Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Critical of critics

I know Waldorf and Statler are technically hecklers, but they also have a lot in common with critics.
On March 15, 2008, one of my favorite bands, The Matches, released their third album, A Band In Hope. It was a watershed record for the band, and it was even more experimental than their previous album.

And the critics didn’t get it.

Or at least one critic in particular didn’t, and he sticks out in my memory. He gave the album two and a half stars and I was furious. One year later, The Matches called it quits and I blamed this critic, and all his ilk, for killing my beloved band. I would bet this reviewer didn't play an instrument, and had never written a song in his life. My question at the time was, “If you're so smart, why aren't you out there making the most perfect five star album of all time?” Furthermore, what gives this guy the right to critique this band, and why am I listening to him?

This same issue arises with critics of all stripes: “If you know so much about X, why aren’t you out creating the best X ever instead of sitting there typing snarky little witticisms that don’t really contribute anything?” I’ve realized that with creative endeavors: those who can, do, and those who can’t, become critics. It’s simple: If you are not good enough at something to do it professionally, make a job out of talking trash on those who are.

Here are some other problems I have with critics:
  • Bandwagon effect. Doesn’t it seem like once a few critics like something then there gets to be a critical mass of critics and then all of a sudden everyone loves something? That seems weird to me.
  • Time delay. Some works are initially panned but over time people warm up, and vice versa, so can we really trust critics?
  • Critics are out of touch. Take Superman vs Batman. I didn’t like it, and a lot of critics didn’t like it, but people in general seemed to love it.
  • Critics have questionable taste. Take Game Of Thrones. This show is rapey as hell, and misogynist to boot, but it is a critical darling and lavished with awards. Why?
  • Sometimes critics confuse “transgressive” with “good.” I’m not advocating censorship or being prudish, but I am saying that just because something breaks a taboo, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or revolutionary or even noteworthy.

And now, maybe you are asking: “Hey, man! Don’t you ‘review’ pop songs on here sometimes?” My answer: Yes, and I am a hypocrite. But those reviews clearly aren’t serious, and no one reads them anyway, so I’m only a half-hypocrite.

Maybe you are asking: “If you are critiquing critics, then aren’t you a critic critic? Perhaps criticism is in itself an artform and by critiquing it you should hate yourself by the criteria you have established here.” And to you I say: Fair point, but we will never be friends because you are clearly the worst.

Maybe you are also asking: “Is it possible that in the Information Age there is so much content flying at our faces that critics serve as a type of ‘gatekeeper,’ helping us filter out the good content from the bad and saving us time?” To that I say: Maybe, but is it worth putting up with critics? I’d rather just search blindly for my next Netflix show.

The moral of the story is: critics are off-puttingly smug and don’t take them too seriously.