At some point in your life, you encounter the most insipid arguments defending a particular stance. They can mix in the writer’s most cherished logical fallacies, hold widely contradicting assertions, or even conclude with flat denial: stating that the work is so good that you either get it or you don’t. However, these pea-brained writings are often easy to spot (usually through a very very bad command of proper English); and they’re just as easy to mock the arguments’ riddled flaws.
Yet, what’s worse than this is pretentious writing, permeating purple prose for no reason other than to hide substantive evidence through ornate language and half-assed subterfuge. What makes this worse than naturally inane arguments is the fact that they actually manage to convince people! You would expect one to understand that a flowery Nabokov hand is not the proper means for persuasive discussion. It is the writer’s job to convince, not to obscure. Either you bend over and prostrate yourself in order to gently point out clear equivocations in their arguments, or you just give up and fall in despair at the lack of logic in your fellow human being.
Classical identification is one of the most common tools (and problems) in a pretentious writer's toolbox. Suppose for instance that someone states,
“Free! suffuses each criterion of Joseph Campell’s monomyth into its lush storytelling, enacting the epic hero archetype both literally and metaphorically, as well as downplaying the damsel in distress paradigm under iconoclastic feminism.”
Supposing that identification were even true (it could be; Free! after all is a deconstruction of yaoi), this mere emulation doesn’t actually say anything positive (or negative) about the work. Sure, it satisfies so-and-so’s requirements, but so what? That’s no less impressive than saying that Toaru Kagaku no Railgun pays “homage” to the K-ON! group dynamic. Identification is objective evidence that means nothing without further interpretation and conclusions. That line has cute vocabulary and grammar, but you’re just applying lipstick on a pig.
This falls exactly in line with one of the biggest problems with classical references. By drawing comparisons to prototypical works, writers implicate deeper qualities to the compared work under false pretenses. Free!‘s Haruka is the homoerotic Kerouac of his story, but who gives a patootie? Just because the comparison can be made doesn’t mean one can automatically infer quality writing. Monkeys on typewriters have likely said more substantial things than that.
Moreover, being an example of a certain archetype doesn’t make the character intrinsically good himself. References to and from classical works in such a sense is not only pretentious but contradictory. What makes classical figures powerful characters is the level of their complexity beyond following simple criteria (note: not the mere fact of following a trope). In other words, it is their deviation from the archetype, or at the very least, their deeper elaboration on its conditions, that make them good characters. Gilgamesh, for example, is a terrible protagonist viewed standalone. He has literally zero complexity; ancient heroes in general are not praised for their depth in character. However, what makes these myths fantastic stories is the themes brought about on such simple characters (e.g., friendship versus homosexuality), and the level of symbolism they entail with these characters’ simple actions.
Pampering one’s compliments by making such references don’t actually mean anything. Classical references are simply a positive spin on stating that a certain work parrots cliches. That’s really all there is to it. English teachers around the world would be ashamed at such tragic (no pun intended) writings. Identification is the first step of proper analysis, but where’s the actual meat of your argument? What’s the purpose of this baseless comparison?
Clearly thesaurus’ed words has also got to be one of my favorites. It’s fine to use a thesaurus to supplement your writing when you can’t find the precise word to fit your scheme. However, this does not mean you should pick the most arcane word in the list. Synonyms do not share the exact same meanings; even going with awkwardly syllabic words can already make a sentence clumsy to read. This is one of the biggest problems with machine writing (as well as provide intuitive evidence against P=NP). Honestly, which one of these two openers is clearer than the other?
“Revolutionary Girl Utena takes simple stories and applies subtle meanings and motifs throughout every action in its screenplay.”
“Revolutionary Girl Utena arrests unadulterated chronicles and pertains insidious forces and arrangements throughout every enterprise in its screenplay.”
The second one sounds “better”, but word for word, what the heck does that even mean?
Now with all that said, it should be duly noted that two can play at that game. While this means that you should be skeptical, you should also be willing to accept contestable arguments without so conveniently strawmanning their logic and/or dismissing the result. Pretentiousness has its litter of problems, and you should be aware of what is and isn’t abstruse writing. But as with everything in life, moderation is key. If you remain cynical about every fleeting word, you may lose the big picture and eventually nitpick on one that doesn't actually hurt the overall stance (falling into your own logical fallacies instead). After all, everybody’s a critic. It’s easy to bash on someone else’s writing, but be aware that the same methodologies could very well be applied to you.