Criticizing the criticism

Anton Ego of Ratatouille is a stereotype of a critic

I’ve always liked fiction works, especially movies, TV and web shows, books and comics. More recently, I’ve became more interested in analyzing these works of fiction. But criticism is not just analyzing, it involves judgment, deciding how much said work worth. And that’s where it becomes more complicated.

I know I am still very ignorant, and judging may make you appear arrogant. But because of my love for these works, and because I hope that exercising my critical view I may become a better creator, I still want to make some reviews of fictional works that I have read/watched/played. I am doing this post also for some kind of introduction.

By the way, I’ve put criticizing in the tittle but it may be just a commentary. It’s because it sounds cooler. That is not clickbait, is it? Anyway, let’s get going with this. The first thing is what is the function of a review?

One of the common uses of reviews is to determine if you will consume said work. People use the opinion of others to consider if they will spend their time and money to something. That may be used for critics or reviewers who they trust, but includes opinions of relatives and friends. At the very least it gives you a notion of what to expect.

Another use is to see the opinion and analyses of others, from which you can learn things. I think that it’s the most beneficial aspect of a critic. As a work of art, the fictional works work may be open to different interpretations, and other people may have seen things that you didn’t. The long analyses are more beneficial in this sense.

One more use is for entertainment, which is common especially when the reviewed work is notoriously bad. I myself watched a lot of video review from bad movies to be entertained. But a good entertaining review should also have some of the teaching aspect.

As a creator should have some critical sense to judge his own work and a critic should know how to create to be able to properly, so these activities are complementary. But the professional activity is usually divided. With internet is easier to see the opinion of people that are not necessarily ‘professional critics’, but are enthusiasts of a type of work. What could be considered professional and the differences in merit between professional and non-professional is debatable.

There is the idea that general audience and critics like different things. This is related to expectations and how critically they see the work. Critics generally study and consume more works, so they are more tired of clichés and generally have a higher parameter for what they would consider a good work. Other reason is because to criticize is more tiring and unhappier than just enjoy, and they are less prone to get distracted by explosions and such. And the critics may consume a work that doesn’t appeal to them, while audience has more free choice. In this sense, the non-professional critics are a mid-term between professional critics and general audience.

I think that a good critic should be able to appreciate works that he may not like that much. At the same time, it’s possible to like things that you don’t think that have that much of ‘artistic value’, being it a guilty pleasure or something of sort. Being that impartial is difficult, but  you should try.

One thing interesting about the mentioned Anton Ego is how he loves cooking. The fact that you love some type of art makes you more concerned about it, and frequently more prone to hate poorly made work. The problem with being passionate is how it may make you hateful. I don’t like the unnecessary hate that some put towards the criticized creator. Laziness, dishonesty and generally being an asshole are more detestable things. Lacking common and artistic sense make someone unfit to be a creator, but it doesn’t justify hate.

A creator should work to make the best content according to his own limitations. Your priorities may tend to neglect some aspects, like how a more nonsensical story usually lacks audience investment compared to a verisimilar one. The key would be making the most of what you have. This is why I am particularly affected by works that seem to waste potential. The ones that seem bad since concept are just puzzling for why they exist.

One problem is that the creator tends to take a critic of your work as an attack to yourself. I myself am a bit guilty of this. If you indeed put your heart into it is understandable that the critic may seem to demerit your effort. But if the critic is reasonable, you should take it in consideration.

For the creator, a good criticism may be very helpful. Another point of view may help him see a problem. But what others see as a problem may not be to him, being it because it agrees to his sense of a good work or his style, because he is stubborn or because he is too lazy to change. Trying to appeal to critics or audience may be a problem, but they shouldn’t be ignored.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews discredit the whole work because of one thing they found problematic. There are things that may prejudice the whole composition, like bad editing in a movie, but it’s common to people say a story is bad just because they didn’t like the end, the ‘message’ or whatever that triggered them. A critic account for what is relevant, but its definition varies. A work is a composition, and just looking to one or a few of its component seems generalist.

Another thing that I found unfair is judging a work by its hype. Many times people tend to be more negative about a work just because they perceive too many people praising it, and the contrary may also happen. At the same time, it’s annoying saying ‘everyone has their opinion’ to disregard others judgments. There are some objective aspects to consider. The ‘misunderstood piece of art’ is a rare thing, being many times to try to justify bad production.

One factor that I use to decide if I find a work good or bad is if I think is better or worse when I revisit and analyze more. I think most of them go to the ‘okay’ category. To not be average they should have something special. I think I rarely like so much a work for a long time. The perceived problems pile up, and there are other works that I can occupy my mind and time with.

I may consider a work more for its impact in its genre or media than how much I like it or overall ‘artist value’, like Tolkien and high-fantasy. But that may include works that aren’t bad but had a bad influence in fiction production. It seems that the copiers forget what made the original work and just make a poor imitation.

Effort and creativity is generally the key to make a good work, with an artistic sense to make it being well applied. A critic can’t see the real effort, just the apparent, so you should manifest it.

Basically, if the critic doesn’t act like a prophet and the artist can recognize his limitations they may have a constructive relationship.

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