The Reviewer Compelled
Ah, The Reviewer Compelled. I was talking last time about review shows on YouTube and elsewhere and the bizarre tendency of critics to work in narratives, recurring characters and continuity. This in turn has led to a few tropes becoming codified which are specific to review shows. The most common of which is that of The Reviewer Compelled.
If you’ve watched an episode of The Angry Videogame Nerd or The Nostalgia Critic or almost any of the Channel Awesome crowd, you’ll already know exactly what I mean. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to explain.
The review, let’s say a movie review, is filmed as the critic talking head-on to a single camera. It’s a scripted review, memorised by the critic, interspersed with jokes and rhetoric, and intercut with clips from the film. You’ve probably seen something like this on YouTube.
But then this next part you might not have seen. The first few minutes of this hypothetical film review are a scene in which a completely fictional character appears and forces the critic to watch the film in question. It’s a weirdly specific thing to be so common.
How common? I would say I’ve watched at least one episode of about twenty review shows on Channel Awesome and elsewhere on the internet that have employed this trope.
It takes different forms. Sometimes it’s a character from the film or game or whatever doing the compelling. Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII makes you play his game at swordpoint. Sometimes it’s a fictional character from whole cloth, like the time a fangirl character made the Nostalgia Critic watch The Princess Diaries 2. Another time the Nostalgia Critic kidnapped the Nostalgia Chick and made her watch Bratz. Sometimes, and this is where things get weird, the reviewer just says they have to review the movie or game. Like a lot of fans requested it and now they must. They… just have to. They don’t really explain why.
If you ask me, I think it’s because of the popularity of cult 90s comedy series Mystery Science Theatre 3000, about a hapless guy in a jumpsuit trapped in a space station with some robot puppets and forced to watch bad movies against his will by a mad scientist. There’s something compelling about that, compelling and funny.
And then these new guys come along and make their own shows and they pay homage to that show by including their own robot puppets and their own weird narratives about being forced to watch bad movies.
And then new people come along and copy those guys and so on, until people don’t even think about it or why they’re doing it. You just have to put in a bit where you’re forced to watch Snow Dogs.
But it’s got to stop, this is getting ridiculous.
I saw one, I won’t name names. It was a comic book reviewer. And at the end of his comic review he gets a knock at the door. And at the door is a box. And in the box is a gun (!!!) and a new comic book. So now he has to review that book or… shoot himself??
This is The Reviewer Compelled taken to such a convoluted extreme it’s actually making my brain hurt trying to work out the logic. Guy, it’s your show. Don’t review the damn comic if you don’t want to. Just close the box and throw it away. Or, if this is a regular thing for you, stop answering your door.