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March 19, 2012 / Bradley

Stop Having Fun: Anime Fans Should (Kind Of) Stop Mocking Bad Anime

Pictured: ICE OVA, which I consider the worst single anime I’ve ever seen. One day, it deserves a proper takedown.

MST3K was the worst thing to ever happen to nerd humor.

Sure, there’s other nerd touchstones that have ground out their welcome by repetition. The Princess Bride. Monty Python & The Holy Grail. Portal. I Can Haz Cheezeburger. But MST3K had a different, and more insidious, effect. It made being a funny asshole about artistic failure more than just acceptable, but the default mode we fall into when writing, talking about, and watching bad movies. And that’s not okay.

That’s not because MST3K is a bad show- I know just the opposite is true. I don’t consider myself a fan, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of the series, and appreciate the skill it takes to do that kind of humor. And part of that appreciation comes from painful life experience, both in my own awful attempts in imitating that style and having to sit through others attempting the same. It ain’t easy- hell, even MST3K was rarely off the cuff, with each joke largely scripted over several viewings of the same movie. It takes work to be funny, and practice to make it seem so easy. Folks attempting to do the same without practice, work or even natural talent should fail when they try to do the same thing. That’s to be expected, so even their unfunniness isn’t why I think MST3K has poisoned the way we talk about cartoons irrevocably.

My problem is that MST3K has been so successful in changing the way that we look at bad entertainment, that our impulse is to try to be funny when we react to it. In and of itself, mocking anime is not a bad thing- many of my favorite websites and writers on the Internet specialize in doing just that.  But I think that when we make mockery our main objective, we lose the opportunity to have other, interesting conversations about when and why anime fails to entertain, and close any dialog with folks who might have enjoyed that anime and could offer a perspective we didn’t consider, perhaps even getting us to enjoy what we disliked on a second viewing.

Bad anime can fail for as many reasons as a great one can succeed, and these reasons can be interesting to write, read and talk about. But mockery can undercut the thoughtfulness it takes to get to those reasons. They can coexist, sure, but if being funny is your primary objective nobody will notice your interesting and thoughtful points. And personally, thoughtful take-downs of bad cartoons stay with me and influence me more than funny and angry take-downs. A good example of this is Plinkett’s review of The Phantom Menace. Sure, it’s funny (and weird and creepy), but it’s mostly concerned with laying out in obsessive detail why the movie fails to be any good. And I think that’s the reason those videos were so successful- people like listening to even thoughtful negative reviews, and are willing to sit through an hour’s worth of video to hear it. Because- shockingly enough- the only audience for reviews isn’t people who want to know if something is any good. It’s also- and I suspect primarily- people who want to know why they enjoyed or even hated something, or if you’re well liked enough, why someone whose taste they respect liked or hated something.  Many of them aren’t so much looking for vindication as they are looking for explanation.

This isn’t an argument about what you should and shouldn’t do when writing a review. I’m talking about priorities. As the 2012 Spring Anime Season approaches, when a lot of anime bloggers will watch a lot of bad anime, we shouldn’t make it our priority to be “funny” when writing about whatever awfulness we just endured.  We should first try to be “interesting” and “engaging,” even with people we disagree with. This approach may not always be applicable- I personally can’t imagine having anything thoughtful to say about Generic Schoolgirl Comedy #54365- but it’s worth persuing.

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6 Comments

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  1. kViN (@Yuyucow) / Mar 20 2012 5:58 pm

    Most of the time I’m harsh with cartoons, the same way they’re harsh with me. But that also means I try to praise them when they go out of their usual way and decide to be a pleasant experience. Unforgiving reviews are perfectly fine on my book, unfair ones are not. Complain about a show all you want, I don’t mind, just don’t make that the whole point of your post. Don’t decide you’re going to write a funny rant even before watching the series. There’s nothing wrong with a satiric review with well developed arguments explaining why something is terrible. In fact, making it entertaining means more people are likely to actually read it and maybe improve their critical thought. The issue here is the aniverse market being saturated with stuff that simply lacks those arguments.
    Being an animation myself, I’m especially annoyed by the recent growth of uneducated complaints about visuals. People will take a screenshot of a fluid scene and laugh at how weird and seemingly cheap it looks. They’ll also mock these characters in the background for having poorly drawn faces. They might even zoom onto them, to make it more obvious that it’s something everyone should laugh at.
    I trust anyone with knowledge of this medium not to do stuff like that, but people just looking for a quick laugh will no doubt do such things. Once a 4chan in-joke, it’s become widespread following the “be cynical about anime” trend. Being critical isn’t intrinsically bad, but if that’s your sole purpose it can lead to terrible results – especially if you lack in-depth knowledge about the matter.

  2. predederva / Apr 16 2012 10:30 pm

    This is a good point. Personally I was never a fan of MST3K . The show was ok at times I suppose. But I really dislike what it has done to entertainment. We can no longer enjoy something unironically.

  3. kelfio / Apr 17 2012 4:44 am

    You make some really good points here. What I like best about your post is the insight and thoughtfulness displayed in it. 🙂

    Being fairly new to the world of Aniblogging, I like to hear what other bloggers have to say about these sorts of things… After all, it does seem like trashing a series and making people laugh is the sort of entertainment that most folks (well, people *I* know at least) prefer.

    I suppose that my favorite thing about blogging (so far) is interacting with people who have diverse tastes. Surprisingly, I’ve found myself “tasting” and liking certain genres and series that I would have normally shrugged off – simply because of a post in which a blogger really communicates what they did/didn’t like about said series.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I occasionally get some laughs out of reading rants rife with curse words, insults, and mockery. But the thing I’m really into is seeing a blogger do their best to express their own personal enjoyment or lack there of concerning a particular series, with or without the humor.

    I’m enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work and good luck in the Aniblog Tourney! 🙂

  4. ajthefourth / Nov 27 2012 3:42 pm

    Landon of Mecha Guignol has a really good post on why this can work sometimes and not others. I am unable to pull it up now, but I highly suggest reading it.

Trackbacks

  1. Aniblog Stuff Day 2
  2. Criticism of the Clichés of Criticism « Anime September

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