When writing reviews, a common criticism you may encounter is the allegation that you are biased. Doesn’t matter whether you write professionally or for fun, what type of product you reviews, there will always be folks coming out of the woodwork to point out how biased you are. So what do you do with that kind of feedback? Are you really that biased? If so, then how we can fix that?
Spoiler alert: we won’t fix it.
So what does it mean to be biased?
There is a wealth of literature and studies on the subject, but for our purposes today it won’t be worth going that deep into it. Effectively, biases refers to your subconscious inclinations that affect how you come to form opinions. This is often framed as being problematic; implying that having (and acting on your) biases is unreasonable. This makes sense in contexts like racial bias or confirmation bias, but is excessively dire when the word is invoked to criticize someone’s opinions on anime.
When someone accuses your review of being biased, what they actually mean is that you are subjective. More specifically, they are mad that you are expressing a subjective opinion which doesn’t align with their subjective opinion. If you have been reviewing for a while, then this might sound awfully familiar. There used to be a sizable number of people who demanded that reviewers be more objective in their work. This idea was widely mocked, such as with the classic “100% Objective Review” of Final Fantasy XIII by James Stephanie Sterling.
There are nuances to be evaluated here—and we will get to those—but the sentiments are the same. “You are biased” is a criticism of your opinion being in your review. Even though reading your opinion on something is the primary reason for why somebody would even read a review to begin with.
On a purely technical basis, allegations of being biased are always true. You are a biased little scoundrel. Your opinion on media is shaped by the preferences you developed as a result of your unique experiences in life. When people accuse me of being biased against shounen anime, there is a kernel of truth to that. I watched anime as youngster throughout the 90s, but was too obsessed with World of Warcraft in my teens to maintain any other hobby. Or study, for that matter. Thus I missed out on the time when shounen anime would’ve most appealed to me. I returned to the hobby when I was older in the late-2000s, but mainly through seinen and shoujo series.
That history undeniably and unavoidably influences my opinions on media today. It has shaped my preferences in anime and those preferences are reflected in the reviews I write.
That right there is reason #1 for why you shouldn’t fret about your biases too much. Your biases are what makes your content unique. What makes it yours. I love reading people’s reviews specifically because it’s a little mirror into their inner world. Many of my favorite reviewers I like specifically because their biases give shape to a recognizable style, or influence the kind of content they review to begin with. Shoutout to Ospreyshire for seemingly being the only other person on this hell planet who cares about The Secret of Cerulean Sand or The Diary of Tortov Roddle.
To somehow transcend into a state where you abandon all biases would mean to lose what makes your reviews special. I wanted to make a joke about reviews as written by AI, but that doesn’t strictly work either. Even AI are biased by the content fed into them and the directions they were programmed with. Not even the robot overlords can write you a strictly unbiased review of the latest smash hit isekai.
A second reason not to bother is because “you are biased” is rarely if ever a good faith argument. The odds that someone is genuinely concerned that your biases might be intruding upon the quality of your reviews is astronomically small. Most likely, they are just mad. And there is no remedy you can offer them to help resolve that anger.
Ironically, most instances where I was accused of being biased came from people that were themselves heavily biased in that assessment. People that used pictures of the anime I critiqued as their profile pics. Or whose traffic I could trace back to fan communities and SubReddits specifically for the anime in question. And they don’t come to their conclusion because they did a full, objective analysis of your entire portfolio beforehand. It’s the fumes that emit when their subjective views make contact with your own. No matter how unhinged they sound in the process.
Over the years, I have stood accused of myriad different thought crimes. Many of them fundamentally contradictory. Twitter mobs have accused me of having a shounen bias, whilst fans of certain shounen licenses have called me a seinen addict or accused me of being puritanical. I am somehow emotionally unintelligent while, at the same time, having a bias against nice, straightforward action series.
Biases are complicated. Even my self-admitted bias against shounen anime isn’t so clear cut. Yea, I missed out on the genre during a formative part of my life, and that has affected how I view such anime as a whole. That doesn’t mean I am ineligible to review them. Several of my favorite anime of all time are shounen series. I have loved series as new as My Hero Academia and as old as Cyborg 009. I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Cutie Honey, compressing 50 years of shounen anime history into 1 comprehensive guide. I love Gundam, Love Hina, Toradora, Figure17, Azumanga Daioh, Haruhi Suzumiya, Soul Eater, Taro the Dragon Boy, Horus, Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s not that I am not open to feedback, but I am going to need a lot more convincing here.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to muster a defense like that anytime you stand accused yourself. Again, because they simply don’t care. When some stranger appears out of thin air to criticize your very being, it’s very unlikely that they are available for meaningful discourse. Even if you can present an epic rebuttal of their assessment of you, that energy is wasted on someone that will never come back to your site anyway. Somebody that will forget about you the next time they trip over the slightest dissent towards their franchise.
Don’t waste your energy on that. Foster your own style, learn to use your biases to better express what makes you unique, and use your energy to instead engage with people who genuinely care.