My thoughts about Geography Now

As I am an Indonesian, it is not a surprise the first video I watch from this geography education channel is the one that encapsulates my home country; it was suggested to me probably because I searched for videos of foreigners trying Indonesian food. But, thanks to that one video, I ended up on a Geo Now binge and I almost watched every video on the channel in less than 48 hours.

As you can immediately tell, I am deeply impressed by the channel!

Okay, admittedly, there is one potential flaw: I have mixed feelings about how it depicts conflicts. Paul and his friends will take the roles of individual countries or sectarian groups and they will start ‘bickering’… which look very childish and comical.

Of course, it can be problematic as it seems to belittle the actual resulting deaths of said conflicts. But, at the same time, the petulant depiction is also fitting considering how clashes often occur simply because of ridiculous reasons, like our inability to deal with inconsenquential human distinction. I know I am reading too much into this as I am sure Paul also cares about the entertainment values. But then, I believe authorial intentionalism can be dismissed when a work has unintended effects on the audience.

Some viewers are starting to feel the channel has become more cringeworthy to watch due to its jokes. I am not on board with this criticism because I think the older videos are even more so with their poorly-delivered jokes. Nowadays, not only the performances have greatly improved, the humour has also become more self-aware; it depicts Paul as a shamelessly ‘punny’ person and, to a lesser extent, a big fat know-it-all.

I am also not on board with the criticism regarding the involvement of his friends; they believe having another on-screen personalities really ruin the channel. For me, their presence increases the dynamism. Besides, literally since the first episode, Paul has been receiving help in the post-production process! While the channel is indeed his brainchild, we must also acknowledge its collaborative nature. It is literally called Geography Now, NOT The Paul Barbato Show!

Mispronunciation is also a recurring theme/joke in the channel; in some cases, he never bothers to even try pronouncing foreign words and opts to speak gibberish or call certain individuals as ‘this guy’ or ‘this *insert occupation here*’. While some may perceive it as disrespectful, I perceive it as refreshing honesty. He acknowledges his linguistic limitation and, whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are too lazy to pronounce foreign phonology accurately! As someone who calls himself The Stammering Dunce, I cannot fault Paul for this.

Also, when he knows how to pronounce certain foreign phonology, especially one from the languages he has limited proficiency in, he will try his best; some people still deliberately mispronounce foreign words and names despite knowing how to do so properly… probably because they are hypocritical pricks who can’t care less about embracing other cultures and yet they get mad when foreigners mispronounce their names and languages repeatedly.

Unsurprisingly, just like any media outlets in existence, the channel cannot escape the criticism regarding informational inaccuracy and omission. But, even then, Paul does not seem to receive a barrage of hate in the comment sections… and for good reasons.

When he omits certain information and/or gives the wrong one, it is because of honest mistakes. He tries his best to produce relatively short yet very concise videos to the point where he literally forgets to include common knowledge; even his China episode fails to mention the Great Wall! There are no indications of him having any political agendas. He fulfills his promise to be as objective as possible; his Rohingya crisis video is a great evidence of this. Oh, and he uses Flag/fan Friday and Filler Week videos as corrective and supplementary components. He is cognizant of his own oversights.

And that’s not his only ‘secret’ for success.

Another important factor is his love of travelling. You know, the real act of travelling! Instead of being content about ‘experiencing’ the foreign lands by falling for the plastic charms of tourist traps, he prefers to taste how the locals live! That, I assume, encourages him to drop his own preconceived notions when researching for new episodes.

He also has a diversity of sources. Besides the scholastic ones, he also takes input from his viewers whose home countries will be covered soon… and I really love this approach!

Whether we like it or not, even with academic rigorousness, those scholastic references can still be prone to informational deficiency and cultural propensity. While the words of his viewers are purely anecdotal, they can provide vantage points that are raw and unobstructed by any methodical filtration. Of course, thankfully, he also strictly distinguishes which info is academic and which isn’t; when he cites anecdotes, he will explicitly present them as such! I believe this route leads him to destination success!

The materials are relatively meticulous and compact while maintaining some level of relatability to the average people who lack any ‘scholarly’ disposition. It is scholastic enough that some teachers actually play his videos in their classes, scholastic enough to convey the defects of the enquired countries… while still ‘populist’ enough to please some flag-wavers and over-zealous foreign cultures enthusiasts.

Of course, as an Indonesian, I have to talk about the Indonesia episodes.

One criticism I have is how he described Indonesia as a marriage of the Middle East and Southeast Asia that results in many babies. While it is not inaccurate, it is far from complete.

Islam -the biggest religion in the country- is indeed from the Middle East, some regional cultures do have Arab influences and our national language does have Arab loanwords. But, some of those regional cultures also have South Asian, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese influences, our national language also has Sanskrit, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese loanwords, many government institutions use Sanskrit mottos and the Indonesia is a former Dutch, Portuguese and, to a lesser extent, British colony. But, because of our mostly Austronesian roots, we are still more similar to predominantly-Christian Filipinos than we are to the predominantly-Muslim Middle Easterners.

Paul mentions how most Indonesian mosques do not have the typical domes. In reality, most of them actually do. The ones who don’t were mostly constructed before the 21st century, designed with traditionally-influenced architectural styles. Back then, most Indonesian Muslims were less likely to equate Islamic identity with the Middle-Eastern one.

Paul also does mispronounce Indonesian pronounciation. But then, as I said before, learning foreign languages is difficult… and the majority of Indonesians, even ones who are not raised with ‘regional’ cultures, have a poor comprehension of our national language. So, him pronouncing ‘C’ as ‘K’ instead of ‘CH’ should not be a biggie.

And those are the only flaws I can think of in his Indonesia videos. I believe he does a great job in unveiling the intricate foundations of my motherland.

He showcases how the country is so diverse that the biggest and second biggest ethnic groups comprise about forty percent and fifteen percent of the country’s population -respectively-, that anti-Chinese sentiment exists here (albeit he said it briefly), how Islam is practiced differently in Indonesia from the one in the Arab world -especially regarding the rituals-, how Indonesian Papuans are extremely distinct in many ways from the rest of their fellow countrymen, how the government only recognises six religions and how our national symbol is of Hindu origin despite being a predominantly-Muslim nation! Oh, and I think his description of Aceh as the black sheep is very fitting!

When it comes to international relations, he showcases how our relationship with Saudi Arabia is very horrible, how we and Malaysia are frenemies (due to our cultural similarities and differences) and how we have a surprisingly good relationship with Japan (despite the history)!

And those short descriptions alone easily defy how most of us perceive Indonesia!

On one hand, it is certainly not a peaceful and tolerant haven many people love to advertise. Indonesians are still very racist, especially against every person of Chinese descent. We are still religiously schismatic to the point we disenfranchise adherents of indigenous beliefs by not officially recognising them as legitimate religious groups!

But, on the other hand, Indonesia is certainly not a carbon copy of Saudi Arabia and many Indonesians detest the idea of becoming Saudis! Aceh, one of the thirty-four Indonesian provinces, certainly does not represent the entire country! The citizens, especially the Muslim ones, are extremely diverse and any generalisations about them (which I admittedly still make from time to time) can be easily and deservedly labeled as shallow or even outright dehumanising!*

(*Yes, I know one cannot generalise even the most homogenous collective in existence. But, I do believe generalising a very diverse society is considerably more intellectually dishonest than generalising one that is significantly less so.)

I should also commend him for his dissections of the bicolour flag and the coat of arms. While the Hotel Yamato story has become a legend here, I did not know red and white represent the duality of nature in Austronesian mythology, ancient Indonesian Hindus also used red-white flags and teaks leaves and mangosteen rind were used as red textile dye!

I also didn’t know the number of feathers in our version of Garuda represents the date of Indonesia’s independence day! He is one of the handful of foreigners that have educated me things I genuinely didn’t know about my own homeland!

Overall, I believe Paul Barbato is a successful educational Youtuber. He has a firm grasp on the (often-needlessly) complicated domestic and international borders, he has a firm grasp on the (often-preventable) sectarian conflicts, he can be more knowledgeable about the enquired countries than their citizens do…

And, most importantly, he unveils how each of the world’s sovereignty constantly defies our racial, cultural, political and religious preconceived notions of them.

In spite of his rapid-fire and comedic performances, he still manages to demonstrate how humanity is not what most of us think it is… and judging from his videos’ comment sections, there are others who agree with me.

My suggestion for him is to expand his scholastic references; maybe add peer-reviewed academic papers into the mix! Knowing the nature of academic journal, it can be more burdensome for the production. But, I am also confident it can also bring an even greater depth to the content!

Postscript:

There was a criticism of his Eritrea episode in which he supposedly ignores the country’s human rights violation. The thing is… he never does!

In his summary of individual countries’ history, he often mentions their authoritarian leaders and historical violent events. Again, as I said before, the unintentional omission of information regularly happens as he tries to create relatively-short yet concise videos!

Maybe the critics hated how Paul did not spend the entire episode talking about the country’s human rights violation. Why should he? His channel is called Geography Now, NOT Human Rights Now!! His job is literally to teach geography, to summarise individual territories of the world, not to be a white saviour!

Besides, he will not talk about human rights violations in great details unless he comprehends the intricacy of each individual case; again, I have to mention his Rohingya crisis video! He is not one of those pseudo-activists who think human rights can be discussed simplistically!

I was planning to put this section much earlier. But, I called it off because I take this a bit too personally. The first time I watched the video, there was literally only one comment that criticised Paul for supposedly ignoring Eritrea’s dark reality (albeit with many likes). When I watched it again, the comment was gone. And still, that comment bothers me to this day!

I don’t know why. But, I am annoyed every time someone says the only appropriate way to chronicle certain countries is to babble about their human rights issues! Maybe it has something to do with their insistence to demonise the places they hate and yet know little or nothing about!

I wonder if Paul is annoyed by this as well. In the first Iraq episode, his friend Keith portrays a character who is agitated that Paul does not go straight to babbling about terrorism. Even though I cannot be sure about his motivation to incorporate the character, I am glad he did. It feels like a not-so-subtle middle finger to those white saviours.

Once again, there are times when one can dismiss authorial intentionalism.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

What can we learn from the ‘tragedies’ of H3H3 and Bobby Burns?

It is simple: if you are not careful, your words will become your deadly boomerangs. Learn it from this Captain Obvious who is still getting haunted from his words.

While the disgrace of our idols is hard to deal with, why are we even surprised by it? Why do we constantly forget they are human beings just like us, who can commit mistakes and hypocrisy just like us?

Oh, and we also seem to forget both Bobby and Ethan are not just mere Youtubers, they are also Youtube commentators! They make a living out of critiquing anything Youtube-related: Youtube the corporation, Youtube communities and especially fellow Youtubers! Being perceived as the voice of reason and virtue means one is on a high pedestal; therefore, the fall from grace will be significantly harder and more violent.

I believe our disappointment is less about them letting us down and more about us having extremely high expectations of them. Admittedly, to this day, I am still guilty of venerating my own idols. But, even then, there are some occasions when a small voice in my head saying, ‘they are flawed, just like you’; slowly, I learned to take heed of it. Subconsciously, I anticipated the day my heroes become public (or, in this case, Youtube) enemies number one. Their fall from grace, while regrettable, is somewhat foreseeable for me.

I have found some internet comments which condemn Youtube commentators as nothing but mean-spirited and hypocritical hate-mongers who will never stop what they are doing until the entire world is drenched in their negativity. Admittedly, some are indeed guilty of such sin. Some.

Youtube commentators are the Youtube watchdogs. Like it or not, while they don’t have the power to maintain order, they are the ones who put the scorching spotlight to the sins committed in the platform. They are the ones who make sure those sinners, while admittedly often let unpunished, have their dirts unearthed. They are the ones who make sure the truths are ingrained in the collective consciousness.

Yes, virtually everyone, especially Youtube commentators, can end up as Bobby and Ethan. But then, everything in life has risks! For me, the potentially brutal dishonour is worth the intellectual and moral contribution to the shared life we belong to (ostentatious, I know)! Love it or not, constructive criticism can help us move onward!

Even though I am not a popular and respected content creator, I am certain there is not a single advice that can entirely avert this ‘tragedy’ (if you can call it that). ‘Be self-aware!’ seems like a good advice. But, Bobby and Ethan already possessed some level of self-awareness… and yet here they are (even though one can argue they didn’t embrace it strong enough)!

As I am one who constantly resigns himself to the ever-powerful force that is reality, let me repeat a cliche saying: nothing, including the good ones, lasts forever. The fall from grace will always be an inevitable prospect.

…..

Before I conclude this, I need to talk about Bobby specifically.

I used to watch him. I loved his film analysis and Youtube commentary videos and I still do. Just like my fellow fans, I hate how he has changed as a content creator. Well, hate and love.

I wish he was more transparent, more measured and more tactful with his transformation, preventing his fanbase from enduring the ‘shock’. I wish he still make those intelligent cultural dissection.

But, at the same time, I also cannot help myself from admiring him. I believe changes can be beneficial by liberating us from the moulds and he keeps changing despite the backlashes. While tactless changes can destroy one’s career, invariability will surely increases one’s possibility of enduring irrelevance and the mass’s fatigue of one’s creations. So, even if Bobby does refrain himself from revamping his channel, he would experience a decline in his career sooner or later.

I notice some people blame Shane Dawson for this ‘tragedy’. They believe, if the meeting never happened, Bobby would still be a good Youtuber. They believe the fact that Shane hired him to take the Sunday slot compels Bobby to pander to his then-employer’s fanbase. While it sounds like a valid conjecture, I also have mine… which I personally prefer more.

He changes after meeting Shane, a Youtuber he had criticised previously, probably because he realises how the target of his criticism was also a human being. In fact, while collaborating with PsychIRL, he admitted how he felt bad about harshly criticising certain individuals after meeting them in person, realising (again) how they were also human beings.

(Side note: in his H3 podcast appearance, iDubbz also shared the same sentiment as he also met the individuals he criticised in person. In another episode of the podcast, Ethan believed his channel encouraged the growth of mean-spirited commentaries on the website).

While pandering to Shane’s fanbase seems like the probable cause, I personally believe Bobby transforms himself because he no longer wants to be a hypocritical and mean-spirited Youtuber. Yes, I don’t have a solid evidence to support that. But, this assumption of mine is based on the words he actually had said.

Also, even though his content does become far more inferior, at least the new one is not harmful. Pointless and boring, perhaps. But, it is harmless. I mean, at least, he is not like those Youtube sceptics end up as alt-right mouthpieces (and I end up feeling wary of every individual who label themselves as ‘sceptics’).

We should also remember he is still twenty-one years old (almost twenty-two). Already an adult, he is. But, a middle-aged individual can still run into obstacles when pursuing his/her individuality, let alone a college-aged youth. I believe demanding any content creators, regardless of their age, to nail their feet to certain niches is cruel and will needlessly burden their sense of self.

I don’t know what will the future hold for him. He may return to commentaries and film reviews… or he may not. He may retain a long-lasting career… or he may bust it soon. But, I am certain, if his career is sturdier than expected, he will revamp his channel again. At least once more.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

My thoughts about Shane Dawson’s concluded Jake Paul series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

My thoughts about Shane Dawson’s ongoing Jake Paul series

As some of us know, Shane’s The Mind of Jake Paul series is still ongoing. As I am typing this, only two videos had been uploaded. Admittedly, I can’t tell if it is going to rock or bomb. But, I can confidently say the backlashes Shane is receiving are idiotic and blown out of proportion.

First of all, look at the trailers. The editing intentionally made him look like a sinister, monstrous figure who was ready to slaughter you once you let your guard down, exuding vibes not unlike of a psychological thriller flick. Heck, even Shane said Jake would not like what the series is going to be about! Basically, it very much looks like an anti-Jake ‘propaganda’.

And yet, people dishonestly accuse Shane of giving Jake a platform to voice his side of the story, to give his haters ‘perspectives’. That makes me wonder if we watched the exact same videos. They may as well hear Shane saying ‘I hate Harry Potter!’ and then getting accused of ‘loving Harry Potter!’.

Shane is also criticised for his ‘manipulative’ presentation which supposedly overselling the creepiness by utilising unsettling music and sound effects and symbolically-fitting stock videos. For me, this is just another case of unfairly demanding journalistic integrity from entertainers.

Just like Stephen Colbert and his buddies, Shane Dawson is first and foremost an entertainer! His job is to entertain people. He is not a self-proclaimed journalist and he does not have a background as one. What he cares about is to showcase his own vantage points. I mean, his previous series were based on the exact motivation!

His Molly Burke videos were about him getting to know a person who perseveres despite life tribulation and, to a lesser extend, dealing with his fear of blindness. His Tanacon videos were about him confronting a close friend who was in deep, hot water. His Jeffree Star videos were motivated by his curiosity regarding his controversial and mysterious acquaintance.

His Jake Paul videos, the first two at least, were motivated by his fascination and uneasiness for a frankly terrifying personality disorder. It was all about Shane’s thoughts and feelings. No scholarly paradigms, no objectivity. Only subjectivity. If Shane explicitly proclaims himself as a journalist, then one has a good reason to hate his ‘manipulative’ presentation.

Oh, and back to people who accuse him of giving Jake an even louder megaphone.

They threatened to unsubscribe if Shane kept going with the series. I don’t know if they kept their promise. But, frankly, it would be lovely if they did. Yes, one of my favourite idols would have less subscribers. But, at the same time, there would less irrational pricks in a fandom where I belong to.

I can’t wait to watch more of the videos. I wish Shane keeps his promise about keeping the positive light away from Jake.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Cherishing chronicles through unwonted means

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.