Can You Judge Art Objectively?

Can You Judge Art Objectively?

So there’s a particularly flawed idea about media criticism that has gained a lot of popularity recently. It’s the idea that we can judge art quote-unquote objectively. A kind of criticism that focuses exclusively on things like plotholes and whether the events of a story makes strict logical sense. The goal of this criticism is to establish that a piece of art is objectively good or bad. I find this position pretty damaging to film discussions as a whole so today I’m going to explain all the many reasons there is no such thing as objective criticism. It’s going to take me quite a while to get there, so I just want you to hold on to this one idea before we begin. The Dark Knight, the movie every film bro keeps on a shrine at his bedside has more plot holes than virtually any other movie you can name. Just hold on to that real tight because we’ll come back to it. So first, let’s get the semantics straight. You can make objective statements about art. Star Wars was written by George Lucas, there are spaceships in it, the main character is Luke Skywalker. These are called… facts. You enter subjectivity the moment you make a qualitative statement about those facts. George Lucas is a brilliant writer. These spaceships are cool. Luke Skywalker is well-written. These are what’s called… opinions. I know this is some simple stuff so far but I need to say it because the idea I’m reacting against is the all too common phrase, “This movie is objectively bad,” which presents an opinion as a fact. The proponents of this idea will assert that the objective critic is only speaking about the tangible facts of the matter, while so called subjective critics only talk about their feelings. But this is a false binary. It’s totally possible to speak entirely emotionlessly about the themes of a particular work. For instance, I could say that the original Star Wars film is about why nature is superior to technology. And I could point to the climax where Luke puts away the targeting system and embraces the force and that doing so helps him defeat the technologically superior Empire. Nowhere in that analysis have my emotions factored in but I haven’t described an objective quality of the film either. I’ve used evidence from the text to support a position and in the process I’ve revealed something about my subjective perspective. But someone else could say the scene isn’t really about nature versus technology, it’s about atheism versus religion. The rebels won because Luke had faith, while the Empire lost because they belittled religion. “Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes. Or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels hidden for…” We’ve come to two slightly different readings of the same film and neither of them is objective. They are steeped in the perspectives of whoever believes them to be true and both of our hypothetical critics here could use their analysis as a reason to claim that the movie is well-made and they would be speaking just as subjectively as someone claiming it is well-made because the plot makes logical sense. They are opinions based on evidence that are held up to a personal standard. But this lands us in a bit of a pickle that is a sticking point for a lot of people. If all value judgments are subjective, then how do we know what’s true? Doesn’t that make everyone’s opinion equally valid? I mean, why can’t we just agree on a standard of quality and then judge everything against that? Wouldn’t that be objective? Well, these are questions that plagued two 18th century thinkers most responsible for how we think about this today David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Historically speaking, thinking that you can judge art objectively is not entirely unheard of. To many ancient and medieval thinkers, the idea of beauty being located in an object was a very popular position. It was as objectively true to say that a rose is red as to say that it is beautiful. But in 1757, Desmond, I mean David Hume published “Of the Standard of Taste” which relocated beauty to the eye of the beholder.
“Beauty is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may perceive deformity where another is sensible of beauty and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment without pretending to regulate those of others.” Oh, you sweet summer child! If you had only lived to see YouTube! For Hume, you need a perceiver to exist for beauty to exist. But of course this creates the problem we’re running into. If everything is subjective, then how can we make any truth claim about a piece of art? Hume’s answer is in the title – taste. Basically, people can improve their taste over time and make well-founded judgements that we can trust. “Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics to this valuable character; and the joint verdict of such wherever they are to (be) found, is the true standard of taste and beauty.” So Hume’s answer is we can’t know what’s good for sure but we can get pretty close by listening to an expert and that anyone can become an expert with practice. It’s also better if we listen to critics as a whole instead of just one person because by joint verdict he means that critics tend to come to a consensus on great art over time. Basically, since great pieces of writing tend to withstand the test of time, the fact that they have been well regarded by so many critics in so many times and places, functions like an objective standard. Making it uncontroversial to say that Hamlet is an excellent play for instance. It’s sort of like polling data. A few decades later Immanuel Kant was a little disappointed by Hume’s essay, thinking that he hadn’t gone far enough to solve our problem. In 1790, he published The Critique of Judgment, a landmark and enormously influential book that tried to get as close as possible to figuring out how we perceive the world around us. And I mean how we perceive the entire world around us. Kant isn’t just talking about art here and is actually trying to find a way to describe why art is different from just about every other kind of object we encounter. So, I’m not gonna read all this out because Kant doesn’t write like a regular human, but instead like a computer describing math equations. But what he says here is that taste is inherently subjective. When we feel pleasure or pain when looking at something it has nothing to do with that object. It is taking place within our own minds, the essence of subjectivity. Now as Kant often does, he splits things into categories. When you experience pain or pleasure, the object responsible for that belongs in one of three groups, actually four, but we can safely ignore the sublime for the purposes of this discussion, since it alone would be its own hour-long video. Ok, so three categories. There’s the agreeable, the beautiful and the good. The main difference between them is based on which we desire. Let’s say you’re starving and a man offers you food. Because you need the food, you’re in no position to judge how it tastes. You can only say that it is agreeable. Likewise, our judgments of what is good are also prejudiced by our desires. We want things that fulfill their function so we say that they are good if they do. But when we look at something like a flower, we can call it beautiful because we don’t need it for a specific purpose. It’s an unbiased judgment. There’s another important distinction between the agreeable and the beautiful and it helps us solve part of the problem of total subjectivity. Things that are tied up in the idiosyncrasies of our senses can never be anything more than simply agreeable. You may find the color purple agreeable, I prefer blue and there is no conversation that we can really have there. Our senses just like different stuff. But the beautiful is different. When we see something beautiful, we actually feel that we have a good reason to believe that everyone should see it the same way as us. We actually believe it to be a true quality of the object, even though it isn’t. This phenomenon is what Kant calls and bear with me through all of these terms: Subjective Universality. Yeah, that is that is a big weird phrase. So, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like an oxymoron. How can something be universal if it is subjective? And I hear you. But Kant is using this phrase to talk about the fact that while we can’t irrefutably prove that we are right about something being beautiful, what matters here is the fact that we feel like we have a good reason to believe that other people should agree with us. We have a justifiable opinion. It’s in this space that all conversations around art take place. So to recap Kant’s theory so far: taste is inherently subjective. However, to talk about the beauty of something you can’t be biased towards it. You cannot need it or see practical value in it and the terminology of the agreeable let’s us set aside totally abstract personal opinions from those we think should have universal validity. Whoo boy! That is a lot of stuff! Kant is literally the most difficult literary critic to figure out. But there is one more distinction to clear up and it’s between the beautiful and the good and I think this one helps to explain the impossibility of objective critique. I said earlier that things that are good have a specific purpose and we can say objectively whether or not they are good at achieving that purpose. The weird thing about things that are beautiful, is that while they don’t serve practical purposes, they feel like they do. So, when we say that a flower is beautiful, we’re not talking about the practical purpose it serves as the reproductive organ of a plant. What’s beautiful about a flower is that it feels like it was designed to please, Even though that is not its purpose. Man, Kant really does talk about flowers a lot! A piece of art is a little different than nature though since we are constantly debating what the purpose of a piece of art is. A painting or a film doesn’t serve an obvious practical function. And even if the author creates it for a specific purpose, art tends to take on a life of its own and can fulfill many unforeseen functions and this is really important. If there’s one idea I want you to take away from this video it’s this one: because how can you establish the objective criteria for a piece of art when art doesn’t serve a definitive describable purpose? Like you can say that a particular hammer is a good hammer because it is good at hammering nails since hammering nails is the purpose of a hammer. But with art, the perceiver has to invent the purpose of whatever they’re looking at. Is it to entertain, provoke thought, communicate a message, stir emotions or nothing at all? With every piece of media you encounter, those questions are up for debate. So if your criteria for a story is whether or not it has logical consistency, if that’s the box you need check to have a good time… that’s fine. What I’m arguing is that implicit in that belief are a lot of assumptions about what the purpose of a piece of art is? For instance, you may believe that movies are primarily about escapism. And so anything that takes you out of the narrative is an enormous flaw. There’s just nothing that makes that belief any more correct or incorrect than any other assumption about what art should be. So whenever we critique the quality of art, we first make an arbitrary assumption about what its purpose is. Then we invent criteria to decide whether that purpose is achieved and it’s only after that that the analysis proceeds logically. Let’s look at a concrete example, perhaps you’re writing a review of oh, I don’t know, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to pick a film totally at random and for no other reason. In the first scene, the rebels use these big bombers against the first order and they get destroyed really quickly because they are big and slow. But aha! You’ve been watching Star Wars your whole life and you know that there is another kind of ship called a y-wing which is also supposed to drop bombs. So why aren’t the good guys using that ship since it’s smaller and faster and would survive longer? That would make more logical sense, checkmate Rian Johnson! Okay now it’s totally fine to dislike any scene in this film, but let’s talk about why this is not an objective criticism. It’s partly because most people do not know what a y-wing is and even fewer know what its military purpose is, so to even make this critique you have to have a certain knowledge of the lore. But on top of that you have to believe that adhering to the lore established in other films is more important than the immediate impact of the scene. The fact that the bombers are big and slow is a nonverbal way of communicating an idea to the audience. It justifies in our mind why the ships are destroyed so easily. Whichever side of the argument you land on, it’s simply a personal preference and it’s based on a bunch of beliefs about which aspects of a story are more important than others. Even though none of them are inherently more important than the rest. Artists are constantly faced with these kinds of trade-offs where they can choose to sacrifice the logic of a scene to a degree, in order to improve other qualities of the film. Here’s another Star Wars example, that is the purest version of this. It’s often said the first Star Wars film was saved in the edit. You can check out RocketJumps’ video for more on that. And one example of the editing changes to the film is that the original edit lacked the ticking clock elements in the finale. Instead of the Death Star being moments away from blowing up the rebel base, which imbues the scene with an incredible amount of tension and makes the heroes feel like underdogs, the original ending has them being the aggressors. The Death Star was just hanging out in space somewhere and the rebels went and blew it up. But changing the ending introduced a handful of plot holes. Leia says that their ship was being tracked and yet the heroes foolishly lead the villains directly to the rebel base on the moon of a planet called Yavin. The Death Star teleports into the rebel bases solar system but on the other side of the planet, meaning that they have to wait to blow up the moon base when they could have just teleported right next to the moon. And at any time they could presumably shoot their laser at the planet and let the rebel base spin out of orbit. Now, if you are in the shoes of the great Marcia Lucas, the editor on the original Star Wars, 2 versions of the film stand before you. The whole thing has already been shot. There is no third solution so you have to choose: do you and Georgie release the cut that has tension or the one that’s more logical? There is not an objective answer to this question. This may just seemed like a semantic grievance to insist that the terminology of objectivity versus subjectivity is wrong here but I think it’s more important than that. Implicit in the terms is a hierarchy. The idea that objectivity is better than subjectivity and that we have to agree on what something is objectively first before we can even get into subjectivity. The terms empower those who want to end discussion rather than those who want to encourage it. Okay, so up until this point I’ve been arguing about why it’s impossible to say whether a piece of art is objectively good or bad. And if you want more on this I recommend checking out Jack Saint’s video on this topic which just came out last week and touches on a lot of stuff I haven’t talked about here. But I also want to speak more broadly about why the things that are typically brought up in these kinds of discussions aren’t as important as they are often treated. Mainly plot holes and I want to make the case for why, in my opinion, other kinds of criticisms are, from my perspective, just plain better. Now a lot of great smart people have already talked about this too. I recommend checking out Patrick H. Willems’ video on it as well as Film Crit Hulk’s essay. The point I want to make about plotholes is this: they are usually not the real reason people didn’t enjoy a movie. There are almost always deeper and more personal issues with a film that prevented people from connecting with it which aren’t as easy to identify or articulate as plot holes are. But plot holes are very easy to explain and since you didn’t like the movie and the plot hole is a problem in the movie, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of saying you didn’t like the movie because of the plot hole. And I believe this because there are a bunch of movies with a ton of plot holes that pretty much everyone really likes. Remember what I said about the Dark Knight a million years ago when this video started? It has more plot holes than any movie you can name. The Joker’s plan makes no logical sense in virtually every scene he’s involved in. It requires him to have information he couldn’t possibly have, move things to places they couldn’t possibly get to, or need literally months of planning despite the fact that he claims that he doesn’t plan anything. Money doesn’t burn this fast, what happens at the party after Batman jumps out the window? How come none of the bus drivers are alarmed that one of them drove into a bank and how did the Joker still get away with this? Why does a cop stand inside the cell with the Joker when they already have him safely locked up since this creates the risk of a hostage situation? Which is exactly what happens. Can you really get a fingerprint off a shattered bullet? How did Batman build the super computer while everything else was happening? Why is Batman so worried about not killing the Joker when he very clearly kills several people in this very movie? You could literally talk for hours about the logic in this movie not adding up and yet people still love the film because it has incredible pacing, great acting, compelling characters, intense action, interesting provocative and relevant themes and gives the viewer the vicarious sense of being Batman along with a hundred other reasons! Which all successfully distract you from its logical failings. To put it simply there are some terrible films where the logic holds up and some excellent films where it doesn’t. This is not to say that the logic of story never matters, of course it does. Literally every choice in the artistic development of a story matters and it’s totally fine to have an appreciation for films that get the logic right. But what I’m saying is that to make a better case against a film, it’s important to demonstrate why the presence of a plot hole impacts other aspects of the storytelling. If you notice a plot hole in one movie and not in the Dark Knight, it’s because the Dark Knight has better pacing. So why does all of this matter? Why am I so committed to the idea that this kind of criticism should occupy a smaller fraction of film discussions? 3 reasons: first since my channel is dedicated to writing and is meant to be useful to writers I think it’s especially important for writers to embrace other forms of criticism. Analyzing the content of media, the ideas it’s communicating and not just the form is the best way to improve your own writing. If you treat stories purely as logic puzzles to be solved, I think you are only setting yourself up to produce superficial pieces of art. You have to read deeply to write deeply. Second: because the quality of art and the quality of criticism are interrelated. “‘Tis hard to say if greater want of skill appear in writing or in judging ill but of the two less dangerous is the offense To tire our patience than mislead our sense.”
Those lines are the opening words of Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism published in 1711 and in them he makes the case that bad criticism does more harm than bad writing. Since bad criticism will influence more writers in the wrong direction than a bad story would. For Pope, criticism creates the grounds from which great art springs and so if we want better art we need better criticism. Film discussions that are too focused on logical inconsistencies will lead to art that is too focused on logical inconsistencies at the expense of story character and theme. I don’t want future artists to decide actually, I won’t write this story since it doesn’t make perfect logical sense. I mean who wants to live in the universe where the Wachowski sisters don’t make The Matrix because their idea didn’t adhere to the law of thermodynamics? Our culture would be immeasurably poorer for it. Lastly: for both writers and non writers, I think this conversation matters because media analysis can, for lack of a better phrase, nourished the soul. It helps you make sense of the world. Often when we see a piece of art we are confused by it, confounded by it, it’s only through the act of creating and absorbing criticism that we can bring sense to that experience and bring the insights of that process into our everyday life. The kind of criticism I think you should seek out or produce is one that seeks to understand what is being communicated in a piece of art. A criticism that puts those messages into context, one that demonstrates how art affects us both personally and socially and that shares a unique perspective that can make something beautiful even more so. Criticism can do so much more than say whether something is good or bad and I want to do more to show you what criticism can be that’s why this episode is the first in a new mini-series on this channel that I’ll be calling The History of Arguments. We talked about Kant and Hume today, but what about Plato, Aphra Behn and Oscar Wilde? There is a 2000 year long history of critics debating a small collection of interrelated questions that I want to explore. Foundational questions like: what is art? What should it do? And how should we interpret it that still influence how we talk about art today? I’m really excited to get into all that and if you want to help ensure that those videos get made then click on over to My patreon and chip in as little as one dollar a video. So, if you’ve seen my other videos then you know that this one looks very different than my previous work. What with all these hand-drawn animations and stuff! I hope you like the new format because it really helps me free up what I can talk about in these videos and making the videos look this way meant that I had to pick up a few animation skills. So it’s fitting that this episode is sponsored by Skillshare since that’s where I learned how to do this stuff! Skillshare is a great place to learn new skills and has over 25,000 online classes to choose from. If you’re looking for help with animation, then I recommend checking out Jake Bartlett’s courses about After Effects. The first 500 people to click the link in the description of this video will get two months of Skillshare for free. You can also sign up for a premium membership to get unlimited access to all of their classes. Thanks for watching everyone and thank you to my patrons for supporting these videos. Keep writing everyone!

100 thoughts on “Can You Judge Art Objectively?

  1. If I had a nickel for every time someone acted as if aesthetic theory ended with Kant, I could almost afford a movie ticket.

  2. Even though I disagree with a lot of aspects, I love the direction, you are pushing the discussion into. Thanks for that!

    Just the fact, that finally someone looks into philosophy for a more intellectual perspective is so refreshing.

    In the german YouTube-Crowd we have one exceptional YouTuber, who gives his critiques on movies with a highly intellectual background. The more interesting part is, that he watches the movies through ideological spectacles. He separates the critique completely from what's (presumably) intended in the movie and just extracts, what the movies "worldview" is. I.e., given the movie has a happy end, what kind of society pictures this as a happy end?

    Looking on filmmaking that way gives movies like "The Lion King" a very different message. Just imagine, the movie was from the point of view of the Gazelles. Would they agree on the "circle of life"-stuff? Or would it rather more be a movie about suppressed gazelles and a self-satisfied tyranny of the lions? Should we even identify with the lions? Does the movie tell children that society is hierarchic and that's a natural thing to accept? Is society even a natural thing to accept?

    This is a highly feasible approach, which I wish to be discussed more. Maybe you can do…

  3. Funny of you to mention the Matrix and the hypothetical situation of the Wachowskis not releasing it because of the thermodynamics plothole… because from what I've read, and I'm not entirely sure it's true, in the original script humans where supposed to be used as computers on a neural network, which would make much more sense than batteries and close a lot of the plotholes of the final movies, but they chose to go with batteries because they were afraid the public was too dumb to understand the neural net concepts, so they sacrificed logic for…?

  4. You can criticize art objectively. No matter what it is, it can be objectively good or bad. MauLer has taught me that. I never used to think that much on movies until I started watching his critiques. I also know you had a debate with MauLer and Wolf on this very topic and completely failed to defend your position that art cannot be objectively judged.

    EDIT: Found a spelling mistake, fixed it.

  5. If art is only subjective, then does anything really have quality?

    "Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and *cleared of all prejudice*, can alone entitle critics to this valuable character; and the joint verdict of such wherever they are to (be) found, is the true standard of taste and beauty."

    …………………..So no, not without objectivity. Art can have beauty and quality because there is information provided by facts which sets a standard for what makes something beautiful or good quality. Subjectivity cannot set a standard because it is an individual, biased view point.

    Subjectivity requires no discussion, while objectivity does in order to come to a consensus. If I say a certain film is bad while you say it's good, we have a contrast of view points. we can't both be right, so have to discuss and resolve. That is why objectivity is so important in film and art as we can use the info we gain as a means of growing and improving. Subjectivity, as I said before, is an individual thing and does very little for the improvement of film.

  6. Have you ever thought of this: You basically can´t judge art based on art „qualities“ since quality art is subjective. This is viewer-art perspective. But what if you change perspective? Can you judge art objectively based on creator-art perspective? Did the creator achieved his goal and created art, that he wanted to create? Or did he failed? If director want to create action-pumped movie with no interest in story and the result is dumb movie but with great adrenaline action, can ´t you say that he suceeded and the movie is good no matter the taste? And if another director want to create well written and emotional romantic drama, but the result is dull movie with one dimensional characters and incoherent story, can you say that movie is bad, not because of the „objective quality“ but because the director didn´t achieve what he wanted to?

  7. Then I guess the hobbit is just fantastic then. Greatest film trilogy of all time in fact. Better than lotr, more dramatic tension, better characters, better pacing, makes sense right? Well too bad it’s my opinion and is therefore just as valid as a person with a brain who hasn’t done 16 lines of cocaine in the last five minutes.

  8. The thing is I make a différents between two things: my OPINION and my TASTES.

    I try to keep my opinion as objective as I can, based on three major things: facts, logic, and the opinion of the majority. I can therefore say something is bad or good according to me, and someone could then come have a debate with me if they think differently, because perhaps I’m wrong and I analyzed things badly.

    So I make a difference between the previously-explained opinion (which apparently isn’t the same definition as yours), and my TASTES, which are entirely subjective. I’m based on feelings, or facts that only make something likable because it’s me and it’s very personal.

    Now… with this difference done, it allows me to DISLIKE a good movie as well as I can LIKE a bad one. It applies to pretty much anything. For example, I like eating hamburgers but I also know it’s terrible for me, the same way I say the level called “Whittleton Creek” in the game Hitman 2 isn’t great, while I adore it. Make this difference too!

  9. Kant said the good meant fulfilling its purpose. Well, if a video game tells me it is worth playing because it has countless possibilities, then I can objectively rate its different levels by seeing which ones have less possibilities and things to do in it compared to the other ones.

    I can find it bad for that reason, but still like it for subjective reasons because its theme pleases me, for example.

  10. Taste is different from opinion.

    Taste is necessarily subjective, while an opinion CAN (yet isn’t always) objective.

  11. The answer to the purpose of a specific piece of art is held by only one person/entity: its author(s). And therefore, when the author announces a bit of that answer (like in the commercial campaign for a movie), we can look if what they claim is indeed the case. If I’m told by an advert that the movie contains a lot of action, but actually gets me bored or has so few action in it, I can say this is a fact that goes against the purpose of having action.

    Same may apply to singing: if a song is out of tune, you can say it goes against the whole purpose of music, except for the easy-to-spot and honestly rare cases where being out of tune is intended.

  12. Yes, indeed, you are right saying we need criteria for an analysis to proceed logically.

    BUT, the thing is we can make up a list of criteria to this purpose in two major ways:
    — By seeing what the majority sees as what makes the film/book/game/whatever good and therefore see if this criteria is respected by the specific piece of art it was made for, so we can figure out which’s parts of it are better and which other are worse, or if they are meant to answer each other: it is all about what people tend to think
    — Secondly, sometimes the author asserts the purpose of the piece of art, like the the commercial campaign of a movie.

  13. It is easy to defend your point when looking at a plot, especially with a movie that’s essentially a rigid unchangeable plot.

    But what about vidéo games? I’m not even willing to find plot holes, but there are so many other things I can find in them, like the lack of clarity of an interface, or issues in graphics, or some levels of it having more content and possibilities than others (while the ads claim it’s has many possibilities) make me see the point of the game is easier reached sometimes than some other times. All this lets me find facts to rate art beyond plots.

  14. A mexican youtuber who has a PhD in Arts once said that it's not the same the universal human right of art appreciation and actually knowing about art, and that's why most moviegoers are just wrong about what they say, and other people when they critic some particular piece of art.

  15. decent piece.
    hidden assumption regarding the experience of art: that 'we' are somehow separate from the world and the 'objects' within it (this is closely related to context). also funny: you rail against hierarchies in critical criteria only to later advocate hierarchies in types of criticism. the fact is that hierarchies always emerge when life is involved; it's a phenomena of structure.

  16. I love how Patrick H Williams seemingly sparked a war w/ Cinema Sins. And thank god for it.

    Star Wars is a hilarious example of how selective Plothole Surfers can be. Oh Rey's a Mary Sue? Hey let's talk about a desert bumpkin of a farm boy that some how battles his way through a moon sized military fortress then is allowed to pilot a military space fighter against a moon sized military fortress and armada of trained pilots . . . that opts to send only ~20 fighters against the 20'ish rebel ships. You know. Instead of sending 1,000 Tie Fighters to just swamp the fuck out of the X and Y Wings. And somehow this moon sized battle station has a glaring weakness on the surface that the greatest engineers and construction teams somehow missed that'd result in the death of millions? A plothole so insane, they created Rogue One to basically ret con it into a "It was designed that way!" scenario.

  17. If I might venture an opinion, this video only talks about the so-called "objective" criticism that centers on plot holes and the suspension of disbelief. But there are many more elements, technical or otherwise, about the construction of a movie. Non-consistent lighting. Poorly edited movement. Plain bad acting. If I say that Suicide Squad is a poorly constructed film from a writing and editing standpoint, I can find plenty of objective facts to back me up. I don't have to guess at the intent of the film or its utility because its place in the Hollywood blockbuster machine already makes its purpose clear, and it fails at it.

    The video is awesome and very interesting, I learned a lot from it. I just feel it doesn't fully address the breadth of objective statements you can write about a piece of art.

  18. Objective criticism may not be the most meaningful criticism but how do we talk about anything meaningful if we disagree on the fundamentals.

    Take the bombing run in TLJ. There there are many logical inconsistencies in that scene. Logical inconsistencies are a problem for people with the knowledge of why logic is broken. The more people learn and the more information we share the bigger these problems are going to seem.

    Errors don't get a pass just because it's difficult not to make them. If we can't agree on what a flaw is then how can we talk about the positives.

  19. I'd say there are 3 tools that you can use to most professionally criticism art, and in some cases, everything. Tolerence, Relativity, and Majority.

  20. This video is just shut up about ploteholes 2.0 with worse plothole examples and points, such as good pacing makes plot holes redundant. These mental gymnastics are absurd.

  21. I understand you want to hit back at Mauler and Wolf but it doesn't hit the mark. Your example with the climax of star wars doesn't work because it's a miner flaw that actually can be explained away in areas. Like the death star couldn't blow up the planet cause that would blow them up too. But thats just details. My point is that the climax of star wars can be explained easily. Something like fucking up how lightspeed works or not explaining Lukes decent in the last jedi are bigger problems that can't be explained as easily. Meaning some problems are bigger than others and if a movie has an overabundance of issues then it will objectively sink the film

  22. So do you just not understand how to write? Or are you abandoning your principles and intelligence and the very description of your channel to protect your sacred cow?

    regardless it's not a good look

  23. You’re right. We should all just stop thinking about it and eat the shit that’s put on our plate, because criticism of the shit is harmful to food at large.

    Also, next time, look at a philosopher you understand. You straight up butcher Kant here.

  24. I like how you try and make a channel to help make people better writers then make claims of anybody being able to write well anyway because everything is subjective. Only to then turn around and say that they absolutely shouldn't focus on certain aspects, because it will make their writing bad. Objectivity only seems to exist when it suits you, huh?

  25. I laugh to think that he's the person who wants to have a video discussing the history of arguments, all while displaying textbook examples of the strawman fallacy, all throughout this video. What a slimy, talentless, pretentious hack

  26. Your Y-Wing argument doesn't really hold water. While I agree that the casual moviegoer probably will not know that the Y-Wing is a bomber, this is easily remedied by simply having a line of dialogue in the film. We know this is true since that's what they do for the TLJ bombers. The bombers had never been featured prior to this movie and they are introduced via dialogue which highlights the fact they are bombers. So why is option a (introducing an entirely new ship and explaining that it's a bomber) better than option b (reminding people that the existing bomber is in fact a bomber)?
    And of course there is the fact that the previous movie Rogue One featured Y-Wings performing bombing runs with zero issue.


  28. In regards to criticism, objective does not mean intrinsic, inherent, innate or connate. It means judgment without emotion.

    This isn't philosophy or at least not yet. Before we get to the loftier stuff, we need to make sure everything is structurally sound. If the film says "failure is the best teacher" but no one in the film fails then that theme is a failure. How can you talk about Poe learning not to sacrifice himself without taking about the film's glorification of Page's and Holdo's sacrifice.

    The point is that standards need to be agreed upon (if only for that one conversation), talk about the film objectively and then come to a subjective conclusion. Maybe after that circle back around and get all philosophical.

    Also this interpretation of Kant is horrible. I've only just begun to read Kant but even I can see how off this is. Kant was after solid irrefutable truth regardless of the nature of subjectivity.

  29. Already commented but feel like doing it again. I don't wanna bring about hate or anything, just wanna point out how you haven't proven your point in this video. So you say the bombers are so and so but you say it as if you have to choose. The star wars example, like you have to choose between logic and emotion. If you are a good writer you don't have to choose, you have both.

    You know what you do in such a scenario. You think of what you want to say and how you want to say and then you write a new draft in which the circumstances for the event can take place and makes sense. So for example The Matrix doesn't follow real science that well but it doesn't have to. It does however have to follow it's own set of rules established in the movies. The sequels are not that good but had a sword warrior from a different time come about or something that would have been objectively stupid because it doesn't follow the rules wheres what does happen although that is also stupid is not as bad as that.

    This goes for all plottwists too. They have to be within the realm of the movie because otherwise ANYTHING can happen at any time and we should be okay with it. But if the movie has a realm we can grasp and point to, that means the realm is objective. Like star wars taking place in space. But if we then have an objective realm we can observe we can also see patterns which establish clear rules in that realm. So in star wars there is hyperspace. So then if an event in a star wars movie breaks the rules of hyperspace thats an objective problem. The size of the problem can be somewhat relative but it is cold hard fact that using hyperspace to ram a ship is wrong.

  30. Nothing has value. Nothing is good or bad or even real. Everything is subjective. We have nothing to strive for. What a terrifying world view. Also, it undermines all your other videos.

  31. Maybe you should look up the word objective because you prove youre clueless about what it means every time you talk about it. It is honestly embarrassing to listen to you speak on things you obviously cant comprehend. Either stop speaking or get an education

  32. "The Resistance using the large easily destroyed bombers is NOT a plothole because nobody knows what a Y Wing is!"

    I can safely say this is among the worst arguments I've ever heard. The fact is episode 8 is a SEQUEL! It shares continuity will the entire Star Wars Saga. Rey proves this when she mentions Luke's turning of his father when trying to convince him to join The Resistance, solidifying the connection between OT and Sequel Trilogy. Reality is not dependent on the number of people aware of it. If someone finds a logical contradiction in the events of a story you can't dismiss it by saying "most people didn't notice it!" It would be like try to defend a suspect's contradictory alibi by saying that "most people haven't heard his alibi so its not an issue!" Its so dumb.

    Notably, what you missed when discussing what is and isn't objective about a movie is the fact that the EVENTS of a movie are also objective. It's not my opinion Luke blows up the Death Star. It's not my opinion Han gets betrayed by Lando in ep 5. It's not my opinion the Rebels beat the Empire. These are all observable facts in the movie. These events, locations, and characters form the Lore for a fictional world. As more works set in that word are added the Lore gets bigger. In order to keep things simple, a "Canon" is formed that separates "true" events from "non-canon" lore that would contradict it. This is because if the "canon" starts contradicting itself the fictional world completely falls apart from the lack of logical cohesion.

    The Sequel trilogy DESTROYS the canon because of elements that contradict the canon that were lazily thrown in for the appeasement of Lucasfilm's higher-ups (such as the hyper-space ram, the mini death star tech, Rey's absurd power, and the hyperspace tracker).

  33. Y'know, if you absolutely had to use those stupid bomber designs in TLJ, the impact of the scene could've been heightened by making the design not stupid. If the bombers were indeed slow, but had armor/shields that couldn't be penetrated by blaster fire, then the director could've used that as an opportunity. In order to show the might and fanaticism of the First Order, their fleet commanders could have ordered several tie fighters to kamikaze into the bombers until the shields/armor gave out. Since these bombers are valuable to the Resistance, but the First Order is a massive superpower in the galaxy (somehow) that has legions of troops they can expend at their leisure, this would show the hopelessness of the situation far better than what was provided in the movie.

  34. This has to be one of the worst youtube videos I've ever seen and you have to be one of the most pretentious youtubers I've ever seen too.

  35. When you really think about it; do you even need to watch a movie in order to criticize it? I mean, you can just come up with your own interpretation without having even seen a single frame of the movie, and your interpretation will still be 100% valid and a perfectly relevant critical approach. It's not like you could ever be objective anyway, so why even bother watching the film if you can just imagine it instead?

  36. Holy shit, man. That was 'subjectively' one of the best education video i have ever watched. Gave me lots to think about as a writer who is, at this moment, struggling with a story idea that has too many plot holes. Thank you.

  37. Ok I had to go back and watch like 10 videos of him. Now what I discovered is that jw is a fairly consistent person, critical of writing, with an accent that puntuactes the last word of a sentence, with an afinity of grandious and elocuent language even when is not strictly necessary, by the way he pronounces certain words I have always thought he was Canadian and he has a bit of an unhealthy relationship with spoilers.(a trait that I dislike is his lowkey obsessions with fathers but I'll just ignore videos on the topic)

    All well and good up to this point, I like people better that way, what is not consistent are his opinions. Now that's not that big of a deal since opinion change all the time(although not very drastically), but it is a deal breaker when you go back and forth between them.

    I think his review of season 7 with game of thrones and the way he has expressed himself about TLJ are the perfect example of this, to put it simply in the GOT review he complains about some plotholes(making super long trips in an unreasonably short time) and how the show felt like it was more a fanfic that itself and how you can fall out of love with a story(he will go on to backtrack some of what he said in his season 8 review).

    For contrast of the things he has said about TLJ is that is dramatically sound(even though most of it doesn't make sense and it's undercut by bathos something that he has stated to hate) that star wars fans have a very specific set of boxes they have to tick for a (mainstream)movie to be acceptable I will go on and say that he's wrong, it's only the particular kind of movie TLJ was trying to be and subvert, and that plotholes don't matter and taking the franchise in a new direction is perfectly valid because the writing is subjective and making logically sound movies is overrated.(even thought the writing feels like a fanfic now that's taking everything it made the originals great and throwing it at our face to see if it sticks, much like season 7 and 8 of GOT)

    In his review of season 8 of GOT he postulates that subverting expectations just for the sake of doing it ultimately hurt the story since it contradicted the character arcs and themes that the show was going for, I think you can apply the same critisicim word for word to TLJ.(changing show for movie)

    I have other minor issues regarding jw like how he has become more tame when it comes to criticism as a result(even though the people behind these properties have virtually unlimited resources) and that he fails and even retreats to address critics directly, how he uses philosophers as argument of authority and how he presents topics in a video like they are the key component of a particular film.

    For the bathos thing watch the first half of the wonderwoman video.
    For the spoiler thing, in his most recent video about witcher and uncharted and on the first part of his critique of the last airbender where casually spoils pulp fiction.
    I think the other references speak for themselves.

  38. I'm noticing all these hate comments are from last jedi haters. Just shows how large their knowledge of film really is

  39. Obviously, why is this even a question? The objectivity of things doesn't inherently have to hurt your subjective perception. Yes there are objective goods and bads, the better critic would put his feelings aside.

  40. It’s amazing how JW got his ass handed to him in a debate with MauLer, and now he’s passive-aggressively shitting on MauLer with this video while continuing to excuse the Last Jedi’s numerous flaws.

  41. I wholehartedly agree with the video. Well done, again.

    But there is still a problem. And the problem is still the semantics.

    I agree with almost everything with the video, but I can still believe you can judge art (somewhat) objectively, but in a closed system. If every member of the system can understand and accepts the criterias, then that system alone can judge the art (to a degree) objectively. It wont be %100 objective, but for most people (since they believe that their ideas, criterias are superior to one another, they only know the secrets of the universe etc.) it is more than enough for them. And adding to that, people tend to cherry-pick the ideas that suits or validates them and voila!

    That is why people have hard time to correlate with all these. They want to believe that The Last Jedi is (since it is a example in the video) objectively bad because they still think that their beliefs about certain criterias are superior to other people (plot points, choice of words, usage of music, you name it) . Because they believe that they are superior. It is hard to discard this notion by the way. Non-usage of Y-Wing ships are actually bount to plot, because in Rebels we saw the production state of the Y-Wings. They didn't last to this day. They are gone. So its easy and tempting to say "my reasoning is better (and more objective) than yours, because I know more about Star Wars (and connect more dots, therefore strenghten my position in the objectivity realm) than you, so I am right and you are wrong!".

    But again, this is not a proper way in the contemporary scene. We all have our own criterias, everchanging by the way but most of the time we don't notice, and we like or dislike things based on them. When we belittle other people's criterias and try to justify ours as a known truth, things get nasty. It is primal, I admit. Yet it is wrong. Bigotry feeds off from it, intolerance feeds off from it. Shunning everything that aren't "like me" feeds off from it.

     I don't know man, I mean you really tried something good, something magnificent here. I don't know or care about that Mauler incident that people have been talking about, but this video as a whole tries to accomplish so many things. Unfortunately most of the time people don't do re-runs of Youtube videos. Not even to understand it completely. And this video is too much for just one take.

  42. If something cannot be bad something else cannot be good. You believe this so that your pretentious arguments have a point but if you really think about it this mindset removes value from everything that dosnt have a concrete purpose.

  43. I really want this series to continue, this video was super interesting and spark lots of thought in me so I really hope you continue it soon 🙂

  44. This is my take on the argument because I'm currently making a video one it.

    You can make objective criticisms about movies. If there is a glaring plot hole then that would be objective and can't be argued. There are many examples of this in a lot of movies.

    However, you cannot say that a movie as a whole is objectively good or bad. It would be an opinion to say that objective flaws make a bad movie. A movies goal is usually to entertain, and everyone is entertained in a different way. For me the themes of a movie are what entertain me and make a good movie. For others it may be logical consistency. For some a good movie just has to have good graphics and logical consistency doesn't matter.

    So in conclusion, yes you can objectively analyze of a movie, but you cannot conclude a movie is objectively good or bad.

  45. 12:15 That is the most retarded argument I’ve heard in a long time. First of all, it’s not true. Most people, even casual Star Wars viewers, can recognize a Y-wing. Second, even if it were true that most people don’t know what a Y-wing is, by that same logic, they shouldn’t have used the bombers because no one knew what they were either, they were brand new ships that had never been seen before in Star Wars.

    I just don’t understand how you can make such a stupid argument. They used Y-wings in Rogue One and that only came out a year before TLJ. When people were watching that movie and the Y-wings showed up, do you seriously think anybody in the audience was like “what ship is that? that doesn’t make any sense.” I also find it funny that so many people seem to claim that objectivity hinders discussion about movies, when ironically, the whole subjectivity vs objectivity debate has been going on for years now. It seems to me that it has had the opposite effect and has sparked more discussion than ever. I find objectivity to be way more interesting to discuss about movies, as opposed to only taking about how you felt.

  46. I feel that there are a lot more things you could evaluate objectively in a film than just plot holes.
    The exposure, the color grading, the lighting, the sound editing, the quality of folly work, the realism of miniatures or matte paintings, realism of makeup or prosthetics, the continuity, the performance of the actors, the list goes on.
    Say you set out with the goal to create a gritty, character-driven, true-to-life, crime procedural. However, your finished product features flat overexposed sit-com lighting, poorly recorded folly, inconsistent makeup, and sets akin to a high school stage play. All of these aspects of your film can be objectively analyzed and I would cite these aspects if I were to critique your film. Regardless of whether I enjoy the film, the facts remain.

  47. probably one of the lamest vid i've ever watched. you can absolutely judge a movie objectively. that's throwing all the basic standards of technical skills, including plot structure, scripting, acting, editing, etc. completely out the window in favor of "subjectivity". trash is trash. evoking Hume and Kant doesn't make this any less true. a movie is an amalgamation of several disciplines of art, all of which have basic standards to measure by.

    what the hell happened to this channel?

  48. Well, since you use the word art, yes i can't come up with a definite purpose, but can't we establish that a movie's definitive purpose is to tell a story?

  49. "with art, the perceiver has to invent the purpose of whatever they're looking at"
    Except when the artist's intent is clear. And with movies it's usually pretty clear. This argument is baseless sweeping statement.

  50. Art serves a definitive biological purpose. Everything serves a purpose. This video had too many holes and not enough command of aesthetic philosophy.

  51. Here's a simple way to understand the answer here.

    Playing piano is an art, yes? Of course it is. Music is one of many forms of art. Would you say that, if someone goes up to a piano and plays it for the very first time, that they've mastered it and never need to play it again? Would it be impossible for a person to practice and improve their piano skills after their first time ever playing it?

    If at any point that answer is a "no", then you can judge art objectively, because you're establishing that there is a level of quality that can be obtained. If it were impossible to judge art objectively, that means that there's no objective quality to measure. If there's no objective quality to measure, that means there's also no objective quality that can be improved or needs to be improved. And if there's no objectively quality to improve, there would be no need to practice anything ever.

    Every piano player would be as good as the other. Every writer would be as good as the other. Every singer would be as good as the other. And most importantly, if you subscribe to the idea that there is no objective quality, that means they can NEVER improve and therefore shouldn't bother practicing it, or going to school for it, or claiming it as an actual profession if they're "no better than anyone else at it because it's all subjective".

    There's also such things as "objective opinions". This doesn't mean the opinions are correct. You can have an opinion that's based purely on information that itself is incorrect, but it's still based solely on that information and not on your feelings regarding said information. In a court case, what matters are the facts. How you feel about them has no bearing. This can definitely be the same case when judging the objective quality of an art. You can still have your own feelings for it despite that, but the fact remains that that quality absolutely exists regardless of how people feel about it.

    Objective doesn't just focus on plot holes. It focuses on anything that's tangible. Subjective deals with the intangible. You can objectively measure the elements within a film. How it affects your overall experience may differ from someone else, but you can definitely point out how X doesn't make sense or how Y shouldn't be possible by the rules the story has established.

    And the idea that A New Hope is about atheism vs religion can be objectively picked apart because it was just one dude who was mocking Vader's "religion", but he was quickly shut up. Meanwhile, the two top ranking members of the empire are fully delved into the religion. Are you saying Vader and Palpatine didn't have faith in the Force?

    Likewise, the idea that A New Hope is about nature vs technology can be objectively disproven by the fact that Luke does use technology to take down the Death Star. Are the missiles and X-Wing not technology?

  52. The real problem with this entire video essay, is that you don't cite your evidence. You're giving hypothetical examples, show some clips of these "hypothetical" critics you are quoting.

    If what you're suggesting here is true, then your entire channel is purposeless. I don't follow your channel because you give your opinions on things, but because you use your hard earned knowledge to make objective observations and criticisms on writing. Those objective criticisms are valuable to me as someone who also writes and creates.

    Purely subjective video essays are more than useless to me. Maybe you can't say that someone's opinion isn't valid, but your objective criticism of writing structure and the craft of writing helps me make better art.

    So stop being a hypocrite. Your own objectivism is what gives your work value. Saying you can't be objective is a cop out, and you're better than that.

    That's why I subscribed to your channel in the first place.

    If this elitist nonsense is what your channel is going to be moving forward, then I might as well unsubscribe, because you're deliberately cutting out what makes your videos useful and insightful.

  53. "Most people do not know what a Y-Wing is." Funny, there's a few in this shot from the first "Star Wars" 1:41 In the video you wrote… and edited. Just Write I understand that it's difficult for you to accept that you really like a movie which is poorly written. But no matter how many nonsense meandering videos you make you're not going to change the facts of the matter. It's okay to like a bad movie.

  54. What's the point of trying to help writers improve if it's subjective? How can they improve at all if there's no objective quality to improve? Why bother telling people to avoid some aspects because it will make their writing bad? How can it be "bad" if it's all subjective?

  55. Let me get this straight. You go to a debate on this very subject, get fucked so hard your asshole turns red, and get sent home looking like a little boy who tried to convince two college professors that two plus two was twenty-two… and then make this crap. This absolute tripe where you use a 200 year old book in a blatant appeal to authority, and don't comment on anyone who may have taken this gentlemen to task on his beliefs.

    What good is this video, if you won't discuss any responses to it, or dare I say, try and get on another debate about this subject, and not embarrass yourself? It's worthless. It's just you desperately trying to poison the well for anyone who didn't see your embarrassing debate against Word of Wolf, and Mauler.

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