We’re in a renaissance of television animation at the moment. As the medium’s come to be taken more seriously in the West and been given more leeway in the kinds of stories it tells, there’s been a push to grapple with more substantive content. There was Aang’s struggle to remain a pacifist in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time’s later seasons have flirted with a bizarre existentialist sort of vibe, and Steven Universe is hard at work trying to grapple with the question of whether peace, love, and understanding can really heal all wounds.
There’s a difference, ever blurrier with the advent of social media, between being an audience member and being a critic. I don’t mean that in a social stratification sense of one being better than the other, with obviously more high minded and trustworthy opinions. The theoretical leveling of the playing field in terms of media analysis is one of the best things about the internet, allowing a panoply of voices to bring attention to issues that might otherwise be ignored in popular media or to sing the praises of works that were dismissed or overlooked by the mainstream culture of their time.
But there’s a different set of skills involved in talking about a work as a fan, where personal experience and comfort are paramount, and examining it as a critic. One isn’t objective and the other subjective – all reviews and critiques are informed by what the writer finds valuable – but the latter involves a conscious effort to look at the big picture. In other words, there’s a sense that you’re speaking to an audience outside of people who know you and your perspective.
Whether you mean to or not, you’re taking on the position of an authority; so even if only two people read your work, there’s always the possibility that it will wind up speaking to many people, who will then go on to quote it as if you knew what you were talking about. Careful thought is the tradeoff for having your opinion valued by strangers – or at least, that’s the mentality that’s always fueled this particular blog. If longtime readers notice an unusually high ratio of “I” statements running rampant through today’s essay, put it down to the hard-pounded-in knowledge that ultimately all you can do is explain yourself and hope the theory makes sense, rather than handing down mandates to others.
Imagine: Kenneth Parcell as an adorable, fuzzy lollipop alien, traveling the galaxy to help people alongside his grumbly best friend (think Amethyst with a side of Marceline); never visiting the same planet twice, and constantly thwarting the fairly inept galactic conquest of a hulking, bratty skeleton overlord and his halfway-between-Spongebob-and-Ice-King right hand eyeball; all imagined through the lens of the guy behind The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. With Disney’s animation budget behind it as a trade-off for the equally Disney diabolical airing schedule. That’s Wander Over Yonder, an absolute treat for any longtime fan of animation.