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On Criticism

A day behind, but as they say better late than never. I don’t know who ‘they’ are but I’m glad they came up with a clever way of saying, ‘well at least I’m here at all’. In any case, in light of the Golden Globe awards Sunday I wanted to talk about something that interests me about the media.

People say that if you don’t have any haters you probably don’t stand for anything. I agree. I also believe this same logic can be applied to criticism. It’s not that I don’t trust people who are positive or optimistic (I’ve mentioned my feelings on that before), it’s that I don’t tend to believe in people who like everything. You can easily tell when someone is bought and paid for because even when you love something that doesn’t mean it can’t be looked at critically. That doesn’t mean you love something any less, it means you as an audience are engaged.

Sadly I often see people on fan cites or on social media who show blind excitement for things without realizing that criticism isn’t inherently negative (in spite of our associations with the word) and that it can be a friend to progress. Take for example a show I think is very well made and important for kids: Steven Universe. I could talk a lot about why I love this show and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s still important to look deeper. As I said before this isn’t just hunting for negatives. One of the things Steven Universe does well is gender. It’s characters are genderless gems who for the most part all identify as female (this is important) and of course the human/titular Steven, who is only part gem identifies as male. Steven isn’t afraid to cry, be kind, wear pink, or take the passive approach while the gems are all pretty much soldiers. This matters because in our society people operate under the notion that gender is a strict rigid concept with little to no flexibility. Steven Universe essentially squashes that and this helps make the characters three dimensional.

That being said, I can understand that the ‘courage to be kind’ message can feel a bit difficult to swallow given that not everyone can afford to nice their way out of bad situations. I also understand that the series might be hard to get into for some because it starts off rather slow. I actually didn’t start watching until the second season came out so I bi-passed some of the episodes that dragged and got straight into Stronger Than You **. Admitting these things does at times feel like a betrayal, but rest assured if Rebecca Sugar is as creative and open minded as I think she is, she probably wants to improve her craft. That can only happen if fans reach out and share what they think works and doesn’t work.

Now, before you start firing up you twitter or blog I want to reiterate that being only negative is just as shitty for progress as being only positive. Attacks on peoples personal lives and appearance aren’t positive feedback that is bullying. There’s a difference between being upset your ship isn’t becoming canon because that’s not the direction the story’s going and when it’s clear that race or gender play a role in why there’s no love connection between characters with chemistry. If the latter is the case then facts are your friends, but don’t go after people’s families or loved ones.

To put it simply, if it’s not going to help keep the artist engaged or help them grow than it’s not good criticism. Take it from someone who’s taken several English courses with group sharing. I know when I’ve written crap so it does me no good for you to praise my work when I’m sure you know what could use improvement too. Praise is good for the ego and it’s okay to gush about something you love, but there’s no need to get hurt when someone goes the extra mile. Chances are they love the show/film/book just as much and want society to keep doing better.

*Featured Image: Criticism of Star bucks- They sometimes need to be better listeners/be more cognizant of people’s names (I’m not Tina!). However the service was still friendly and I didn’t wait long.

**Stronger Than You is an awesome song, but if you’re new to Steven Universe and want to build up to it I’d recommend waiting to hear it.

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