Overrated and Other Modern Nomenclature

I had an interesting conversation with a friend on twitter this morning. He was upset about an article entitled “Why Guardians of the Galaxy is Overrated- Especially When Compared to Farscape“.  In his mind the use of the term overrated was polarizing and an attack on all those that like Guardians of the Galaxy. That it cuts off conversation and tells people they are wrong. I don’t disagree that the word overrated is overused (it’s an overrated word you might say!). However, I think there is a much worse problem going on.

If you look at the article in question she spends 16 paragraphs (about 4 pages) detailing the issues she has with Guardians and why this show Farscape does the same thing better. I’ve never heard of Farscape so I found it quite interesting. I don’t find it threatening in the least that she isn’t in love with a movie I enjoy- Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s what makes life great is people with different opinions and perspectives. It would be one thing if she just trolled and said “Guardians is overrated” but she detailed quite thoroughly why she felt that way. What more can you ask for?

My biggest concern is that so often people look at the headline or title of an article and have an immediate visceral reaction. “This person doesn’t like Guardians. How dare they!” and then they shut off and don’t read/watch what is being said by the contributor. As a blogger it can be incredibly frustrating to work hard on an piece and have someone focus on one tiny little thing that they disagree with. Like the  other day on my Boss Baby review I mentioned I felt it was the 3rd worst Dreamworks movie after Home and Shark Tale. Despite spending nearly 10 minutes explaining my issues with the film someone in the comments just focused on the one passing mention I made about Home. It was very frustrating.

This leads to another problem. It comes down to an issue of nomenclature. As a society we assign certain words to fit situations, people, emotions and everything else. These words can change over time. For example, on airplanes people flying used to be called passengers and now the accepted word is customers. Someone may feel passengers is a more appropriate word but it really doesn’t matter because society has deemed otherwise.

It’s the same way with a word like overrated. There is a human experience of watching/reading something that most people seem to love and not loving it. That happens and will continue to happen from now until the end of time. So how do we discuss or talk about that experience? I’m sorry but the nomenclature or word society has chosen is overrated. I have yet to hear another option that is as concise or as instantly understandable for this type of discussion. It’s also important to understand this is mostly a discussion of titles and headlines. For example, in the article in question she only uses the word overrated once. The rest of the piece is her explaining why she feels the way she feels. Nevertheless, when coming up with a title for the article it is hard to debate the most universally accepted word to describe what she is saying is overrated.  I mean what is she going to say “Why I Don’t Like Guardians of the Galaxy as Much as Most People and Here are the Reasons why Farscape is Better”? I mean what she already has is unwieldy but this is even worse.

Recently I did a podcast with a friend of mine on Disney movies that we like or don’t like as much as most. I don’t know what else we could have called this podcast but Over and Underrated Disney Films? If any of you have some great way to say this then please let me know. It is the responsibility of the listener to then absorb our arguments for why we feel the way we do and see if they agree or disagree. Again, I don’t know any other way to say that?

The fact is we have to accept the nomenclature society has chosen for certain experiences. Overrated is the word we have chosen to describe having a contrary opinion than the majority. As a content producer I do not see any way to avoid using it or any other word to use. That’s just the way words and language work. We don’t talk like they did in Regency novels even if it is more technically correct. Why? It’s not the socially accepted way to talk. Certain words move in and out of fashion and if you are going to publish media you have to use the words people will understand. It’s just the way it is.

I guess my only advice might be to try to use overrated or any other hyperbole sparingly. The other day I was complaining about people using the word masterpiece to describe everything. Maybe try to throw in some other adjectives every now and then. 🙂

So, in conclusion, there are two problems here. First, people get too caught up in a headline and don’t actually read many opinion pieces. Second, society has yet to come up with a better word to describe many situations and until they do we are stuck with the overrated ones.

Modern Media and the Paradox of Choice

Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘the paradox of choice’?  This is the idea that choice is not always a freeing experience but quite the reverse. That an abundance of choices can lead to unhappiness, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

It seems kind of counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t choice be a liberating thing? But it makes sense when you think about it. For example, if I have one restaurant to eat at then I will be happy with said restaurant. When I have 15 restaurants then what was once pleasurable for me at the lone restaurant may be gross in comparison. Plus, now I have the anxiety and frustration of picking out a restaurant when before I went and made it work.

I was thinking about this particularly in terms of media. Never in history of time has there been so many options for entertainment. It is quite overwhelming.

I couldn’t find the exact number but I believe around 700 films are currently released each year. That is triple what we had in the 80s and 90s.

Just think about animated films alone:

By my counts we had 35 animated films both indie and main studio released in 2016. In contrast, 1984 had 0 animated releases. Can you imagine that? A whole year without an animated film? Now we get 2 or 3 a month.

Because of the scarcity of options we would see a very flawed movie like Oliver and Company and have a good time with it. It felt more special because it kind of was. I think you could say the same thing for a movie like Space Jam. It’s not a very good movie but it was an animated comedy and we didn’t get many of those.

Compare the experience of Oliver and Company with the recent release of Smurfs: the Lost Village. I liked the film but it did not do well at the box office. Critics were pretty harsh on it and audiences weren’t drawn to it. Imagine if that was the only animated film of the year? People would have went to it and enjoyed it.

But on the other hand, a plethora of options can be a great thing. To use 2016 as an example we got so much great animation. I had 9 animated films in my top 25 of the year and they all deserved their spot. In one year I was treated to Zootopia, Moana, Your Name, The Red Turtle, Kubo and the Two Strings and more.

On the other hand, I can’t help but compare my experience as a little girl watching Little Mermaid and obsessing about it for 3 years hard core. Kids don’t do that as much now because the next movie has come in the next month and they’ve moved on. It seems like movies like Zootopia and Moana aren’t as special as they would have been in the 90s. Not because they aren’t great films, because they are, but because we simply have so many other options.

It is even worse with TV where the options are endless. Literally every day I hear about a new show I have to see. At least with movies I can pump it out in 2 hours where a TV show requires so much investment. A side of me misses the day when there were 10 channels and you found something to entertain you on that channel.  Now we have the networks, premium channels, streaming and even online providers and youtubers.

I end up having to narrow my focus and watch animation and period pieces as top priority. Then I have innocuous comedies and food shows as my unwind. But I would love to watch Dr Who, Avatar, Legend of Kora, Steven Universe, and a million other shows. I’ve been wanting to watch the original Star Trek for forever but I’ve only seen a few episodes (which were brilliant). Even for someone like me with a flexible schedule there just isn’t enough hours in the day!

Dr Barry Schwartz says about the paradox of choice:

“Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

He then talks about how having a choice can make our eventual decision less satisfying:

“Schwartz finds that when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. Their options are evaluated in terms of missed opportunities instead of the opportunity’s potential….afterwards, it affects the level of satisfaction we experience from our decision.”

I feel like this is true with so many aspects of modern life. Even many deciding their major can be super overwhelming when back in my grandma’s day you just picked bachelor of arts or science and went on your merry way. Maybe there is something to that?

What do you think? Do we almost have too many choices these days and do you find it overwhelming? How do you decide what shows to watch and movies to see? Have you felt this paradox of choice with media or other part of your life? I would love to discuss it!