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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Editorial: Six Ways To Make Me Hate.

Thanks for bearing with me with the late reviews these past five days, guys. We should now be back on posting at the usual roughly-midday time.

Editorial: Six Ways to Make Me Hate.

I was going to start this editorial with 'I hate a lot of things', but actually, I don't, really. I hate remarkably few things – most things I like at least enough to give a 'Not my cup of tea, but you do you' recommendation for. Stuff I actually hate, that I review with nothing good that I can say about it, is few and far between (much to my chagrin, hate is entertaining), possibly in large part because I try not to watch, play, or read things that I hate.

Still, there are some things that will make me instantly hate something. This isn't an exhaustive list, by any means, and I bet more than a few people could pick out a few things I forgot to be here.

Impart A Political Or Philosophical Message With the Sublety and Grace of an Anvil To The Face.

This is weird, because like Chris Hemsworth, I remember when
this dude was on Home and Away.

Here's a general rule: The less well thought out your political message is, the more likely it'll be lobbed at the audience like a brick thrown by a very angry Tea Partier.

Hey, Fahrenheit 451, written because Ray Bradbury was apparently concerned that the rising popularity of radio and television would lead to people hating books and burning them and ranting about their contradictions, because apparently radio and television have never contained contradictions.

Hey, The Purge, which posits that if you remove the rule of law for twelve hours a year, people will start killing each other instead of stealing, parking on yellow lines, trespassing, or, most likely of all, sitting at home and watching reruns of Friends.

Hey, Fight Club, whose premise is largely 'men just aren't allowed to be men any more arglbarghlfargl'.

At least try to have a delicate touch with your message and, for god's sake, run it by some other people before you publish something about it. Think critically about the message you're imparting. Examine how many of your own biases went into it and, more importantly, examine how much of it is just that you're incredibly pretentious and want to feel deep and thoughtful without actually being either of those things.

But for god's sake, if you have a message or a theme, you don't need to beat your audience around the head with it. They're smart. They'll get it. Be cool.

Be Cool.

Be a Call of Duty game.

“That seems unfairly specifi - ...”

Well, quite.

Whitewash Your Characters (If You're Adapting Something).

Ah, yes, charismatic South Asian man Khan Noonien Singh.

This is something I probably shouldn't have to explain, or find myself in a position where it even occurs to me, and yet, and yet.

We all know why whitewashing happens: Because executives, or even the actual on-the-ground creators of the adaptations, are uncomfortable with the idea of protagonists that aren't white. We've seen it recently with Big Hero 6 (somebody tried to convince me that Fred is Totally Meant To Be An Ainu Still in that film. A nearly-ginger, blue-eyed, incredibly pale Ainu) and Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness (somebody tried to convince me that it'd be more racist to have this charming, erudite, dangerous man be South Asian), and seen it further back with kerfuffles over Akira casting (somebody tried to convince me not to care), and with M. Night Shyalaman's The Last Airbender film (somebody tried to convince me that it was a fantasy film, so it didn't matter).

Frankly, we should be past this by now. We definitely should be past defending it, and yet every single example I've listed above has had staunch defenders.


Be Obviously Wish Fulfilment for the Writer, Especially If Your Writer's Name Starts With 'S' and ends with 'Teven Moffat' Or If You Intend To Later Write A Terrible Retelling of Hamlet.

“Okay, it's not fair to single out Steven Moffat and Orson Scott Card.”

No, no, it really is fair.

Here is every Steven Moffat show in a single sentence: There is a geeky white dude and everyone loves and admires him because he is beautiful and amazing. His run on Doctor Who has been characterised by characters falling for the Doctor left-right-and-centre, by prolonged speeches about how wonderful he is, and by characters being reduced to props for the Doctor's radiance.

Sherlock is much the same, with the thrust of the show so frequently being that Sherlock is a one-of-a-kind special snowflake whose intellect is so far beyond other people's that his personality issues (bizarrely labelled as 'high functioning sociopathy' which does not and has never existed) are rendered insignificant and people fall all over him anyway.

(Let's not even get started with Orson Scott Card and Ender's Game, which is basically the sweaty, panting fantasy of a geek in his early teens, only it was unnervingly written by a man well into adulthood.)

But let's be perfectly clear here, I like wish-fulfilment shows. Pokemon and Digimon are wish fulfilment shows, without a shadow of a doubt, and I adore both of them. RWBY is pure wish-fulfilment. But a good wish-fulfilment show fulfils the wishes of its audience, not its creator: What Moffat and Card exemplify is someone committing the fantasies they think about between the sheets at night to paper and then expecting people to love it like they do. 

Also, weird eyebrows.

Be Unrelentingly Grimdark.

"I have a great idea for a Superman adaptation, guys."

I don't think I have to explain this, so this will be a short one: If your story is so dark and grim that there is never any hint of light or humour, and it feels like bad things are happening just because they're bad, then I'm not going to be affected by your dark themes, I'm just going to find them comical, and then rapidly boring.

Also, don't say it's realism. Don't talk to me about realism. Realism is 'Sometimes Fires Go Out.' Real life is long periods of monotony and people getting by broken up by the occasional crisis: A good writer can make that interesting, but let's not confuse 'realism' with 'everything is awful and horrible and bad and wrong', because real life isn't like that.

"Hey, guys, I have a great idea for a Batman adaptation."

Be So In Love With Your Own Worldbuilding That I Think You Should Marry It.

You know what's the worst for this? Hard science fiction. Like, really hard. The kind of science fiction where, actually, you wonder whether the point was to tell a story at all, or whether it was to demonstrate just how much thought and effort the writer had put into creating his world.

Let's be completely clear here, Isaac Asimov, the father of hard science fiction, barely talks about the science behind his stories. Same with Arthur C. Clarke. If it's relevant, it comes up, and the principle will be talked about just enough that you can keep up with the plot, and then both authors will drop the subject, because they are first and foremost telling a story, and they both realised that.

(Asimov, I suspect, would be rather annoyed by people trying to apply the Three Laws of Robotics to robots in other fictional universes, as if the Laws were absolute scientific truths that occur naturally from the creation of robots, and not notional laws meant to enforce order on dangerous artificial beings. That's neither here nor there, it's more just a side note.) 

Not all robots.

But it's not just science-fiction that does this. Fantasy has a tendency to do this. Anything marketed as dystopian fiction has about a seventy percent chance of doing this. I get it, I really do: When you put a lot of effort and research into building a world, you want everyone to know about it. I have a project now firmly on the back burner that required me to spend hours studying maps of Russia, and I profess, I would talk your ear off about the research for that.

But not in the story itself, because I don't want to bore my audience. The same principle applies. 

I don't know why this is here. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great
example of not doing this. 

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