Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts



Posted on March 18, 2014 at 4:55 PM



I loathe the term “overrated.” It’s become this catchall kind of word tossed out there without context as to what is “rated” and how “over” it is “rated.” Often, there’s no “…and?” being asked when someone says that because people here it presume to know what it means though the person saying it probably hasn’t thought beyond it. In other words, no continuation of that thought - just thrown out there like a strawman that is meant to represent someone’s opinion of not liking something as much as the person next to him.

I like to do a test sometimes. I’ll see or hear someone call something “overrated,” usually people who try and act a lot cooler than they actually are or appear smarter and more “in tune to what’s good” then they actually pretend to be (see: Hipsters) and then just ask them follow ups:

“Ok, you think it’s overrated…how?”

Then they’ll throw out “reasons” as to why something isn’t as good as people proclaim it to be in an attempt to bring it down a peg and conform to their view of it.

But that’s not explaining the “overrated” part. That’s just pointing out the flaws, you’re just “rating” it or “reviewing.” You aren’t explaining why it’s “overrated.”

That’s because you can’t. What is overrated to one person can be underrated by another: it all depends on a variety of things. Circles of friends. Where you go online. The region you live in and so on. Basically: if someone hears a lot about something, and they end up not liking it as much, it’s considered “overrated” to them. Vice-versa, someone may not hear about something that much, it could be “underrated."

I like “Underrated” more because it doesn’t have as much negative connotations. In both cases, though, they are terms that don't really mean a whole lot without context.

In other words, “overrated” means nothing to me because of those extraneous factors that have nothing to do with it. Saying something is “overrated” isn’t a review or a critique, it’s simply saying “Hey, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about this thing and I don’t like it as much as them.” It’s a worthless term. Period. So stop using it. Every time I see someone use it, I see ignorance. I see someone who can’t quite put constructive criticism on the table, they just throw out that term and think it actually means something when it’s as empty as calling something “pretentious.”

Words like “cliche” or “overrated” or “pretentious” - those are just words thrown out there to get a reaction out of people. They really don’t mean anything because there’s no context behind them. Someone just throws it out there and walks away because, most likely, they can’t form an actual argument as to “why” something is “cliche” or whathaveyou.

More importantly, one has to explain why being “cliche” is a “bad thing” in the first place. For example, True Detective on HBO is full of classic tropes that some would label cliche, in fact a lot did…but how does that make the show bad if it’s done well? You have to make that argument if you’re going to just throw that word out there, and I’m willing to bet that nobody can. Like I said, it’s a reactionary word with no meaning, and every time I see someone use it I see someone desperately clinging on to a mask of intelligence that’s slowly slipping off.

Asking anyone to explore their opinion further means they have to actually think...and thinking means potentially exposing the fact they have no idea what they're talking about.

Thanks to the internet, buzzwords like “Overrated” or “cliche” are pretty common. So what are the alternatives?

Simple: question yourself. It’s one thing just to throw out an opinion. Everbody online does that. It’s another thing to actually construct an argument to back that opinion up, which is pretty uncommon online. The quickest and best way is to start questioning your own opinion. Ask yourself “why” and start to develop that train of thought further.

For example, in a recent movie review I found Mr. Peabody and Sherman fun, even inspired, but ultimately quite mediocre.


Well because it takes an hour to figure out where it wants to go with its story.

How is that bad?

Well because it’s trying hard to establish itself, taking far too much time, before it eventually comes together in the end.

And how is that bad?

Well you can’t say “it ends well” and call it “good.” You have to look at it as a whole, not cherry-pick. I had a lot of fun with Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but I can’t overlook that long, drawn-out start where it can’t decide on a story, character motivations and tone.

But what is good?

The character personalities are fantastic and there’s great chemistry written in that script between them. It carries the movie.

And so on…

So, you have an opinion: challenge yourself. Don’t just go rambling and not focus on the “why” as you, more often than not, nit-pick it to death and relish negativity (as I noted here) just to get some clicks. No matter how long of an article or video you post about your opinion on a movie or game or anything that’s consumable like that, it doesn’t matter if all it gives off is complaining and you aren’t challgening yourself to explore the reasonings behind it. If you do that, you’re no better than SnarkyJoe69 on Youtube with the comment “d00d this sux."

Ego is arguably the biggest factor as to people not challgening themselves and just throwing out nit-picky cirticisms, bullshit opinions and buzzwords. But I also think people not challenging those people has a bit to do with it as well.

Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not perfect on this either, particularly when engaged in casual conversations. However, I try to catch myself saying or writing these words and try to follow up with thoughts as to the "why" behind them. I'm also more than happy to admit that I've made plenty of mistakes, something a lot of vloggers and bloggers and tweeters really could do for themselves once in a while. However, their ego will often get in the way, which is unfortunate because you know they're probably smart, they just can't get past their own ego and sense of self-righteousness to be able to grow.

Of course, I've written about egos when reviewing plenty of times, but it's really the root of a lot of problems with literary, movie, game and art criticism. Especially on the internet where a sliver of "fame" can turn intosomeone not realizing their own faults and continue on with righteous indignation because,'s working, right?

Not challenging yourself causes you to become stagnant in perspective, approach and even writing/speaking style. Thinking you know everything and not accepting that you do not, can end your growth in the field that, if you remember, you're critiquing because you love it. Maybe challenging yourself to not use words that have no meaning to them is a good start to better writing and critiquing. It's a start.


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