In wrapping up my review of the Fly Hurricane, I touched on the idea of modeling preferences falling on a spectrum (or really, multiple spectrums).
There was a reason for this.
This hobby, perhaps more than any other I’ve been a part of, is given to rampant conflation. That is to say, taking two separate ideas and combining them into one. It’s lazy, it’s reductive, and I’m convinced it’s responsible for probably about 80% of the internet bitchfights that break out on forums and social media.
What do I mean by conflation?
If you call a kit out for shoddy mold planning and engineering – as I did with Kitty Hawk’s Kingfisher – you can expect plenty of responses that you just need to “use your modeling skills”. The implication, of course, being that you lack said modeling skills.
This is conflation.
Can the Kingfisher be built? Yes. Will I build it at some point? Almost certainly yes – if only to shove it in the teeth of internet conflationsists because whether or not it can be built and whether or not I can build it is beside the fucking point.
The point is that the kit is poorly thought out and executed – especially at the $90 pricepoint that Kitty Hawk placed on it.
If you went out and bought a $50,000 car and it turned out that the passenger door wouldn’t latch, the transmission was constantly hunting for the wrong gear, and the sunroof leaked, nobody would respond with “you just have to use your driving skills”.
If you bought a new tablet, and the wi-fi antenna was shit and the battery couldn’t make it past four hours, who would suggest “you’re just using it wrong”? Or “I got by fine on a Palm Pilot, just be grateful that you even have a color screen”?
It’s entirely possible for things to suck – or to be good – completely independent of a person’s skill, preference or experience.
Things that Objectively Suck
Locator pins that are too big for their corresponding holes are objectively bad. I don’t care if the fix is minor. That’s lazy design, lazy molding, and lazy QA.
Decals that are out of register, so that the different elements don’t align properly, are objectively bad.
Trumpeter’s too-shallow cockpits in their P-40 kits are objectively bad.
Pre-cut masks that are designed to fit a thing, that then don’t fit that thing, are objectively bad.
Photo etch instrument panels that are too wide or too tall to fit into the cockpit they’re designed for are objectively bad.
In every single one of these cases, fixes and workarounds abound. But that’s not the point.
These things all suck all on their own. If you, as a modeler, can work past their suckage, bully for you. That doesn’t change their essential state, which is sucking.
Subjectivity in Play
Now, there are also things that can suck based on a person’s preferences, experience, prejudices, and yes, skill.
To go back to cars for a moment. Leaking sunroofs are objectively bad. But overboosted steering over a too-harsh suspension are subjectively bad.
I prefer nimble, communicative cars. So for me, a firm suspension is just dandy. But overboosted steering will nope a car out of my consideration set immediately. Other drivers obviously have different preferences, which is why Toyota sells a fuckton of Camrys.
There are lots of subjective good/bad things in modeling. Pretty much anything having to do with airbrushes once you get out of the barrel scrapings. The presence or absence of open panels on an aircraft kit. The fixed slats and flaps on Tamiya’s upcoming F-14.
One of my subjective bads? Non-workable tracks on armor kits. I just can’t abide glue-together indy links or link-and-length tracks. Not because they’re too hard, but because they don’t mesh with how I prefer to build armor. But I fully recognize others love them.
Another one? Preshading panel lines. Because I prefer chasing a more realistic finish, and aircraft that look like they’re going through a goth stage are objectively not reflective of reality. But…if you’re going after a more stylized look, then it becomes a different thing entirely. It’s subjective based on preference.
The problem with conflation varies slightly between objective and subjective suckage.
If we’re talking about an objective bad – masks that are cut wrong, decals that are out of register – those things are empirical. They should be open for criticism because they suck all on their own.
So if someone says the Kitty Hawk Kingfisher is a poorly engineered kit, they can’t even manage to make the location pins fit into their own damn holes, and you say…
“It’s a fantastic kit, I’ve seen several built up and they look great. You just need to apply some basic modeling skills…”
You’re being an asshole.
Or if someone says that HK’s Mosquito has numerous shape errors, and you say…
“It looks like a Mossie to me, rivet counter…”
You’re being an asshole.
Why is it so hard for us, as modelers, to acknowledge that something can suck (with the exception of accuracy, which is always dogpiled, and Trumpeter, which is also always dogpiled)?
Or, crazier still, to acknowledge that something sucks, but that pros in other areas outweigh that particular con?
“Yeah, it looks like Kitty Hawk really screwed the pooch in some areas, but I love the Kingfisher so I’ll suffer through.”
“Yeah, HK made some goofs, but I can live with them, and besides the engineering awesomeness outweighs the accuracy problems, at least for me.”
See? Not so hard.
Now, conflation and subjective suckage is a bit more complicated. Because it can be tough to work out what’s driving someone, subjectively. And a lot of people seem to not only assume, but to go overboard in that assumption.
For instance, I prefer kits that are thoughtfully engineered and that engage with me as I build. I love few things more in modeling than encountering something so brilliantly devised that I have to sit back and think “fuck, that’s clever!”
But this preference is frequently met with, for example, pictures of Lego kits. Or something like this:
“These kits are not paint-by-number or the snap together toys of our childhood.
If you are looking for the big EASY, you can still find those toys in the child section of the hobby shop. If you desire more, pull out your big boy brain, and remember how to reason before you jump into your next build. “
Umm, no. I don’t want easy. I want good. But to those with different preferences, who are maybe drawn more to the pre-primer aspects of a build, there seems to be this tendency to conflate well-engineered with easy.
And conflation blows the other way, too. I know those who are more motivated by the painting-and-beyond aspects of a build can tend to look at the build-oriented, marvel at the level of ingenuity and scratch detail that goes into a kit, and then shake their heads when it’s covered in a flat and lifeless paint job.
It’s so easy to think “oh, they must suck at painting”, when it’s almost certainly more that they’re just motivated much more by the mechanical aspects of the build.
Back to Spectrums
Ultimately, the reason why I spent that time discussion preference spectrums in the Hurricane review was to try to start, in my own small way, battling against this bad tendency we all have to conflate.
It’s possible for some things to suck, all on their own. And there’s nothing wrong in admitting it.
It’s also possible for some other things to suck in the eyes of some, and be just dandy in the eyes of others. And that’s fine.
The key is in recognizing that, accepting it, and not going all “he doesn’t like this thing that I like, therefore he is an idiot and I am superior!”
Because that makes you an asshole.