How Watching Wonder Woman 1984 Changed My World
To be fair, this change was less influenced by the film itself, and more by me considering how to review the film. After watching, I peeked on Twitter to see what other people were saying.
If you look at Twitter today, most of the #WW84 reviews are either super positive or generally negative. There’s not a whole lot in-between, and I honestly think that the film falls in that grey, middle space.
It’s not the most amazing film ever (even though I was really looking forward to it and wanted it to be). It has some really great scenes and some pretty emotional moments, and also some completely ridiculous plot holes and muddles its thematic messaging when you look closely at it.
I bring up WW84 not because this is a full review of that (I might get to that later), but because it gets me to that word change that I think we as a society need to make way more often.
That change is this: I think we should often replace the word “but” with the word “and.”
By making the change from “but” to “and,” especially in the context of giving an evaluation or review, it suddenly makes a lot more space for nuance and continued conversation.
I’m a big fan of nuanced reviews — when making purchasing decisions, I categorically don’t look at the five-star or the one-star reviews. I find often the reviews that are actually helpful in me making a decision are the four-, three-, and two-star reviews. This is because if it’s not a purely positive or a purely negative review, these reviews tend to be more nuanced in the information they provide and are usually more factual and less emotional.
Context often really matters, and nuance allows for that context to cut through the fog of assumptions, and can clarify when you’re looking at two seemingly opposing truths.
And this is what I want. Nuanced information that gives me a better look at if this product, film, or whatever is right for me specifically. There is a huge spectrum of needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and contexts in terms of the human experience. What’s important to me when watching a film may or may not be different from a 15-year old Russian girl, and that may or may not be different from what a retired Pakistani squash player cares about. What’s important to me might not be the same as another Japanese-American, 37-year old guy living in California, even if our general demographics are exactly the same.
Nuance is so necessary because it creates space beyond an either-or mindset. It allows for multiple truths to exist simultaneously.
For example, you might think that it’s an absolute truth that you never want to put a photo on a resume. And that’s true, assuming you’re applying for a job in the United States or Canada. If you were applying for a job in Korea, you’d be quickly ignored if you did NOT attach a photo.
Context often really matters, and nuance allows for that context to cut through the fog of assumptions, and can clarify when you’re looking at two seemingly opposing truths. The skill to be able to do this readily is one that can make a big difference in how we communicate and the effectiveness of our ability to reach other people.
Using the word “and” more often helps foster this ability to hold even seemingly contradictory thoughts at the same time, which will allow for us to have a clearer picture of what’s actually going on in the world. Going back to my quick thoughts on WW84:
It has some really great scenes and some pretty emotional moments, and also some completely ridiculous plot holes and muddles its thematic messaging when you look closely at it.
It has some really great scenes and some pretty emotional moments, but also some completely ridiculous plot holes and muddles its thematic messaging when you look closely at it.
The first review makes me think that the film has good and bad parts to it. It feels more neutral to me, like someone is trying to give me the pros and cons of the film, allowing me to make up my own mind.
The second review makes me think that the film, although it has some good parts, has been ruined by the bad parts and should be passed over when looking at what next to stream.
By shifting to using the word “and,” we make more space in the listener’s mind to make their own judgement of whether or not they should watch the film. It’s a subtle shift, but one that I think takes a lot of emotional weight out of the reviews and can be a more powerful way to convey nuanced information.
This nuanced way of conveying information is also powerful when giving feedback to people.
“I like this design, and I don’t think this fully conveys the messaging of the brand.”
“I like this design, but I don’t think this fully conveys the messaging of the brand.”
The speaker is giving the same feedback — that the design is cool, but is not quite up to snuff. In the first case the speaker is allowing for both clauses to co-exist. The design can be liked, but also can be the wrong choice for the brand to go in.
In the second version, the negative feedback overrides the positive, leaving no room for the listener to receive the positive feedback without getting defensive.
We’re often told by the media that people are monsters or saints; pariahs to cast stones at or heroes to be venerated.
The nuance that we can build from making this shift might not play well to the hyper-polarization of our modern world and I think that’s a price that we should be willing to pay. After all, staying within our own safety bubbles of groups of people who think exactly like us doesn’t do anything to show us the real way the world works. It only reinforces our previously held beliefs by giving us simple answers of who is good and who is bad.
We’re often told by the media that people are monsters or saints; pariahs to cast stones at or heroes to be venerated. However the truth is that people are imperfect, flawed human beings, and we need to be able to sit with the uncomfortable feeling of not boxing people or things into neat little boxes in our mind.
This larger picture provides the additional nuance that allows for us to really consider all sides of an argument, from multiple perspectives and experiences, beyond our own
Depending on your politics, you might think that in America white men are either the root of all evil or are unfairly being persecuted for their skin color.
What if both ideas have elements of truth to it? Racism and systemic white supremacy are difficult, complex issues to address, let alone solve.
We need to sit with the fact that historically white men held a majority of power, usually amassed through generational wealth accumulated through creating laws that disenfranchised women and people of color AND understand that there are a lot of white men who have very little power as their means of economic growth have been crushed due to globalism and moving factory work overseas.
We need to understand that globalism is the product of rampart capitalism that was built off the accumulated wealth of slavery, AND we also need to understand that white men still make up a bulk of the voting population of the United States and we need to enroll them in a new system that works for everyone.
AND we need to also understand that even though it feels scary to be “cancelled,” the fact is that most white men who have been cancelled have had very little long-term repercussions regarding their career while for minorities to speak up there are the very real repercussions of losing their careers and their lives.
AND that just because someone is a white male, they are not necessarily individually responsible for a system of white supremacy.
AND that many white people will not own up to the fact that white supremacy is part of the dominant culture of our country, from religion to education to housing.
AND that people of color and women can also play a part in reinforcing the systemic white supremacy.
AND that it should not be the responsibility of those who have been oppressed for hundreds of years to have to once again play nice with white people.
AND white people need to feel like they’re being listened to if we ever want to change their minds, so they need to be treated with respect.
AND white people need to step up and be more intentional to break down a system that benefits them.
AND everyone is on a different stage of their learning journey about what “systemic white supremacy” even means, and that we need to be understanding that people learn, synthesize, and accept knowledge at different speeds.
AND on and on and on.
“And” creates space for the conversation to continue building on itself. It doesn’t cut off or interrupt any of the previous clauses or arguments, and allows for the space to consider the entirety of the issue as opposed to just embracing a single soundbite argument.
This larger picture provides the additional nuance that allows for us to really consider all sides of an argument, from multiple perspectives and experiences, beyond our own. And this is crucial if we want to tackle really, really, really difficult problems like systemic racism. And when we have more perspectives and experiences, we can make better decisions. And when we make better decisions, we can innovate new solutions that can work for everyone.