Media Opinions: Personal or Personal and Universal?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

For too many people, media discussions are frustrating because they become conflicts. What should be an exchange of thought becomes a war of ideas and regretful exchanges. We all know someone reluctant to discuss media opinions – we may be that person.

I constantly have conversations about this “battle of opinions” with friends, and our near-universal reactions are “why the hell did this become an argument?”  It’s easy to decide not to discuss movies or books with anyone but a few trusted people – we don’t want a fight. We prefer an exchange of ideas not metaphorical gunfire.

In a recent conversation about these “battles of opinions,” I realized one problem is how we express and discuss personal and universal values about media. People confuse their opinions with universal truths, but also miss that communicating universal truths needs personal connection.

Let me illustrate this by turning to that producer and canceller of great shows, Netflix.

First, let’s discuss their adaption of the 80s-90’s manga and anime, “Bastard!!” The source material is basically Dungeons and Dragons filled with heavy metal band references, sort of Jojo’s Fantasy Adventures. It is dumb, violent, and keeps a lot of the old problematic content, albeit with a bit of self-aware humor (think a touch of Spinal Tap among the metal). There’s not anything universal I can say about it, my enjoyment was “let’s enjoy this big dumb retro thing.”

My enjoyment, being personal, is not one I can say all should share. I know what I wanted, I got it, and at best I can say “you might like this if you’re in the same mood.”  My opinion is not universal or a sign of a great truth, it’s a sign of a personal experience and perhaps a momentary lapse in taste.

(Also, if you do try it, the show kept some very dated stuff from the original, from gore to stupid fanservice that will not sit well with people. I question its inclusion, as there’s faithful and too faithful.)

You can see how if, like many, I felt my opinions were some universal truth, there would be an argument. It would also be a pointless argument because I am expressing something that only exists inside my head.

Now, let’s discuss Netflix’s remake of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which I’ve analyzed before. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but also part of that was how well crafted it was. The worldbuilding used the original ideas for parts – which I appreciated as I write on worldbuilding. The well-crafted episodes moved at a breezy pace, keeping me enthralled. It was all tied together with an excellent cast that got into their characters. I could discuss the surprising virtues of this show as universal values  – but note that my personal experiences were the gateway.

I achieve two things by expressing the universal virtues of “He-Man” through my experience. Because I express the universal virtues (worldbuilding, pacing, etc.) in a personal way, they are more understandable to people. Secondly, by expressing how such virtues appeal to me personally, I lower the chance of making it sound like I’m being too authoritative.

Some our “media battles” come from two sources. One is the people declaring their personal experiences to be universally valid. The second is people attempting to express universal values, and not epressing the personal connections that help people grasp them.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 6/26/2022

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

“Think Agile, Write Better”: Writing away despite interruptions, and it’s looking really good – though I need more uninterrupted time. There’s a tone and style shift to make it “usefulness dense, language light” so it’s an informative but breezy read.

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite: Interruptions set me back a week or so, so I’m going to try to launch the July 4th weekend or the one after. I think I have a way to be able to activate the old site if it fails, so I’m pretty confident.

The Way With Worlds series: As note on hold until Q3 or so. Misinfo, Disinfo, and Propaganda is still selling great, which suggests it was timely.

The Compendium of Writing Advice: This keeps getting kicked down the list because of everything. Its still in my plans, but let me clear out Sanctum, get further on the Agile book, and deal with less problems.

Plus there are giveaways!

Steven Savage

The Unsolid Self of Creative Works

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Please note this column includes very limited, basic discussion of some spiritual beliefs. I do not go into fine details as it would distract from my core exploration and involve various interpretations over the centuries.  More may be coming.

Serdar and I often inspire blog posts for each other and today is no different. He posted on how projects don’t always end up where you expect, and it got me thinking.

Serdar notes we often view our works as having a kind of “Core,” a tangible thing that defines the work. We often discover it in the early lightning-strike of inspiration, and it guides our work. But in time, it can limit us because as we develop a story, it changes. That fear of getting away from the seed of our work, the core driving idea, often limits us.

That got me thinking about spiritual doctrines about the non-existence of the self. In Buddhism, we’ll hear of anatta, the (oft-misquoted) idea of “no-self.”  Buddha seemed disinterested in the concept of permanence or impermanence, focused more on the results of action and clinging. Taoists refer to the interaction of Vitality, Energy, and (many-faceted) Spirit from which we emerge and can refine, altering ourselves to become wise or even divine. “There’s no there there” is not an uncommon sentiment among those pondering the nature of life – and if there is anything permanent, a lot of what we identify with is impermanent.

This isn’t a sentiment everyone embraces. We want to think there’s a solid “me” there that goes on and endures. We also watch ourselves grow, age, and catapult towards inevitable death and realize that what we think of as me is mostly, if not entirely, impermanent.

I think the fear of “no solid self” is no different than the fear there’s no solidity in our creative work. We want to believe we’re real and solid – we also want to believe there’s some inviolable core to our creative work. That book we make, that comic we draw comes from us, we want it permanent – maybe permanent in a way we’re not.

But as we edit and revise, replot and reconsider, we find the book or comic or whatever is a process. It’s going to change and evolve, and we can’t fully forsee the future. That core idea is just a spark to light the fire; we don’t know what will be illuminated or how long it will burn.

Neither we nor our creative works have much of solid self. They’re processes and will never be “any one thing.”  To be creative is to face impermanence twice as much, in ourselves and in what we make.

I could probably go on to intolerable length on how to face this, and it would still end in some book recommendations you might not reach out of boredom. Something more may be coming, but let me say this in compassionate simplicity.

Impermanence can be a comfort, for we see how much we cling to and how that causes pain. If I’m not much of a tangible thing, then I neither begin nor end; I’m a process, more or less. Realizing this, I can just get over myself and get on with my creative work because that’s coming from whatever I am, permanent or not. I might as well get over myself, because it doesn’t seem very solid.

So whatever. Go on, create, do the thing you do. It’s all processes and change, so let’s see where it goes.

Steven Savage