People have developed so many ways to express themselves with language, and the internet has afforded us with what can be considered an infinite amount of opportunities to do so, but this fact acts as a double-edged sword. So many people are expressing themselves in different ways that many of these expressions (most notably in our language) have lost all meaning. Obviously, this has occurred before the advent of the internet with words like “terrific” and “awesome” essentially meaning totally different things in recent history, but it cannot be denied that the internet has accelerated this process. Just as the internet has changed what it means to be a critic, it has also crept into the development of human expression, often to a negative effect. Valuable words, words that used to hold important meanings have been lost forever within the consciousness of the internet’s populace. There have been many, but today I’m going to look at just 3, so without further ado, let’s begin.
What it used to mean: A piece of art from the past (like a movie, a song, a book, or a painting) that modern public discourse has decided was praised beyond what it deserved; or, something you personally feel was praised too highly in the past.
What it means today: A piece of art you didn’t enjoy for vague reasons whether it was highly praised or not.
What an annoying phrase this has become. What was once a tool to reflect on where societies values were at specific times is now a word used by every keyboard warrior to describe things they don’t like. When a movie or book is released that some people hated but most liked, it isn’t enough for people to just say they didn’t like it anymore, no, they have to go further and say it was “overrated” as if to say that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. It is no longer enough to say that you have a different opinion from the majority, you have to be “right” now for some reason, and you have to let everyone on the internet know how you feel. Even if it was something most people didn’t like, “overrated” is the word that people use to describe something they hated because they can’t stand holding a popular sentiment for whatever reason. They have to be different from everyone, and they have let everyone else know how different they’re being at every opportunity. If you felt The Dark Knight was overrated, have reasons for that, don’t just say it because you want to be a contrarian so badly. If I’m being aggressive here, I’m sorry, but I’ve had enough of people constantly asking if they were “the only ones who thought Final Fantasy VII was overrated”. Thinking something is overrated as a form of modern criticism is the most basic and mindless thing you can say about it. It’s just this roundabout way of saying “I’m special!” when more often than not, there are droves of people just like you saying the exact same thing hoping to project the same image for themselves. The word overrated meant something before, it was a way to track the progress of criticism in fiction. For example, American Beauty was a film that captured a feeling of hopelessness in the workplace during the 90’s, and as a result it was extraordinarily praised by critics, but today values have changed and the wear and tear of the film began to show (that paper bag scene was stupid everyone knows it now). That is what it meant to find something overrated, it served a purpose and it was a word that held the most meaning when looking back, but now it is used liberally on new things by people on the internet desperately wishing to express their individuality.
What it used to mean: A long poem, usually one narrating the grand adventures of some hero.
What it means today: An enjoyable experience.
The ruination of this word is something that mostly affected the writing world. “Epic” was meant to evoke images of grand and fantastical adventures like that of Beowulf. When used to describe something other than a poem, the word was meant to be attached to things that were larger than life. The fact that it is used today by teenagers who have just discovered the joys of alcohol to describe their every weekend is kind of depressing. This isn’t to say that there isn’t some good news. In recent years there has been a bit of a backlash against this word, where everyone has decided it has been overused. These days, the use of the word “epic” to describe one’s weekend comes accross as juvenlie. The true meaning and implication of the word is still a lesser known thing but I think we can at least take solace in the fact that people do recognize a problem with it.
What it used to mean: A carefully manufactured illusion of danger or intrigue in a product to appeal to a youth audience.
What it means today: Any piece of fiction that has any amount of darkness.
What a disaster this word has become. Once used ironically to describe transparent attempts to appeal to a consumer base with gratuitous darkness, this word has fallen so low that I actually get irritated just seeing it. The term “Edgy”, as a means to criticize something is totally meaningless now thanks to people who think it can apply to anything they don’t like that also has darkness. Along with just about any gruesome moment that happens in fiction is some smug clown commenting with a sarcastic “ohhh, so edgy”. Instead of coming up with an actual criticism, they retreat to this stupid response that usually doesn’t really apply. The phrase “edgy” is more of a marketing concept, not something you should apply to every dark moment written in any medium at every opportunity. The moral degredation of the cast of The Walking Dead isn’t “edgy”, the gruesome torture or murder of a character isn’t “edgy” (doesn’t mean it can’t be gratuitous and dumb), and that one thing that happened in a story that you didn’t like isn’t “edgy”. When something dark happens in a story, it’s usually meant to illicit a mood or a feeling. When a story tries to illicit an emotional response from you, it either does or it doesn’t, but stop retreating into this immature wall of sarcasm whenever something takes itself seriously. This word is emblematic of everything wrong with internet criticism these days. Everyone wants to be this “cool” observer who knows what’s what unlike the “rest of the idiots” when really, they’re all the same dumb parrot chanting the same tune. “Edgy” is another in a long line of critical buzzwords that people use in place of actual thought. If you want it defined properly, just listen to Daria over here:
What you should gather from these three terms that have been put through the internet blender is that criticism has gotten lazy. Now that so many people have a means to express their thoughts, they do so to put down things they do not like. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but in place of actual thought and analysis they use buzzwords to express their opinions and to stand out from the “rest of the crowd”, totally unaware that they are the rest of the crowd. So instead of saying something is overrated or edgy, maybe people should think about why they have negative feelings about something and articulate them from there. If people just did that, perhaps the internet would have a little more substance to it.
Quote of the Day:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride