Media Opinions: Personal or Personal and Universal?

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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

Why “Go Make Your Own” Is B.S. – Mostly

“Go make your own,” is something I hear said more and more when people find a beloved piece of media critiqued. I’ve heard it a lot in video games, a lot in fanworks, often in comics and written fiction, and at times in other forms of art. “Go make your own” has become a kind of default response to critique of something one likes.

As much as we hear it, I can’t consider it a legitimate answer to critique. It’s an a response that’s wrong for a number of reasons I’d like to address here.

There are many flaws to this response, but one truth . .

Reason #1: Those Saying “Go Make Your Own” Often Aren’t

By the way, if you’re gonna say it . . .

When someone says “Go Make Your Own” to a critique their favorite game or comic, the responder rarely seems to be “making their own” as well. I consider this to be hypocrisy

When someone says “Go Make Your Own” they suggest that a critic of a media must for some reason create (often similar) media. Perhaps the idea is “then you’ll understand.” Perhaps the idea is “if you don’t like it just do your own thing.” I’ve not seen particularly good justifications of the “Go Make YOur Own” critique anyway, which alone should make one suspicious.

But if there is value in “Making One’s Own,” then shouldn’t the critic-of-the-critic also be “making their own?” If they require someone to be a media creator of some kind to critique, shouldn’t they hold themselves to the same standards? After all, a person who’s response is positive is still indulging in a critical reaction.

Negative or positive, if “Making Your Own” is necessary to be a critic, it should be a requirement for any reaction to media.

Besides, it seems I see the “Go Make YOour Own” critique the least from writers, artists, etc. Probably as they have at least enough knowledge on an unconscious level to know it’s bunk.

Reason #2: Making Media Can Involve Many Different Things

OK so maybe there’s a value in making media . . .

Though I consider the “Make Your Own” response to critique to be dishonest as noted, there’s a second flaw. “Making One’s Own” as opposed to making a critique of something is meaningless as making media is an individual experience. If there is some value in “Go Make Your Own” it would suggest there is a relatively common set of lessons/experience/validation that making media brings.

But the experience of creating a book, a comic, or a game is a widely varied experience for each creator.

Some people can write easily, while others struggle. An artist can do one style and not another. A programmer can code motion but not particle effects. Some people are good at one thing or not another. Each person thus will have a radically different experience creating media, even if its the same kind of media.

They will also have a variety of non-media skills and experiences that come to bear on producing media. Organizational skills, people skills, typing speed, etc. The supposed value of making media is diluted by all the non-creative skills involved in making it.

The creative experience is so different for people that the idea that creating something blesses a person with unique ability, insight, or legitimacy is incorrect. The experience is far too unique to individuals, and what similarities there are (which I address below) are different.

Issue #3: Making Successful Media Is A Varied Experience

Well, maybe people should go make their own and be successful to see what it really involves . . .

When I see people use the “Go Make Your Own” argument against critique, at times I hear “and be successful” silently appended. It’s as if success would legitimate the critic somehow. This only raises more questions that show the holes in this approach.

Let us say that someone took the “Make Their Own” critique to heart and, upon being told to sod off and not criticize a comic, went and made their own. That, as I note, does not confer any legitimacy. But perhaps the success of said comic is a measure or imparts some ability or right to critique, or special argument?

Success first of all would need to be defined. What is “success?” Is the success parallel to the work criticized – and does it have to be? What, in short, is the criteria here?

Though even if we have criteria for success, does this success actually measure anything?

Things are successful for a variety of reasons. To argue success is the goalpost for someone to be able to critique media is ridiculous. SUccess is a variety of favors, from time to timeliness, to the right endorsement to sheer luck. Success if a fickle, unpredictable thing . . . as many artists and writers know.

Because success often has little to bear on quality, skill, virtue, or indeed any one factor good or bad, there’s no what it someone confers legitimacy on a critic.

Issue #4: Critique May Come From Its Own Skillset

Why do you have to have the same skills and experience as what you’re criticizing . .  .

Creating media, successful or not, doesn’t really grant anyone a right to criticism. It involves so many other factors that one’s own creative experience doesn’t compare to anothers. One may at best get some perspective, but one doesn’t get granted some “right” to critique because there’s simply no comparison between creative experiences and legacies.

Having noted that engaging in creative work doesn’t give some kind of special license, let’s now turn to the act of criticism itself.

The Flippant “Go Make Your Own’ argument ignores that despite some people not making media, they are equipped to criticize, and often quite legitimately. For many critics, their ability or not to create media, their success or not, does not negate the fact they are suited for critique.

  • A nutritionist may rightly criticize a delicious meal for it’s unhealthiness.
  • A historian may criticize a novel for historical inaccuracy.
  • A well-read or well-watched person may have the breadth of experience to critique work – professionally or not.
  • A person of a given race, gender, or background may call out a comic for getting their experiences wrong as they lived them.
  • Almost any reasonably informed person may call out a story for tropes and stereotypes.
  • Some people are not only suited to critique, they may have more knowledge or experience (or common sense) than the creator they critique of some subjects. The creator, in this case, is a less legitimate source of information, nothat that negates their work, but it should be kept in mind.

Good criticism is something many people can deliver. In fact . . .

Issue #5: Critique Is Its Own Art

The critic’s art is their own art.

To tell a critic to “go make their own” really misses that criticism is its own art form. It takes a skill, it takes ability, and it takes effort to develop. A good critic’s work is its own art – it is, in a way, their”making my own.”

It’s just not a work. It is a response to a work that is also a work.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of awful critics out there, one merely has to read online reviews to see that. It means that a critic should not be judged by if they make their own, but the intelligent effort they put forth in their work. You may not like it, but if they can be honestly good about what they do, it’s worth appreciating, if disagreeing with.

Admittedly the highest critique may indeed be “making your own,” to take lessons and apply them, but that’s not for every talented critic.

We need critique.  Brushing off critique with “Go Make Your Own” degrades its value.  We’ve got enough lousy critique as it is.

So what does “Go Make Your Own” Really Mean?

After hearing the “Go Make Your Own” argument for awhile, the argument is essentially a defensive derailment of a conversation.

It’s derailment in that it distracts from the conversation at hand to be about the critic. Wether it suggests the critic lacks legitimacy, or is wasting their time, or whatever, it changes the subject. Perhaps one simple doesn’t agree, but switching the subject avoids conversation.

It’s also defensive in that it’s an automatic attack on the critic. It does not involve engagement or analysis or conversation. It’s an attack-as-defense reaction that doesn’t involve actual interaction. In some cases – too may cases – it goes way, way too far.

Though I’m no fan of the “Go Make Your Own” argument I do wonder if some of it is because of the amount of awful, bad faith, sensationalist criticism out there. That is something I may address in detail in time to come.

But having said “Go Make Your Own” is an illegitimate response to criticism, let me know there is something of a real point in there. Let’s take a look at that reason

You Should Make Your Own

Though it’s obvious after a giant essay on it that I think “Go Make Your Own” is not a legitimate response to criticism, I do think people should all try and make their own art.

It could be any kind of art. Painting, drawing, writing, speaking. It could b fiction or nonfiction. It could be jewelry-making or cooking. Something that is creative, expressive, and about communication should be a part of everyone’s lives.

This is not because it gives us some “right” to criticize or involves us marching off to create a media revolution no one wanted. It’s because to do this helps us become better communicators and better consumers of media. These are always important – but moreso in modern times.

To practice communication lets us find better ways to work with others – more and more important all the time in a smaller world of multiple cultures that often finds new ways to come apart. Any kind of experience creating for people helps you get better at interacting with them.

Developing creative outlets also let us understand how others create, and how they may both satisfy us – but also manipulate us. To write a book can tell you in turn what you may like, or what tricks are being used to sell you a crap novel. To learn he art of cooking can not only be nutritious, but let you find out when someone is selling you something bad for you in the guise of delicious.

I said earlier that the act of creating varies for each person in what it involves. But the above benefits I find are nearly universal.

Your art may even be critique. Go for it.

So, yes you should “Make your own,” but not for the reasons critics say.

And the first people that should “Go make their own” are those telling us to “go make their own.”

– Steve

Geek As Citizen: The Hate Is Built In

Hashtag Confusion

So after spending a week or so discussing Boosting the Signal on good works, I want to cover something that inspired it, is part of it, and is part of Geek Citizenship. It is the role of criticism as part of our commercial, media, and technical systems – but mostly our media systems.

You’ve heard criticism of bad films, yet it seems we can make profitable Transformers films for decades to come (ending probably when someone does a porn parody with Orgasmus Prime*). You’ve heard how bad reality TV is, but the shows are still churning out even though everyone says how bad it is. The sameness of video games is a joke, and they keep selling, and we’re all busy on the forums complaining.

It’s almost to the level of a joke. The same arguments and criticisms are trotted out. The same Message Board posts ignite and Twitterrage spews. And it’s all alike time after time.

Let me humbly suggests that one of the problem with a lot of our commercial systems is simply that criticism isn’t coming from outside.

Criticism is part of the show. Including your comments and complaints.

Part Of The Spectacle

By now there’s a ritual of a new technology, new film, book sequel coming out, new game, etc. Inevitably flame wars and criticisms and outright attacks happen, the praise is predictable, everyone says what we expect, and then it dies down until the next time. In a few cases contrarianism kicks in and the hated thing becomes big or huge, or the loved things become hated.

After all, you can joke all you want about Twilight, but it was enormous, profitable, and is why we’re getting 50 Shades of 9 1/2 Weeks . . . er, Gray.

The complaining about how bad things are is part of the show. People get to yell, people get to listen, people get to argue with the yellers. However all the yelling and anger and laughing at how bad things are doesn’t seem to change much.

(Money seems to change things, as we’ve seen with reshuffling of films lately).

Complaining, criticizing, and outright whining and hatred is part of the whole of modern entertainment and culture. We’re used to snarky comments. Pundits make their entire living being jerks about things. In short, saying “this is bad” is just par for the course, expected, and lets us be part of the show.

It’s catharsis as critique.

That complaining about Transformers 4? Think of it as just a ritual and part of free publicity and morbid curiosity and it makes a lot more sense.**

The Psychology Of Helplessness

Feel helpless to improve things? Feel like the comics companies or media companies or whatever aren’t going to listen? That’s because yelling about how bad things are is expected, it’s part of the system, part of the show – even when legitimate it’s expected or tuned out due to the noise.

Is this intentional? No, I don’t think there’s some conspiracy or anything. It’s just the way things evolved in a fast-paced, connected world. Things are easily co-opted or normalized and culturally we’ve yet to adjust.

But it can make you feel helpless as hell because you’re saying things and nothing’s happening. But that’s not the kind of cultural system we evolved ñ we evolved a show.

To Beat The System Get Out Of The System

So one of the reasons I focused on Boost The Signal was the growing realization that all the complaining about things is built into our culture and media and is not designed to change things. It’s designed to entertain and allow catharsis.

Everyone wants to whine about how bad things are for money or attention. Some politicians base their careers on this, and they’re no different than people trolling message boards, they just get SuperPACs.

So, the best option for most people is to start Boosting The Signal. Make a difference by promoting things that are worth it. Yes, it may seem quite a mountain to scale, but the more people spend time with good media, good tech, the less time they spend with crap.

Now crap may be subjective here, but I’m going to trust your good taste.

Boosting the Signal gets you out of the system.

Boosting the Signal gets you active as opposed to complaining.

Boosting the Signal gives you a goal of having something happen as opposed to having something not happen – the former is far easier to measure.

Boosting the Signal might just give you or someone an idea to help us steer away from the spectacle of complaining.

So in short, shut up ad get to work. But first . . .

I Miss Good Critique

I’m not saying critique doesn’t have a role. A good critic is someone who can analyze, understand, and get you to think. It’s literally critique in the analytical sense not being critical all the time.

It’s just the good stuff is rare.

The late Roger Ebert is an example I often invoke in this case as he clearly thought about what he was seeing and talking about. He connected with you, he analyzed, he was thoughtful. In the business world he’ have been an Analyst, shuffling data and trends and processes and patterns to dig into what was really going on ñ and should be done.

One of the greatest examples of his work I think, ironically, was his take on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” A seemingly un-noteable comedy, he felt it to be charming and interesting and sweet with a surprising hero. I was shocked at the positive statements in his review, and saw the movie only because of it – and I and my roommates were surprised at what a charming, fun, enjoyable,human movie it was.

Maybe you’re not the next Ebert – or maybe you are (in your own sphere). We could use good critics who know critique. So as much as I want people to Boost The Signal, this could be your path as well – which lets you Boost The Signal, Question The Signal, and Analyze the Signal as well as recommend people just turn the Damn Signal Off.  Just do it right, do it well, and don’t get trapped in the usual spectacle.

Moving Forward By Moving Forward

So, remember, good critique is rare, criticism and complaining are just part of the sideshow in our modern media, and too often a distraction or a co-opting of our time. I think we’re far better served these days in Boosting The Signal on good works, and if possible, being true critics when valuable and able.

In closing, let me tell a personal tale. Nearly a decade ago some friends and I were discussing bad films, and I came up with a film that parodied action movies. The idea was two stars would sabotage a corrupt studio by getting them to make the ultimate failed action move that was only a pile of overdone tropes. However they quickly discovered that it was almost impossible to make a failure if you went over-the-top stupid, that critique only fired morbid curiosity or even morphed into knowing contrarianism. Our heroes would be in terrible danger of succeeding as you could never be truly dumb or bad enough to fail intentionally.

It was a parody.

By now, I’m not sure it is.***

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at


* Please, don’t do this.

** I hope this isn’t part of the ritual, but I’m willing to be suspicious of myself.

***Hollywood, call me, we can out-cynical each other.