It has been a week since the second volume of Stranger Things season four has come out, so it’s probably safe to talk about it now. But I won’t. Not yet.
I find myself starting blog posts all the time, and because I seldom write in this space, I find that I often try to make up for the number of posts with the number of words in a post, and that long-ass season would need an awful lot of words.
So, instead, I’m going to try to post more often but to cover less each time.
This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things 4.
Back when season one of Jessica Jones came out, an author I like posted a negative review of it. Which is not a big deal. It would be a dull world if everyone liked the same things. But one of his big criticisms was that he didn’t understand why Jessica wouldn’t kill the villain. He thought she should just kill him and solve the problem.
After I read that bit, I thought to myself something like, Was he vacuuming during the scenes with no fighting? Because those characters debate–at length, over several episodes–Jessica’s determination to somehow capture him alive. How could this author have missed it?
Well, he missed it because he didn’t like the show and because he didn’t like the show, he wasn’t paying attention.
The same thing crops up everywhere. I was reading a review of a novel in which Our Hero has an extended part of his life where he spends his mornings training with weapons and his afternoon learning magic, and the reviewer was obviously much more interested in the magic than the weapons. After Our Hero’s first fight, the reviewer was mystified. They didn’t know how the character could win a fight, because they’d skipped over the part of the book where he trains to fight.
And like every reviewer, they did not look inward at this discrepancy. They didn’t think Maybe I missed something?
Nope. They decided the character was a Gary Stu or whatever and dinged the book for their own lack of interest.
So it is with the review of Stranger Things 4 by Freddie deBoer. (I’m not going to link to it, because links are precious gems that must be spent carefully, but you can google up the guy’s Substack if you want. Fair warning: his bio cheerfully discusses his own growing reputation as “an asshole”.)
As part of his criticism, deBoer complains that too many of the scenes are Big Emotional Moments, saying:
Why not have Max give that tearful confession about wanting Billy to die for no discernible reason other than manufactured pathos?
Now, anyone who has watched the show and paid attention knows exactly why Max makes that confession. She’s trying to bait the season’s villain into attacking her. But if you don’t like the character and are bored with the show, you’re not going to keep track of the plot. What’s more, all those Big Emotional Moments is going to feel empty.
(In fact, at the top of his review, deBoer says, in drama, every scene cannot be climax. He then goes on to list a long string of scenes that all fall at the end of the series, and that were climactic moments for the many, many storylines in this 13-hour story.)
But look, the guy finds most of the characters “profoundly annoying.” He hates the politics. He hates the tone. He thinks it panders to nerds.
And really, given all that, is it any surprise that he’s not moved by the big moments at the end of those storylines? Or that he doesn’t really seem to be paying attention at all?
To which I say: people, don’t watch shows that don’t interest you. Just turn them off. Your hate-watch is not interesting in and of itself, and your criticism is not going to be as insightful as you think, mainly because you’ve spent half the run time of the show scrolling through your phone, not to mention all that vacuuming.
One other thing deBoer talks about is Barb, and he’s wrong there, too, but that’s for another post.