Tumblr's Strangest Obsession: A History of the Onceler Fandom

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you know in the movie yesterday where

the guy hits his head and then wakes up

in a world where the beatles and harry

potter don't exist and no one else has a

single memory of their existence

i would deliberately give myself 10

concussions if i could go to a world

like that

but for the once-ler like every other

basic person stuck at home in spring

2020 i've been playing a lot

of animal crossing lately i've got like

250 hours on my island some sick ass

villagers and haphazardly placed flowers

wherever i couldn't figure out what to

put in an empty space

and whenever i venture into online

communities about the game i see a lot

of content

about this guy usually it's not directly

positive content about him so much as

content complaining about how popular he


his name's raymond and he's a skinny

little blonde cat with heterochromia

glasses and a stylish manner of dress

naturally the dude's famous with people

even charging others massive in-game

sums and even real world money in some

cases to invite the fashionable feline

to their island

it's inspired some truly bizarre

behavior like this person trying to

charge people simply for looking at


and among it all a common statement i've

seen about this insanely popular cat

is raymond is the new once-ler the

once-ler being the main character slash

anti-villain from the 2012 film

adaptation of the lorax

this extremely skilled artist even drew

art of raymond as the once-ler

it's not just raymond either the same

sentiment of this character is the new

one slur has been directed towards a ton

of different characters like

kylo ren from star wars jim carrey's

robot nick from the sonic movie

and commonly around the time of its

release banner snatch cummerbunds take

on the grinch

for those of you who remember the degree

of hell that was the culture surrounding

the once-ler

first of all i am deeply sorry but for

people who don't or just vaguely recall

whatever was going on with the whole


it definitely seems a little bit strange


what do all these characters have in

common and what do they have to do with

this random green twink from a lorax

movie made by the people who did minions

off topic but they really reused his

design and infused him with all of the

beatles for minions huh

in my experience at least for the this

person is the new wunsler comments it

tends to just mean any male character

who's popular with teenage girls

especially an animated villain or a bad

guy from kids media who's a little bit


if someone's hot typically hand drawn or

cgi kinda evil but potentially

redeemable and teenage girls really like

them despite kids

usually being the major target audience

they're probably going to get called the

new once-ler

i've also seen once their comments for

wheatley from portal sans undertale

komida from danganronpa and guzma from


basically male sympathetic cartoon

villains who are very popular with

teenage girls get called the new one

slur once they get popular

other people have pointed out the kind

of shitty implications of making fun of

stuff just because it's popular with

teenage girls and i have like

five different videos about how society

is uniquely shitty to teenage girls and

their interests but what i also think is

interesting is how

incorrect most of these statements are

not even in the sense that they're

offensive or

problematic they're just wrong

because as absolutely buck wild as the

fan culture surrounding raymond from

animal crossing got

no matter how emphatically people

defended kylo ren as uniquely good and


and no matter how horny people got over

butterfree cuttlefish's take on the


none of these got even close to the

unique weirdness that was the once-ler


i would say sans undertale is the only

one who maybe fits the bill for these

claims although that's still tenuous

and i should know i was in the once-ler


in this video i want to take you on a

bit of a deep dive through one of the

most bizarre and

short-lived fandom phenomena from the

perspective of someone who was a teenage

girl at the time of its height and got

really into it for like a month

i want to talk to you about what on

earth happened why it happened

and what its contemporary impact has

been on how people react to fictional

characters and villains nowadays

so first things first let's talk about

the lorax movie

because even without the bizarre fandom

culture surrounding it it's

an interesting movie

the original lorax picture book written

by dr seuss came out in 1971

and a hand-drawn tv movie adaptation of

it produced by seuss himself came out

the next year

the book and movie were fairly similar

and were short and straightforward

if you're one of the two people who

don't already know about the book it

basically centered around a beautiful

pristine valley full of nature

and trees and all things good a faceless

character called the once-ler shows up

and wants to cut down the trees to

self-needs which are pretty much just a

representation of consumer goods in


they're not something the local people

seem to have been in desperate need of

before the wensler showed up but they're

easy to sell and easy to make money from

this forest guardian called the lorax

tries to convince him to stop but the

wenzler quickly grows his business into

a large factory

it quickly destroys the local area

driving the nearby creatures out because

of pollution and a lack of available

food and trees to live in

the one slur is obsessed with growth in

making everything bigger and by the time

the last tree is cut down the valley is

completely destroyed

the lorax leaves and years later the

once-ler gives a young boy the last seed

with the message unless someone like you

cares a whole awful lot

nothing is going to get better it's not

it's a fairly simplistic straightforward

take on environmental degradation for

the sake of profit in a way that's easy

for children to understand and directly

implicates the future generation to be

involved in protecting the environment

later in their lives

the 1972 adaptation was about 25 minutes

long for comparison it takes about 18

minutes to read the actual book start to

finish out loud

so it was essentially a fairly

straightforward adaptation of the book

of course there are still changes you

have to make when moving to a new medium

and new things to think about but

not a lot of transformative work really

had to be done and so it's a pretty true

to form adaptation of the book

notably much like in the book the

once-ler character doesn't really show

his face and we don't really learn a lot

about him besides the basics

he wants to make money and start a

factory he seems to have some concerns

about the local environment there are

scenes where he's arguing with himself

and simply talks himself out of doing

the right thing

but he still ultimately follows the lure

of profit this is really true for all

the characters in the book in 1972 movie

it doesn't matter what the little boy

really wants or where the lorax came

from or why the once-ler is interested

in profit it's not about them as people

there are stand-ins for larger

ideological issues compounded into

child-friendly forms that are easy to

understand without being bogged down in

unimportant details

the lorax is generally the interests of

the environment and is kind of the

conscience of the story urging people to

do what's right

the one slur is greed and profit-seeking

the boy the end represents the future

generations on the whole

and our obligation to do what's right so

when it became clear that they were

going to adapt the lorax into a feature

film it was obvious that changes were

gonna have to be made

these characters don't need to be fully

fleshed out or developed for a 20-minute

fable about the environment because

telling a character-driven story isn't

what the book or tv movie were trying to


but it's really hard to follow a story

for an hour and a half without

compelling characters and if you're

gonna add that much time on new

additions just have to happen and things

definitely need to be fleshed out and

explored a lot more

this wasn't the first feature like sooth

movie to come out around then horton

hears a who a simple story about our

duty to do right by people who are


and less able to advocate for themselves

was adapted into a cgi movie in 2008.

it was not amazing but not bad either

it generally stayed faithful to the

story's message while adding some new

plot threads and fleshing out some of

the characters mentioned in the book

all this to say this is definitely

something possible to do

four years later illumination the story

behind a wave of aggressively mediocre

animated movies like the minions and the

secret lives of pets produced their

adaptation of the lorax and a lot

certainly got added for the purposes of

this video the most important thing is

how they fleshed out the once-ler and

made him a hot indie boy but

they also had this whole subplot with a

walled off town and an evil mayor who

sells everyone fresh

air and this kid who lives there now

with the voice of an aggressively grown

man wanting to get a tree to impress the

girl he likes

big joel pointed out in his own lorax

video how the framing of bringing the

trees back being good only for their

utility kind of confuses the message

where instead of protecting the

environment being framed as innately

good on its own

it becomes more weirdly instrumentalized

and about how to squeeze the most

utility from this new resource

the message gets confused on a lot of

levels to be honest

i mean out of the universe of the movie

they used lorax marketing to advertise

among other things a brand of suv not

even like an electric one or anything

they just stuck a lorax approved sticker

on an

actual car brand in real life which is

the same thing the villain did in the

movie they also advertised disposable

diapers which

cool but also within the actual film

itself the introduction of the once-ler

character just makes the whole movie

strange the first time we see the

once-ler he's an old man sequestered off

in his

sad tower in the wasteland he made

quarantine king honestly

although the movie is largely about the

kid and his love quest

it's kind of more of a framing device so

we can see flashbacks to the once-ler's

life and the story of how he destroyed

the local environment

and when we meet him he's very much a

young quirky likable

indie boy twink this guy sings backups

in a manufactured boy band

if buttermilk chicken strips was turned

into an animated character he would go

out with this guy

this guy would be played by timothy

chalamet if he were live-action this guy

would immediately ask me to name

five films by any director i claim to

like in the 2012 lorax our pretty boy

protagonist plays guitar and is pretty

happy and wide-eyed at first just

wanting to make his way in the world and

have a good time

although he does see the success needs

are bringing him he has significant

reservations about damaging the

environment and is fairly careful at

first to just pick from the trees

instead of chopping them down

and i honestly don't mind the character

being someone you kind of like and root

for at the beginning

knowing you can relate to this character

might make it more apparent that folks

who consider themselves good people can

do bad things when motivated by greed

and that none of us are immune to it

but then the once-ler's family rolls

into town and it's his mom and aunt who


pressuring him to cut down the trees and

increase the size of his factory

and he gives in to them not because of

greed and a desire for profit but

because of a desire to be accepted by

his family

suddenly the environmental destruction

in the movie happens not because of a

desire for growth and profit but because

of those mean women in this nice boy's


his mommy just doesn't love him enough

she's such an overbearing mother

she made him this way it's a choice

after that the once-ler quickly becomes

motivated to expand his factory and make

more and more and more money and his

transformation into evil is represented

by a snazzy costume change and a villain

song that

kind of slaps if we're being honest look

every other song in this movie is

unmemorable but you're lying if you say

this doesn't get stuck in your head


his villain transformation is really

more aesthetic than anything else and we

don't get to see

much about how his own actions or

morality really changed

outside the bounds of that three-minute

song which is almost too bad because

as catchy as how bad can ib is it was

originally gonna be this much darker

rock opera song called biggering with

way more interesting lyrics about how

greed and the logic of constant infinite

growth and never being satisfied works

less catchy but would have been cool

character-wise also the same people who

did the community theme song did it

which is just neat to me

but the point is throughout the film the

once-ler is not really framed as that

evil and irredeemable in the end

this is particularly exemplified by the

ending where instead of being kept

ambiguous we flash forward to a future

where the land is being replanted and

the lorax returns and shares an

emotional reunion with the once-ler

so in universe all the things he did are

forgiven and

are they ever really his fault anyway

when his mean unloving mom pushed him

into destroying the entire local


obviously in terms of being an

environmentalist message it's a pretty

weak one

it doesn't address the actual logic of

greed and limitless growth that the book

condemned and the message instead of

wanting to be socially accepted by your

family can make you do bad things

even if it isn't really your fault is

comparatively much weaker

but besides the fact that it was just a

weird bad movie

all these conditions made the once-ler

ripe to be a tumblr fan favorite for a

few reasons

2012 was the epitome of a lot of fandoms

now considered pretty cringy

supernatural doctor who and sherlock

were all at their height as well as

media like homestuck

and a lot of things all this stuff had

in common was hot boy villains

i myself became an andrew scott stan

long before fleabag

because he played a hot boy villain in

sherlock so to the eyes of teen girls on

2012 tumblr

we had on our hands a hot boy villain

not only that but he wasn't so

evil after all he was sensitive played


and liked marshmallows clearly regretted

his bad actions and seemed to have good

intentions all along

he was so sad after destroying the whole

entire earth don't you just want to give

him a hug

so we get a hot boy redeemable villain i

mean he wasn't a good hot boy redeemable

villain we don't have a zuko on our

hands here or anything

but he was new and easy to feel sorry

for while also tapping into that part of

people's interests that like sexy darker

characters without really having to

justify anything too horrible since the

one floor was obviously just

pressured into his villainy so that

alone is a pretty strong foundation for


animated beanpole to be a fan favorite

among teen circles on tumblr

as i said earlier i myself was a

winslower fan at the time

mostly because of that same combination

of finding him cute

feeling bad for him and generally liking

villains because villains are hot

but the specific culture surrounding

this character was

buck wild and went so so so much further

than just liking the guy

and doing a bunch of fan art of him and

it's this exact reason i don't buy the

raymond is the new one slur or

the villain from sonic is the new one

slur stuff going around the internet

the one slur fandom was a unique flavor

of weird and that's because of something

i must

regrettably tell you all is called one


so uh one what and two why


after the 2012 lorax movie was released

the wenzler character quickly gained

popularity among

mostly young teenage girls on tumblr who

found him both attractive and


these blogs have since mostly fallen out

of fashion but

an important aspect of fandom culture at

the time was something called ask blogs

basically it was a form of role playing

where other fans would send in questions

directed towards a fictional character

and you would answer the questions as if

you were the character

sometimes these were accompanied by

drawings or cosplays of the character to

really get the point across

so for example if you had a harry potter

ask blog you could call it like

ask harry potter or ask the boy who

lived and people could send in stuff

like harry do you have a crush on draco

and you could be like yes i do

or no i don't as if you were harry

sometimes ask blogs would interact with

other ask blogs as well

so like if someone had a blog called ask

draco malfoy and the harry blog posted i

don't have a crush on draco you could


to it as if you were draco and you were

seeing the post it was a pretty fun way

to engage with stories you liked if a

bit weird sometimes

plus a lot of people have fun imagining

what their favorite fantasy characters

would be like if they had social media

pages so it was a fun way to play that


so as soon as the lorax movie came out

people were very quickly drawn to the


i think this was for a few reasons and

i'll go more in depth about why i think

that happened in a second but honestly

for now let's just say he was designed

to be cute and relatable and people


him cute and related to him a lot of

people in fact

found him really cute and related to him

a lot

what's interesting is that the people

who got into this character weren't

lorax fans they weren't interested in

the zac efron child

or the lorax or the snowboarding granny

character they borrowed from hoodwinked

or the evil air selling mayor maybe why

he was the way he was or where he was

getting the air he was selling people

they didn't care about any of that

that stuff was for kids they cared only


the once-ler and his relation to the

rest of the world in the story was

simply window dressing

this is pretty much evidenced by the

nickname they made for themselves

a fan nickname for fandoms are pretty

common and the names are usually based

around the piece of media they're a fan


doctor who fans are called whovians glee

fans were called gleeks star trek fans

are called trekkies and k-pop fans are

called terrifying but

the people in this fandom weren't called

like loraxites or

need villians or the sousa cult they

were specifically

called one slings they were only there

for beanpole bezos

some hopefully older fans who were more

specifically interested in one slur

content of the not safe for work variety

also called themselves one [ __ ] search

at your own risk

so very quickly a lot of ask blogs

popped up for this character

ask the once-ler ask the bean pool ask

once he wants

tons of them there's actually a list of

like 90 of them on a wiki someone made

which clearly hasn't been updated in a

while because only some of them are

marked as an active

if you look at it you'd be surprised at

the scale of it but it's actually a

relatively small and incomplete list

compared to the fandom as a whole

there were literally hundreds of these

things hundreds of people role-playing

as the once-ler and asking questions as


but then a problem kind of arises and

that's that one of the fun parts of

running an ask blog on tumblr was

interacting with other ask blogs it's

fine enough to answer anonymous

questions pretending to be dean

winchester but it's much more fun to

interact with an even wider net of

people acting as your brother

or your crush or your worst enemy but


weren't any other characters in the

lorax story who people were interested

in being so there wasn't anyone

really interesting for any of these

people to interact with

i think this is especially true when it

comes to shipping i made an earlier

video about fan fiction and what draws

us into shipping characters with each


if you can handle the horrible peeking

audio in it

enough to watch it feel free to check it

out i stand by everything i said in the

video but i cannot handle the audio so

uh feel free to just watch it with the

sound off and like read the captions

but anyway part of being in a fan

community where you're

interested in one character is that you

want to set them up with other

characters romantically for a ton of


but you really couldn't do that for the

lorax movie i mean who are you going to

ship the lorax with

the only other human the once-ler ever

interacts with besides his family is the

zac efron child character and people

weren't quite freaky enough yet to ship

him with the danny devito wunsler

since he was an old man at the end of

the movie there was a pretty small push

to pair him up with zac efron's cool


but this really didn't gain much

mainstream traction among the fandom

so right now people were left with

hundreds of ask blogs all of the exact

same character with no one to ship this

guy with

but you couldn't not ship him with

anyone it's just a drive people have

when it comes to being interested in a

character in their arc

so much like a group of friends stranded

together on a deserted island might

begin to eat one another out of


they began to ship the once i can't say

it i have my script all written out i


say it

they began to ship the once-ler with


they called this ship named one zest

remember how i talked earlier about how

the once-ler's transition from cute soft

boy to evil villain happened really

quickly mostly in the span of one

three-minute song well this bad writing

decision meant that his aesthetic

changed very quickly and very starkly

leaving us with what felt like almost

two different characters

fans quickly turned from referring to

the once-ler's earlier vest wearing

musician self as just the once-ler or


and his post-villain transformation self

as the greedler

people quickly made ask blogs not just

as some nebulous version of the one slur

but as either the once-ler or the


and begun shipping the two characters

who once again were the exact same


with one another people called this

classic onecest and even individuals who

weren't involved in actively making ask

blogs became dedicated to shipping those

two characters together

a ton of works emerged from this

including fan art and fan fiction

usually they either hated each other and

had a kind of enemies to lovers thing

going on or the gradler was the dark

sexy dominant counterpart to the

once-ler's shy demeanor

sometimes these fan fictions would give

a specific in-text justification for how

the once-ler and the griedler ended up

split into two separate entities

sometimes they were always brothers

which by the way is not better

sometimes it's his future self through

some time travel magic sometimes they

get magically split into two

sometimes they just happen to be two

people who have no relation to one

another but just happen to look

extremely similar and have almost the

same name which

okay sure and sometimes it just wasn't

explained at all and fans were just

expected to take for granted that it's

the same guy

and now there's two of them and we're

shipping him with himself and for the

most part

fans straight up just did take this for


i think the appeal here was partly just

out of a desire to ship this character

with someone because they were

interested in the character and wanted

to explore relationship dynamics or

their own sexuality

i think it was also just a lot of young

teenagers who wanted to explore

relationship dynamics they found

interesting like enemies to lovers stuff

but just

weren't that well read and didn't have a

great baseline for other works of

fiction that do this better so they just

latched on to the first piece of kids

media they found that could conceivably

do that for them

as we said earlier i took a passing

interest in the once-ler fandom as a 13

14 year old i never had an ask blog or

made fan art or fan fiction but i did

like and reblog some of it when it came

on my dash which

you're all welcome to burn me at the

stake for i would too and i honestly

just think i liked the idea of two

people who hated each other coming to

like one another and if you had given me

a piece

of work that actually did that better i

would have immediately latched on to

that instead

but the once-ler was there in front of

me and all my friends were into it so i

too printed out a picture of the

once-ler and taped him onto my wall

and while people could have tried to

find some other character from a

different work of fiction to ship him

with like they did with jack frost and

elsa because i guess they both have ice

magic that's still contingent on

everyone in the fandom knowing this

character and being on board

and apparently the best way forward from

this conundrum was to just

split the guy in two so this is weird

enough on its own

the fact that the desire to pair up two

characters superseded canon

so much that people in desperation split

a guy in two to ship him with himself

is already extra bizarre but i'm so

sorry to tell you that it does get


if i recall correctly this is a round

where i was like oh wait this is super

weird isn't it and dipped

so classic one zest was all well and

good and people were having fun with it

but pretty quickly it eventually got

boring people channeled all their fan

interest into this one guy but he just

was not as interesting as they wanted

him to be

people didn't want an indie sad boy and

an evil industrialist anymore people

wanted a doctor and a space explorer and

a camp counselor and a pirate and a

mafia boss and all kinds of things

and i guess they'd just already gotten

so attached to the swunsler character

because instead of just seeking out

other pieces of media that have

characters who are those things

they immediately delved into making

alternate universes where the once-ler

is a completely different person and

then they shipped all those one stores

together too

so you no longer just have like ask the

once-ler or ask the greedler

now and you can see by the list of blogs

how much variety there was

you'd have like ask the wizard one slur

or ask the communist one slur or ask the

broadway one slur or ask the willy wonka


literally you name it there was a

once-ler blog for it

crossovers with other media professions

new personality traits all of them were

on the table

now to be clear alternate universes

aren't a new thing or exclusive to the

once-ler fandom

as long as fandom has existed there have

been people asking questions like

what if the harry potter kids went to a

modern day high school or

what if all those characters from this

horrible grim dark universe just got to

be happy and worked in a coffee shop

but i think the key difference between

all this once-ler stuff and other

alternate universes is that they changed

the nature

of the character to such an insane

degree that none of it had any

association or resemblance to the

original movie let alone the book

it got to a point where absolutely none

of them bore any resemblance to the

once-ler from the movie they were all

functionally completely

different people with the once-ler name

attached to them and they were all

dating each other

from all i can find online in my memory

the first big alternate universe for all

the one slurs was something called camp

weehawken which was a story where all

the different once-lers went to summer

camp together

it was basically a big role play where

people could submit their own versions

of the once learned basically all

role-play going to summer camp together

there were agreed-upon locations like

the campfire area the boys cabin and

since some of the once-lers in this

world were also girl one slurs the

girl's cabin

camp weehawken was the first of its kind

and it quickly spawned

massive amounts of alternate universe

oncelers most of them

extremely bizarre for example take a

look at this one called the war against

wunsler's it was a big role play with a

bunch of once-lers that takes place in

a world that looks down on one slurs and

griedlers where they are

indoctrinated with anti-once-ler ideals

and subject to fascistic manual labor

while a once-ler resistance grows in the

shadows it was buckwild it was

all buckwild and yes those one slurs

were all dating each other too

there was one called truffle of flu

which was so complicated and confusing

that people had to start downloading

browser extensions just to be able to

read it from start to finish

basically by the end of this whole thing

everyone lived in a world populated

almost entirely by oneslers

what once was a story about greed and

environmental preservation suddenly

became the world's largest once-a-lorgie

in a manner so dense

and confusing that if you weren't there

for every stage of it

you had no idea what you were looking at

but because it all happened step by step

to the people involved in it

each next step in the fandom from draw

fan art of character to

draw fan art of same character twice to

draw alternate universe fan out of

character to

once those are persecuted and

brainwashed probably seemed very logical

so how did this end well as with most


not with a bang but with boredom after

the end of the wenzler summer the movie

rise of the guardians came out and a lot

of people moved on to jack frost as

their new interest

other people just got tired of it and

abandoned their once their blogs and

role plays among a declining fandom

for some people they got so attached to

their once-lers that they wanted to keep

them but

the fandom was honestly dying so because

these characters were so fundamentally

different from what the once-ler was

some of them underwent something fans

called d-one slurization just

turning their once-lers into original

characters that no longer have any

association with the lorax

they eventually did this to the entire

camp weehawken role play as well as many

of the others and kept it going while

removing any reference to the lorax or

the wenzler

for example a location called the

needville named after needville in the

movie was renamed to thornville

from what i can find online this is what

happened to a whole bunch of those once

there asked blogs people

eventually just realized they had

nothing to do with the one slur and turn

them into original characters

i'm sure there's probably a very small

subset of once-ler fans still out there


honestly good for them but for most of

us the once-ler fandom is now just a

very distant and very

very cursed memory so uh

that whole thing was certainly extremely

weird it's why

once again i don't think raymond animal

crossing or kylo ren or any other

character girls just like a lot can be

called the new wenzler

until we can have a summer camp roleplay

populated entirely by kylo ren's

brainwashed to be auntie kylo ren he's

not the new once-ler not even close but

i really don't like looking at a

phenomenon and just laughing at the

people involved and saying how weird it


even when it is indeed super weird i

mean all this bizarreness happened for a


it happened because of how fandom

culture works and the specific ways the

culture around fan stuff evolved to be

and that to me is way more interesting

than just pointing and laughing at the


so why do i think the once-ler fandom

happened the way it happened

well let's take a look at a few things

so one weird thing on recent social

media in terms of how we criticize media

is that

a lot of people want to like villains

and i think that's perfectly normal for

a lot of reasons for one because of a

not great process called queer coding i

talk about in one of my earlier videos

up here in the corner

villains tend to be the characters with

the most flamboyance and visual interest

because of old-fashioned morality laws

on tv like the haze code you couldn't

depict any characters seeming gay or not

super gender conforming unless you were

specifically depicting those traits as


so the ones who got the flamboyance and

dramatic costuming tended to be the


even after the haze code was abolished

these visual cues remained in media as

commonly recognized character tropes

like the dumb jock or the femme fatale

which is not great for how we societally

perceive flamboyance or being gender


but does leave us with a lot of villains

who are just aesthetically

more interesting than the protagonists

ursula has a cooler design than ariel

because she's designed after a famous

drag queen

him from the powerpuff girls is cool and

memorable because he was able to be

campy and crossdress and look big and


the super predictably evil lady from the

second incredibles movie is more

attractive to me than dummy thick helen

because she looks like a hot lesbian

sugar mama and i want to be her evil arm


i certainly wouldn't call the once-ler

queer-coded but it is interesting that

when he goes from average sad boy to

super villain he also gets a much cooler

outfit upgrade

the reasoning for it isn't great but

villains just tend to look cooler

i also just think people like villains

because they tap into something

interesting in our own

psyche it's the desire to explore darker

themes and content in a safe controlled


it's i think the same principle behind

roller coasters or horror movies you get

the thrill of perceived danger in the

adrenaline rush but there's no real risk

and you can enjoy only the fun parts

without any ramifications

as much as i love redemption arcs and

anti-heroes i really do just enjoy

watching villains who are real pieces of

[ __ ] and know it because it's a fun way

to explore and confront things i don't

actually want to see in my day-to-day

life in a way that's fun

fascinating and safe but there's also

this weird push about villains over

social media and modern pop culture

analysis as of late and that's this idea

that liking a character or finding them

interesting is like

an endorsement of their actions or a

condonement of that behavior in real


like if i tell someone my favorite

characters i don't know hannibal lecter

you get people who take that as saying i

think cannibalism is fun and cool

or if i think darth vader's mask is cool

that's akin to supporting space fascism

it's a very weird form of analysis that

while i can't attest to its popularity

before the time of social media

i do think has grown more popular as of

late and i think that's part of why

there's this push toward being outwardly

interested only in soft boy villains and

ones who are framed as redeemable or

having not done much wrong on their own

it's also part of why i think there was

this big push toward wanting kylo ren

from star wars to be this misunderstood

innocent victim who was forced into

villainy and is ultimately redeemed

instead of just a bad dude there has to

be some kind of

moral payoff to liking a villainous

character because otherwise it's

perceived as supporting their actions

for some bizarre reason

and i think the same is true for why

people gravitated towards the once-ler

besides him looking like somebody's

indie boy fantasy you also get the

benefit of liking a villain who's evil

and doesn't care about anyone but


while also being able to excuse and

justify all the reasons this character

was bad because his mean woman mom

pushed him into it and he reconciles

with the lorax in the end so really all

is good and fine and it's no harm no


liking this weird pseudo-villain was i

think the inevitable result of a culture

where any interest in a character or

story in which bad things happen has to

be specifically justified by the text is

not that bad

i think if fan culture was more

understanding of the fact that sometimes

evil characters are just evil and they

don't have to be secret good guys or

misunderstood babies in order to like


we'd probably have a fewer attempts to

justify every single evil thing every

single villain character does

ever if people want to like them and b

less draw to characters who let people

experience all the fun of liking a

villain while also having all these bad

writing choices tacked on that remove

interest and accountability from those


in terms of the shipping and alternate

universes i think the reason we got an

army of once-ler clones is simply that

people grew attached to something


i mean if you want the dynamic that

you're seeking out by writing two one

slurs falling in love there are probably

other pieces of media that can actually

give you that dynamic in a much better


but the once-ler was there and easy and

familiar and if all your friends are

already into this very simple and

accessible character

someone will probably make their own

once lauren join in rather than reading

a book none of their friends have read


actually does that dynamic well i also

think the once their character did just

hit a lot of buttons for archetypes

people were already interested in

ambiguously sad backstory skinny white

dude musician

i think this speaks less to what the

once-ler himself was which in the

context of the new lorax movie was still

a character of very little depth

and more to what fan archetypes tended

to appeal to people at the time

this is still not a fantastic thing in a

lot of fan cultures but especially in

the culture of 2012 tumblr

people's breadth of interest in

characters was very low

female characters in shows like

supernatural and sherlock were almost

universally hated by fans and characters

who weren't white and skinny

were basically non-existent in the text

anyway this was unfortunately a time

where diversity of interest wasn't

particularly abundant and

even in stories where a larger variety

of characters existed

people still tended to gravitate to the

once-ler types

see hux from star wars who has very few

lines and almost no personality except

evil getting more interest from fans

than finn who's literally a main


so i think the interest in the once-ler

and in just making a million different

versions of him instead of taking

interest in different works is kind of

the inevitable and most extreme

consequence of a fan culture that is

only interested in a very specific type

of character

the once-ler fandom is obviously

essentially dead but i do think the need

for more varied and interesting types of

media is

still out there if you want to get

attached to characters with a wider

breadth of experiences and media of many

more types i honestly can't recommend

movie enough

it's so cool it's basically a streaming

platform where every film is hand-picked

because it's interesting or well-made or

culturally relevant and in my experience

it's stuff i wouldn't have even known

about otherwise

so it's a ton of foreign films and

lesser-known films by famous directors

and stuff that's showing at festivals

somewhere in the world

it's basically a film festival in your

home forever and it's so good

my favorite that's on the platform right

now is my dinner with andre

you all know i love community and they

reference this film on one of the

episodes and i've been meaning to watch

it ever since and now that i have movie

i finally got to

it's this film that's so simple and so

so amazing about these two friends who

meet up after a while and their own

lives and perspectives are so different


the film never really tells you what to

think or who exactly is right and after

i spent this whole video talking about a

film that's really heavy-handed in its

confusing message

something like my dinner with andre that

lets you make those decisions for

yourself and just

think about how people's own experiences

shape why they think the way they do is

really nice and appreciated

if you want to watch my dinner with

andre or any other amazing film on movie

you can get a free month and watch

dozens of them at

sarah's ed that's it's awesome







on top of a thank you to all my patrons

i'd like to specially thank benton bowen

for joining my 20

plus tier welcome