then, the same things can be said about the least developed parts of the western world.

Take America, for example. Admittedly, the blue states and cities are far from perfect; they certainly have their share of problems. But, you cannot expect me to believe their red counterparts are doing any better.

Those red states have less diverse economic sectors, higher teenage pregnancy rates, higher obesity rates, higher dependence on federal welfare and higher high school dropout rates. Not to mention they are less likely to possess America’s major economic, scientific and cultural centres.

That’s the same with other western countries. London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, they tend to be less religious and more liberal-minded than most other places in their respective countries.

While correlation certainly does not equal causation, it also reminds us that misogyny, homogeneity and Christian devotion do not guarantee civilisation-building.

The Muslim world also has something similar. If Islamic theocracy builds civilisation, then explain why Saudi Arabia, Taliban-ruled territories and ISIS-ruled territories are not the most developed parts of the Muslim world. From all theocratic** Muslim-majority countries, Iran is the only one with high rate of research papers publication and thriving film industry.

In Indonesia specifically, the Sharia-practicing province of Aceh is also far from the most developed.

Of course, I have to give another ‘correlation does not equal causation’ disclaimer. There are more religiously pluralistic provinces which are equally underdeveloped or even more. Not to mention that places outside Java are relatively more neglected.

But, it also proves enforced Islamic devotion does not guarantee progress.

My point is even if ancient civilisations were as religiously devoted, misogynistic and homogenous as they want to believe, it still does not prove anything.

It only shows how societies grow despite of those traits, NOT because of.

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*Let’s face it: the average people often have wrong facts about the past. They love exaggerating and whitewash the past lives. Hence, why I am sceptical about their claims. Heck, I already know that they get some facts wrong.

What we consider as western civilisation already started long before Christianity took over. Ancient Rome only became Christian in its later years and Ancient Greece was never Christian.

The territories which experienced the Islamic Golden Age also had thriving Christian and Jewish communities. In fact, Al-Ma’arri – a highly anti-religious philosopher and poet – was a highly-regarded figure. While I cannot say whether irreligiosity was common or not, it is obvious that being anti-religious did not stop others from admiring you.

**Having a state religion is not the same as being a theocracy. Having one means the state subsidises its rituals, without necessarily deriving its governmental policies from the religion’s teachings. England is a good example of that.

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Are all gender roles inborn?

No, they are not.

If they can be explained biologically, then they are indeed inborn. The problem is some think every gender role – even the non-biological ones – is inborn.

Women must wear heels, men cannot wear dress, cooking is a must for women, automotive is a must for men. If you believe those, then you must also do the following:

Prove that your idea of gender roles is upheld not just by literally every human society, but also literally every human being in existence.

Prove that it existed in the prehistoric era. Show us the evidences of prehistoric women wearing heels and dresses, of prehistoric men enjoying automotive.

If you believe women and men are “programmed” that way, then you should also believe heels and cars are as old as mankind.

I believe humans are “programmed” to enjoy beauty. Do I have proofs? Yes, I do.

Our prehistoric ancestors painted on their cave walls and sculpted tear-shaped stone knives. Amid the urgency of survival needs, they still created art. It reveals we are born with hunger for beauty; it sticks with us regardless of our circumstances.

It would be dishonest of me to declare a victory. But, without doubt, my claim has a backbone and yours doesn’t.

Like it or not, my demands are reasonable. If you say faeces is delicious, you bloody better prove it.

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Does shaming work?

Of course, it does. I don’t get anyone who think it does not work against bigots and conspiracists.

I mean, if shaming does not work in general, then how can you explain the self-hatred suffered by members of marginalised communities?

How can you explain women who knowingly support policies which take away their rights as human beings?

How about darker-skinned people desperately wanting to bleach their skin?

Parents refusing to pass down their stigmatised ancestral heritages because they don’t want turn their children into outcasts?

Westerners of Jewish and Asian descents who sympathise and collaborate with white supremacists?

LGBT teens who end up either committing suicide or joining anti-LGBT forces as adults?

No, those behaviours are not inborn. If they are, it does not explain why many of them are the exact opposite of what I describe above.

Well, you can claim the feeling of empowerment is a sign of mental illness and self-hatred a sign of mental soundness; I have encountered the so-called claim too many times before. But, you have to provide actual evidences if you want to be taken seriously by anyone other than your fellow inbred faeces-eaters.

You may be reluctant to support shaming because -instead of planting self-hatred- it may compel bigots to embellish their words and actions in order to not sound blatantly-hateful. Considering the ones in the west are becoming better in concealing their true selves (and there are too many idiots who cannot read between the lines), it is a concern which I cannot dismiss.

But, some of you are against shaming because of your supposed hatred of malice…. and yet, you defend the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones -who love attacking anyone they despise- under the guise of freedom of speech.

It is either you are too big of an imbecile to understand the purpose of freedom of speech… OR you just want an excuse for your abnormally pitiful inability to cope with even the most inconsequential human differences.

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Turning them female and not-white

When I say ‘them’, I am referring to fictional characters. And I am against changing their gender and race.

But, not for the reason most people have.

I don’t give a fuck if the changes defy the original ideas. If it is acceptable for white actors to portray actual non-white historical figures, then it SHOULD be acceptable to change the gender and race of fictional and definitely not real characters!

I am opposed to the change because it is insulting to racial minorities in the west and women.

If the studio executives really do care about being inclusive, they would demand the creations of new and original hero characters which women and non-white actors can portray. They would never hand them roles that are basically leftovers.

If anything, it shows how they don’t have the desire to respect identities that are not white and male. It shows how they are entirely motivated by profit instead of genuine sense of social inclusivity. It is all about lucrative pandering.

Admittedly, it is not as bad as the tokenism in which they create non-white and/or female characters mostly as punchlines or sidekicks and barely have compelling stories of their own. It is dehumanising to be seen as nothing but money-generating pigeon-holed props.

I acknowledge it as a leap forward. But, considering it is only a few inches forward, it is not worthy the celebration.

This celebration is akin to me patting myself on the back for exercising and having strict diet just for one day.

It is akin to perceiving Saudi Arabia’s decriminalisation of women drivers as a catalyst for the Muslim world when the rest of the Muslim world never ban them from driving in the first place.

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Feminists and anti-feminists: a common ground

*puts on a mask*

Some people support feminism because they believe it is the most effective way to coerce women into embracing western liberal values.

They shame women who willingly embrace modest fashion, who willingly choose to become stay-at-home moms, who willingly choose to become abstinent and who willingly choose to become/stay religious.

Their reasoning? They want to liberate women from the oppressive and medieval eastern values, especially the Islamic ones.

Some people oppose feminism because they want to protect women from western values and coerce them to keep embracing eastern values, particularly the Islamic ones.

They shame women who willingly show the slightest appearances of their skin, hair and bodily curves, who willingly choose to be unmarried and childless and who willingly choose to have active sex lives.

Their reasoning? They want to liberate women from the oppressive and overtly-sexualised western liberal values.

I have to a suggestion for both feminists and anti-feminists:

Why don’t you just make peace with each other?

I mean, it is quite obvious how you actually have something in common with each other: you are advocating to take women’s right to think and act for themselves under the pretense of liberating them.

Wouldn’t your goals become easier to achieve when you find a common ground with the “others” and form a gigantic and influential alliance?

Together, you can oppress women to the fullest.

*takes off the mask*

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Tradition: a misguided argument against mandatory hijab

Yes, it is indeed a widely-used argument. But, believe it or not, popularity does not and will never determine rightness. A million people can be wrong. Well, ‘wrong’ is too broad of a word; ‘ignorant’ is more fitting accurate.

I hate it when ‘traditions’ are used as arguments against novelties. If I ask you to define the word, you would probably answer it as ‘old’ things; my dictionary defines it as things that have been around for many generations. The more I think about it, the more I don’t see how any of those definitions support the arguments.

Old things used to be young. Being passed from one generation to another means there was a starting point. Those definitions insinuate that traditions started as novelties which existence were initially opposed by the reactionary voices in their respective societies, insinuate that novelties will become traditions later in the future.

Of course, one may also argue novelties must be conceived within our own borders. We should never let foreign powers dictate our identities and we must always thrive to be ourselves. If you are an Indonesian Muslim, why become an Arab? But, too bad humans don’t live in vacuums.

Of all the things we consider as traditional to certain places, lots (and, depending on your backgrounds, probably the majority of them) are “foreign”. The traditional food we eat and the traditional arts we pretend to care about would probably would not exist without outside influences.

If you think your country is unique, just remember it is not the only one that has Mother Nature in its mythology, not the only one that has flutes and drums among its traditional music instruments and it is certainly not the only one where cheese, noodles and fried battered foods are traditionally eaten.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I can use my country as an example.

This land of Austronesians (and Melanesians as well) has been influenced by foreigners since forever. Mie ayam, nasi goreng and pangsit would not exist without the Chinese. Sindhens, gulais and Garuda would not exist without the South Asians. Keroncong, tanjidor and pastel would not exist without the Portuguese. Klappertart and kastengel would not exist without the Dutch. Nasi kebuli and martabak would not exist without the dreaded Arabs. Apart from the English loanwords, our national language is also laced with Indian, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and, yes, even Arabic ones.

Islamic extremism is indeed something to be fearful about. But, it is pointless to fear Arabisation when some of our supposedly beloved ancestors ‘endured’ it and, in fact, had their identities enriched thanks to it.

Okay, it is a very simplistic statement. Foreign influences can both enrich and devalue our heritage. It depends whether the existing traditions are ‘improved’ or wiped out entirely. But, in the context of the previous paragraph, I solely use the word ‘enrich’ because some Indonesians don’t realise that their so-called beloved heritage has Middle Eastern influences in it.

Should I also mention that Islam is a religion of fucking Middle Eastern origin? I mean, if they really fear Arabisation, why don’t they ditch a religion that uses Arabic as its fucking liturgical language and start practicing animism like their ancestors did?

In case you haven’t noticed, I draw a strict line between Arabophilia and Islamic extremism. The former is an entirely secular endeavour while the latter often goes along with the embrace of Arab culture… or to be precise, what they feel is Arab culture.

In reality, there is no such thing as Arab culture, only cultures. Plural. A country is considered ‘Arab’ because it uses literary Arabic as its national language, NOT because of its cuisine, clothing, arts and brand of Islam. The Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Gulf and the Levant are culturally and religiously distinct from one another.

If you actually learn the basics of Arab cultures, you would realise those Muslim extremists have little knowledge about the traditions; if they really are into them, they would wear agal, eat hummus, drink Arak, watch MTV Arabia, do belly dancing and, you know, actually speak Arabic as their fucking first language!

And, just like the Islamists, many moderate Muslims also know nothing about Arab cultures. They see long white garments and hear Arabic-sounding words and they think the Arabs are invading! While I am with their anti-extremist stances, I despise how they use this crisis to justify their anti-Arab prejudice.

Moderate Muslims constantly claim they are against prejudice despite their blatantly prejudiced attitudes.. How can you defend yourselves from your barbaric enemies when you keep pointing the guns towards your feet? How can you fight the epidemic when you falsely see yourself as immune?

Also, those people forget how Indonesia is being infiltrated by contemporary western cultures which have done a great job wiping out our traditions. While the west is indeed more free than the Arab world, the double standard is too infuriating for any reasonable humans to ignore.

And I haven’t talked about the misogyny yet.

The title of this article clearly says ‘mandatory hijab’. I believe the amount of exposed hair and skin is none of our business. It is entirely up to them if they want to wear shorts and show their cleavages. If the sight of skimpily-dressed women is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Your problem, not theirs!

And the same thing can be said about hijab.

Unless the women are involved in activities where covering up can possibly result in bodily injuries, the amount of covered hair and skin is also none of our business! It is up to them if they prefer to cover their hair and skin. If the sight of ‘modest’ fashion is too distracting for you, just simply avert your gaze! Once again, your problem, not theirs!

There is a frequently-touted rhetoric that hijab is inherently oppressive which means literally every hijabi is an oppressed, rescue-worthy woman and banning the garb is the only mean to do so. This so-called expression of feminism champion women’s rights to wear anything they want… by taking their right to wear anything they want.

Such rhetoric is often divulged either by westerners or Uncle Toms who romanticise the west. I have never heard it being embraced by my fellow Indonesians and, frankly, I am not surprised. Unlike westerners who champion oppression of women under the pretense of feminism, Indonesians never bother to do so.

Heck, they even never bother utilising the anti-extremism pretense. Indonesians, including the ones who identify as moderate Muslims, are very open about their misogyny. They are proud of their endeavours of championing subservience among housewives and holding women to higher standards of sexual mores than men… and they are certainly proud of their shaming of women who cover up and refuse to fulfil the ‘traditional’ dress codes.

No, I don’t think Indonesian moderate Muslims are as bad as the extremists; the former certainly have stricter morals than the latter. Between those two factions, taking sides would not be much of a dilemma. But, both still have some things in common with each other and anti-feminist approach to life is certainly one of them. They are holding the country back from becoming more civilised.

To summarise my rambling…

Using Arabisation to justify one’s anti-hijab sentiment is uneducated, prejudiced and misogynistic.

Uneducated because it falsely thinks humans live in vacuums and pretends that intercultural interactions is a recent human phenomenon.

Prejudiced because it is an excuse to dehumanise the ‘others’.

Misogynistic because it is used to shame women for refusing to dress ‘traditionally’ and preferring to dress like ‘foreigners’.

You geniuses will never be the ones who defeat extremism and you certainly will never be the ones who advance women’s rights.

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My thoughts about the Try Guys

Since I watched Shane Dawson’s conspiracies and ghost-hunting videos, I cannot help myself from judging the critical thinking of my favourite entertainers, including the Try Guys. Sadly, scientific scepticism is not their forte.

And it is ironic because Ned is a Yale chemistry graduate and he fails to bring scientific scepticism to the group (a good reason to not worship people’s educational backgrounds). There are some videos where the guys take the words of so-called experts for granted. But, I think the video that sticks out the most is the acupuncture one.

Admittedly, this is one of the most entertaining Try Guys videos, mostly because of how Eugene’s discomfort juxtaposes with the others’ comfort and the acupuncturist’s charm and wit. But, I am also annoyed by how quickly they accepted the validity of acupuncture.

They could claim they felt the qi flowing inside them. But, there is such thing as placebos. Just because one feels better, that does not mean one actually gets better. You feel better after the treatment because you believe it works.

Okay, I just watched the video again and I was wrong about Ned not being sceptical. He actually was, even though he eventually changed his mind. He and the others might actually feel something. But still, I doubt they were feeling the qi.

Even though I am no biologist, I do know our bodies have sensory neurons all over. So, when one gets stabbed by pointy objects, one ought to feel something; no sensations means one is medically fucked. The sensation they were feeling might be the acupuncturist messing with their nervous systems. But, all four of them failed to realise that which inevitably led to their acceptance of alternative medicine.

I also have another less consequential problem with the Try Guys. On Youtube, there are videos exposing how unfunny the quartet is. Even though I haven’t watched a single one of those videos, I do understand why some people think that way.

Sometimes, when they have guests on their shows, they don’t even bother to read the room; they clearly make jokes only for their online audience, not the one right in front of them. As a result, I often see the guests looking awkward; it somewhat reminds me of Rhett and Link, whose antics have been known to put off some of their guests.

I know I sound a bit too harsh on them. I make it sound like they are unfunny idiotic hacks. In actuality, I don’t believe they are.

Despite the presence of thoughtless jokes, there is also an abundance of wits. In fact, I notice the guys have become wittier as time goes by; they have been entertainers long before their fame, giving them many years to learn. Not to mention there are also guests whose sense of humour is in tune with theirs.

I also cannot be certain about their idiocy. Regarding their validation of acupuncture, it is hard to say if they were being sincere; they might try to not offend the charming and seemingly-nice acupuncturist. Or maybe, they changed their mind about its cogency after they recorded the video. Basically, we should never take people’s words for granted, especially if they are public figures who are known for carefully maintaining their images.

But, even if they are indeed easily duped by pseudoscience, I still refuse to call them entirely idiotic. I mean, they are content creators who maintain their success even after leaving a big corporation that can generously provide resources for their endeavours. If anything, I believe their quality increases after their departure.

In general, the content of their videos can be described as escapist fun with occasional bouts of seriousness; the seriousness often includes topics like health, gender, immigration and even the Try Guys’ own personal lives. They have been thematically consistent throughout the years. But, their professional independence does bring changes to their videos.

First of all, they have bent their definition of ‘trying things’, as shown by the time when they tried to make Eugene AKA Mr. Aloof to sit on Keith’s lap; despite its bizarre yet oddly wonderful pointlessness, the video -which some fans consider as simultaneously the best and the worst- lives up to the group’s name (kinda). Because of that one video, I am expecting more of such outlandishness in the future.

Second, fans have been noticing how the Try Guys have been more carefree than ever. The thing is Keith, Ned and Zach have always been exuberant and I never notice any notable increase in their carefreeness. But, when it comes to emotionally-reserved Eugene, I do notice the change.

Some fans believe the independence, no matter how stressful it can be, is a joyfully liberating thing to have in one’s grasp. Others believe he exaggerated his stand-offish personality just to make Buzzfeed videos more entertaining. I personally speculate that Eugene is happier because he felt he was constantly being used as a clickbait by his former employer.

It is also possible his increasing devil-may-care attitude has nothing to do with his professional life. Nevertheless, I cannot help myself from thinking how plausible those speculations are. Of course, as they are speculations, I must refrain myself from accepting them as the absolute truths. But, as much as I love seeing the goofy side of Eugene, there is a third change that I love the most: the videos’ durations and narrative chronologies.

During the Buzzfeed years, the videos have varied durations; some are as short as two minutes while others are over twenty-minutes long. But, I notice the less-ten-minutes-long ones dominate the playlist. The videos’ storylines are also predominantly linear.

After leaving Buzzfeed, their videos’ narratives have become more nonlinear and the durations have become significantly longer; most of their videos are over ten minutes long with the short ones being a tiny minority. While some may find these aspects too trivial to concentrate on, I think they have greatly enhanced the quality of the content.

More nonlinearity means less sluggish pacing and more enhanced conveyance of emotions, consequentially creating a more captivating storytelling. I also love the challenge (if one can call it that) of deciphering timelines of nonlinear stories without the help of time stamps and, thankfully, Try Guys’ nonlinear videos almost never have them; I hate the unnecessary usage of time stamps as it discourages the audience to take more heed of what they are watching.

More time span means more capacity to showcase more content (obviously); it prevents the feeling of hastiness, it does not keep viewers out from more interesting happenings and, most importantly, it allows the Try Guys to convey a wider range of emotions. I still stand to my earlier description about how their content is mostly fun and occasionally serious moments. But, thanks to the longer durations, there are more manifestations of grave emotions.

Buzzfeed Try Guys videos are like the typical American sitcoms; their seriousness is so rare that they are still considered as comedies. Post-Buzzfeed Try Guys videos remind me of Marvel movies; while light-hearted and may be seen as overrated by some, the mixture of jokes and emotional depths easily put them in the drama-comedy category (if drama-comedy also includes non-fiction).

Dramedy is one of my favourite genres ever. Light-hearted enough to not take itself too seriously, sombre enough to emanates and encourages thoughtfulness. It has the best of both worlds… and I fear the Try Guys will choose only one in the future. The fear comes from them being featured on Youtube Rewind 2018.

In case you don’t remember, Youtube Rewind 2018 is something that can only be described as Youtube’s shameless effort to embrace advertising-friendliness by the means of disregarding the real circumstances of the Youtube communities. If you were a content creator who had never expressed discontent against the establishment or whose content was never deemed controversial, you would be the platform’s golden children.

You would never experience involuntary demonetisation and suffer any consequences for breaking any rules, ensuring a constant stream of fame and fortune. Such privilege is encapsulated by being featured on Youtube Rewind 2018. Basically, the Try Guys haven’t offended the Youtube establishment. Yet.

Of course, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with not being openly anti-establishment. The problem is not being so comes with a lot of perks and those perks may discourage anyone from being more thoughtful and truthful. Frankly, I understand why anyone would keep their mouths shut, especially if one is a financially-independent content creator like the Try Guys.

As I have said multiple times before, their videos have no hesitance in embracing thoughtfulness. If they intend to stay as the establishment’s darlings, there is a possibility they will refrain themselves from creating meatier and riskier content… or worse, will remove the thoughtfulness altogether. But, at the same time, I am also glad they are Youtubers instead of Hollywood personalities.

One thing that I and many other fans love about the Try Guys is their embodiment of healthy masculinity. They are willing to try things many men will feel uncomfortable about, including wearing make-up, wearing women’s pants, getting nail extensions, naked wrestling, drag performances and wearing women lingerie. Their masculinity is anything but rigid (which really triggers Alpha-wannabes Youtubers). And, thankfully, Youtube allows this so-called gender ‘deviance’.

No matter how much you hate it, Youtube is certainly more socially progressive than Hollywood. On the website, members of racial, sexual and gender minorities can enunciate their own authentic and unfiltered voices, some members of the ‘beauty’ community (beauty does not refer to personalities) are men and, of course, male Youtubers are popular despite or probably because of their unorthodox masculinities.

Compare the situation to one of Hollywood, where cis-heteronormativity is still the law of the land, where the groundbreaking character Newt Scamander is considered a boring male lead protagonist for not fulfilling the gender stereotype; while the most outspoken figures are indeed progressives, many of the values imposed by the higher-ups are still very conservative and outdated. Hollywood still has a long way to go.

In the end, no matter how tyrannical Youtube can, it is still free enough for male Youtubers to express wholesome and undogmatic versions of masculinity. So, unless the higher-ups decide they want to impose puritanical gender norms on the platform, I will still love the Try Guys regardless.

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How to ‘feel’ powerful?

*puts on a mask*

Yes, I said ‘feel’. Let’s face it, you know you are not powerful and will never be so! You will always be a pathetic bottom dweller that the upper dwellers will feast on! That’s a sad fact you have to accept!

But, that doesn’t mean you cannot ‘feel’ powerful. You can induce the feeling by fooling others and yourself about your make-believe power. Of course, I am talking about being a bully.

Before becoming one, you have to choose your victims. It always depend on where you are.

When at schools, you can pick on students who are poor, physically unfit or just plain different. When you see yourself as a member of society at large, you can pick on the ones who belong to marginalised groups like women, the poor, racial minorities, religious minorities, gender and sexual minorities and refugees. Basically, choose ones who most likely will not be protected by the authorities.

After you have determined your potential victims, you can start bullying them. Immediately, you will feel like a much more powerful! And trust me, you would not be the only one who senses your actually-non-existing power.

Indifferent bystanders, bullying apologists and even your victims will acknowledge its existence. In fact, the more your victims’ powerlessness intensifies, the more they will acknowledge it!

Oh, and apologists are your best friends! Not only they will defend your right to bully because they don’t see anything wrong with the bullying, they will also condemn or even punish your victims for having the dignity to fight back! Trust me, those apologists tend to be influential wherever they are. Their words are often taken for granted.

But, even if you don’t have apologists to back you up, rhetoric can be your weapon. You can defend yourself by slandering your victims.

Tell everyone that the weird kids in school will grow up as serial killers!

Tell everyone that the gender and sexual minorities are perverts who want to molest our children and/ recruit them to their perverted lifestyles!

Tell everyone that the poor are the ones who hold the economies down because they are greedy animals who oppress the rich!

Tell everyone that empowering women and members of the minorities will lead to men and members of the majority becoming second-class citizens!

Tell everyone that refugees are nothing but a bunch of cowardly rapists and ISIS, MS13 Trojan horses!

Tell everyone that your victims, NOT you, are the ones who commit atrocious acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings!

Trust me, there will be people who take your words for granted.

And yes, it is that easy to feel powerful.

*takes off the mask*

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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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