I Wish to Review People. Is It Ethical?

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As someone who enjoys the art of critiquing, it’s no wonder I’ve dedicated so much time and energy into writing reviews spanning all sorts of different subjects. I’m one who enjoys taking things apart and analyzing the individual importance of every piece that makes the final product work. Putting that together with my many interests in life makes a rewarding and fulfilling amount of (self-described) work for me to use in my writing. It’s not a career for me, but I’d love to make it so. One day. But one subject tends to throw me through the most loops, and ultimately riles up my brain more than any other subject in comparison: people.

I’m not going to come out and say that I want to review people based on their quirks and ambitions and make myself into a second-coming of Dr. Phil in virtual form. Nothing of the sort. Many of the subjects that I typically write on on my blog come in the form of a team of people. Anime, video games, movies. Things of that sort. Manga and novels are usually much smaller teams and tend to be more intimate of reviews due to primarily having one person to criticize, but still have that feeling of not criticizing them directly. The argument is a tad vague, but my reviews tend to focus on the in-story flaws rather than the flaws of the person writing that story. The subject of “people” that I wish to review pertains to the work directly attributed to them, while putting themselves out there front and center to give that work their own identity. This, in itself, makes criticism of their work much trickier.

Back when I attended university classes, I took a few fiction/non-fiction workshops where the students had to learn about and write stories regarding various topics. Every week, we would dedicate one or two days to review certain people’s work during class. Every person wasn’t required to speak up, but it was encouraged greatly by means of participation grade. Whenever the subject came up, I was hardly one to speak at all. I read all of my classmate’s works as I got to them, with varying degrees of likability and quality through my mindset. However, especially for those whose work I found atrocious, I never let them know it bluntly. I would comment on a few things here and there, but never gave them the full throttle of why I was disgusted with every word placed into the story. Why? Because it feels mean. It feels nasty. It feels unethical to me. I couldn’t bring myself to smash their work into a million pieces due to how I felt it would affect them emotionally. I was scared to be honest, so I stayed relatively quiet most days. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to say. I had so much to say. But as an aspiring critic, this hurt my pride greatly, to think that I couldn’t muster the courage to criticize my classmates’ works in a respectful manner. It’s easy to criticize someone’s work from behind a computer or away from the person’s face, but I wish to be better in giving them the benefit of my honest opinion, whether they care for it or not.

The topic I had in mind when planning to write this was Youtubers. People who put themselves online and showcase their zany minds to the world. I think it would be a really fascinating experience to analyze and review the videos by a particular person on Youtube, whether it be big names like Pewdiepie or JennaMarbles, or those who dwindle within the realm of obscurity, whether it be because of their quality or relatively low subscriber count. More than anything, I find it intriguing to scroll through a person’s history and see how their videos have changed over the years. I would love to provide feedback on my own platform rather than be one of millions of comments on any individual video. While I don’t necessarily feel that “Youtuber Reviewer” would be my calling-card, I think it’d add a bit of flexibility to the subjects of my blog (And perhaps my blossoming Youtube channel?).

But therein lies the difficulty of doing a subject like that: treading the line between critical analysis and personal attack. I would, for example, mark an entry titled “Thoughts on Pewdiepie” in which I would criticize his use of overexaggeration and dependency on inside-jokes or staples of his Youtube career and history. When does a review that directly attributes the effort a person made into a form of entertainment impede the line of basic criticism? Most of all, should I feel like the bad guy if my review of Pewdiepie’s channel offends him? It’s a pretty give-and-take process of carefully crafting a language system that benefits the ego of the person being reviewed while also maintaining a professional tone to smooth out any negative attributes described. That’s not to say reviews of people or their work should only focus on good qualities with negative addendums written in tiny text in the bottom-right corner of the page, but one shouldn’t resort to insulting the subject as a means of further proving their point. Perhaps it’s harder to do when everything about the subject is negative, but always keep in mind that nothing will be gained by appearing biased.

I also recognize that I am guilty of this to some degree within various reviews. Just look at any “Ruining” posts.

I have always wanted to review people, but what gave me the idea to make this post was a WatchMojo Top 10 list of “Underrated Youtubers,” wherein six of the ten placements were Youtubers who primarily run Let’s Play channels, which made me roll my eyes. Many are aware at this point that Youtube is the web king of Let’s Players, guaranteeing a varying degree of success so long as the person playing the games is either physically attractive, personally likable, or have an odd quirk to them, like a strange voice or rainbow-colored hair. Or entertaining to children. Sorry, had to get that in. This fascination with Let’s Players makes me want to branch out and give my genuine analysis of the people who run accounts like this, to see what makes them different from others or why those who do differently shouldn’t be overlooked. To those curious, the four others on the list were two video game reviewers, a video game reviewer/live-action skit artist, and an educational channel relating to the creation and marketing of video games.

It’s a slippery slope, but I feel confident enough in my own abilities to be able to respectfully cover the overall scope of a Youtuber’s (or anyone else in general) “career.” But I’m willing to take in input on the subject as well. What do you think of the idea of “reviewing people”? Do you think it’s too sociopathic? Or do you think it’d be a good way to provide feedback? All answers are greatly appreciated, and for those who follow, don’t be surprised if you see an entry pertaining to this subject very soon.

I Love People. Maybe It’s Me?

If anyone knew me for an extended period of time on MyAnimeList, they would know that I tend to read other people’s reviews and (occasionally) give my input on them, whether it be an obligatory “Nice job!” or “advice” on how they can further develop their reviews. While most of the feedback for this has been positive (I even got a nomination to become a Review Moderator for it), I have made a few enemies from doing so, as well.

I will not acknowledge their names for their own privacy, but certain people on MyAnimeList feel that I am overstepping my bounds by giving unwanted advice on other people’s reviews. One has never spoken to me directly, but has left comments above mine on other people’s profiles stating that they shouldn’t listen to me and/or that I’m “full of myself.” The other, whom I had just been discoursing with earlier today, further acknowledged that I’m overstepping my bounds when it comes to giving advice about reviews.

This brings me to the conclusion that some people just want to write reviews the way they want to write them. The issue at hand is knowing whether or not that’s the case beforehand. I find it rather silly to comment on another person’s profile asking “Oh, can I criticize your reviews, please?” before I actually begin to criticize them. Because of this, I choose to simply criticize their review without hesitation; but it does beg the question as to whether or not I really am protruding on people’s privacy when I do so. I’ve also been told that this form of criticizing without hesitation on other people’s profiles is “rude and harsh.” While I certainly don’t want to come across that way, I do find it hard to properly criticize a review without coming off as a self-absorbed snob in the process. Because of this, I try to leave at least a positive note somewhere in the comment to ensure that I mean no ill-feelings. I’ve had mixed results.

I’m not sure if anyone on MyAnimeList is aware of this, but I report at least five reviews a day. When and if I become a Review Moderator (hopefully I will be given the power to delete reviews), I’m going to have to explain why I had gotten rid of people’s reviews. The thing about that is the way I’ve come across to certain people so far in my MyAnimeList lifetime. If I come across as high-and-mighty to certain people just from criticizing their reviews, I don’t wish to imagine how they would react to my tone when I delete their reviews. It’s just something I’m not looking forward to if I’m elected moderator.

While I don’t plan to stop criticizing people’s reviews, it makes me wonder how I can change my approach to ensure no one’s feelings are hurt. From the intense thought I’ve given to the topic, I can’t find any way around it. No matter how I put it, I’ll either come across as snobby or easily manipulated. Perhaps I shouldn’t even think about it, but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings unnecessarily. I suppose I’ll simply be the wandering Abra that teleports to people’s profiles to spout his egotistical words of wisdom to the masses of clueless “reviewers” on MyAnimeList. Today has been a very insightful day, so far.