The Hyperbolic Take Chamber: A Discussion

As of late, I’ve been noticing an increasing trend in hyperbole surrounding the reception of media, of people quick to judge, ping ponging between celebration and outrage with no in-between. Two recent experiences come to mind.

First, there’s the recently released Saints Row reboot, a game that is summarily being trashed across internet circles for its technical issues, bugs and its new “woke” direction. I’m currently playing it and while I understand the noise around the developers releasing a somewhat broken game (I once got soft-locked while customizing my character), the game itself is…fine? It plays and feels like a Saints Row game, which was my expectation going into it. If not mind-blowing, at least a bit entertaining. That said, everyone I read something bad about the game, my desire to continue playing diminishes, my personal enjoyment dampened by discouraging voices.

Secondly, I saw the film 3000 Years of Longing. Directed by George Miller (of Mad Max: Fury Road fame), I went into it blind and found it to be an engaging albeit uneven story about stories, mythology and how love makes people do dumb things. Very much the opposite of the tone and scale of Fury Road.

It ain’t perfect; one can tell Covid affected how it was put together, the 3rd act stumbles a bit and the ending does leave something to be desired. So when I read someone on Twitter saying it was the worst movie they had paid money to see in theaters, I was taken aback. There are bad films, yes and everyone is entitled to their views…but the _worst?_

There’s countless more examples nowadays of such conversations; not just in media but pretty much everywhere. It’s love or hate, 10 out of 10 or nil. How’d we get here? Can room be made for nuance when the default is to assess something as a masterpiece or an abject failure?

I‘d guess there are a few factors at work re this dynamic: media being distributed in more “consumable” forms via streaming making it harder for ambiguities or nuance to register, social media dopamine addiction leading to expressions of validation or failure to validate (ie “bad”) becoming currency, people doing less in the real world vs glaringly visible social problems leading to confusion b/t action and consumption, which leads to intense reactions for or against media products weighed against “values,” and also just basic need for attention and controversy = $$$ (per @“Syzygy”#279 and @“edward”#1011 ’s remarks in the tv thread)

I also think that more people and outlets are covering media stuff in a critical way, and it's hard not sounding like a snob in saying this but it's sometimes people who don't have a ton of experience with I guess culture and talking about it in depth. Being acculturated to critical thinking on art and media isn't ofc like an actual virtue, but it does show I think when you read some truly dogshit dumb article on CNN or the av club about mass media product x. I mean I hate to be repetitive on this forum and I know I've mentioned it before, but it still sort of galls me how prescribed the reviews of Cyberpunk 2077 were - not bc they were critical of the things they were, those objections were correct, but how they missed some stuff I would say more robustly bad stuff and ignored the pseudo-progressive aspects that would have been praised in any other game without the baggage

I think there's been a reaction against this in some of the writing I see in the more old reliable publications I check with like Reverse Shot and The Quietus. The writers do take some shots at the phenomenon you describe here and there, and they're generally more willing to be appreciative of imperfect things, or at lease interrogate them more thoughtfully

I think this also gets at something Tim Rogers mentione in, I think, his Action Button review of Doom. He talks about the reason he wrote such a scathing review of Bioshock Infinite and the answer was: For Attention.

And it worked! In the years since, social media algorithms have essentialized and rewarded this behavior. Add to that that everything is made part of the Culture War and you have a recipe for the worst kind of cultural criticism.

To yeso's point, the book industry seems, to me, to be dominated by people who have never read a book published before 1980. The people who get paid to talk about books really seem like they've never heard of a book written before 1980. And I feel the same is true for most media writing right now, except instead of 1980 being the beginning of time, it's The Matrix in 1999.

being really outspoken about religion, politics, or culture are ways of creating a sense of identity for yourself. if people are doing that more forcefully, i suppose people are feeling less secure in their identity.

another factor to consider: coming up with an ‘extreme’ take on some piece of media you‘ve just consumed doesn’t take very much time at all. you can formulate a “that was the most ______ _______ i have ever seen” statement in a matter of seconds. it's a form of Mad Libs. and that quickness is key to getting noticed in the current (social) media landscape.

comparably, it takes a lot more time to step back from that extreme point, and consider from a variety of perspectives, which is required for a nuanced and subtle discussion. this form of criticism lent itself well to print media, which is now basically dead (rip).

similar to @"edward"#1011 's point about the beginning of time being 1999, i suspect that a lot of people coming up with and posting these 'extreme' takes were not alive/conscious/formulating opinions _before_ the media landscape transformed into what it now is. i suspect that some folks literally do not have experience pausing to collect their thoughts and considering multiple points of view — these acts take training and repetition, which not everyone has the resources or inclination or circumstances to pursue.

That‘s a good point. People didn’t grow up with Roger Ebert style criticism, but with CinemaSins instead.

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@“hammy”#p83869 As of late, I’ve been noticing an increasing trend in hyperbole surrounding the reception of media, of people quick to judge, ping ponging between celebration and outrage with no in-between.

welcome to the club, friend

Trust me it was just as bad if not worse in the beforetimes
[upl-image-preview url=https://i.imgur.com/llRIvNd.jpeg]

it's just a new flavor of the same small mindedness.
Until we reach Zion, there will always be hasty, mal-informed conclusions by small minded individuals.

I do think the scale of things is significantly different though. Satanic Panic was very real but I think the cacophony of the internet has accelerated this kind of thing and also made it seem everywhere all the time.

I think one of the newer aspects is the way, on the internet, anyone can present themselves as knowing what they‘re talking about. This isn’t to say that old routes to publication and the filter of getting something in print or distributed or broadcast was good or that that filter ensured high quality stuff rose to public visibility, but there are fairly popular youtube and podcast people who are just blithely wrong about stuff. It‘s not even the big examples like joe rogan, well-meaning people stumble onto mistakes and shallow reasoning too. Every human being does on occasion of course, it’s just that I guess the barrier between impulse and publication is way way lower now for better and worse. Sure, in the dial up internet pre-smartphone days you could find some wild nonsense, but I think having to tune a radio into rush limbaugh or read the flyer handed to you by a kook at the subway station puts you in maybe a less pliant brain situation (don‘t know the good science words here). I get frustrated with the always provisional "hey I’m just a regular guy“ framing of how contemporary online media stuff is presented. You have to take some actual responsibility at some point imo rather than just ”participating“ in ”the discourse"

I‘m likely just going to be repeating others’ statements here, as I agree with most of what has already been said above. I think a significant amount of this behaviour can be attributed to a few similar forces working in parallel:


  • * There simply is more media being offered for consumption now than previously, and mostly in a more accessible way. Rather than only being able to watch whatever was being broadcast at the time, we now have (approximately) everything available on demand. Thus, any singular item needs to stand out considerably more than it needed to previously in order to gain any attention at all.
  • * There are orders of magnitude more _people_ openly discussing media than ever before, thanks to the ease of distributing one's words across the internet. Anybody can post a tweet, write an article for medium/substack/ghost/etc, record a youtube talking head video, etc. This doesn't mean that anyone can _do it well_, but they sure can just _do it_. Related to the phenomenon around the volume of entertainment media available, commentary also must stand out from the crowd in order to be noticed in any way. Thus, the more hyperbolic, loud, controversial, or just plain forceful "takes" are the only ones widely noticed anymore. "_X is the best thing EVER_" really can usually be mechanically translated by the reader as "_I somewhat enjoyed X_", by an author that knows no other way to have anyone notice what they are saying.
  • * People largely do not understand nor appreciate the concept of _criticism_, with a misunderstanding that it simply means "nit-picking the tiny flaws in the thing I really like". Again related to the overall increase in communications volume, to enjoy something one must _wholly_ enjoy it and sing its universal praises.
  • None of the above are genuinely _new_ phenomena, but I would posit that their incidence has been growing - and really that growth has been accelerating - since around '99 - '03 or so. We've now had about 20 years of the above _running wild_ so to say, which is why it now seems like it is impossible to do anything other than shout at the top of one's lungs that something new is either the best or worst thing ever.

    this reminds me of an interaction with someone, who all of the day had been saying “that's the worst, this is the best, etc.” i put it down to them being a good chunk younger than myself and that they‘d just adopted this way of speaking.

    do you ever think about how often you do or don’t say you love something? “i love this coffee, i love that film, etc.” i'm sure that seems wildly hyperbolic to somebody.

    Something that I think leads to these hyperbolic takes is how much other people around you like/dislike something. Whatever quality a given piece of media has, your reaction to it can be increased by the volume and quantity of the reactions of others.

    For example, I really, really hate a certain AAA game. It is nowhere near as important as most people think and it has objectively bad design. My extreme dislike of it is unusual as my criticisms can be levelled at most AAA games but this game in particular got all of the GOTY awards, was called the best game of the generation and so on. All of this hyperbole as really cranked up my hatred of the game far beyond what I actually feel deep down which is apathy.

    Similarly, until recently I thought that I hated the Marvel movies. I realised that I actually just don't care about them. However, so many people are out there hosepipe spraying the world with noise about Marvel that the inescapability of it is what I hate. The films are just fine nothing films but they dominate such a large amount of modern culture that my apathy turned to hatred of the actual films. Same with Star Wars and LOTR.

    I think a lot of internet hyperbole is mostly there to gain reaction but for those of us not trying to hustle an algorithm, all of the monoculture that is shotgunned at us day and night drives us to have our own hyperbolic reactions. And this can go either way, leading us to hate a popular thing and conversely, be willing to give our metaphorical lives to evangelise the virtues of an unpopular thing.

    @“yeso”#p83873 Yes to all those points. It does seem—given the current social, online dynamic—there‘s much more prescription than description/interrogation when it comes to taking a stance on topics. That’s not to say interrogation doesn't happen; multi-hour, exhaustive breakdowns of why “x” is good/bad exist, though they often gloss over being charitable to contrary points of view, which imo makes arguments stronger, more even and compelling

    I can see a likely culprit, as you, @"edward"#p83875 , @"whatsarobot"#p83885, @"rejj"#p83915 and @"Chopemon"#p83926 noted, in social media's emphasis on user generated content and maintaining an "attention economy". CinemaSins definitely did a number on how people approached films, just as AVGN, Sterling and Yahtzee's shared brand of "Angry, Snarky, Cynical Gamer" did a number on games criticism in the early 2010's imo

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    @“whatsarobot”#p83885 you can formulate a “that was the most ______ _______ i have ever seen” statement in a matter of seconds. it’s a form of Mad Libs

    While this is definitely true, I think a lot of "nuanced" writing can also be constructed in a pretty formulaic way. If you like something, think of 5 things that you dislike about it, and write about those (you can and should still say you like it at the end to confuse people). If you dislike something, do the reverse. That was how I learned to imitate the internet writers that seemed cool to me. I'm not sure if this actually creates deep thought, so much as hot takes that no one else will agree with. (In the same way, my takeaway from reading the Dao De Jing when I was 13 was that if you say two contradictory statements right next together it will sound super profound and moving. (I'm sure if I thoroughly read it now I'd find it a lot more meaningful.))

    I'm not 100% sure I've encountered the pervasive hyperbolic takes that are being discussed here, even when I was a daily twitter user. I saw lots of tweet threads that hugely simplified complicated stuff in questionable ways, but what I'm thinking of wasn't really in the form of hyperbole. I don't really watch any of the big name youtubers though, which might be more of what people are thinking of.

    I think a lot of people who might have some good thoughts and opinions just don't even engage cause the internet sucks so bad.