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Constructive vs. Destructive Criticism

Before you guys read this post, I have a small assignment for you.  It won’t take long, I promise! I just need you to check out the comments on Lindsay’s The Lorax Review.

I hopped on to see if I could spot the Universal Studios sockpuppets enacting  damage control, but instead I found mounds upon mounds of trolls.

One the trolls says something along the lines of “If you can’t handle criticism then stfu.”

… But… none of what they said constitutes criticism at all.  They called Lindsay boring. And a cunt. Among other things that have absolutely nothing to do with much of anything.

That’s not being critical. That’s being cruel. Or, in this internet age we live in, being a troll.

For the purpose of anecdote, I’m going to expand a troll comment into something that resembles actual constructive criticism.

Original Comment (grammar and spelling as originally presented):

"God what a boring piece of shit. Who did you have to blow to get this job chick. You suck, go play with your dolls"

For the sake of this argument, I’m going to ignore the sexist overtones.  I’ve already spoken about such things at length.  

Here’s how “God what a boring piece of shit” should look like. (Small disclaimer: The following is fiction and does not match my opinions of Lindsay and her work in the slightest.)

"I dislike your presentation.  It leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s not very interesting or engaging, and your delivery comes off as stilted and flat.  Compared to other reviewers on the site that cover similar material, the quality of your work is inferior. It’s surprising to me that you have obtained and maintained a prominent position on this website, perhaps a little more effort on your part would change my mind. If you attempted to engage me, I might just become engaged."

See, that comment is still bitchy. But it actually has something resembling SUBSTANCE.  It’s not just a drive-by epithet or an unhelpful slam.  If you can’t articulate why you don’t like someone or their work and feel the need to resort to base insults and one-lined lambastings, then you really shouldn’t bother commenting.  It comes off as masturbatory, talking just to hear the sound of your own voice.  Most of all, it doesn’t really add anything to a discussion.  More often than not, it just derails any possibility of ANYTHING meaningful coming out of a dialogue.  

Here’s another one that bugged me, this one wasn’t directed at Lindsay, but at another commentator who basically said the same things I’ve said here but in much shorter form.

"i don’t have time to talk with little brats, we can talk when you grow up. Maybe you’ll grow some balls too by then"

This equation baffles me. And by “this equation” I mean: Dissenting Opinion = Youth = Idiot.

The whole notion that just because someone is young means they’re incapable of forming valid opinions baffles me.  … Well, only a little.  As I’ve said before, I’m creeping up on 30 and often have a hard time understanding the kids these days.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to write off every single person that was born after 1995.  That’d be STUPID!  Not only would I be unable to share my experiences with them, they wouldn’t be able to teach me anything either.

Calling someone out on their youth just because they disagree with you makes even LESS sense.  You don’t know how old ANYONE is on the internet. Even if they tell you, there is no way to say for sure.  Age is a number, and I know that when I was a 13-year-old girl using dial-up way back in the day, I never presented myself as such.  I never claimed to be any younger than 16 because I really hated not being taken seriously because of my age.  It’s easy for us older folks to forget that frustration, I think. Because it tends to disappear once we exit high school.

That’s not to say that intelligence trumps wisdom all the time.  Sometimes, the only way you can learn anything is by trying and failing. A lot. And since older people have had a lot more time to try and fail at a lot more things, they have a unique perspective.  One thing that pains me more than anything else is when I see someone repeating mistakes I’ve made previously.  I try to go above and beyond to try and keep that from happening, especially if its someone I care about.

That’s not always the right thing to do, even if my intentions are good … sometimes, fucking up is the only way to really learn anything.  Hearing about how other people have fucked up doesn’t help at all, and indeed might even just make things worse.  

"Shit, I was told not to do this destructive thing by someone older than I am. BETTER KEEP DOING IT TO SHOW THEM WHAT FOR!"

Back to the matter at hand.  Even that comment could be re-worded in a constructive way.

How about this:

"I am not in the mood to argue my opinion with anybody.  You can call me whatever you want, it’s not going to change my mind.  If you can find the time and patience to be civil with me, I’d gladly continue this discussion."

You know what? It doesn’t even have to be that articulate.  Proper grammar and spelling helps one’s case, but as long as the core idea is solid … nothing else should really matter.

How about this:

"u dont have to attack me to get ur point across. i have my opinions, u have urs. i back up my arguements and if u dont like them dont reply to them"  

Even that is a marked improvement, and easily taken seriously.  For a lot of people,  writing is a hard thing to do.  I totally get that.  I also understand that most people don’t type 120 words per minute like I do, so making yourself heard in a reasonable amount of time takes priority over proper spelling and grammar. If someone can’t spell and overuses internet-speak but still manages to form a coherent opinion or idea — it has merit. A lot of it.  Besides, a big vocabulary and decent sentence structure doesn’t always accompany a quality idea.

Alas, these crass comments serve as yet another example of why I find the forums on TGWTG completely inhospitable.  


Here’s a negative comment from the Lorax review that’s got the right idea:

"I use to like your reviews when you first came to the site, but now you just seem so miserable and way too preachy. I know NC can get in thoses miserable moods at times but with him its so over the top that its played for laughs.  When I watch your reviews now I feel like I’m getting a lectured."

See how this comment brings up specific, demonstrable things that the viewer is dissatisfied with?  See how they use examples to back up their opinion?  I may not agree with this user’s point of view, but they took the time and effort to try and back it up.  I respect that.  Also, the same person that posted this comment chewed out the people that posted the other examples I used here.  

"Now about [user name omitted], its okay to have an opinion but actually make a point don’t just call her names and pick on her. If you see something wrong with a review POST SOMETHING HELPFULL!! Maybe the reviewer will read it and change how they do certain things."

This person gets the point and should be commended for it.

The Scarepenis and Other Musings (or: ‘Why I Fucking Love Team NChick’)

The trope of the  ”straw feminist” has always bugged me, and that term never sat right with me either.  It makes me think of scarecrows.  Ah, but straw feminists are kinda like scarecrows in a way. Except, they don’t serve as tools to scare … crows. Their job is to strike fear into the heart of every man that should happen upon them.  So, my brain took these two notions and went on a little journey that went something like this:

Straw = Scarecrow

Feminist = Threat to manhood

Manhood = Penis

Straw Feminist = Scarepenis 

As you can see, this is a highly scientific and logic-based process.

The Scarepenis has been a common stock character for far too long, and I really think it’s tainted how we as a culture perceive women.  I’m not kidding, here.  It’s come to the point where if anyone says anything remotely pro-woman, they’re automatically (and often brutally) labeled a *gasp* FEMINIST. Or any variant of the ‘Feminazi’-type insults that are out there.  

I’ve seen people call the Nostalgia Chick a Scarepenis, and even more confusingly I’ve seen the same accusation lobbed Linkara’s way as well.  Perhaps I’ve missed something, but nothing either of them have ever said has come across as particularly militant.  At least, not to me.  I’d love to be able to brush this off and just write off the shit-stirrers as trolls, but unfortunately I cannot.  Honestly, I think their hostility harkens to something much darker and some problems that run more than just skin deep.

Lindsay is fucking fantastic, and I am SO glad that Doug chose her to be the Nostalgia Chick.  Her brand of wit and degree of snark is just tops. Her writing is clever, her research is sound, and her presentation just fucking rocks.  Team NChick is also great! I love how the three of them span the entire Nerd Girl spectrum. They play off of each other well and never fail to captivate me with their charisma and boundless enthusiasm.  This video, right here, is where all of these things are the most evident.

Now, some of you might not know it, but the above paragraph is missing something.  And, according an unsettling number of comments under some of Lindsay’s videos, it’s something fucking important.

In no way did I mention the physical appearance of Lindsay, Nella or Elisa. Nor did I find it necessary to comment on a trait they can’t change.  I wouldn’t make such a big deal about this, but I can’t ignore the fact that Lindsay and the rest of Team NChick are subject to excessive scrutiny on these trivial things simply because they’re women.   How dare they fall short of an unattainable standard?  It’s things like this that prevent me from participating in discussion on TGWTG’s forums.  I get so angry that I know that anything I’d type would come across as less than rational.  It’d be futile anyway, as even if I did make a decent point it’d fall on deaf ears.

When I first started reading the TGWTGsecrets Tumblr, I was really pleased to see how much love there was for Nella and Elisa in particular. There were a few negative things, but they weren’t necessarily as cruel as comments I’ve seen elsewhere.  Shallow? Yes. Cruel? No.  Nella and Elisa are really, REALLY awesome people.

Nella is probably one of the kindest, bravest people that anyone could ever hope to encounter.  I would have withered and died from all the negative feedback, never showing my face anywhere ever again.  But you know what? I don’t think Nella gives two fucks.  And if she does? She doesn’t show it. And I am in so much awe of that.  

Elisa became one of the coolest, most awesome people ever when she reviewed Phantom of the Paradise with Paw.  You think Scarface was Brian de Palma’s best movie? Well, you’re fucking wrong. Because Phantom of the Paradise is his best movie. This is fact. 

I digress. I needed to. This post is a bit heavy.

This focus on looks rather than … well, anything that actually matters, is fairly widespread with the other female reviewers, too … but with team NChick, it’s multiplied by three so it feels more magnified. Or at least, it gets uglier and harder to ignore.  

I’m not saying the guys don’t get their share of criticism about their looks, but I’ve never seen it get quite so nasty.  I may be wrong. 

These are my thoughts. What are yours? 


It’s confirmed! Nella doesn’t give two fucks. Also confirmed: Nella is fucking badass.