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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Bad Media Criticism

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Welcome to my YouTube channel!

My name is Detail Detective, and Im here to tell you why all your favourite media is

terrible in my five-part video: This Childrens Show Is Garbage, and Heres Why.

Part One: The Plot.

So in this frame, Fairy Princess Sparkletinas sash is sky blue, andin the next shot

of her, her sash is cerulean.

Clearly, the animators do not care about consistency or quality.

Not only that, but were told shes a time traveler.

Why doesnt she just travel back fifty years and kill Prince Bloodysword when he was a


Oh, lemme guess: because she "doesnt want to kill anyone”?

We all know what that means: Sparkletinas a fascist.

Fairy Princess Adventure is officially cancelled.

Over the past three years, media criticism and video essays have blown up in popularity.

Lindsay Ellischannel went from about 5,000 subscribers at the beginning of 2016

to more than half a million now, Dan Olson, or Folding Ideas, has gone from about 2 thousand

to more than 200,000, and scores of new video essay channels, like me, Big Joel, or Taylor

J. Williams have started popping up.

Unfortunately, quantity doesnt always equal quality.

And, sadly, a lot of what passes itself off as good-faith media criticism isnot.

In particular, content like Cinemasins, the Nostalgia Critic, and more recently, a lot of multi-hour

video essays dedicated to dissecting certain shows end up doing more harm than they do


I know this is probably pretty ironic coming from the person who likes to make videos complaining

about certain TV shows for a living.

Especially because I, too, like to use attention-grabbing titles and thumbnails to encourage people

to watch my videos.

And its very possible that some of my own videos have fallen into some of the traps that Im

going to talk about here!

I mean

Id like to think the stuff I make isyou know, analytical and goodbut Im

not discounting the possibility that it isnt always.

Along a similar vein, Im also not saying that the people who create bad media criticism are

bad people.

Just that the content they create isnt always good.

What I primarily want to talk about is bad-faith criticism of media, and why I think its

ultimately harmful to the- in my opinion, good idea- of analyzing the things we like.

So first of all, how did we get here?

Criticisms of various films, TV shows, games, and podcasts on Youtube are not new.

In fact, theyve existed ever since the platform did.

And if you follow any history of YouTube, most people will cite the Angry Videogame

Nerd as one of the first YouTube content creators to bring media criticism into the collective consciousness

of mainstream YouTube.

In 2006, shortly after YouTube was created, James Rolfe started posting videos where he

would play this easily angered, bitter guy ranting about various video games.

And this is an interesting case; this is a guy who, in his early videos, was definitely

playing a character.

In these videos, the Nerd was the butt of the joke; the intention was to laugh at this

pathetic guy getting overly offended about old video games.

But a strange thing started happening: people took his reviews seriously.

They liked him.

Pretty soon, Rolfe started making serious reviews of video games, and sharing his genuine


Not only that, but other YouTubers quickly started to imitate his format, even going

so far as steal specific jokes and criticisms verbatim.

I wont talk about this too much, mainly because its already been discussed.

If you havent seen it already, a YouTuber named Quinton Reviews had a very interesting

video about the Angry Video Game Nerds influence over YouTube as a whole, and Ill

link it below.

A year later, a similar creator ostensibly playing an angry character, Doug Walker, or,

the Nostalgia Critic, surfaced.

His videos were similarly focused on getting obscenely mad over nostalgic content, the

main difference being that he primarily focused on movies.

Once again, a similar theme started to surface.

He initially chose to really separate himself from his character, making it clear thatThe

Nostalgia Criticwas a pathetic nerd who got angry over nothing.

But, as his content became more and more popular, his videos became more about sharing his genuine


In fact, nowadays, he hosts content on YouTube thats just him and his brother watching

movies for the first time and authentically reacting to them.

And, oftentimes, his initial reactions end up making their way into the Nostalgia Critic

reviews, albeit in a more grating tone of voice.

So while we initially got these reviewers deliberately playing these easily angered

characters who you were clearly not supposed to agree with, the line betweenwhat the

character thinksandwhat the creator thinksbecame a lot more blurred, until

you got a sort of review style that was justan angry guy sharing his genuine negative

opinions about media, but likewith a lot of screaming and swearing”.

And, this review style- angry man screams about how terrible things are- did dominate

YouTube for a long time.

Thats not to say that channels based on thoughtful critiques of various forms of media

didnt exist.

You did have some similar channels who were affiliated with Channel Awesome that made

analytical content

I mean, Lindsay Ellis started making videos in 2008, albeit not remotely at the same analytical

level as her videos today.

But, with a few notable exceptions like Beyond The Trailer, these YouTubers were not the

ones receiving the most clout.

Rather, critics who were the most popular pre-2010 did largely fit into the Angry Screaming

Dude mold, and aspiring critics mostly imitated them.

YouTubes increase in popularity, especially in the early 2010s, saw a notable increase

in the diversity of review content.

This is when a lot of channels who are now household names began to make videos.

Among others, Cinemasins, Screenrant, Ralph The Movie Maker, and The Black Nerd began

regularly uploading reviews, all using different styles and formats.

Some of these worked, and some of these did not.

While the Angry Screaming Dude style of content did continue to be popular, we also saw the

rise in formats liketwo or three people sit down to talk about movies unscripted

orstylized reviews with original music and visuals”.

And one particular format thats recently taken the internet by storm is the video essay.

Its hard to say exactly who was thefirstYouTube video essayist, mainly because the

first YouTube videos that functioned as formalized essays read out loud over clips from whatevers

being reviewed werent yet calling themselves video essays.

With that said, one of the earliest very popular people to use this format to criticize media

was the Nerdwriter.

Although his first video upload was over seven years ago, his initial videos were primarily

unscripted vlogs where he discussed his thoughts on various issues like Scientology and the

Iraq War.

Around late 2013, he started transitioning to scripted film reviews, still using the

facecam format without any supplementary materials to talk about movies like The Hobbit.

Then, in May 2014, he made a video called The Mythic Potential of Comic Book Films,

in which he discussed various comic book movies with visual and auditory accompaniment.

From that moment on, all of his videos began to use this format, to massive success.

The Nerdwriter now has nearly two and a half million subscribers, a far cry from his vlog


Another YouTube channel, Every Frame A Painting, began using the same format around the same


The channel was created by two friends, Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou.

Their first video, analyzing the 2009 film Mother, was posted in April 2014; their videos

began incorporating music by May.

These videos focused primarily on the technical elements of filmmaking, like different ways

to visually portray text messages on screen, or how to best use music to portray emotion.

Although their last video was posted in September 2016, and theyve officially announced the

end to their channel, the format popularized by these two channels remains massively successful,

and Every Frame A Painting still boasts a million and a half subscribers despite its

two-year long inactivity.

Although its doubtful that these two channels were the first people ever to create YouTube

video essays, they were some of the most popular in the formats early days.

From there, many channels followed the video essay craze; Now You see It started his channel

and began creating video essays in June 2015, Lindsay Ellis made her first video essay in

April 2016; this was when her channel began to grow into the double digits, and Folding

Ideas posted his first video essay in August 2016, once again receiving a massive boost

in followers.

Most of these essays primarily focused on either the usage of specific filming and editing

techniques to achieve certain effects in film, overarching trends in several films, or things

we may not have noticed about specific films, like Inglourious Basterds or Phantom of the


The first really popular video essays that were primarily about criticizing those films

and explaining why certain aspects didnt really work were Lindsay Ellis’.

Again, thats not to say she was the first person ever to do it, but she was definitely

one of the first to get really popular doing it.

Now, like I said, videos explaining why certain things were bad have existed since YouTube

did; we have things like Cinemasins and the Nostalgia Critic.

But this format- an analytical one that was presented in the same style as a formalized

essay- was relatively new.

Once again, this kicked off a trend of heavily critical video essays, which brings me to

one video in particular that I want to talk about.

Sherlock Is Garbage And Heres Why is a video essay posted in May 2017 by game critic

and leftist YouTuber hbomberguy.

Its nearly two hours long, and it goes into an exhaustive list of the various problems

associated with the popular BBC show Sherlock.

I definitely found myself disagreeing with certain aspects of the video, but on the whole,

its a well-researched video that makes several legitimate points about issues with

the show.

Even if I dont fully agree with every criticism he mentions, I think its a well-made attempt

to engage in good faith with a show that he dislikes, and I dont have anything negative

to say about it.

The video currently has nearly 3 million videos, and just like The Angry Video Game Nerd of

days of old, its inspired several copycats.

Those are less good.

As far as I can find, the first use of theblank is garbage and heres whyYoutube

format originated with hbomberguy; the first time he used it was in a video game review.

Although that one actually has more views than his Sherlock video, it was only after

the Sherlock review came out that people really started to imitate this title structure.

Indeed, the past year after his Sherlock video came out has seen dozens of videos imitating

both his titling conventions and the actual structure of his content to varying degrees

of success.

Two of the most popular videos imitating both hbomberguys branding and his content are

two videos by a YouTuber named Lily Orchard, respectively titled The Legend of Korra is

Garbage And Heres Why, and Steven Universe Is Garbage And Heres Why.

Both of these videos are similar lengths to hbomberguys, at times use the same jokes

as his, and are structured in the exact same way.


But Im not here to criticize those videos for being ripoffs or whatever, nor are these

the only videos that I want to talk about here.

What I do want to do is use these videos as well as channels like Cinemasins and The Nostalgia

Critic as examples of what happens when good principles, like comedy or media criticism,

get so distorted that they end up doing the exact opposite of good-faith criticism.

So now that everyone is on the same page vis a vis context, Id like to talk about some

of the common features associated with media criticism that is not good.

One interesting thing to note about some of these media critics is that their niche is

centred around specific types of movies or shows.

You have people who focus mainly on animated films, people who focus mostly on religious

media, and people who focus specifically on things that they dont


On its own, theres nothing wrong with any of this.

Its a good idea to brand yourself in a recognizable way, and do things that are personally

interesting to you.

But in the latter category, solely doing negative reviews, you can start to run into a few problems

because of the nature of YouTube.

Youre probably not going to run into this problem as a small channel.

But, once you get big enough that you can rely on YouTube for your primary source of

income- think, channels like Red Letter Media or Screen Junkies- you can no longer only

focus on things that interest you.

As much as you might want to make eight videos talking about your favourite obscure 1975

documentary, you do need to eat, and around video

3 or 4, people will probably stop watching.

So, what a lot of these bigger channels do is that they review whatever is topical at

the moment.

CGI Jungle Book movie is coming out?

Theyll make a video about the original Jungle Book.

New Avengers movie coming out?

Theyll talk about something Marvel.

A popular movie is about to be released to Netflix?

Well talk about that one.

Whatever is currently relevant is whats most likely to generate the most clicks and thus the

most revenue.

Once again, theres nothing inherently wrong with talking about things that are popular.

But, when your niche is negative reviews, and youre pretty much bound to reviewing

specific movies, it no longer becomes about you giving your actual opinion.

Instead, no matter what the movie is, its predetermined that your opinion is always

going to be negative.

Even if the movie is excellent, it becomes your job to hate it.

And that often means looking for the most minute details to criticize, even when those

details end up having little to no bearing on the films central message, story, or


Were talking things likeif you pause the movie at this exact very specific moment,

you can tell theyre using a stunt double, so

Movie Bad!”.

I see no reason to be vague.

Im mostly talking about Cinemasins here, although other channels do do this as well.

But Cinemasins is particularly frustrating with this,

and that's mostly because the channel is extremely popular, and it informs how a lot of people

look at media.

I wont talk about this for too long, mostly because Lindsay Ellis explained it very well

in her Beauty and the Beast review, butcritiques that are mostly about pointing out

the tiniest plot holes or acting obtuse about a small element because it wasnt explained

in perfect detail have become so popular that theyre affecting how films are getting


I mean, the guys who made The Winter Soldier were such big fans of Honest Trailers that

they deliberately designed their movie to be ashonest trailer-proofas possible.

Which means were seeing more and more films where they try to pre-emptively catch these

tiny problems and spend ages agonizing over small details to the detriment of the larger


We also see this with sequels and remakes trying tofix plot holes

that were never really problems to begin with.

Oftentimes these arent even real plot holes, they're just elements that werent initially

explained to exhaustion, likewhere did Nagini come from in Harry Potter?”.

And the thing isawkwardly overexplaining every small detail of your world to avoid

that kind of nitpicky criticism doesnt make for very good movies.

Thats not to say that its all reviewersfaults and that the actual creators hold

no responsibility in this situation, but the increasing popularity of framing nitpicks

as well-substantiated criticism definitely plays a part in this.

And what Cinemasins does to kind of absolve themselves of any criticism of the content

they create is to just say that what theyre creating is satire.

I swear, some of these people think that real life has cheat codes, and that you can just

say literally anything and never have to explain yourself or be held accountable if you utter

the wordsits satire!”.

The idea with channels like Cinemasins, as well as Nostalgia Critic and similar channels is that these

arent the real opinions of these people.

Theyre playing characters, who are these annoying guys who nitpick small details.

You see, they tell you, youre not really supposed to like them or empathize with them.

This is dishonest.

Part of the problem here is that we know for a fact that some of these criticisms these channels

put out really are the genuine thoughts of their creators.

Channels like Cinemasins and the Nostalgia Critic also doout of characterreviews,

where they just talk about the movies they saw normally, and oftentimes, theout of

charactercriticisms and thein charactercriticisms are the same.

Sherman from Peabody and Sherman had a sex change.


He's so young!

Didn't you have a feeling? Didn't you have a feeling? I had a feeling.

So Vera comes home to her daughter,

who is presumably Sherman after he got a sex change.

Which let's be honest, we all saw that coming.

Again, it's like... the movement of this guy could be funny,

it's like, they're on to something, but they're not talented.

His career is on the rise, let's see if we can put a stop to that by casting him

as someone who's supposed to move funny,

but instead moves like a sped-up inflatable outside of a car rental!

Cinemasins also often puts outnitpicksthat are unresearched and factually

wrong- its not a stretch to understand why this is bad media criticism.

The excuse they employ here isoh, we put them in on purpose so people can correct us!”.

Even if this is true

thats not good satire!

Imagine if The Onion sometimes published real stories and sometimes published fake stories,

and justdidnt tell you which was which.

And then imagine if real news sites saw how popular they were and started to copy them!

It would be bad.

Basically, these channels want their opinions to be taken seriously, but they also dont

want to be held accountable for any mistakes that they make.

So, instead of getting either real criticism with well-substantiated points, or real, funny

satire where someone fully commits to the character ofunlikable nerdto make

a point about media criticism, you get this awkward in-between stage from these kinds

of channels.

Their points are presented with enough legitimacy that people in the comments do take their

opinions seriously, but theyre filled with enough inconsistencies that the actual meat

of the content is pretty bad.

And because their opinions are taken seriously, their criticism style goes on to affect The

Way Movies Are Made.

Just to be clear, Im not claiming that Cinemasins or the Nostalgia Critic are singlehandedly

responsible for any particular movies being bad.

If any one person were able to Ruin Movies, I would be genuinely impressed.

But I do think that the content these people create, and their ensuing popularity, is a contributing factor.

All in all, media criticism that literally does not care about whether the core of

a movie or show is good or bad, and only focuses on inconsequential details, isn't particularly


And this is more likely to happen when youve built a niche around creating a negative review

of whatevers popular at the time.

Finally, the reason this is bad is because this nitpicking becomes so popular that it

bleeds into real life and into how real movies end up getting made.

Whether this is the fault of the YouTubers, the viewers, the filmmakers, or a little bit

of each is a difficult question to answer, but either way, criticism thats not made

in good faith isnt a great starting point.

So, its not really a stretch to understand why the former category is bad.

I mean, deciding before you even go see a movie that you have to actively find things

to hate about it is just never going to make for fair and nuanced criticism.

But, there are a lot of instances of """"problematic""" media criticism where the critic really is

expressing a strongly-held opinion of theirs.

For example, you have Lily Orchards respective videos about Steven Universe and

the Legend of Korra being garbage.

This isnt a channel that just makes videos about whatever new movie will generate

the most clicks; it seems like she only talks about things that she genuinely cares about.

And its clear from watching even five seconds of her Steven Universe video that she feels

very strongly about this particular show.

Sugar, you are such a fucking creep!

Jesus Christ, Rebecca, are you on fucking ambien?

Do I think Rebecca Sugar is a fascist sympathizer? No.

Do I blame anybody who comes to the conclusion that she is based on Steven Universe's content? No.

Now, Im going to

use this Lily Orchard video as a case study for this particular problem, but I do want

to make it clear that she is by no means the only person guilty of this.

Im also not choosing Lilys video because I want to personally attack her, nor do I

encourage anyone else to do so.

This is, unfortunately, a very popular trend as of late, and I chose Lilys video because

I think its a microcosm of a lot of the problems with this particular type of media criticism.

From the fact that her video imitates the aesthetic structure, but not the analytical

substance, of well-made media criticism to the unnecessary personal attacks on the shows

creator, this video exemplifies many common issues incriticalcommunities.

One important thing about Lilys video, as well as many other similar videos, is that theyre

made by people with a very limited understanding of what the process of creating shows or movies

is actually like.

That doesnt mean you cant be a media critic unless you went to film school or whatever,

but it does mean you should do your research about how the industry works if youre going

to talk about it.

For example, a substantial chunk of her video is dedicated to criticizing the fact that

Steven Universe goes on extremely long hiatuses punctuated with large bursts of episodes all

at once, which makes the shows pacing awkward.

In and of itself, this is a perfectly good point, and its a valid reason to not enjoy watching

the show.

But then, Lilly turns around and blames this on the shows animators and storyboarders,

claiming that this is somehow emblematic of their laziness.

But this is just factually incorrect.

The shows crew has repeatedly stated that they have no control over the scheduling of

their show, and that those decisions are entirely up to the network.

This video regularly performs these kinds of factually incorrect overextensions; for

example, Lilly blames showrunner Rebecca Sugar for designing a contentious scrapped character

that many felt evoked racist imagery, despite the fact that the character was created by

Lamar Abrams and Hilary Florido.

She then criticizes the animation, pointing out some size inconsistencies in certain characters

and a few animation mistakes.


But, she then ascribes all of the animation errors present on the show to Rebecca Sugar

specifically, because Sugar draws the key frames.

If you have literally any knowledge of how the animation industry works, you know that this is just not true.

You just cannot blame one person for all of the animation problems within a show, and

repeatedly singling out one person expresses more of a personal problem with them than

anything supported by fact.

Furthermore, Lily claims that Rebecca Sugar stole several gamebreaking twists, such as character

Rose Quartz being the alter-ego of supposedly dead leader Pink Diamond, from fans, pointing

to the fact that fans had theorized about the twist years before it was revealed.

Now, besides the fact that Lily seems to think that foreshadowing working exactly as it was

intended to somehow means the show stole the theory from its fans, you would know this

happening is literally impossible if you did even five minutes of light Googling on how

long it takes between an animated episode being planned and the episode airing.

It can quite literally take over a year for an episode to be written, storyboarded, voice

acted, sent to Korea for animation, produced, rendered, and sent off to the network for


This means that while the episodes that hinted at Rose being Pink Diamond were airing and

theories were developing, the episode revealing the twist was already in production.

Lily either doesnt know this because she chose not to do any research, or knows this

and does not care because the truth of the matter cant be used to insult Rebecca Sugar.

And this is a theme that's consistent throughout this video, and many others.

Lily clearly hates Rebecca Sugar, calling her a fascism apologist and athoroughly

loathsome person”, among other things.

And because of Lilys personal dislike for Sugar, shes turned to ascribing characters

and episodes that Sugar didnt even create asproofof her detestability.

In short, shes taken an unconstructive personal opinion, and tried to back it up

with factually incorrect evidence that shes framed as objectivity.

This kind oftear-downvideo has unfortunately become more and more common.

Instead of explaining why something didnt work in a productive way, a lot of media criticism

has devolved into a desire to definitively destroy something.

[softly] That was a very alliterative sentence.

Failures in storytelling or animation are frequently ascribed to one singular person-

this is a common theme in Nostalgia Critic reviews- and creators are often described

with personal attacks on their character.

And because this media criticism is often made by people who are uninformed about the entertainment

industry and have chosen not to do any research, they feel more like personal opinions than

well-substantiated essays.

Unfortunately, this illusion of authority has real effects.

As it turns out, as long as you speak in an authoritative tone of voice, have some cool

background music going on, and play some clips from whatever it is youre talking about,

people tend to assume you know what youre doing.

Thats not to say everyone who uses this structure is being disingenuous.

A lot of really great video essayists use this structure!

I use this structure!

And its precisely the fact that people are imitating that structure, imitating the

aesthetic of a well-supported essay, but their actual content is filled with inaccurate information

and personal attacks, that is so deeply frustrating.

Now, just to be clear, everyone is entitled to their own opinions about whatever they

watch, and Im not saying youre not allowed to complain about something you didnt like

if youre not an expert on the entertainment industry.

On the other hand, these people frequently frame their personal opinions as objective truth.

Its notI dont like Steven Universe”, itsSteven Universe is objectively horrible”.

You might be able to get away with that if youre backing up whatever youre saying with

evidence, like Lindsay Ellis and other video essayists do.

But when your video is just about trying to tear something you dont like down instead

of providing any real analysis, its not reasonable to frame what youre saying as

if its just objectively correct.

Overall, YouTube allows pretty much anyone to make videos and talk about things that interest them.

And thats overwhelmingly a good thing, because it makes knowledge more accessible

and doesnt restrict ones ability to express oneself to a select few with connections.

It wouldnt be right to claim that only people who review movies for newspapers for

a living, or people working in the entertainment industry, are allowed to criticize things, and its

great that more people are able to build a platform based on well-made content.

The downside of that is that anyone who knows enough tricks to sound authoritative

can be taken seriously, even when theres very little substance there.

I mean, if I were a casual viewer watching Lily Orchards video and I hadnt done

any research into how the animation industry worked, I probably would have believed her

when she said the shows animation was bad because of Rebecca Sugar.

And when people are only interested in tearing down something that they hate, and they do

so in a way where they frame their personal opinion as objective truth, they're not creating

a positive contribution to media criticism.

Its not about thinking up ways media could be better, or helping foster empathy for other


Its just disingenuous and frustrating, and it contributes to a culture of personal

attacks and misinformation.

YouTube is great because anyone can make a video and talk about whatever they want.

And YouTube is terrible because anyone can make a video and talk about whatever they


As a whole, the nature of this website has shaped the way we criticize things, and has

even shaped the way TV shows and movies are made.

There is a lot of really great work on YouTube centred around analyzing and criticizing various

forms of media, be it looking at the technical elements that went into making certain shows,

thinking about the real-world implications of certain art forms, or focusing on story

and performance.

But, there is also a lot of work that doesnt seem concerned with making good content, and

instead focuses on either low-effort criticism that generates the most clicks, ortearing

downart that the reviewer personally doesnt like.

Both of these types of work are often filled with incorrect information that might not

be immediately obvious to a viewer.

And both of these criticisms often have a lot of aesthetic similarities to more well-made content, and

present their opinions as objective fact.

That is bad.

Now, I know Cinemasins isnt going to stop making nitpick videos any time soon, and people

arent going to stop watching them either.

Im not asking anyone who watches this to unsubscribe from their favourite channel.

But we should remember that those channels are kind of like potato chips: theyre

a fun snack and theres nothing wrong with enjoying them, but just because theyre

easy to digest doesnt mean we should think theyre healthy and have them for every meal.

If people can take one thing from my video, it would be to check out some really great

media criticism channels as well, and Ive linked some of my favourites in the description.

The potato chip metaphor has made me hungry, so I think Im going to go grab some and binge

some Lindsay Ellis.

Or do some more CalArts doodles.

I think I may be onto something here.

On top of a special thank-you to all my patrons,

I would also like to specifically thank Jacob Benck and Jacob Furtado for joining my $20+ tier.

Welcome. I hope the Discord server is fun.

The Description of Bad Media Criticism