Why So Cynical?

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In an age of media galore, it is no surprise that every piece of work that comes out will have a spectrum of followers covering every type of person that could possibly have consumed it, from the eyes-glazed fanatic to the cold-stare critic. Of course, every viewer of a creative work has something to contribute that can be helpful to creators, the to-dos and the to-don’ts able to be recorded in mass online. One can search up nearly any show, movie, or book that has come out in the past twenty years and find extensive reviews nearing into the hundreds from good to bad to ugly.

One of the most recent examples of this is Netflix’s new show Umbrella Academy, based on the comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Released on February 15, 2019, the show is seemingly the typical superhero centered plot-line with creative themes like robot moms, time travel, and humanistic talking monkeys all existing within a gloomy, dull atmosphere. Despite this atmosphere, many of the key characters’ personalities contrast with the society around them by painting the scene with a bit more color through charisma, humor, and flaws–all in abundance.

Watching through, it is most definitely an interesting and captivating plotline with several leads and multiple dynamic main characters developing in interesting ways throughout the first–and most likely not last–season. Despite this, it only takes a single search of the show’s title to find a multitude of in-depth, highly critical reviews. Although Umbrella Academy is a generally positively reviewed show, reading through the negative criticisms of the show begs a question: is there a point where critics become overly cynical, and has this cynical mindset gotten to a point that critics hardly regard media for its entertainment value because they are always in search of some deeper, more profound meaning? Surely, there is a certain respect to be had for media that is for its own sake.

While the majority of people who watched Umbrella Academy, despite critical reviews, saw a plethora of lessons and impactful themes throughout, are those who didn’t simply too caught up in their own overanalyzing that they never allow themselves to enjoy things just to enjoy it? Or is the existence of those who are highly critical of media another way to keep a certain higher standard in the types of media that “go viral”? One critic on rottentomatoes.com criticizes “plot holes” and unanswered questions, despite only one season being out in what is intended to be a multi-season show. Without giving the show a chance to redeem itself or answer its own questions, some have thrown it aside with a concise and angry review of “1.5 stars.” It seems as though, in a time where the individual searches for something that impacts them personally, it is forgotten that what makes something impactful, or entertaining, or good is merely subjective. Disliking the execution of something–where nothing offensive is involved–does not necessarily make it a bad piece of media. That being said, still early in its debut, thousands of positive reviews of the show have been left with many describing it with words like “intriguing”, “loveable”, and “well-written.”

In summary, every piece of media has something for which it can be respected and something for which it can be despised. Where Umbrella Academy can be revered for its “killer” soundtrack or its eccentric characters, it can be torn apart for its “inconsistency” or its gloomy nature. Regardless, it is all just a matter of opinion.