Spotlites censor unflattering Fringe reviews. Slighted reviewer dropkicks hornets’ nest. Stinging life lessons ensue.
Butthurt: An inappropriately strong emotional response from a perceived personal insult. Frequently associated with a cessation of communication and overt hostility towards the “aggressor”. – Urban Dictionary.
Every year, 25,000 performers roll into Edinburgh to partake in the world’s largest arts festival. A month later, the creative legions return home. Some are elated, buoyed by five-star reviews and sold-out shows. Many are dejected, stung by public apathy and barbed critique.
For a few thespians, however, a more tragic feel is exhibited. We call that emotion butthurt.
For whatever reason, some individuals take criticism really badly. Actually, that’s not quite true – they love the positive criticism: four and five star plaudits? Yes please, you guys are our All-Time Favourite Fringe Reviewers.
Dare to be anything less than complimentary, however, and they’ll scowl with the force of a thousand suns, stomp their feet and scream foul play.
Everyone wants their #EdFringe show reviewed. No one wants the truth.
— EU (@whisperednothin) August 18, 2013
When butthurt occurs, how should we respond? Do we ignore it and move on with our lives?
Do we unleash a stinging attack on the incensed thespians?
No, that would be cruel. Sure, these people might be pissed as hell, but that doesn’t mean we should say mean things about them. There’s no need to call them names or unleash the swearbook.
Instead, we do the only thing we realistically can do: laugh vein-bustingly hard and then blog about it so that in years to come, when 2013’s Fringe is but a beer-soaked memory, their butthurt will still be on the internet for the world to enjoy.
Stop saying butthurt
Last year’s Butthurt Thespian Award went to Mickey Melillo for his Fringe freakout, closely followed by Rosie Rebel for her emotional prolapse. Their galactic rage was gleefully narrated by Ed Uncovered, the world’s only website to have a dedicated Butthurt category.
For 2013, the Butthurt Thespian Award goes to Spotlites, a company that specialises in children’s interactive theatre.
Spotlites are extremely pissed right now, for reasons we’ll delve into shortly. In part, they’re pissed at the Fringe publication I write for, for having the temerity to publish my reviews. But mostly, they’re pissed at me for being a no-good, ignorant, smelly poop-face critic.
And that’s why this article was commissioned: to soothe their wounds and make everything right.
Just kidding: I’m on a mission to rustle jimmies. Step forwards Spotlites – it’s your turn.
So what exactly happened?
After taking exception to two of my reviews, Spotlites did a terrible and unprecedented thing: they forced the Fringe publisher to purge the articles from the web.
And now it’s my turn to do an awesome/terrible thing, depending on whether you’re reading this piece as a casual observer or as the creative director of Spotlites. First though, let’s take a quick look at the crime scene.
My heinous crime was to award the Spotlites shows three stars out of a possible five. According to the Fringe publication I write for, ‘A three-star review is the “average” show, which means if you are giving a show three stars then you are recommending it and saying that the experience is worth the price of a ticket.’
That’s right, I gave both shows a casual recommendation.
What’s more, I even threw in some praise: ‘Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb sounds like great fun. And for an hour on stage, it is: a rip-roaring jaunt that’s stuffed with explosions, riddles and canopic jars galore.’
Why so much rage then?
Well…I guess it wasn’t *all* complimentary. There were a couple of less flattering lines in there, like the part where I noted:
Then there’s the bit where I encouraged audiences to leave during the interval of Curse of the Pharaoh’s Tomb to avoid incurring anal numbness in the interminable second half.
The other review – Rapunzel – May the Force Be With You! – observed:
Personally, I thought the reviews were quite conservative. Certainly more restrained than the indictments I’ve served on this year’s two-star material. (Like Brigadoom. Or Stuart Laws. Or Sam Fletcher.)
Spotlites, however, begged to differ.
Shortly after my reviews appeared online, the Fringe publication received a disgruntled email from Spotlites’ artistic director. (We’ll call her ‘X’.) In the irate email, which can be read in full here, she complained:
Please edit or remove these reviews. As you know I have never asked you to do this over many years but this is not right.
This is not right
Censoring reviews is certainly not right. It may not be up there with, say, farting on a packed commuter train or ordering the extermination of an entire race, but it’s still a pretty shitty thing to do.
The Fringe publication asked whether I would like to reply to X’s comments.
Did I, a verbose reviewer, wish to issue a response to my ability as a critic being called into question? Before the toilet habits of woodland bears could be pondered, I’d rattled off a response (which can be read in full here). In it I noted:
There are no plot spoilers in these two reviews, unless you include the revelation that Rapunzel lives happily ever after.
In spite of their impressive effects and big production, the reality is that Rapunzel and Pharaoh’s Curse were both really, really, really average. Like, 3 star average.
I’m sure X and the rest of the Spotlites team are more than capable of creating some great interactive theatre. In this humble reviewer’s opinion, they didn’t quite nail it this year. Next year, with tighter production and me banned from the venue, I’m sure the plaudits will roll in.
Everyone wants their Fringe show reviewed. No one wants the truth.
As anticipated, my robust defence failed to appease X. She was baying for blood, but would settle for having all trace of the reviews purged from the interwebs. The publisher was under no obligation to accede to her demands, but X doggedly called in a lifetime’s favours with Fringe Central to have them pulled. As the publisher explained to me, ‘whilst we’re not actually under any obligation to pull the reviews (since there was nothing in them false or libelous), it’s easier on the Fringe guys to just delete them and let it go.’
So that’s what happened.
That’s it? You wrote some reviews, Spotlites hated them and then you wrote a rambling blog expressing butthurt at their butthurt? I wasted the last five minutes of my life just for this?
Yeah, pretty much. But don’t go away just yet – we’re not quite done. That was the backstory. Now it’s time for the punchline.
The Streisand Effect
“The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” – Wikipedia.
As the saying goes, hell hath no fury like a Fringe reviewer scorned. Pissing off writers isn’t a smart idea.
Things Fringe reviewers don’t have:
- Clean underwear
Things Fringe reviewers have fuck-loads of:
- Blog space
- Media contacts
- Righteous indignation
When people criticise my work, I don’t get butthurt. When they say mean things about me, I don’t rage quit or become an hero. (I’m from the internet: you can’t kill that which has no life.)
When they censor my work and try to have it removed from the web?
Yeah, I get a little pissed. But instead of crying about it, I do what all writers do: write some more and see to it that the censored work is republished somewhere it can never be removed: here and here on Ed Uncovered.
So what was the point of this whole exercise, other than poking fun at Spotlites and gratuitously using the word butthurt? Was all this done just to prove that I’m right and they’re wrong?
Of course not.
You see, maybe I am 100% right. Then again, maybe Spotlites are 100% right – their shows are awesome and I’m just a cynical reviewer.
The truth is, this was never about rightness or wrongness.
Every day, people express opinions: opinions about the severity of global warming; opinions about which invisible god in the sky they pray to. We may disagree with these people, but we don’t try to censor their opinions, because they’ve as much right to their two cents as the rest of us.
To be on the receiving end of a bad Fringe review (or in this case two average ones) must be disappointing. To have both reviews removed from the web only to discover that another site has republished them and written a follow-up article must be really disappointing. Like, What The Hell Was I Thinking disappointing.
To then persevere with the smug article to the very end and discover that it’s signed off with the most infuriating catchphrase of our generation must be worse than disappointing – it must be maddening.
Oh well. Sorry for denigrating your kick-ass shows, Spotlites, but as the saying goes: YOLO.
If you think this article was about butthurt and retribution, think again. It was actually about something far less sexy – SEO.
Search Engine Optimisation is all about using certain tricks (like writing awesome articles that people will love) to get your site to the top of Google.
Now it’s Spotlites’ turn.
Within the next three months As of right now, anyone searching for Spotlites (oops, there’s that keyword again), will find an article on the first page of Google called Spotlites Fail Hard: The Butthurt Express Claims Another Victim.
Many of them will click on it. And they’ll get this.
Ed Uncovered isn’t a big site; it gets half a million reads a year and takes in a profit of zero cos it’s written for fun. Still, if EU can corner the market for vagina names on an internet that’s drowning in sex, what can it do for Spotlites’ reputation?
Who knows, but it’s going to be fun finding out.
This is why trying to censor stuff on the web is bad. This is why we have a phenomenon known as The Streisand Effect.
Enjoy this article? Use the buttons below to share it about. If there’s one thing Spotlites love, it’s being in the spotlight.
Stuff that’s happened since Spotlites threw a hissy fit:
- All their reviews (including the four and five-star ones) have been deleted from the Fringe website I write for. Spotlites’ listings have gone too.
- Curse of Pharaoh’s Tomb review appeared on the front cover of the print edition and has been distributed across Edinburgh.
- The reviews they tried to censor have been published on Ed Uncovered and shared with a social media audience of 10,000.
- @spotlites Twitter account has mysteriously disappeared. (Urban Dictionary would call it ‘a cessation of communication’.) Update: After a month’s hiatus, it’s creaked back into life.
- This article happened.
- The Guardian picked up the story and featured it in print and online. An article also appeared in StudentNewspaper.org.
Stuff that’s yet to happen:
- This article appears at the top of Google whenever someone searches for Spotlites. Update: This has now happened. See screenshots below of Google working its magic.
- Spotlites email me and apologise for being douchebags.
- A cow is spotted orbiting the moon, banished there after an interactive theatre company objected to the noise it made while ruminating.