Ill-Conceived Notions

An experiment in digital humanities

The speed and flow of emotions can be a reflection of how the audience is expected to respond, such as the slow, intentional style in ‘Enslavement’, and the variance between the neutral default tone and sarcasm in ‘Incels’ and ‘Peterson’. ContraPoints performs rehearsed and heavily edited content, with few seemingly spontaneous reflections, and breaks the serious tones by acting out satirical personas. In cases where her tone is dramatised, such as her disinterest in the premise of ‘Peterson’, this contributes to her overall flow rather than her tactical use of sarcasm, as I would code in similar instances for Molyneux. These help the audience shift between parts of the discussion that should be taken seriously versus those that can be made light of, where as Molyneux uses fluctuations of emotion as a guide.

The three videos by Molyneux I’ve discussed are completely different from each other in terms of flow, with ‘Enslavement’ being calm and calculated, ‘Mandela’ including stutters and distractions, and ‘Crusades’ being urgent and energetic. In ‘Enslavement’, Molyneux resignedly frames an uncomfortable truth that must be faced, opening with “this is the story of your enslavement, how it came to be, and how you can finally be free.” He gently pauses between each sentence, and enunciates every word, so the audience has time to take everything in. Molyneux appears distracted and disinterested through ‘Mandela’, often skimming notes and losing track of what he is reading, such as his blunt recital of a UN Human Development report at 12:22. Between these uninspired readings, however, he solemnly asserts that “this is pretty essential and pretty important to understand” (5:15), implying this content is an objective truth that the audience is likely unaware of. In ‘Crusades’, starkly contrasting with the other two, Molyneux is enthusiastic, excited and interested. He pumps up the audience exclaiming the likening of historians to superheroes (0:03) who can “take us off the train tracks of ignorant inevitably and give us some free will in the matter” (1:05). This is broken by his solemn description of the threat that Muslims pose to Western countries, framing how the audience should interpret the seriousness of this threat, and of understanding European history, such as stating at 27:20 “before Western colonialism there was Muslim imperialism, before the Christian Crusades there were a myriad of Muslim crusades which were enormously successful and kept battering down the door of Europe and taking over vast swathes of Europe.”

‘Incels’ and ‘Peterson’ are similar in their shifts from neutral speech to exaggerations to sincere or thoughtful offerings of personal reactions. Responding to Lady Foppington in the opening to ‘Peterson’, ContraPoints is exhausted with the rhetoric of bigots who defend hierarchies based on gender, resigning “ugh, Foppington, are we doing this again?”, allowing the audience to laugh at how tiresome this investigation will be. In ‘Incels’, after a dramatic reading of a post from r/Braincels, ContraPoints plays what’s dubbed “chill jazz” in the video, setting a scene that is relaxed and welcoming, a satirical contrast to the closed, aggressive nature of the communities to be discussed, emphasised by her sexually suggestive introduction to a discussion of celibacy: “hello boys, let’s talk about bone structure” (1:32). As these videos continue, genuine expressions are offered, such as at 28:10 in ‘Incels’ when explaining “that ContraPoints is a big-skulled hon with a voice like nails on a chalkboard” in the eyes of toxic commenters, but ending with a small laugh. This lapse in her otherwise intentionally structured tones frames the humanity of her experiences, especially as it’s offered in the segment describing her trauma from toxic communities. Similar to her sarcastic self-deprecations, the audience is encouraged to laugh with her about the absurdity of her existence.

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