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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Toy Story 4: bittersweetness, quashing uneasiness and quality maintenance (a late review)

Warning: contains spoilers!

I was genuinely disappointed when Pixar announced the fourth instalment. Like, why? The third film has given us a strongly bittersweet finish to one of the chronicles that warmly occupied my childhood. A sequel would sacrificially bulldoze the highly emotional culmination to give way for more profitable yields. It felt scummy.

But, at the same time, I would still watch the film anyway. Pixar films have a special place in my heart due to their ability of narrating profound stories of humanity in spite of the abundance of non-human characters; I haven’t watched all because I missed their releases, not because of my lack of interest. Basically, my disappointment failed to squash my fanboyish eagerness.

And the film exceeded it by hundreds of miles.

Youtube Big Joel made a video titled Pixar and the Obsolete, in which he observed how Pixar films are all about characters coming to terms with changes and dealing with their increasing irrelevance. While I am not sure if it applies to every single one (e.g. Monsters Inc and A Bug’s Life), I still can agree with the assessment to a certain extent. Overall, the films do portray characters experiencing ups and downs in their lives and realising how life is inherently unstable and there is nothing they can do about it other than confronting the instability.

In the Toy Story series, this particular theme is very prominent in the third and fourth installments.

In Toy Story 3, Andy giving away his toys is the emotional climax of the film. In the end, the characters have finally accepted that he has fully grown and they are no longer Andy’s. For them, a new child means new adventures lie ahead, which should be embraced with open arms.

And it is not just the toys. Even Andy is experiencing changes in his life as well: he is leaving home for the university. Unlike his mom, he is emotionally taking it very well (or so it seems). Even when giving the toys away to Bonnie, he seems unfazed. Well, unfazed until Woody was in the picture.

Andy was initially very reluctant to let him go. But, knowing his age and where he is heading to next, he lets him go. This goodbye reminds us that Woody has a special place in Andy’s heart… and will always do. Andy has to bid farewell to his childhood and embraces adulthood.

What I love about Toy Story 4 is how it brings the unpredictability of life even further. Not only Woody gives up his voice box which had always been an integral part of his identity, he also decides to leave his new owner Bonnie and his old friends he has known for years to live as a childless toy with Bo. For me, it was unforeseeable.

The formula of Toy Story stories has always been toys getting lost, toys getting rescued by other toys and toys going back home. While Toy Story 3 breaks it a little by having Bonnie as the new owner, the formula is more or less the same as having an owner means having a home; not to mention that, due to the story’s premise, the emotional conclusion can be seen from miles away. But, Toy Story 4 decides to ditch it altogether. It gives the impression of life’s unpredictable nature and you will never know which paths you will take.

And that’s why I am scared. I always prefer to have complete control of my life, I always want to take any paths that I want. But, it begs to differ. The paths in front of us are limited and, whether we like it or not, we have to take the new ones and bring more uncertainty to our lives; choosing the old paths means we are moving in circles and we will never move forward. Toy Story 4 is one of those works of speculative genres that successfully reminds me of the reality.

Another thing about Pixar films is they know how to make me feel things. Unlike many of their family-friendly contemporaries, they believe there is no excuse for entertainment to tell hunky-dory stories. They believe good stories must encourage their audience to confront the unpleasant emotions within themselves. Basically, I am forced to become a human being. Ew.

Due to the aforementioned theme of the uncertainty of life, Toy Story 4 is even more emotionally profound than its predecessors. The pleasing and displeasing emotions are intense in equal measure. While not everyone may agree with me, I find this film terribly bittersweet. Even after leaving the theatre, I was still an emotional wreck for many hours. I was both heartbroken and overjoyed!

I never thought I would ever say this: I am glad Pixar made the fourth installment!

Oh, and speaking about sequels…

As I said before, I was apprehensive about Pixar’s plan to continue the series. But, my apprehension has been proven to be unfounded and, because of that, I am now actually open to the possibility of more sequels.

Obviously, we should never accept sequels willy-nilly. We must have high standards about how the continuation is executed. In the case of Toy Story, I don’t mind if the story formula stays the same as long as they tweak some parts in order to prevent foreseeability from taking shape. But, the emotionality is still the most important thing.

As one can see, the increasing emotional profundity parallels the series’ progression. It would be a considerable setback if Pixar decides to diminish it in the sequels; it is akin to raising a chick all the way to adulthood and then proceeds to shoot him/her down once he/she soars high in the sky.

Actually, that’s not a really fair comparison. It is literally easy to not shoot down a bird you raised. All you have to do is to not be an asshole. Making good art works, however, is far from easy.

I am no artist. But, I know bringing about a heart-wrenching piece requires both high mastery in the craft and good understanding of human nature. Undertaking the task of upholding excellence is certainly different from a walk in the park.

I must accept that my favourite film studio is run by humans who are certainly plagued with imperfection. While I haven’t watched Cars 2, I have heard about its less-than-stellar reputation among Pixar fans. I have watched Finding Dory and I am greatly disappointed by its lack of risk-taking and similarity to its predecessor. I cannot expect them to be excellent all the time. All I can do is to hope.

I remember reading an article (I forgot from which media outlet. So, take my words with a grain of salt) about how the producers are quick to shoot down ideas with low potentiality and are quick to kick out individuals from the screenwriting process if they are deemed incapable. Pixar’s higher-ups also consist of individuals with backgrounds in filmmaking and/or animation; consequentially, the executive decision-making is always based on the understanding of the craft.

If Pixar perpetually sustains such organisational practices, it would be hard for me to not have high expectations of them.

My initial thoughts about Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

I am not a gamer. Nowadays, I almost never play any video games; when I was younger, I only played racing games, not ones akin to Zelda and Final Fantasy. So, it is bold and stupid of me to review something which belongs to a realm I have almost zero experience with. But, I cannot help myself from doing it.

I mean, this is a Harry Potter game, after all. As a pothead who has relatively good understanding of the HP universe, I am credible enough to review it, even if I know next to nothing about the medium. But, in this case, I am confident with my game design critique.

Even from the first seconds I played the game, its flaws were immediately obvious: this supposedly interactive media work is anything but. Instead of allowing players to explore the settings in great details, it only allows us to stare at our avatars doing nothing but standing; they move only for doing tasks.

At first, I loved the energy points. The fact that it took four minutes to restore only one encouraged me to drop my phone more often. But, the more I play it, the more I am agitated by it. They force me to undergo choppy and ungratifying pacing, which leave a bad taste in my mouth; if I want a more seamless experience, I have to spend actual money.

God, I hate how on-the-nose the microtransactions are!

If we want to gain energy quicker, we must spend our gems. Sometimes, we need to wait hours for the next task and the only way to speed up the time is to spend some gems. While they are obtainable by attending classes, doing the extra tasks and reaching a new XP level, we never get them in bulks; therefore, spending money is the easiest way out.

One can argue this is how the developers of this free game get their cash; in other situations, I would agree with that sentiment. But, the problem is they also sell galleons which, unlike the gems, are extremely easy to obtain; if you want more cash, just attend more classes.

Thanks to my obsessive tendency to attend the virtual classes (can’t say the same thing about the real ones), even when I don’t have to, my galleons are almost always 50k, the maximum limit; they almost never go below 49k. That’s how easy it is to obtain them. While I can see the validity in the ‘income’ defence, the fact that they sell easily obtainable items show how greedy the people behind-the-scenes are.

If I want to implement a Marxist lens here, the feature is a reflection of real-life economic inequality; if one wants less discomfort, one has to spend more money. Obviously, this implementation does not hold strong ground; surely, the accessibility of education, healthcare and legal defence is more consequential than the ability to experience good gaming immersion. But still, the shameless display of greed is too grotesque to ignore.

The way the classes are designed also does not make much sense. While teachers mostly ask topically relevant questions, they also occasionally ask about irrelevant topics, like the colour of Madam Hooch’s eyes or the name of Dumbledore’s predecessor. To make it even stupider, we also have to answer our classmates’ questions, none of which are relevant to the lessons! But, there are also other features that I love.

You will also require to complete these three tasks: 1. trace your fingers along shaped lines; 2. tap an ever-expanding and shrinking circle and make sure it stops within the given outlines; 3. tap an icon in a vertical bar, make sure it stays within the marked area until it becomes fully green and you have only thirty seconds to do it; the only way to move the icon is to tap (going up) and untap it (going down).

What I like about those three tasks is they require our concentration; I still have problems with the first and it took me a long time to fully master the third. While I doubt they are the most difficult things video games have to offer, they are undoubtedly more superior the topically-relevant questions which enforce the traditional and often-worthless rote-learning. And that’s not the only good aspect of the game’s design.

The characters’ movements are often repetitive and when they assemble in large together (especially when they attend the Weird Sisters concert), each individual has the exact same movement, resulting creepily robotic-looking crowd of androids. When I mention bodily movements, I exclude facial expressions.

The characters are able to exude subtle, expressive and relatively true-to-life faces while still looking very cartoonish. Again, while there is nothing ingenious about it, I am impressed by the animators’ ability to avoid the uncanny valley which many in the industry still fall for.

Now, about the world-building aspect…

There is one Extra Credits video that discusses about kindness in video gaming. They cite NieR: Automata, a game where it encourages players to risk losing their save files just for the sake of helping their fellows, most of whom they will never meet. It is a contrast with other video games where helping others will give us more rewards, where the kindness is phony and insincere.

That video influences how I view Hogwarts Mystery, where we also get rewards for helping the main character’s friends. While getting more knowledge, empathy and courage points does make sense, why the hell would we get more galleons and gems for doing so? I cannot say if this can negatively affect the psyche of young players. But, it sure reminds me of the real life, where kindness is often phony and insincere.

Obviously, helping my avatar’s friends require interactions and they reveal how dreadful the game’s writing is. The dialogues are so cheesy, cliched and unrealistic, they make Rowling’s uninspiring writing style looks masterful in comparison. Frankly, in this case, I hate it because they distract us from how deep the characters are.

Okay, the characters do have problems. Barnaby Lee, for example, is a brawny and kindhearted airhead; he is two stereotypes combined into one. Ben Copper is fearful of literally everything. Merula Snyde, the main character’s enemy, is a Slytherin known for her constant gush of conceit and condescension. Madam Pince is an even bigger scowling guardian of the books. Rowan Khanna is a bookworm who enjoys studying. They seem like one-dimensional characters. Seemingly.

In general, it is impressive how the main character befriends Slytherins like Liz Tuttle and aforementioned Barnaby, despite not coming from the same house; it is a contrast with the canon where the characters have almost entirely volatile relationships with the Slytherins, who are seen as moral lepers. Even Merula will extend some goodwill gestures (albeit insults-laden) from time to time by helping the main character in a handful of quests.

And Merula is not mean just for the sake of it. She suffers from insecurity due to being a child of imprisoned Death Eaters; it also does not help she got backstabbed by fellow student, Tulip Karasu. No matter how mean and arrogant she is, I cannot help feeling sincerely sorry for her at times.

Barnaby Lee, another Slytherin who stopped befriending her for her nasty personality, is also a child of imprisoned Death Eaters, who were abusive to him. So, beneath that stereotypical kindhearted yet dumb facade lies a child who knows how it feels to be hurt and who presumably refuses to make others experience what he experienced.

The aforementioned Tulip Karasu is an eccentric and seemingly happy-go-lucky prankster. But, she sincerely regretted how she backstabbed Merula and she often convinces the main character how his/her nemesis isn’t as bad as she appears to be. And Merula is not the only one who is kinder than she appears to be.

I never remember Madam Pince showing a soft side in any of the books. But, unexpectedly, she gives the game’s main character and his friends house points for making her recall affectionate memories of James Potter and Lily Evans. Despite still being a stereotypical obsessive librarian, she has a soft spot for the students.

I think Severus Snape in this version also has a soft spot for the students. Well, not really. But, despite the aloofness, he is not a teacher who unfairly favours Slytherins and who bullies every student he deems weak. Basically, this version of the character deviates the canon. And I don’t mind it at all.

Snape grew up in a volatile household and was bullied by the Marauders (a fact many potheads love to sweep under the rug). Such individual would grow up either as an individual whose desire for vengeance turns him into a bully (and I wish some in the pro-Snape faction stop romanticising him)… or as an aloof one who detest bonding but still refuse to inflict pain on others, having first-hand experiences with it. While the latter is clearly not canon, the resulting alteration is not contrived.

I should also mention Rita Skeeter, whose depiction is a lot more nuanced. In the novels, she does nothing other than ruining the characters’ lives. But, in the game, the sleazy reporter encourages the main character to open his/her eyes to the ugly side of humanity.

While some may perceive this as cynicism, I consider this is as a dose of realism. She is right to assert that humanity is not all flowers and rainbows and perceiving it through a sugary lens will detach us from the reality. Well, she only lightly slaps us back to reality. But, it is still a slap, regardless.

Oh, I almost forgot about Ben Copper. So far, I see nothing deep about the character. But, what I love about him is how his existence gives the fixation with Hogwarts Houses a giant finger.

Yes, Ben Copper is not canon. But, in an article I made where I chastised the obsession with the school houses, I pointed out that not only the characters betray the values of their respective houses, the values themselves can be destructive in the context of education. In the end, substance is more crucial than labels.

Now, about the story…

So far, despite the poorly-written dialogues and the sometimes-superficial characters, I love it. I am personally intrigued by the never-ending stream of mysteries and I love how we often doubt certain characters’ motives, encouraging us to not fall for their potentially-deceptive veneer. But, as this game is still unfinished, I don’t know if the conclusion will be profound or disappointing.

In fact, there is a chance I will change my mind about this game once it is completed; I may end up hating the potentially-overdone revelations and I may end up finding certain characters deeper or more shallow than I previously thought.

As I am writing this, I am still on the 22nd chapter of year five, waiting for the next quests. I don’t know how long the devs will take to finish the game. But, I do know it will be long enough for me to change my mind eventually.  

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Casualties of feel-goodism

I have my share of experiences dealing with creatures whose only objectives in life is to feel good and feel good only. You know, the ones who refuse to have a grip on reality, the victims of ‘positivity’. Now, I am going to waste my days by writing shits about them!

Victim number one

January 6, 2017. Pewdiepie, AKA the Swedish kazoo kid, uploaded a video that tackles the infestation of ‘forced positivity’ on Youtube. He admitted how he manufactured ‘happiness’ for image sake and he regretted such sinfulness. He also expressed frustration with how his fellow Youtubers exploit ‘happiness’ as a part of their brands.

He claimed ‘forced positivity’ made him feel worse as it did not allow him to comprehend his negative emotions; he stated the only way to solve a problem is to deal with it, NOT to run away from it!

(Side note: ‘forced positivity’ is a redundant term as I believe ‘positivity’ itself is an entity born out of force. But, I will retain the redundancy for this segment as it is the exact term Pewds used.)

The reception was universally positive. For some time, he provided the community a thought-provoking topic of discussion. Judging from the positive comments in the comment section, it seems this video is a reason why Pewds turned into a much more respectable content creator.

Then, there is that one commenter.

Despite my insistence how ‘forced positivity’ sounds conspicuously dishonest, he/she was firm with his/her belief that it is beneficial to our psyche! Then, she/he gave me multiple links which he/she claimed supported his/her argument. I clicked them and they lead me to actual academic papers!

At that moment, I was ready to be proven wrong! I was ready to have my firm, strongly-ground belief to get debunked by peer-reviewed researches! It also didn’t help Pewds only cited one article which itself was just an interview piece! I read the papers carefully….

… And quickly realised how fucking dumb I was for letting him/her tricked me! From all the papers he/she showed to me, none of them mentioned ‘forced positivity’!

The research regarding how optimism can benefit patients’ health said nothing about ‘forced positivity’! It said nothing about hospitals forcing their patients to be ‘happy’! In fact, it is very obvious how they already had a jolly disposition prior their sickness!

The research regarding helping students with their emotional problems also did not mention ‘forced positivity’! In fact, its proposed solution was to help them confront their negative emotions and understand why they experienced them in the first place! That’s literally what I said! That’s literally what Pewds fucking said!

This commenter was either a delusional doormat or an arrogant shrimp brain who thought he/she could make me tremble in fear by simply sharing academic papers, too arrogant to realise some of us are willing to read them thoroughly!

Of course, realising his/her bullshit was exposed, he/she retaliated brutally… by simply accusing me of being in denial and that was it. He/she said words no more and deleted the entire thread!

I am confident to say I won the debate. Not only I had proven how my opponent’s evidences did not back him/her up, I also showed how they gave him/her the finger and backed my argument and Felix’s instead!

In my life, I never expected I would humiliate someone like that.

Victim number two

Now, moving on from an honest content creator to the dishonest ones.

I would not single Prince Ea out as the only internet personality who love to exude feelgoodism. But, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest sinners.

Besides making his fans feel good about themselves for simply listening to his sugary, meaningless words, he also loves being a hypocrite who preaches about not having fragile ego and then proceed to get butthurt when fellow content creators called him out and spewing harm by telling depressed people all they have to do to force happiness onto themselves! Yes, he is one of those arseholes!

And yes, I have interacted with a fan of his. But, the interaction was too short and insignificant; so, I am not going to focus on him/her. Instead, I am going to focus on an apologist of Instagram travelers.

I never paid attention closely to any of them until Cody Ko made a video in which he criticised them for deceiving the public regarding the true nature of travelling… and life in general. He was put off by the mawkishness and the deceitfully ‘beautiful’ imagery. While they are clearly not Prince Ea, they sure are in the same league as he is!

Then, there came a commenter I would name as Mr. Apologist from now on.

He condemned Cody for being a cynical hater who unfairly accused all travelers of deceit and who just wanted to squeeze the happiness out of everyone by dismissing the ‘soul-stirring’ messages. He accused Cody of hypocrisy because Cody himself is a regular traveller who uploads travelling content to his own Insta account. He thought demanding those content creators to reveal their sources of income is unreasonably invasive. Heck, he even thought Cody was mean-spirited for mocking others who were different from him!

Now, I will disjointedly dissect his statements.

I believe it is unethical of public figures to not disclose their finances. I actually used the word ‘transparency’… which admittedly sounds lame; unless your opponents are as pretentious as you, citing big words will never get you anywhere in a debate. But, thankfully, another commenter made a more sharp-witted argument.

He/she asserted how mentally-exploitable fans will be swayed to do anything to fund their trips, even if they have to sell their cars and houses, not knowing anything how their idols make a living for themselves! For some us, it is too plain obvious (I hate myself for not making that argument)!

But then, your beloved idols are always right; if they tell you travelling is the only way to enjoy life, you better fucking believe them! This problem is exacerbated by the syrupy messages, which a lot of us still fall for.

‘Chase your dream!’. ‘Live your life!’. I don’t know what wisdom people like Mr. Apologist saw in those inherently-meaningless words.

Everyone has a dream! But, like it or not, real life is a bitch and most of our dreams will never come true! Like it or not, doing routines is also living the life; routines can help us to reach destination success… or, at least, avert us from reaching destination failure!

It seems my mere mentioning of the word ‘routines’ triggered him badly. He started to claim Cody’s refusal to not talk about the downsides of routines was a sign of bias. I mean, seriously?

Considering how modern humans constantly complain about how life-sucking routines are, that would be idiotically redundant! In fact, the banality of routines is the reason why people like Insta celebs are famous in the first place; their lives are presented as anti-routines! Mr. Apologist might as well demand people to talk about how salty salt is! Oh, and he also accuses me of bias.

What kind of bias do I have? He never answered, despite my persistent questioning. He believed my so-called bias prevents me from seeing how horrible Cody Ko really was, how he was the person he condemned, how he was the real bad guy here!

Well, let me see…

While Cody is indeed a frequent traveller, he never uploads any deceptively beautiful photos and videos, he never insinuates travelling as the only way to appreciate life, he never preys on the emotional fragility of his fans, he is transparent about his source of income, he never spews meaningless ‘inspirational’ words and he certainly never scams his fans like Crea Tyler did! Oh, and about his bullying of others…

There is a difference between bullying and poking fun of others. It is evident by how some of his so-called ‘bullying victims’, including Jay Alvarez himself – one of those Insta travelers – , reacted positively to his videos! Every time Cody makes fun of someone, he always does it humorously and he always has good reasons to do so!

I am all for being one’s self as I have been personally benefited by it. But, at the same time, Cody’s so-called ‘victims’ produce cringeworthy content; they are either different just for the sake of it or they make sincerely harmful contents which any impressionable human beings should never watch!

People who belong to the first two categories cannot expect others to not laugh at them. The ones who belong to the third should be harshly condemned for their toxicity! So, not only Cody is not a bad guy, he is actually one of the good guys the world needs!

Mr. Apologist also knew Jay Alvarez responded positively to the mockery. But then, he proceeded to baselessly speculate that Cody would make a second video about his target and continue the non-existing drama. I said ‘baselessly speculate’ because the speculation was indeed baseless!

In the Tiny Meat Gang podcast, he mentioned Jay’s positive reaction… and that was it. He never made a second video about him; there was no drama between the two! But, Cody did make two more videos about Crea Tyler. Why? Because, unlike Jay, Tyler literally scams his own fans!

To make my conversations with Mr. Apologist even weirder, he also claimed to be a regular traveller as well. The fact that he was one is odd. Even travelling with the help of travel agencies still has many downsides, let alone one where we have to do everything by ourselves! It is either he lied about being one or he was just a fanatic member of the cult of ‘positivity’.

His devotion to ‘positivity’ not only encourages him to be delusional about the activity he supposedly had immersed himself in, but also to slander every single person who dares to snap him back to reality!

I initially wanted to suggest you to watch Cody Ko’s videos and see for yourself. But, if you already possess a mentality similar to Mr. Apologist’s, you would instantly side with him and condemn Cody and any other well-meaning commentators for being hateful individuals.

Casualties number mycountryreligionperfectifyoudontlikeitleavediehurrdurr

Unlike the previous casualties, these ones are a lot easier to identify. All you have to do is to point out the deep-rooted flaws of their respective – and beloved – groups. The sight of foam forming on their mouths is 100% guaranteed!

Defensiveness is the most common reaction. They always feel personally abused by any condemnations targeted specifically at the extremists! They will try to downplay the threat, accuse the ones who fear extremism of being alarmists and proceed to accuse the ‘others’ AKA marginalised groups as the dangerous ones! And their delusion does not stop there!

They also love attacking the mainstream media for spreading lacking journalistic integrity. I do agree media outlets constantly spread fake or sensationalised stories and hire personalities who constantly blur the lines between journalism and commentaries. But, we know damn well those are not the reasons why they hate the media!

They hate how the media constantly report stories of real widespread violence committed by their fellow ideologues, instead of focusing more time on exposing numerically-less significant violence committed by the ‘others’!* They hate how the media refuses to affirm their delusional worldviews!

They are so fucking delusional, they think the only fundamental goal of media outlets is to be their personal propagandists, to make them feel good about themselves and world they live in!

(*Side note: All acts of violence are bad, no matter how widespread or isolated they are! But, if one wishes to determine which pose the biggest threat and which are signs of deep-rooted societal problems, one must choose the ones that occur on an almost regular basis!)

From my personal experiences, those piles of pig dung often include nationalists, believers and even religious nationalists. Because of their abundance, I constantly encounter them both online and offline. But, I won’t discuss individual confrontations in details; I am already on page four and I am itching to finish this essay soon!

Oh, and some of you, my non-existent readers, may wonder why I consider those people as ‘positivity enthusiasts’ instead of fanatics. On the surface, claiming it is all about feelgoodism does sound too far-fetched. But, dig deeper and it would make more sense.

When one (accurately) labels someone as a fanatic, it means he/she has an absolutely unquestioning love for certain things by believing in their non-existing perfection and by always feeling good about them!

If one dares to point out the glaring imperfection, he/she would be infuriated by one’s refusal to let him/her feel good about the things he/she loves! He/she believes depriving him/her of ‘good feelings‘ is one of the greatest sins ever committed by mankind! Literally worse than any murders!

I don’t believe positivity is the root of fanaticism, which surely is a tangle of abstract intricacies. But, I believe it is a symptom everyone must be alert of.

How I deal with feelgoodism

Admittedly, I was also a victim of it and I always thrived to feel good about everything. Then, surprisingly, I grew up! I still don’t know how I escaped the fool’s paradise. But now, I have set up some preventive measures.

If certain messages bring me a mystifying surge of high spirits, I should never let my guard down; they may contain beliefs which equate happiness with delusions. But, at the same time, I should refrain myself from cynicism (easier said than done); the wholesomeness may also be genuine.

If the messages not only make me excessively feel good about myself, but also compel me to look down on others whom I impulsively perceive as ‘unenlightened’, red fucking alert!

I should avoid those messages at all cost and I should be wary of individuals who vomit and cuddle them! I sound like I am overreacting. But, I am sure you agree sitting high and mighty among the clouds is a vice anyone should never fall for.

Oh, and instead of ‘positivity’, I prefer to use these alternatives: hope and contentment. The former believes the storms will surely pass. The latter believes we can enjoy life despite the storms. Both believe happiness does not mean disregarding the dark clouds lingering above us.

While far from perfect, the methods I use have brought me a greater sense of self-awareness. They compel me to acknowledge how much of a delusional, self-righteous dickhead my younger self was.

Even though I still tumble to the realm of chimeras and piety from time to time, I become better at fleeing it thanks to those methods.

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My thought about Shane Dawson’s Jeffree Star series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, those people are idiots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, we go back to Shane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to report Youtube culture as a ‘journalist’?

*puts on a mask*

The first thing you do is to embrace a reactionary mindset. Youtube culture is very young and new; therefore, anything that possess at least one of those adjectives must be dealt with utmost disrespect and dishonesty. Obviously, those two sentences should be enough to be your starting points. But, I need to be more detailed with this.

If you are being entirely truthful, you would make Youtubers in a very good light. Why? Because, unlike most traditional media people, they have to work harder. When they started doing Youtube, their careers didn’t immediately take off; on average, it takes five years for them to finally make a living out of the website. Not to mention they also had to learn how to be the host, director, cinematographer, editor, scriptwriter and graphic designer all at the same time and they can delegate those roles only after they can afford to do so!

So, you have to ignore all of those aspects and focus entirely on their supposedly ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘nonsensical’ popularity. That way, those Youtubers will appear like kids who achieve easy fame and fortune by simply making pointless videos from their bedrooms.

When talking about their videos, emphasise on the ones that showcase nothing but simple and escapist fun. Never mention the more heartfelt videos that even many mainstream Youtubers have made. Never mention that some Youtubers solely make educational videos! In the end, ‘traditional’ entertainment will look like the one with high quality when everyone knows it is far from the truth.

Oh, and don’t forget to take everything out of context. You have to portray every joke, including the dark ones (especially the dark ones) as expressions of seriousness. When they make serious statements that are laced with reason and morality, you should chop some of their words to make them sound like the villains and their actually villainous opponents look like the victims!

But, you are a journalist. In the end, you should be objective. What should you do if you don’t want to appear entirely antagonistic? Well, you have to remember what your parents told you: money is everything!

Focus on how much money they make. Even if you don’t know the exact number as Youtubers aren’t allowed to disclose their earnings, act like you know the exact number! Every time you don’t have anything good to say about them, just be obsessive about their wealth to the point where you act like you deserve the money more than those Youtubers do!

Oh, and never ever talk about the amount of money they have raised for charity. Your audience is mostly a bunch of selfish, money-obsessed individuals. They will never be interested in wealthy and charitable public figures. They are only interested in the ones who wear greed and selfishness as their badges of pride!

I hope you understand the basics of Youtube culture journalism. If you want to see great examples of it, you can watch and read media outlets’ reportage of Pewdiepie.

I know people have said this before: I believe Wall Street Journal is the best when it comes to reporting the biggest name on Youtube.

*takes off the mask*

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How to be inspirational: the Indonesian way

*puts on a mask*

Well, it is a lot easier than it sounds.

The easiest way to be inspirational is to express how much you treasure old school values. Act like they are already forgotten, even though they are not. You don’t even have to practice what you preach. Just preach and people will listen to you fervently. Everybody can do this.

What if you want to elevate it to a higher level?

You don’t have to think anything new! All you have to do is to repackage those obsolete wisdom with a new lexicon and metaphors. Nobody will even bother to read between the lines. The surface is everything for them.

To intensify your messages, exploit your audience’s religiosity. If you involve their Gods and use a more scriptural language, they would feel more compelled to take you seriously as it has become a matter of heaven and hell!

Oh, and keep nuances out of your messages. Humans prefer to believe everything in life can be easily put into boxes. They hate to think life as an intricate and vague entity. Be a simpleton and treat your audience as simpletons as well!

Once you have a decently-sized devotees, you will have enough apprentices in your grasp. This is the time when you organise seminars…. and set the prices.

Making your devotees and potential-devotees pay for your services is good for you; it gives them the impression you are a teacher who is willing to teach! Offering free services insinuates you don’t care about quality. Keep that in mind: money equals quality!

In your paid services, there are two things you must include: anecdotes and emotional manipulations.

I initially wanted to say you must treat your anecdotes as absolute truths, more reliable than scientific data. But, subsequently, I was aware of its redundancy. Anyone who cares enough to listen the first place will devour anything you say. They will revere your words as ones of truth, more truthful than the ones of actual scientists and intellectuals.

Make them emotional. Play soppy music, show soppy imagery on the projection screen, dim the lighting, anything to enhance the manipulation. But, the most important thing is to make them see themselves as pieces of shit!

You can do so by making them recall their own past ‘sins’. What counts as sins? Disobedience against conceited authority figures, refusal to do religious rituals which you never found rewarding, having the humane desire of touching another human’s tinky-winky with your own. You know, outdated moral problems. Once the tears start gushing like water out of the poorly-maintained Situ Gintung dam, you have conquered your audience.

Does it matter if they have sincerely changed for the better after leaving your seminars? No, it doesn’t. What matters is they act like they have changed for the better. How much boasting they have made determines the level of your success. The higher, the better.

Obviously, you will get your own haters. But, worry not. Launching scathing attacks against them is unnecessary. Your followers will do the job for you.

They will condemn your haters for being too unenlightened to cherish the transcedental heart of your sermons. Too hedonistic, too materialistic, too atheistic, too selfish, any empty insults imaginable.

Oh, and even though I doubt you can use them to create your own cult, I am sure they can make great stepping stones.

*takes off the mask*

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Why I’m all for social democracy: an unconvincing, unoriginal and rambling argumentation

Okay, the title is a lie. There are some practices of social democracy which I am not a big fan of.

The Nordic Model, for an instance. The idea of high, flat rate income tax and extremely generous handouts are jarring to me; the former seems to discourage everyone from having savings and the latter is prone to abuse. But, I am not entirely opposed to the system.

I love the idea of providing free-of-charge education and healthcare, I am all for giving handouts to people who are unemployed because of reasons other than simply not having jobs (e.g. poor health), I am all for unionising the workers and I am open to the idea of implementing high income taxes for the super rich (not the middle class) and all while still embracing free market capitalism.

People complain such policies will cost taxpayers lots of money. But, isn’t that the point of taxation? To improve a country’s state of being? If that’s the argument, why bother paying taxes at all? Also, why are beneficial policies seen as financial burdens while increasing the budget for the most funded armed forces in the world isn’t?

I have made this rant many times before. One person gave me nonsensical replies.

First, he accused me of being arrogant; he said I acted like I knew more about how to make use of taxpayers’ money more than the government itself, as if ranks and power instantaneously guarantee you reason, knowledge and expertise. Well, that belief rings true to you if you are a feudal meritocrat who live among maggot-infested cadavers and hellfire.

I am not being arrogant, I am just embracing common sense. Education, health and good finance benefit a society just like balanced diets benefit our bodies. Because of them, we are able to live wholesomely and collectively move forward with our lives.

Second, he also said it makes sense for the US government to cut education funding considering the increasing ineptitude of American students in the recent years. In what infernal maggot-infested universe does that make any sense?

It is obvious the problem lies in how the education system runs itself. If I have a poor eating habit and your solution is to take away my food money, you are going to worsen my well-being as I would eat less altogether! Instead, you should encourage me (or force me) to change my life style. Cutting fund for education does not explain why the ineptitude exists in the first place. In fact, I am sure it will worsen the disease. You know, that one thing those fiscal conservatives supposedly hate!

Regulations. Oh, I almost forgot about them.

Why do some oppose them in general? What’s wrong with preventing exploitation of labours? Fatal accidents? Environmental disasters?

One common ‘rebuttal’ to those questions is another question, an egocentric one: what about freedom?

Goddammit…

If regulations that are meant to curb sordidness threaten your sense of freedom, what does that say about your character as human beings? I can’t help but thinking you embrace freedom not because you love righteousness, but because you want the free rein to abuse anyone as you desire! Did I just commit an ad hominem? Yes, I did. But, can you blame me or anyone for bearing such sentiment? No, you can’t.

Then, there is the ‘ineffectiveness’ argument.

They assert how regulations are inherently impotent in tackling human vileness. Why do they believe that? Is it because they have actual data to back those claims up? If they have, I want to read them. No, seriously. Prove me wrong that they are impotent in doing so.

Do they believe so simply because their beliefs say so? Well, if that is the case, why bother criminalising murder and rape when murderers and rapists still exist? Why bother having laws at all? They may as well embrace anarchism… which I am sure many in the right edge of the political spectrum find off-putting.

Then, there is also the ‘bad-for-business’ argument.

If your business cannot thrive without your corruptness, then you are not a good businessperson in the first place! In fact, if that’s the only viable way for you to make cash, you don’t deserve to be called a ‘businessperson’! The only title you deserve is ‘villain’!

Besides having actual business skills, what else do you need to have a thriving business? Well, living in a social democratic country sure helps in the long term.

You have to acknowledge the success of your business also depends on the public’s state of being. The more prosperous the people are, the more likely they are able to pay for your products and services. The more skilled the people are, the more likely you can hire good workers.

If you are well-educated, not only you would be skilled, you would also be adept at learning new skills which means you would have a relatively good chance in the job market and therefore, you would have some level of ease in grasping financial stability.

If you have access to good and free healthcare (assuming you have a healthy lifestyle yourself), you would have more time to work, to find work or to learn new skills and therefore, you would not have medical debt and, once again, have a better chance in the job market.

Strong environmental protection means one cannot exploit natural resources recklessly to satisfy one’s greed. It means we would still have them in large supplies for future use and we would not pollute the nature, preventing any public health problems. Focus on the emphasised word. Remember what I said earlier.

If you think that would increase the prices of products, then we should do more scientific researchers to discover greener alternatives. In the long-term, that’s the wise choice considering how limited natural resources are. What would we do when they cease to exist and there is no available replacement? Cry?

God, this is getting long…

Another anti-regulation argument I encounter is this: the free market regulates itself! Well, if you believe that corporations are inherently ethical and moral entities, that would sound believable.

In theory, a for-profit entity would try to win its customers’ heart by providing them satisfactory products and services at reasonable prices and a sleazy one would not survive a day in the market.

In theory. In practice, it is an entirely different reality.

First of all, not everyone becomes upstanding on their own initiatives. When driven by the desire to gain profit, the more corrupt among us would do anything to satisfy it. Who cares about fucking up the people around you? All is good when profit is gained.

Second, many customers don’t give a fuck about moral integrity. Who cares about suicidal overseas labourers? Who cares about homophobia? Just let me have that smart phone and chicken sandwich!

Third, the customers don’t always have the options. When corporations are aware about their monopoly in certain regions, more of than not they will drop the pretense and show their true faces! Oh, you hate our low-quality, expensive, yet essential services? What are you going to do? Move on to our non-existing rivals?

Remember the man who called me ‘arrogant’? I want to pick on him behind his back one more time.

He said it was unfair of me to bash the big businesses as evil. He pointed how a corporation is a collective that embodies a horde of distinct human individuals. Therefore, a corporation cannot be evil. On the surface, his argument seems well-rounded. But, that actually makes me despise him even more.

For one thing, a corporation is indeed a collective… a formal collective with actual ranks, voluntary membership and which members share the same common objectives. Its mechanism is different from the one in a religious or ethnic group. Such lack of nuances in his thinking does irk me. But, this is actually the least anger-inducing thing about his argument.

While he declares the ‘humanness’ of corporations, he also actively denounces governments as evil entities who should always be shackled from interfering with the people’s life, brainlessly not realising each government also consists of different human individuals!

His belief about big businesses’ sainthood convinces me that his outcry against authoritarianism and police brutality is solely motivated by his anti-big government libertarianism, not by his sense of humanity. When it is purely ideological, your moral outrage is insincere. Does that also count as an ad hominem? Yes, it does. Can you blame for reacting negatively to such hypocrisy? No, you cannot.

When it comes to deciding which groups knows what’s best for our countries, we cannot reach a consensus. Some of us may say the people should decide everything, as they are the majority. Some of us may say it should be the government, as we all need strong authority figures. Some of us may say it should be the corporations because they bring wealth. Obviously, I disagree with all three.

While I believe in democracy, I also cannot stand with the ‘people-are-always-right’ belief. It is literally the bandwagon fallacy! If you decide the rightness or wrongness of something should be based on popularity, then you unwittingly let the tyranny of the majority come into being.

While I believe in the effectiveness of strong authoritative figures, I also believe they should possess actual competence, intellect and moral compasses. The belief that ranks and powers instantly guarantee rightness is literally the appeal to authority fallacy! If you give authorities unrestrained power, they would violate your human dignity every time opportunity arises; the prosperity they prosperity is nothing but bribery.

I acknowledge big businesses for their contributions to the societies. Besides providing jobs, they also encourage the growth of innovations which are beneficial for the people in the long-term. But, you should not let them be the ones who control our lives.

The idea that a government should be run like a business infuriates me! It implies every single deed we perform must have direct monetary returns! People who adhere to such doctrine barely try to conceal their money-worshipping tendency.

I am also cynical about corporate philanthropy. If corporations actual care about generosity, they would not stamp their logos at every facility they build, they would not brag about it in their ads. Nowadays, indirect marketing is good marketing; they successfully blur the line between marketing and PR. In the end, what is good for the corporations is mostly good for the executives.

I am glad I took that basic PR course.

In an ideal world, a near-perfect society is the one where the voters are well-informed and civil, where the authorities are not only driven by the desires to benefit the people, but also take scientific and ethical consideration in their decision-making, where the businesses restrain themselves from exploiting the masses. As I said, in an ideal world.

No wonder escapism is popular. The real world sucks.

*****

In case you didn’t know, I am an Indonesian. Every time I make comments about other and more developed countries online, I often got these responses:

‘Why do you make a fuss about other countries’ domestic issues?’ ‘

Shouldn’t you just stick talking about your shithole third world country?’

Well, I make a fuss because I can. If foreigners can make false assumptions about my country and invade other countries to satisfy their white saviour complex, why can’t I make relatively more sound observations about their beloved and so-called perfect countries?

Also, I actually envy countries where social democracy is a widespread ideology. I wish it has a bigger presence in Indonesia. I wish more Indonesian voters vote for social democrats. I wish more Indonesian politicians embrace social democracy. But, considering how even publicly-funded primary schools charge tuition fees, the idea of social democracy is too alien for the masses.

The US is indeed not a social democracy. In fact, in many ways, the system seems to treat social democrats as parasites. Not to mention the so-called ‘left-wing’ party in the US Congress is behaving like a centrist one, often shares the neoconservatism and neoliberalism of the right-wing party. But, despite everything, I envy how the ideology is openly and proudly embraced by a large chunk of the American population.

I envy how aware they are of how the system they live under is in an ill state of being.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR

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

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

Oh, and one more thing before I conclude it:

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

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

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

*sighs*

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What are real jobs? Why should you love them?

*puts on a mask*

Besides being a job where constant hard work are required (as some jobs don’t require any work at all), a real job is where profits are constant, something beloved by old-fashioned establishment, where creativity and individualism are discouraged or even branded as sins, where traditions restrain your every single move, where men of dignity thrive…

…and the last part reveals why we should love real jobs.

Men of dignity are not ones who have mind and sentiments of their own, assert their own individuality, crave freedom and open to changes. Men of dignity are ones who prioritise money over idealism, who let their thoughts and feelings entirely dictated by superiors and societies, who love any forms of hierarchies, who will die for the sake of keeping the status quo alive.

This is why I hate artists and entertainers! They are independent, open to new ideas and they always have it easy!

Like seriously, do you expect me to believe that Mona Lisa was difficult to create? Do you expect me to believe that I couldn’t have drawn the whole thing in a matter of minutes?

Sometimes, I cannot differentiate jokes and sincerity apart.

*takes off the mask*

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