Annoying Overrate-actions

(This picture really has nothing to do with this post. Chii just demanded that I lead off this post with a picture of an anime horse, and I was only too happy to oblige, especially since Geass!horse makes me laugh so much. Also, forgive the really stupid pun in the title. I couldn’t think of anything better.)

I hate the way the word “overrated” is abused. Always have, always will. But it isn’t really the mindset behind the term (“I don’t like this series as much as other people do”, a perfectly valid view) that I dislike so much as the unnecessary knee-jerk reactions it provokes due to how even the mere appearance of the word inspires strong feelings (“HOW COULD YOU NOT LIKE THIS??” which is then countered with more hatred ad infinitum), and to a lesser extent the implied arrogance in the statement, “[such and such series] is overrated/not as good as people say it is/etc.,” as if writing this shows how superior the author’s taste is compared to other segments of fans.

To be fair, though, isn’t always the case — I’ve seen plenty of well-meaning people develop reasoned arguments after dropping the bomb, so to speak. It’s simply an easy, catch-all word for “I dislike this series that a lot of people like”, which, frankly, makes me dislike the word even more. Not only is it unnecessary a lot of the time (and inflammatory, whether or not that is the intent of the author), but it also often reduces arguments to a simplistic level, bringing the focus to criticizing fandom/rebuking that criticism without making any sort of positive critical contribution. (Admittedly, I’ve seen this more on forums than on blogs.)

There is a lot of “Yes, it is!” “No, it isn’t!” argument when “overrated” is thrown out; it gets a lot of fans immediately putting themselves on the defensive, which is not at all conducive to decent discussion. It’s part of why I think the concept of Hype Backlash is so repulsive — it puts too much emphasis on the general opinion of fandom over the actual content of the work for my tastes, and ends up with too much pointless vitriol being thrown around. Yeah, a lot of people are way too enthusiastic about stuff they love (and, believe me, I think plenty of fans can be a lot better at accepting criticism of their most beloved series), but at the same time, is it really fair to judge a work with a harsher eye because some enthusiasts talk it up? I don’t think so. Content is king; the series itself should raise or lower its standards.

(That said, I realize how difficult it can be to separate oneself from raised expectations, especially when it pertains to “classic” series/movies/whatever. A hated series can seem that much worse when everyone around seems to love it. For all my talk, it’s something even I can’t switch on and off at my leisure all the time; I compensate by waiting until I’m in the right frame of mind to watch a series, where I’m ready to get into the mood and flow of a show. Sometimes it’s sudden (I wanted to watch G Gundam right away after reading the praise from various people), and sometimes the process drags on forever. Have to admit that I’m a bit scared of creating impossibly high expectations in other people, myself, for series like Utena!)

Now, I doubt any of what I’ve written is shocking to anyone. (And if it is, then, uh, pay more attention to the world, or think, or something.) What got me thinking about it, though, is a comment Scamp made on my recent favorite series post about how it wasn’t until he saw my top 32 list that he realized how different our tastes are. Lately I’ve been seeking out writers who not only write well and interestingly about series, but who also have vastly different tastes than I do. Even if I don’t agree with the ultimate conclusion of a review/analysis, I like reading what people get from a series (or what they believe a series lacks); I love reading about what aspects of series resonates within different people, what they look for and see more clearly than I can, and how that contributes to my experience with a particular show.

For me, a big part of what makes Roger Ebert a great reviewer is that readers get such a strong, clear sense of what thoughts and emotions each movie evokes within him. He writes in such a way that it is always apparent what appeals to him and what he looks for, even if the reader doesn’t agree with it. (Although as a pro reviewer, keeps in mind the audience particular movies angle for, which bloggers don’t always do — not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since many bloggers aren’t in the game of being objective reviewers.) That knowledge of taste not only provides a more interesting read, but it is also important because it provides a better context for opinion.

It’s the same with good bloggers. I don’t always agree with Landon (he actually trashes quite a few series I hold in high regard!), but at the same time, he writes in such a way that I always know where he comes from, what appeals to him, what he wants in a series. I wasn’t a huge fan of Book of Bantorra . . . but Landon’s posts on the it make me think twice about the show. What he looks for is different from what I look for; however, if it’s there for him, could it be there for me, too? You never know. Or when Aorii defended Ookamikakushi a while back. I still think the series stinks, but it’s nice to see someone stick up for it in a reasoned way. It wasn’t difficult to see where she was coming from, even if it was the complete opposite of how I viewed the show.

That’s what I love about differing opinion — how the most well-written critiques (whether positive or negative) get the reader to think differently about a series, consider elements that might not have been apparent before. There are so many people with so many different life experiences, preferences in fiction, different value systems (in terms of what technical aspects of a work appeals to us most), and so on, and this should definitely bleed into our writings on shows, from the lowliest episodic review to the most thorough thematic analysis. How could they not? Our biases color what we see. I like viewing different series through the lens of another person’s experience.

To bring this back to the original topic in a roundabout way, that’s what is missing when people assume such hostile stances when attacking fandom itself as much as — or more than — critiquing a work, and when fans assume a stubbornly defensive stance when their favorite series are in return critiqued. I like Tim Maughan’s comment on this Reverse Thieves post (even though it is a bit off-topic); yeah, we’re watching this shit for fun and to be entertained, but there’s nothing wrong with reflecting on one’s tastes and challenging one’s beliefs via a defense of one’s favorite shows. Who knows, you could come out of it with a better appreciation of what you love. It’s happened to me before.

19 Responses to “Annoying Overrate-actions”

  1. The word “overrated” sets off a lot of red flags, since it’s the fastest way for someone to dismiss something held in high regard, effectively flaring up tempers quick. It could mean either “I don’t like it as much as everyone else does” or “I don’t like it because everyone else likes it” (dumb reason), or even the more trollish “it sucks, there’s just an entire legion of idiots liking it”.

    I guess the first reason is pretty valid? But the word itself drops the ball on those who “over-rate” the show. It’s the dumb, faceless masses’ fault. This is why I just state that “I don’t like it, because of X reasons totally unrelated to fandom matters”, therefore steering clear from the prickly fandom altogether.

    OR, if I really have a bone to pick with the fanbase, then I’ll just politely avoid commenting on the fandom and say “it’s not my cup of tea”. End of story.

    One lesson I picked up throughout the years: Don’t let the fanboys and haters ruin your enjoyment of something!

    • Yeah, that’s definitely one of my biggest problems with the word — it’s most often just code for “I don’t like this series as much as other people”, so why not just say that? Why does an entire fanbase have to be torn down with it? It’s pointless negativity.

      I understand being annoyed by a fanbase — believe me, there have been more than a few that have made me want to bang my head against a wall — but putting on an air of superiority and putting fans on the defensive isn’t going to make a message more palatable. Just criticize a series and move on. That’s it. If fans can’t accept that, then that’s their problem, but don’t give ’em a reason to HAVE a problem in the first place.

      And your last thought is the truth. If you like a series, don’t be afraid to spread the love; likewise, if you have a problem with a series, don’t be afraid to speak up. There are more than a few assholes out there, but there are also plenty of reasonable people. Hell, if anyone has issues with my opinions, I encourage them to call me out of them! (I’m actually proud to have an audience that is pretty quick to call me out on parts of my posts about which they disagree!)

  2. I accept the term overrated when people are capable of giving a reason why people rate it higher than they probably should rather than just what they thought of the show. They might be totally off the mark with their assumptions as to why people rate it high but at least they’re justifying their ‘overrated’ statement.

    • I have trouble accepting that, because who is to decide how highly ranked a series “should” be? And why even get in the business of attacking people for enjoying something a lot? Criticizing a series is fine, but criticizing the popularity of a series with a Serious Business post just seems pointless. Nobody really benefits from it; the results are usually a bunch of dick-sucking or insults.

      • Oh I’m not suggesting it’s the right thing to do nor is there a way to find out if the person is right or not. It’s simply a definition which I believe the word ‘overrated’ is used in the correct context.

  3. lesterf1020 Says:

    I don’t even take the word “overrated” seriously anymore. I just assume that the author means I didn’t like this popular show.

    To me an overrated series is one that initially received high ratings and praise, however, afterwords most people conceded that it wasn’t that good, like Princess Lover!. The reverse for underrated is a series that initially was thought of poorly but then later on people admitted it was a lot better, like Kemono Souja Erin.

    These definitions are independent of whether I liked the show or not. I didn’t like Witch hunter Robin or any of the Gundam franchise I have seen but I do not consider those shows overrated because the general consensus on these shows hasn’t changed much since they debuted. I just don’t like these popular shows. Likewise even though I am fond of Kaze No stigma, which most people think is a poorly animated generic show, I don’t consider it underrated. I just like this show that isn’t that popular.

    • Those seem like reasonable definitions to me. What that definition of “overrated” immediately calls to mind for me is movies that have aged poorly. An example would be Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound — it was a critical and commercial success back in 1945, but now most people agree that it’s pretty hokey and silly aside from the surreal dream sequence.

      And of course I like your view that overrating and underrating is independent of individual view. I actually enjoyed Dance in the Vampire Bund more than quite a few people, but I wouldn’t call it underrated because there are so many flaws with the series — it is perfectly understandable to me why so many people didn’t like it. The elements I enjoyed outweighed the elements I didn’t enjoy; for many other people, it was the opposite.

  4. I haven’t had too much trouble with this, since most people I know, when they use the word ‘overrated’ they can formulate a good, reasonable argument that makes an interesting/insightful discussion. But I can certainly see where this can really get on someone’s nerves — using extreme terminology in subjective discussions tend to offend others, especially when an over-the -head fan can’t back up their opinion with something other than “IT’S AWESOME!” <_<

    IMO though, I'd rather spend my time rooting for the underrated than belittling what I find overrated, since all it does is annoy people [shrug].

    • Sometimes people can get a bit pushy with their favorite “underrated” shows, but in general I do agree that usually leads to more positive thoughts.

  5. “overrated” has always been a funny word to me. I know I’ve used it before and probably will again but I always have reasons to back up why I think I show is “overrated” or even “underrated” I like talking about “underrated” shows WAY more than “overrated” because hey if I can get someone interested in something that not a lot of people have seen that’s awesome.

    Generally I try not to toss the “overrated” word around a lot though. Especially to fans of the show unless I’m ready to start a conversation about why I don’t like it and think that way. Generally though I just couldn’t be bothered to get in a really long conversation with someone that humps a particular show that I did not care for. I like reading other people’s opinions on anime but it’s hard to corner me into a “serious” discussion of it unless I’m really into it.

    PS. Nice horse XD

  6. I probably don’t read enough opinions on what I am watching to determine if something is overrated. I pretty much have to rely on MAL’s average rating, and even then, overrated is really just my own opinion of others’ opinions. There’s some benefits in that there’s very little peer pressure to form an opinion, but it ends up making my own opinion seem completely out of place from a consensus. I guess ultimately, everything is actually properly rated.

    • There are so many people giving so many opinions about so many shows that I think it’s just about impossible for a show to not be properly rated.

  7. Well I’ve used this word on occasion myself whether it’s applying to anime or some sports figure or to a restaurant or whatever. It’s a pretty common word that gets tossed around in everyday life.

    I think that as long as you have a ‘good reason’ for saying it (whatever that means) it’s fine. It’s people who just shout ‘overrated!’ just to get a rise out of the people who shout ‘BEST SHOW OF ALL TIME’ that gets annoying. But then again, the people who shout ‘BEST SHOW OF ALL TIME’ usually have little to back it up either and that does get annoying as well.

    The last usage of this word is really because after a certain time, there’s enough ‘backlash’ against the more annoying fans of a show that you can’t but help to say something to get a rise out of them to shut them up. Not that I ever really do that, but I can see why people throw the term around.

    • Haha, yeah, I’m equally annoyed by the “OVERRATED” and “BEST SHOW OF ALL TIME” folks. Praise is one thing, but I don’t need to feel the fandom boner through the screen. (Says the guy who practically splooged all over Utena in his favorites post . . . :p)

  8. To me the problem with the term “over-rated” is that it is used without reference to any real “ratings”. People seem to feel quite comfortable using the term (in essence saying “I disliked this show” in a pompous way) without explaining WHICH rating they are talking about. Just because one reads a single blog post that says nice things about a show, does that mean it has been “rated”? Even if you read three or five positive comments in a forum, what does that tell you about all the people who didn’t bother to post? Just because your friend made a comment over lunch, does that justify calling it “rated” anything?

    If someone gives a rating to a particular show higher than that of another show, it is fair to write up WHY you disagree with the relative rankings. If referencing a particular collective rating system (e.g. MAL or ANN), it is reasonable to say, “Contrary to the results, I think this show should be rated higher than that for these reasons.”

    If people are going to challenge a “rating”, they should be clear about what “rating” they are talking about. Otherwise they are arguing against a straw man. Also grounding the critique in facts and reason is important (otherwise be prepared to be ignored as making baseless assertions). Finally people should lighten up a bit when they look at ratings, and accept them for what they are; McDonalds might sell more meals each day, does that make them the best restaurant? What good would it do you to write a blistering critique of how “over-rated” McDonalds is compared to your favorite Thai restaurant?

    • This is true. Lack of context is kind of annoying in this whole mess. Sometimes I’ll come across someone saying some show or another is overrated and think to myself, “Wait, who overrates that??” We’re biased by the circles we roll in. If a bunch of anime bloggers champion a certain series, and I end up not liking it, does that mean it is overrated? That’s a pretty small sample size to go by unless, as you write, that statement is qualified in some way.

  9. Joojoobees makes a good point in the post above. I agree that “overrated” can, in a sense, be a subjective feel that a show seems to be overly-hyped up, but, in actuality, may not be. On this point, viewer ratings and aggregate average reviews could be used to demonstrate if something truly is overrated or not.

    However, I don’t find that to be the worst problem with the term “overrated.” In my opinion, there’s a difference between arguing that a show is not good/is bad/deserves to be wiped off the face of this planet, and calling a show “overrated.” The former invites personal opinions about why we think something is bad, but the latter actually requires that we give a reason for arguing why people are mistaken about why the show is actually good.

    Let me demonstrate. If (and this is very hypothetical) I call Geass R2 overrated, but not the first season, it’s because I feel that people are mistaken about their evaluation of R2. This could be for two reasons: they actually think the show is good, or they simply trick themselves into thinking it’s good. For example, I would have to say that those who liked the first season (and, hypothetically speaking, rightly so) that held onto the illusion that the second series was just as good for x, y, z reasons. In my opinion, to argue that a show is overrated, I would have to demonstrate how viewers who highly rate R2 to be mistaken on both accounts, and that, in fact, R2 is not good enough to receive the ratings it did.

    Hence, a show being “overrated” has a two-dimensional argument. First, an analysis of the show itself, and second, an analysis of the interpretations that fans have of it.

    • That’s a reasonable way of looking at it; and by your definition, it would take a hell of a lot of work to call a series overrated! (Which is good. Why even make such a proclamation lightly?) This is a good example of why I’m personally not in the game of calling things overrated, though … who wants to spend that much time analyzing fan opinion of something?

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