by Luv Mehta
April has come and gone like a dream. Not the pleasant kind, though - the kind where you toss and turn in your sleep, constantly trying to force yourself to wake up.
This is a hell of a downer to start this article with, but I wanted to show you, the reader, what conditions it was written in. As of this article’s release, we’re all still under lockdown, and my office work’s only gotten harder. The area I live in is a designated red zone, and I keep getting notified about infection zones expanding further towards the building I live in. And with all of that going on, I’ve had the bare minimum time available for self reflection.
So I figured, hey, you know those clip-show episodes in a lot of TV shows? The ones that play back specific scenes from earlier seasons and show you how far we’ve come, and how we used to be? Let’s do something like that.
And thus I decided to read all the articles I ever personally wrote for The Amateur Media Blog, to see what I thought of them today. Would I cringe at my earlier writing? Would I find something great and wonder how I ever wrote any of it?
And, well, both of those things happened.
it’s 2015, and you’re still a naive college student
you’re in the hospital, getting an x-ray done for a hairline fracture
you’re at home, unable to go anywhere, getting frustrated
you’re browsing the internet, watching movies and reading a ton of articles written about each movie you’ve watched
you’re reading funny articles about them on Cracked.com, and looking up their trope pages on TV tropes
you’re wondering if you can do something that’s similar to all these websites
you’re discussing this idea with some friends who have come to visit you
they’re interested in writing as well
Reading one’s old work is always terrifying for a writer. Maybe we were much more biased towards certain things, maybe we made jokes we now regret, maybe we held views we don’t agree with anymore. This was a strange process for me, too - I am somewhat proud of some of the articles I wrote, but most of them now feel very narrow-minded and overly reactionary.
Funnily enough, one thing I noticed during the whole process was how much I had been influenced by Cracked.com and TVTropes. Cracked used to have a very informal style, peppering strong language, offensive metaphors and extreme opinions in their articles. Something couldn’t just be bad - no, it had to be as bad as “an STD contracted in a concentration camp”. And TVTropes had a bad habit of creating trope pages for every single thing readers could find common to two or more movies, whether it be “Wow there are always three leads in a Disney Channel sitcom” or “Wow the sky always looks strange in movies set on other planets” - observations that often seem to have been made for the sake of observation.
I started this website in 2015, with an article about why I didn’t really like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood very much. This is the first article I’ve ever written for this website, and reading it immediately brought back a wave of memories - not all of it great. I wish I had written this better, and there are a lot of very problematic lines here - why, for example, did I make such a big deal of the fact that I wasn’t using gendered pronouns for Envy? What was the point of starting a critique of a given scene by trying to coin a tropey name (Batman Stupidity) and referring to other shows that weren’t even relevant here?
That being said, the broad strokes of this old article are still things I agree with, even if I’ve grown to mellow out over this opinion. Sure, I don’t like one of the most critically and commercially acclaimed anime series of all time. There’s nothing wrong with it, and there’s nothing to be hyperbolic over, too.
As I kept reading through the other articles, I found something else that was alarming - nearly every single article I’ve written has been about an English-language piece of media - I only ever used to cover shows and movies from the US and UK. From movies to TV shows to video games, it’s kind of funny how much my media consumption has exposed itself to be very narrow minded. I started trying to write more about Indian movies a couple of years ago, but I have a long way to go.
Two shows I’ve written a lot of articles about - True Detective and Doctor Who - tended to be reliable attractions for the site. The former had two articles written about them, one for Season One and one for Season Two - and honestly, I gave True Detective Season One too much credit here. For a series about toxic masculinity, it still overwhelmingly focused on the men in the story, instead of the (overwhelmingly female) victims of most of the incidents of violence and murder.
The articles on Doctor Who, though? Yikes.
I really like the rating system I made for the episodes, but that’s about it. I get too harsh on a lot of the episodes, for reasons that come across as flimsy - I’ve frequented online Doctor Who forums since then, and I’ve seen similarly excessive hatred online. If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s that every fan of Doctor Who hates Doctor Who, and every opinion on it is divisive, and I can’t help but feel like I added to the negativity. That, plus the usage of strong language - along with one place where I flippantly used an ableist slur - comes across as extremely childish - I was trying really hard to write Cracked.com-style articles, and it didn’t work.
I also used to write articles recommending media I liked, and reading them recently was pretty strange, too - a lot of the early ones ended up feeling like paid advertisements (like this one on Psychonauts, and this one on Kung Fury). That being said, I really like some of the early ones - check this article about Inside Llewyn Davis if you can. The funny thing about this article is that I poached it from my own old (and discontinued) Tumblr blog (eatpotatochip.tumblr.com). I wish I talked about the plot a bit more, but I actually like it a fair bit. It’s short and sweet and to-the-point. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought up the ridiculous sci-fi theory at the beginning, though.
We used to have collaborative articles, where we discussed our thoughts on certain movies after watching them. The ones that have aged the best for me are some of the ones we used to write about superhero movies - we ended up covering a lot of popular english-language movies for clicks, but there was always a good sense of balance with some of them. The ones I co-wrote with Tarique were always a highlight - our discussion on movies like Deadpool, Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War ended up feeling much better than they had any right to be, because the negatives and positives we had for each movie were always balanced out - especially in the BvS article, where my intense negativity was undercut very well by Tarique’s positivity and optimism.
We also had a lot of comparative articles, where we compared two or more movies to each other to look at certain themes they had. I’ve written a few comparative articles over the years.
An article on two of the darkest James Bond movies (Licence To Kill and Quantum Of Solace) hasn’t aged very well for me, because I don’t like some of the writing choices and editing. I do agree with the broad strokes, but I still end up rewatching License To Kill a lot. I really love that movie, for all its faults and all the cheap story decisions made in places.
Another article on The Last Jedi and Knights Of The Old Republic 2 was a good excuse for me to talk about two of my favourite Star Wars stories. I agree with the broad strokes here, again, but I wish I was a little more critical of them.
I’ve also had some articles on the trends I used to see in movie discussions - one example is an article I wrote on the reception to La La Land. This was an article I was especially frustrated with - why did I care so much about American awards? And what was the point of an unrelated Lonely Island reference, why was I trying to be Cracked.com so hard?
This was also why the article I wrote for It’s Such A Beautiful Day suffered - this was an article about my actual favourite movie ever, and even though I like some of my writing here, the random swearing feels excessively forced.
And, of course, my biggest regret of the website - I wrote an article on Women’s Day about my favourite female movie character ever. It’s very presumptive of me, a guy, to declare that a given female character is the best female character ever, and I’m not happy with the fact that I thought this was a good idea to write about.
This article’s ended up quite negative, though - there are a lot of articles I’ve written that I’m proud of, and remind me why I started this in the first place. Here’s a list of the ones I liked a lot, along with some thoughts I had on them -
"The human condition desires nothing more than to love and be loved, and human love is forever tethered to the senses. And that is why we are, and always will be, incomplete."
This was a short article I had initially written for a film festival competition, and I’m pretty proud of it. There are some lines in the ending of this article that I really like, and I'm happy I did at least one article on a Charlie Kaufman movie.
“Isn’t it a miracle that a hero named Captain America became an all-inclusive beacon of hope for humanity, and the figure that restored our faith in the idea of heroism itself?”
USA superhero movies have had an ugly effect worldwide, where they’ve mostly centered on their own country and ended up whitewashing our perception of their country. I honestly wish I had brought it up more in this article. That being said, I still stand by everything I said about this movie, and I like a lot of the points I raised here.
“If you’re in a relationship that only has love going for it, frankly, it’s best if you leave.“
This is the article I wrote that got the most amount of positive feedback I’ve received. A lot of people sent us mails and DMs and told me how much it affected them.
It remains one of my proudest works ever, and I'm happy I could write this about my favourite TV show.
“You may not always know it, but someone’s always got your back. And you can take that sword and run it straight through your heart, but you won’t be the only one who bleeds.”
Another article about BoJack Horseman, and again, I’m very happy with this article. I had some complicated feelings about the show and had to examine them, and I like the way I ultimately wrote about the journey I had with this season.
“Life isn’t perfect. Neither are movies. So why fret about something that’s not completely great?”
A lot of the recent Bollywood articles have interludes in them that are meant to be humorous, and while I'm not necessarily happy with how most of them turned out, I’m actually really happy with the little interlude here. I also like the points I made about accepting a movie with all its flaws and loving it for what it is.
So, what did I learn at the end of this excruciating process? It’s strangely hard for writers (or maybe it’s just me) to go back and read articles written by a younger, more gullible version of themselves. I have a long way to go before I can even start being proud of the way I write. That being said, the more I continued towards the present day, the more I found articles I liked - and certain paragraphs made me very, very happy that a past version of me thought of them all by himself.
Which, I guess, can be taken as a metaphor for growing up, too. All of it, the parts where I tried new things, made mistakes, learned from them - all of it has helped. And I will never really be the best version of myself, but I can keep getting better by taking more chances and pushing myself further.
Let’s keep trying this writing thing, shall we?