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In response to many of the analytical videos I’ve produced on this channel, people have asked how it is that I seem to get really nitpicky about certain shows, whereas with others I seem willing to ignore any perceived flaws. The easy answer to this is that I don’t judge any two shows based on the same standard, and the only thing connecting my videos together is that they’re all my opinion. However, to dig a bit deeper, there’s also a good reason behind why certain shows inspire me to complain about every little problem I have, while I’m not really bothered by similar problems in other shows.
Any piece of art can be considered a form of communication, and the way that art gets its point across is through evoking sensations in the viewer, by way of careful manipulation on the part of the creator. A creator has to understand what things will create a reaction or understanding in the audience, and build their work in a way to accomplish this. Put simply, they have to know how to push your buttons. For instance, if you’re watching a sad scene, and a sad song starts playing, that song pushes a button in your mind that causes you to understand that the scene is meant to be sad.
But not every creator or team of creators is good at manipulating their audience. Moreover, the more time an audience has spent consuming art, the more adept they will become at understanding how art manipulates them. That’s why it’s so important for art to feel natural and not forced, as an audience will easily be able to tell when a creator isn’t creative enough to manipulate them well.
Moreover, when a series is really bad at manipulation, it can sometimes have the reverse effect of a series that’s good at it. It pushes a different set of buttons in the viewers, which cause the story’s events to have opposite effects from what they’re supposed to. For instance, if a dramatic scene begins, but the sad music is overblown and cheesy to the point that the viewer feels like the creator is rubbing it in their face how sad the scene is supposed to be, the viewer might get angry instead of sad and end up hating the experience.
Recently, I talked in my video on layered and meta narratives about how sometimes a piece of art will use little buttons to tip you off that there’s more going on in the story than what meets the eye. Careful use of symbolism, cryptic dialog, or allusion can get the viewer to start thinking harder about the series and approach it with a more analytical slant, which may or may not cause them to find something deeper in the work. On the flipside, when a work pushes too many negative buttons and breaks the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, it can cause the viewer to start taking apart every single thing that the work is doing wrong.
This can happen in no shortage of ways. Visually, there’s the Uncanny Valley effect, where the disconnect between a work’s attempt to look realistic and how well it accomplishes realism causes aggravation with the viewer, who understands reality and can easily discern where the work is failing to replicate it. Plot holes can cause the viewer to lose their investment in a story, because if the story doesn’t operate on solid internal logic, it can lose its impact and stop making sense.
But pressing a negative button doesn’t mean that the viewer will automatically go down a negative road. The viewer’s reaction is often dependent on how many good buttons the story presses verses how many bad ones. Some viewers have their good buttons pressed early on, and it puts them in a mindset to enjoy the work all the way through, no matter how many bad buttons it might press later. Other times, a show presses so many good buttons that the bad ones it presses are barely worth acknowledging in comparison.
Every button that a show presses has a certain weight to it, and as someone sharing and analyzing my impressions of a series, I often take those things into account. If my overall reaction to a show is overwhelming love, then the question in my mind is usually “what did this show do to make me love it so much?,” and that’s the angle that I approach it from in my analysis. Likewise, when I hate a show, I often want to break down the reasons in as much detail as possible. It’s not that I couldn’t analyze my reactions to each and every thing that happened in the entire series, but I don’t see as much value in that as I do in trying to figure out how well a show pressed my buttons in order to give me my overall impression of it.