Standards aren’t universal

When it comes to the media I consume, be it Anime, video games, music, or whatever, I’m often told I have far lower standards than most people because of the things I enjoy. I’ve even had some people tell me that I have no standards at all because of my taste.

“When it comes to good writing in Anime, you don’t have high standards because you like Sword Art Online

Sonic Adventure is one your favourite games? You must have lower standards than most!”

“You have no standards when it comes to music because you like talentless bands like Insane Clown Posse and Kawaii Monster”

These are all statements that I’ve had thrown at me time and time again because my taste in media tends to fall outside of what the consensus considers to be “good” or “well made”. And this is something I’ve always found rather strange because, believe it or not, my standards are actually pretty high when it comes to the stuff I enjoy. At least, I’ve always thought so.

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Because I tend to enjoy things that are generally considered to be of “poor quality” or “lacking”, I’m often told that I’m not a “harsh” critic. That I’m simply more generous when it comes to rating the stuff, compared to the average viewer. When, truth be told, I’m actually a very harsh critic. For the most part.

I most certainly do have standards. I’d even go as far as saying that I have high standards. It just so happens that I have a very different set of standards than the average person.

I’m well aware that a lot of my favourite pieces of media are things that aren’t well received by the consensus. One of my favourite Anime of all time is Sword Art Online (Anime of the Summer), a series that is often criticised for having bland characters and poor writing. My favourite video game is Tales of Symphonia, which while considered one of the best games in the series by fans of the franchise, wasn’t received as kindly by critics, with its narrative, which happens to be my favourite aspect of the game, being heavily panned across the board. One of my favourite bands is BrokenCYDE, who are widely considered by both critics and the general public alike to be the worst band in existence, with their debut album consistently placing near or at the bottom of just about every single online music database chart you could think of.

Masterpiece. Don’t @ me.

Yet despite my taste going against the grain, I’ll also always be the first, and one of the only people, to actively challenge the consensus on a regular basis. There are plenty of widely acclaimed pieces of media that I’m not a fan of at all, and I’m not afraid to harshly criticise them.

I may have given BrokenCYDE’s widely panned debut album a perfect score, but at the same time, I also gave Radiohead’s critically acclaimed album OK Computer a 1/10 because I thought it was… Awful. I listened to the entire thing. Multiple times. And I did not enjoy it. I disliked every song. I struggled to get through it. It didn’t appeal to me at all. So I gave it the lowest score possible. Despite the fact that there are likely plenty of good reasons, beyond my preferences, that I should have probably given the album a slightly higher score.

Was a 1/10 too harsh? Probably. But that’s the point I’m trying to make here.

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am a harsh critic. Just not in the way most people want me to be. I’m a harsh critic in a way that most people don’t like. Because I don’t agree with them. I have “low standards” because my standards are different from the norm. Very different.

I don’t love a show like Sword Art Online because I have a lesser appreciation for good writing, I love it because I think the show has good writing. And I’m more than capable of explaining why I think the show has good writing (it’s still coming, don’t worry).

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Oh hey look, is that a script? Is that a sneak peek of the script? Wow!

 

My taste in media is incredibly specific, and if something doesn’t fit that taste then there’s a pretty high chance I’m not going to care for it all that much, if at all. My standards may not be the norm, but they’re pretty god damn high! I rarely give a score of 8 or above to anything, and I tend to reserve said scores for only the best pieces of media I consume.

There’s this weird idea that standards are universal and that our harshness as a critic or a viewer should be weighed against the exact same set of standards, but I struggle to get behind that idea. It’s dangerously close to the idea of “objective criticism”, and we all know how I feel about that by now. Standards are subjective, and they vary from person to person. There is no universal standard and everyone is capable of judging media based on their own, personal set of standards that are based on their own preconceived biases and preferences.

We’re all capable of being harsh critics. Just not all of us are harsh towards the same things. And that’s okay. After all, isn’t that what makes criticism interesting? Seeing different perspectives? Seeing how others judge media and trying to understand what they value in their entertainment?

I can think of fewer things more interesting than that.

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15 thoughts on “Standards aren’t universal

  1. I feel like this is one of those things that should be a given, but people tend to lose sight of it on the internet. It’s ok to dislike popular things or like unpopular things. We should allow people to have their own opinions without chewing them out or saying they have shit taste. That’s not productive and doesn’t make anyone happy

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Tbh what you refer to as “standards” in this post is really just taste. When people use the term standards, they tend to mean they only like things of a certain quality, yet at the same time they will call things of the same or higher quality bad and say its because they have high standards. Which means they have higher standards for things they dont like, which essentially is the same as not having quality standards. They think someone has low standards for liking something they think is bad, but the term standards implies they like everything as good or better than the standard, yet some people with “low standards” dont like the “good” anime. What I’m getting at is nobody really has high standards, they just have different taste. Liking only a strict set of some kinda entertainment isn’t high standards really, because even if you are super picky, the quality of the entertainment can vary. An arbitrary set of what any one person thinks makes something good isn’t really a standard, it’s just taste.

    The reason I say that is I see people who claim who have high standards watch complete garbage while call my standards low for liking SAO. It makes me wonder what arbitrary and nonsensical set of standards they are using to judge quality. I can’t even be like “well your set of standards is low because you like ‘x'” since they probably like some good anime too. The only conclusion i can come up with is their standard for quality is arbitrary and nonsense, and their taste is just as arbitrary.

    For me, I feel an anime is only worth watching if it is a 7 or higher. Whether these are high or low standards to any one person varies, but considering the amount of anime I’ve seen, most would say it’s low standards, which is weird since its not like i dont care about quality. I just drop things i dont like and choose not to watch things that look bad so most of my scores end up good. So my standards arent low, but i wouldnt call them high either since i watch a lot of stuff, so idk what i like to call it, but i dont think any anime I like is bad and at the same time i would say Im able to separate my bias from quality (except for maybe anime i watched a long time ago and cant remember shit about). I think more importantly though my taste is diverse and i try to understand why things in anime work so if that to people means i have low standards, well that sucks lol.

    Kinda all over the place here so I will try to sum up. How strict you are with what you like really is taste, not standards. Standards implies a bare minimum of quality needed to be considered good, which requires the ability to separate your taste and your bias and actually understand the entertainment you are consuming, and most people dont seem to attempt to do that when they tell you that your standards are low. What I am getting at is nobody really has standards since they cant actually do this, some people just have narrow taste and act elitist about it. Standards flop around depending on their bias, which is why sometimes people praise bad anime and like good ones. At that point its just arbitrary taste people try to set in stone as fact. This is why i think we need more people to analyze a wider variety of anime lol.

    Idk if anything I said made sense but i wrote a whole essay as a comment and didnt exactly plan what i was gonna say lol

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I agree with an above comment that likens your standards more to taste. I don’t personally hate SAO as much as others, but I do find it extremely flawed and wastes a lot of potential that it otherwise could have had.

    I’m the guy who ranks Speed Racer as the best anime adaptation period.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This is pretty much how I feel about a lot of things. I’ve had people complain at me for being “too positive” about things that didn’t have a good critical reception… but that’s really a lot of the point of what I do — to give stuff that didn’t get a fair shake first time around a chance to be appreciated.

    Like you, I’ve spent years growing to understand what it is that I enjoy, and what my own personal standards are. Those standards have grown to be different from “the norm” as I’ve gotten to know myself better. And, like you, when something doesn’t meet those standards, I am harsh on it.

    A couple of good examples are how much my friends gush praise over GTAV, Vermintide and Skyrim. These are not games that meet my own personal standards, so I judge them harshly — much more harshly than others do. The key thing, though, is that I’m judging them on my own personal standards which, as other people above have noted, go hand in hand with taste. And I’m aware of this and careful to try and communicate it whenever I talk about them.

    I don’t like GTA because I prefer games with snappy controls (and where the online doesn’t suck). I don’t like Skyrim because I prefer my RPGs with strong narrative and characterisation rather than a visually pretty world. I don’t like Vermintide because I prefer clear, customisable progression systems rather than RNG lootboxes.

    This doesn’t make these games “bad”; it means they don’t meet my personal standards for something I want to spend time with. They don’t enrich my life and excite me. They don’t inspire me. But, importantly, I don’t begrudge anyone their time spent genuinely enjoying them. (Except my friend Tim, who plays way too much Skyrim when there’s a ton of other stuff I’d love him to try.)

    At this point, there is simply too much “stuff” in the world to waste your time on things that you know you won’t enjoy that you’re only engaging with because you feel obliged to. Those obligations can stem from peer pressure or the media, and they’re not helpful.

    Stepping outside your comfort zone once in a while is helpful and important, of course, but following the majority consensus doesn’t really count in that regard.

    Like what you like. The only standards that matter to you are your own, so long as you’re not a dick to other people about them!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Let me start by saying I was made fun of on the internet before for liking Sonic Adventure. Okay, it’s not as good as the Genesis-era games, but I still liked it regardless of my Dreamcast nostalgia. Haha!

    Okay, now getting into the serious parts of your post.

    I feel similar emotions although not for the same reasons or examples as you. My tastes and standards tend to be far different from others especially since I tend to avoid a ton of mainstream things in general most of the time. A lot of that stuff bores me or insults my intelligence. It is frustrating because I was made fun of for liking certain things before and I never had the courage or wit to bash them for what they liked as revenge.

    I definitely have that feeling when it comes to a ton of “critically acclaimed” works even if they are lesser-known. My Dog Tulip got at least 90-something percent on Rotten Tomatoes and I freaking loathed that film. It was crass and immature and the people who like that movie would be the same people who would frown on South Park or Family Guy for literally doing the same kinds of jokes. I wasn’t a fan of Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz album since I thought it was pretentious and the (obvious) auto-tune on one of the songs really turned me off since I know he doesn’t need it to sing. Even though I used to like this movie as a kid, I utterly despise The Lion King as an adult for it being an expensive piece of plagiarism (see: Kimba the White Lion), had racist undertones with the hyenas, and Disney had the audacity to trademark the phrase “Hakuna Matata” which they didn’t invent and that’s pure cultural appropriation against the Swahili-speaking parts of Africa (I’m part Congolese, so I find that extremely offensive on principle since I know the DRC has Swahili as one of the 5 official languages despite not visiting there). It frustrates me how certain types of media get a free pass for mediocre or problematic things while others get bashed to kingdom come.

    Anyways, blogging has been good to vent out my different opinions and trying to explain my tastes and standards to anyone who wants to read. Having a film review blog with mainly obscure stuff has helped and making my own works across other blogs has helped as well. However, I don’t try to be contrarian for contrarian’s sake because that’s not cool and can be illogical.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. As much as I can be highly critical, or absolutely sing praises, or anywhere in between, I really do not mind disagreeing opinions. Quite the contrary, I go with a “whatever floats your boat” and “like and let like” approach. I wish more people did that, including in my own family (I roll my eyes whenever they react to a dissenting opinion of mine). It’s all fun to compare opinions and even ham it up a bit, but sheesh! I rebel against the idea of marching in lock-step on general principle, and most especially when it comes to what I, or anyone else, simply likes or does not like.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I’m with you on Sonic Adventure, and also in general. I think part of the trouble is that certain “authorities” are established among critics and their words are taken as absolute truth, almost as objective truth. So I got criticized for liking prog rock, for example, because Robert Christgau doesn’t like it, and a lot of people used to read his reviews so he must be right! When in reality his opinion is just as right or wrong as anyone else’s. A good example for SAO might be a Youtube anime critic like Digibro — he hates SAO and he’s watched a lot of anime, so he must be “right” in his taste, right? But it’s all crap. You can argue about the quality of technique and stuff like that, but you can’t really argue with taste. Even then, there’s a lot of subjectivity in what makes good technique.

    Liked by 2 people

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