Welcome Back

If you can read this, that means the site didn’t explode.

OK, hopefully that’s everything sorted.  What a very not-fun just-over-a-month that all was.

For those just joining, or looking through the archives in the (hopefully many) years since posting, welcome back to my site.  We’ve moved!  As previously explained, I made the galaxy brain decision in mid-2015 when first creating this house for my multitudinous online ramblings to name both the site and the accompanying url after myself.  Partly because I was/am terrible at naming things, and partly because I aimed for this place to be a portfolio-type easy-to-find hub which showed up clearly on Google searches.  In doing so, I did not once consider the possibility of, four/five years down the line, having a massive gender identity crisis/revelation which would result in said portfolio-type easy-to-find hub being plastered at every foundation with my deadname as a constant reminder of all those years I was deeply troublingly miserable due to not understanding or being able to accept my true self.  I don’t know why I didn’t, to be honest; it’s a very common occurrence and, in fact, is fundamental to the Secret Socialist Queer Cabal’s nefarious plan to take over the world.

Anyways, point is, the site renewal window notifications came up at the start of May, so I finally got on with the process of moving away from deadname.url to calliepetch.com.  This is where we shall be staying for as long as I decide to keep this website up cos, good fucking lord, the process of moving 850 articles over to a new domain was an utterly endless soul-crushing endeavour.  Any future important gender identity crises/revelations are going to be straight-up ignored and stamped out just so I don’t have to do this again.  I’d much rather live in frustrated, unknown closeted misery for multiple decades than have to move all this shit again and I recommend anyone else in a similar position do so too.  (This is a joke, obviously don’t do that.)

But seriously, it was not a fun process for me.  All articles transferred over safely – hopefully, assuming the old domain and its mapping’s official expiration haven’t caused a spontaneous combustion behind my back – with the root urls automatically replaced with calliepetch.com, but the many, many, many inter-site hyperlinks in these old pieces did not automatically change, resulting in my having to go back through every single post to fix them.  Some external hyperlinks and embeds, meanwhile, had full-on died since the original post-date and now needed me to go back through every single hyperlink to check their status and, for the many ones which had died, attempt to Wayback Machine or alternate link/embed them so that the points/jokes I was making could still make some semblance of sense.  (Most obviously and expectedly, the real-long-form pieces from pre-2017 got hit with this the worst.)  Whilst in there, I also noticed that a lot of the general formatting of older articles was an inconsistent mess which needed tidying up, header images often cropped terribly due to my taking almost four years to realise what aspect ratio most ideally works for this layout design, some article urls were overly-vague and overlong, there were still calls-to-action for a Twitter I haven’t had since November 2017 and is currently owned by some guy who has only tweeted three times in total (all about football)…

There was a lot of stuff to do, basically, and my Aspy brain couldn’t let this particular job be half-done.  So, almost every single day between 11th June and 7th July (read: the ones where I wasn’t out doing errands or cinema or significantly more engaging things), I was sat hunched over this laptop screen having my eyes metaphorically bleed from dinner to dusk, chipping away at 850 articles as the expiration deadline for the old urls ticked on ever closer.  It, frankly, sucked and is why I cannot stress enough that any prospective writers looking to make a blog/portfolio/hub/whatever future-proof the fuck out of their domain.  Maybe also try and make an irregular habit of going back to older posts, if possible, to check everything’s still kosher with them so you don’t one day start looking through and see everything burnt down whilst you were busy with newer shinier toys.  850 of these things turns your brain to mush, believe me.

But I’m not making this post – which should really just be a “welcome back, new site same contents” notification – solely to comically bitch about having to do some heavy work of my own making for once in my existence.  Rather, I’m making this post for two reasons.  The first is a little business update I’m also going to put in the About bio designed to clear up potential confusion.  The second is, to keep things #onbrand, an overly-analysed heavily-critical self-reflection of my self and work so far over the years which I need to exorcise cos it’s been chewing away at my writing confidence and ability for a lot of the last month.

So, first: you may notice that the vast majority of my pre-2021 articles still utilise my deadname and dead-gender(?) in the body and sometimes titles of many a piece.  What gives, right?  Well, after going back and forth on the subject for the first years’ worth of pieces, I made the decision to keep my deadname and dead-gender (that’s definitely not the term) references in those original articles rather than change them.  This is something I gave a lot of thought to and was influenced by how Emily VanDerWerff’s archives handled things following her coming out and transition, especially on the AV Club she was so integral to helping build.  The author byline in her old articles reflects Emily’s true identity, but the articles themselves still for the most part reference her deadname and all that largely because her analysis at the time – which Emily expounded upon as part of this essential newsletter I saw just after I started my work – was steeped in her seeing the world as a cis man, with the accordant privileges and unexamined biases & baggage that entailed.  Because her politics and her gender identity at the time so fundamentally tied into her criticism and how she reacted to things, going back through and simply switching pronouns doesn’t really change anything and erases the experiences needed to come to that understanding of her self.

Although I am playing in the Little Leagues whilst she’s off winning World Series when it comes to writing talent, I feel a kind of kinship with Emily in that regard.  Particularly as I got deeper into those old pieces, it became ever more obvious that a lot of my then-criticisms were filtered heavily around my considering myself to be, at the time, a cis male.  That informed how I saw the world, responded to the media I consumed and discussed, as well as the tone and style of those write-ups (we’ll come back to that in a sec).  Even before I started actively calling attention to this fact when writing about topics I felt said privilege left me on shaky ground to discuss, it was still there and my changing the pronouns and name when utilised in older write-ups would both make things more confusing and erase the very gradual journey I believe you can track through my work over years to my eventual understanding and acceptance of being a queer non-binary.

That all said, I am still queer non-binary and always have been, even if I didn’t realise so at the time.  Therefore, the sign-offs at the end of every article have been updated to reflect the new name of “Callie” rather than the deadname and gender-neutral “they” pronouns, since those are my equivalent of an author byline.  So too have the “Petch’s Top [x] [y] of [z]” article headlines since, again, I’ve always been an NB even if I didn’t realise so at the time and the lists themselves are named after me even if the contents within were reflective of a past Me at that moment in time.  If that makes sense?  It does in my head, I promise.  I believe up to about April of 2014 you might see some articles where name and gender references were changed in-body to “Callie” and “they,” but those were because I flip-flopped for a while on how much I wanted to change and cannot be arsed right now to go back and fix.  I got writing I really want to do, dammit!

(Two major exceptions to the sign-off and title changes.  The end-of-year self-reflection bits from pre-2020 still end with the deadname since they’re vital to said journey of personal progression and were always intentionally one-draft exercises in how I felt right then with no desire to future-proof.  The Awards posts, meanwhile, utilise my deadname in the title cos that’s how they appear in the header images designed for me by my friend Moosey and I feel it’d be too confusing a mismatch/time-consuming to fix.)

Somewhat related to all of that is the second reason why I wanted to pen this as a full indulgent post rather than a short sweet service update.  See, because I had to go back through every single one of my 850+ articles across the last eight years, that means I had to re-read every single of my 850+ articles across the last eight years and… god, a lot of them were just awful.  Like, legit exhausting and shameful to read.  That’s not because of some highly-questionable/embarrassing takes, although boy howdy are there sure a lot of those – I kinda want to do a revisitation series for some of those earlier reviews and the movies they cover, almost solely so that my ridiculous opinions on the Need for Speed movie can be subsumed by significantly less stupid ones on the public record.  Specifically, I was struck by two observations I made.

The first being that the vast majority of my pre-2016 content especially is so… aggressive.  It always seems so angry, bitter and defensive, going way over the line of being explained away as “passionate” and instead inviting legitimate questions about whether I even liked the medium I was covering.  Even the more positive reviews aren’t exempt from this; in fact they may even be the worst for it, filled as they were with backhanded surface compliments and a very dismissive tone which feels like I was trying to impose my will on the reader instead of earnestly and critically examining a piece of art.  Upon reflection, it’s more than clear that I was Going Through Some Stuff in those early pieces – everything pre-Summer 2016 was written before I was even clinically diagnosed with depression, let alone aware of my gender dysphoria, whilst I had only just grown to accept my biromanticism in late-Summer 2015 – and venting into my writing that frustrated inability to understand why I felt so angry and miserable and desperate to belong in a space but worried of being found out as a fraud.  Regardless, though, that doesn’t make the pieces any more enjoyable to read, ditto the podcast appearances I made during this timeframe which came with the added “benefit” of my motor-mouth awkward brain not having to deal with self-editing and rewriting prior to spewing out awful takes.

(I have sent unsolicited apologies to my old editors for having done this to them.  They mostly just laughed and told me not to worry, which is way better than I deserve.  Seriously, some of those older ones are awful.)

The second thing came from, in the downtime reading/doom-scrolling that I engaged in post-“workday,” stumbling across this Matt Zoller Seitz piece from 2014 decrying the dumbing-down “lifestyle” state of much online film criticism.  How many critics and writers don’t really engage with the form and the filmmaking in their write-ups, instead turning in “book reports or political op-eds that happen to be about film or TV.”  No detailed dissection of camera-work, editing rhythms, shot choices; why and how all these aspects feed into a scene or episode/movie as a whole and elicit the specific reaction instead of just a generalised “shocking” or “exciting.”  That this extremely surface-level buzzword critique betrayed a cornucopia of critics who either didn’t have any real knowledge of the medium they are positioning themselves as an expert on or didn’t care enough to put the effort into deeper analysis.  He swats away the usual excuses – lack of space, filmmaking was undistinguished, editors wanted surface-level critique – as bull because…

“You owe it to your readers to write about form.  You owe it to yourself to write about form.  You owe it to the filmmakers to write about form.”

Unsurprisingly, as the person who is currently 2,100 words deep into public self-flagellating self-analysis, this really stuck with me and, combined with my being up to late-2015 by that point, sent me spiralling into a little bit of an existential crisis since his words cut way closer to home than I was comfortable with.  A lot of my early work, hell, even a decent amount of my current work to me reads exactly like the vapid surface-level lifestyle criticism Seitz railed against – and which has inarguably only gotten worse in the near-decade since.  A crisis of confidence ensued, is arguably still ensuing, to be honest, given how the writing of the few articles I’ve penned for elsewhere during the transfer window often froze to a halt for up to two days due to my not unjustifiable fear that they were shit and surface and how do I work the form into the writing and AAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!

This is something which is always at the back of my mind when I write, especially nowadays, but the Seitz piece just happened to be one of those “the absolute worst time to read something like this” moments.  Knee-deep into 2015, a good 300 articles of almost-exclusively garbage waded through and it being difficult to know or remember if things were going to get better.  The sole set of articles I remain almost fully happy with were the DreamWorks Animation Retrospective.  Those do actually try (albeit clumsily) to engage with the form and the filmmaking whilst containing an earnestness mostly lacking from the other articles before/during/after that series, and you can see the seeds of the more narrative historical-context writing style I think I’m better suited to take root.  (The quickly-abandoned Lost Cels series similarly had those qualities.)  But aside from those… yeah, I’m not very happy with most of this, even with my having tried to tidy some these older articles up.

Fortunately, I found that things did get better from the second half of 2016 onwards.  Still struggle with not lapsing into lifestyle criticism, especially with my London Film Festival write-ups but I’m at least more conscious of that fact nowadays and try my best to mitigate it however I can – if for no other reason than trying to make my three years earning a first degree in Film Studies not have been a total waste.  Much more importantly, I’ve definitely mellowed out post-university, at least as a writer.  The writing is less aggressive, more empathetic, and I’m more likely/willing to admit my shortcomings/gaps in knowledge rather than bulldoze my way through.  I think these pieces are a lot more pleasant to read, a lot better written, and show that despite what the self-loathing black hole of my brain may try to claim I have actually progressed meaningfully in the years as a writer (and hopefully as a person too).  It can be difficult to believe a lot of the time, particularly if you’re still nowhere higher on the professional ladder than in years past like I am, but getting to see it clearly laid out like this does wonders for someone trapped in the heavily self-critical bubble.  At least for a little while, anyway; usually til it’s time to start writing something when the cycle begins anew.

When I was really in the thick of the spiralling weeds, I did consider doing a purge of the vast majority of my earlier articles – I have to use “earlier” cos I have technically been trying to write seriously since 2010 and would you believe that the pre-2013 pieces were even worse?  The main reason I didn’t was because it took far too much fucking effort to get them all on the site in the first place and I couldn’t be arsed to take them back off in case I changed my mind later.  The other reason is that, regardless of how ashamed I am of many of them, those older articles were still me and demonstrate my growth into the writer I am today.  Aside from the liberal ideas as to how hyphenate breaks and numerical values should be utilised in readable sentences, much of my shame comes from slightly embittered jealousy on not having figured myself out in decent enough time and venting it out through my work instead of getting the professional help required to healthily process it.  Like Emily VanDerWerff, I’m jealous and ashamed of the time I lost to my unprocessed trauma when I should really accept and be proud of having made it out the other side of it rather than succumbing.

So, that’s why I have spent *checks counter in bottom-left* almost 3,000 words self-indulgently rambling about the process of transferring all my shit to a new domain.  This minor existential crisis, easily the biggest I’ve had since starting my latest round of antidepressants – and even then, it’s never gone full “I am just not going to get out of bed today cos what’s the point?” which is probably a good sign – has been digging away at me in the month since I unofficially took the site off-air and I needed to work through it in the form of typing out words into the online void.  The kind of thing I needed to write so that I can move back onto the stuff I want to write and feel, at least for now even though that’s not how life works, the matter has been resolved.  I got WIBWs to push out for the month I’ve been gone, my backlog has progressed so much that ironically it’s The Backlog which is now clogged up and needs cracking through sos I can finally play Bugsnax, and it’s time to resurrect We’re #2! cos I loved both writing and re-reading those pieces too much to let the series become the latest resident of My Graveyard of Failed Long-Form Series Projects.

Thanks for reading.  Welcome back, everyone.  Let’s not do this whole thing again.

Callie Petch

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