19 votes


1 comment

  1. kfwyre
    This video highlights an interesting tension that I think has far-reaching resonance. Tiffany's identity as a transsexual is centered on her own dysphoria, which is undeniably real to her and that...

    This video highlights an interesting tension that I think has far-reaching resonance. Tiffany's identity as a transsexual is centered on her own dysphoria, which is undeniably real to her and that makes sense to her from a pathological perspective. As someone who has experience with depression, I can genuinely relate to that perspective. It was comforting to be told "your brain isn't working right" because it was an external, verifiable thumbs up for the idea that this problem that I felt and dealt with daily wasn't something I created, and it wasn't a made up issue. My response to being diagnosed with major depressive disorder wasn't one of dread but of relief. I now knew where I fit.

    As a result, there was a long period of time where I would sort of look down on and gatekeep others. Someone would say "I'm depressed" and I would want to go off on them because they were just in a bad mood and didn't experience it to the same degree I did. I would bristle when someone would casually mention being depressed, especially in response to a trivial hardship, because I felt like they were watering down or invalidating my own experiences with True Depression™. Plus, I wanted them to understand that when I was low, it wasn't a usual low--it was something so much more real and genuine than that. I didn't want platitudes and a downplaying of sentiment. I didn't want a "you'll feel better in the morning." What I wanted more than anything was for people to understand the full depth of my sorrow, my complete disconnect from the world and meaning, and the complete incapacitation that it caused me. I wanted people to know how hard things were for me.

    Like Tiffany, a lot of what I experienced was wrapped up in my own suffering, and I think that's one of the reasons why Tiffany has such a problem with Baltimore. Her feeling that Baltimore's identity is less valid doesn't necessarily stem from bigotry or a lack of empathy but instead because she feels like Baltimore simply skipped to the front of the trans line and didn't have to walk through the fire like she did. It's not that she's fundamentally against someone being non-binary; it's that such an identity potentially threatens her own understanding of herself, as well as the way she wants other people to understand her. Plus, from Tiffany's perspective it can just flat out feel like Baltimore is cheating. They get the A on the assignment without having to put in the work.

    I've since come to realize that other people's lives should be understood through their experiences, not mine, but I think that's a tough lesson to learn--and one that can be quite difficult for anyone who has had acute struggles of their own. Suffering tends to pull our focus inward rather than encouraging us to look up and out to others. It also can limit and calcify our understanding of suffering to the point that we get blinded to its existence in others--especially in those whose suffering is not similar to our own.

    There was a period of time where I thought depression was True Suffering and that anybody else who went through anything else didn't have it as bad as me. Instead of realizing that there were other forms of suffering out there, like True Anxiety, and True Loss, and True Exploitation, I just assumed that the undepressed world was a bunch of fragile crybabies, and the only ones to whom I would give a pass were those that, like me, experienced the True Suffering of True Depression. Everyone else had no idea how easy life was for them primarily because they had no idea how difficult life was for me!

    I think there's a lot to be said for the idea that there's identity in suffering, and that the absence of it in others can fuel resentment. I experienced it firsthand, Tiffany shows it in this video, and lots of societal anxieties follow this pattern. You see it in another ContraPoints focus: incels. They believe they are suffering and resent "Chads" and women because of it. You see it with blue-collar workers who have labored heavily their entire lives resenting welfare recipients. You see it in leftist circles with privilege checks that are rooted in the speaker's oppression. You often see it in the response to those checks, where the person being called out feels as if they're now a target and, correspondingly, they feel the ones doing the calling out are speaking from a position of social power.

    Our perceptions of suffering are our own, and it's within them that we often find the means to dismiss others rather than using them as tools for empathy. It is trivially easy to set up our worldviews to believe that we are suffering and they are not, whoever the we and they are.

    Natalie does a particularly good job with this idea in some of her videos, as she is good at simultaneously humanizing and critiquing the various caricatures she sets up. Her characters usually start as stand-ins for entire political/social belief systems, but she individualizes them and doesn't make any one character either flawless or dismissable. In the exchange between Tiffany and Baltimore, both characters are sympathetic at points, and both are frustrating or obtuse. The same goes for the later exchange with Tiffany and Justine. By portraying them in this way, not only does she enhance her dialectic, but she also helps organically draw out the tensions that exist within topics and pull on the thread from both ends. As such, it's clear that Tiffany's character doesn't exist just to be a punching bag for Baltimore/Justine's more inclusive ideology or logical reasoning, but that Tiffany's character exists to portray a real point of view that comes from its own story.

    As a complete side note, can we talk about how good Natalie has gotten at faking conversations? Her acting, costuming, and editing really sell the idea that these are legit dialogues between different people, rather than one person playing all roles, and her skills in this area seems to go up with each successive video.

    17 votes