Friends it’s the first Link Lineup of 2021! Exciting! There’s so much going on and all of it is cool so let me share what’s been on my mind since the start of this stressful new year!
Critics have been around for as long as we’ve had artists, and they’ve been the objects of disdain for just as long. Which makes sense, because no one enjoys getting criticized, and no one enjoys having someone tell them that the thing they love is bad. But it’s hard for me to remember any cultural moment quite like this one, with giant high-profile celebrities shouting down critics every week and fans accusing critics of stopping their fun just by writing reviews.
Has criticism suddenly gotten more harsh than it ever used to be? It doesn’t seem to have: Old-school critics are complaining that criticism has gotten more insipid than it ever was before. “Editors and critics belong to a profession with a duty of skepticism,” Christian Lorentzen wrote at Harpers in April. “Instead, we find a class of journalists drunk on the gush.” And Lorentzen’s complaint in and of itself is an old argument, because with criticism has always come people complaining that it isn’t critical enough.
Judging from the in-fighting among critics, criticism is neither especially meaner or especially nicer right now than it was 10 years ago. It’s not criticism that has changed. Instead, it’s the reception to criticism that has changed. And as far as I can tell, that’s because of a major shift in the way we talk about popular things.
I remember seeing a Taylor Swift review get 7 out of 10 in the review (a solid C, a passing grade where I’m from) and trigger waves of harassment towards the reviewer. When Wonder Woman 1984 came out and Black women reviewers talked about how bad the film was, they were harassed endlessly over a movie many of the people freaking out about… hadn’t seen at that point. People treat criticism of fandom – and more specifically, behaviors and bigotry in fandom like uh… racism– as an attack on fandom.
At this point, people hate criticism. They just want to enjoy things, but then they never stop to think that perhaps… critics enjoy crafting criticism. Like I don’t enjoy writing about racism specifically – especially as it’s increasingly racism against me that I get to unpack – but I do enjoy writing and thinking critically. I like looking at a problem and going “okay so this is like this because -“.
And yet, in fandom, everything but criticism falls under the umbrella of “let people like things”? I just think that there’s a difference between pushing back against genuinely poor and too harsh criticism and not wanting anyone to do any criticism because… people enjoy the thing being criticized.
Most recently, the meme has been abused when referencing Ari Aster’s critically acclaimed Midsommar. When the film was released last summer, plenty of thinkpieces were written about how the film is feminist in nature. Again, the “good for her” meme was used on Twitter as people mused that the film depicts a belittled and traumatized woman slowly regaining her autonomy. While it’s not hard to understand how some viewers came to this conclusion, there’s no doubt that Dani is being heavily influenced by the cult at the film’s center, so how can we celebrate this as a win for feminism?
I can’t get over how many people chose to miss the point of Midsommar. I’m not a huge Ari Aster fan – nothing against anyone who is, mind you – but even I figured out the point of the film? It’s far from a Rah Rah Feminism Wins film and the ending is… a bad one. The ending for Dani is basically the worst ending you get in a horror video game. She’s fully enmeshed in the cult and it will lead to her death in the future. And yet I saw people do things like call the film a win for feminism (as referenced in the snippet above) or do the the film’s villain/the real villain meme and miss that uh… while the asshole boyfriend and his friends truly suck, the cult is really bad. I know suggesting folks dive into media literacy doesn’t always work, but I have to say that folks really should give critical thinking a try…
Many creators are unsure even after they’ve produced good work. How do you get the conviction to release your work?
SUGA: Many musicians are unsure whether they should release their music or not. It was the same for me, but the thing is, you’ll never release anything if you nitpick everything. For example, if we release 10 songs, we have a chance to unveil them in concerts or fan events. And sometimes, as we listen to the song, we think, ‘Why does this part that had bothered me no longer bother me?’ Some things might feel awkward at some point, but in time, it no longer feels awkward. Even I forget about it. So it’s more efficient to fine tune, looking at the big picture, rather than thinking too much about the details. On top of that, during promotions, I don’t have the time to pick tracks that others have sent for 10 hours. It would be a success for all of us if each of us play and write a melody in their own time and collaborate with others on the details. So the way of songwriting has evolved in many aspects.
I love Yoongi. Duh. I thought D-2 was an incredible release and I live for those moments where he gets introspective about his music and talks about his process. I chose this snippet because the one where he mentions watching the latest season of Show Me The Money while recovering from shoulder surgery would’ve been too easy. This segment is just so… good. I love learning about how he approaches creating and music and it is better than use the SMTM thing to go begging some BigHit media person who will never read my site to let him and Namjoon come on my podcast to roast them…
(But what if…)
Over the past few years, my work has shifted away from music writing as I’ve focused more on labor and politics, but I’ve kept my Nazi-hunting skills sharp, as they have become increasingly relevant to my new beat. As right-wing extremism has risen in America and abroad, white supremacists have used black metal as a vehicle to spread hate and radicalize nominally apolitical metal fans; those efforts have increased as “anti-antifa” sentiment has gained a foothold in the broader metal community.
I wish people in transformative (fanwork creating and consuming) fandom were better at this. Instead, you can point at someone doing the full fash thing and the general consensus will be “well they’re not hurting anyone in fandom” or “well what if that’s their kink”. In 2021, it’d be great if people in fandom realized that the nice white folks fighting for ~anti censorship~ in fandom are increasingly geared toward framing anti-racism in fandom as pro-censorship and declaring open season on Black/brown people who talk about racism in fandom. Like everyone’s so damn smart and yet no one can recognize dogwhistles as loud as the ones echoing from a lot of “pro shippers” in fandom? Okay.
Over the past few years, BTS has quickly become one of the biggest artists in the world. With their fanbase growing by the masses every day, they continue to become the takeover group of the century. They’ve taken the opportunity to use the position they find themselves using their platform to promote doing good. Partnering with UNICEF to create the Love Myself campaign to #EndViolence against children and teenagers, hoping to make the world a better place through their music. In addition to this, they have often quietly offered a helping hand financially to important causes. Still, being the biggest band on the planet, their humble helpings are often shared by others.
Their ever-growing list of good deeds and hearts of gold have inspired their enormous fandom and have led to projects and initiatives being created in their honor. Most notably, One In An ARMY is a fan-created initiative that is continuously campaigning and fundraising for vital causes, using the power of fandom to help raise awareness of organizations, charities, and causes. We caught up with them to learn a bit more about what they do.
One of the coolest things about being a part of ARMY is how fan philanthropy is actually normal? Sure, it’s an effective PR push for our faves – as donations also ramp up around birthdays for the guys, not just when catastrophes happen – but it’s also a way to give back. There are ARMY everywhere and so the charities touch all of our communities at one point or another. It’s just… a really good feeling.