Writer John Scalzi wrote an interesting post this week about the varying purposes of criticism (of film, television, games, books, etc.) and how to make sure your criticism is taken seriously (or when to know to ignore it if you are the one under review).
Go ahead, take a few minutes to read it, it's very well written and definitely worth a look. I'll wait.
The whole thing got me thinking once more on a topic that crosses my mind from time to time, and that is that I could probably never be a professional critic, or reviewer even. Why? Because it seems to me that anything I feel is worth writing about is something that I love. You tend to be more forgiving of flaws in that which you love, and willing to give the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Heck, I don't even tend to look at reviews of things that I know I don't actually like (or strongly suspect I won't).*
If I love a show, for example, I will not continue to read reviews by a writer who clearly cannot stand that show and is just enjoying tearing it apart. I can acknowledge, on an academic level, that something I love is stupid and terrible and not very well made. But I will still love it nonetheless. I have no need to experience another's hate for that thing. Now, a well thought out, critical assessment pointing out the flaws objectively, that I can deal with, because I understand that what I enjoy is not necessarily what anyone else enjoys. But plain old vitriol? No, thank you.
I tend to seek out those things that I think I will enjoy, and very rarely am I disappointed that way. (When I am disappointed, the blows always seem to hit pretty hard, however.) If a new show or a film or a book doesn't appeal to me, I usually just don't give it any thought, other than, perhaps, to be annoyed when I have to hear all about it on Facebook the next day. Occasionally I will step out of my comfort zone and give something a try even if I think it looks stupid or just doesn't appeal to me (usually because either someone I trust thinks that I will enjoy it or because there is an actor/writer involved that I generally enjoy). Often, when I do this, I am pleasantly surprised by what I find. I discovered two of my favorite television shows this way--Human Target and Leverage. I had no intention of watching either until I learned of particular bits of casting, and I gave them a try. From this, I know that there is probably a lot out there that I think is stupid but might actually enjoy if I gave it a try.**
But there is just so much out there to read, or to see, or to watch, or to play, or what have you. I can't partake of it all. So I stick with what I am pretty sure I know I will like, and I am content in this way. I trust the universe to play out in a manner such that if there is something I need to experience, I will, eventually. I have learned to walk away when something I love becomes unrecognizable and I no longer enjoy it. That doesn't mean that others who once loved it have stopped as well, though. I may not understand why they would choose continue loving that thing, but I don't need to. They simply do.
We are not all the same. These days, there is something out there for everyone. You might not like what I like, and vice versa. I try to remind myself of this, and not to judge those who like something I consider unworthy.*** To bring it back to Scalzi's post, the bit where he talks about the difference between "I don't like that/I don't understand why you like that" and "Only idiots like that/What's wrong with you, if you like that" really struck a nerve with me. Like I said, I try not to judge others who don't see these things in the same way that I do, but I am not sure I would be able to convey that correctly in writing a review or critique. Because I have found that when I do write about these shows or books or movies, all I want to do is sing their praises. I don't want to talk about the things I didn't like, because for me they are not worth mentioning, unless they ruined the whole thing, and then I just want to talk about that thing at all. There's not much point to that, in my mind. If you've been reading my Stargate rewatch posts, or any of the other reviews on this site (which I try to call "recommendations" rather than reviews, because really, that's what they are), then you've probably noticed they are all mostly lovefests. Sure, there might be things I gripe about here and there, but that is because I enjoy griping about it, and it comes from a place of love.
For me, being a critic would mean setting aside that part of my personality that likes to look at the bright side. I am not a blind fool. I know there is unpleasantness in life, and even in myself at times, but when it comes along I deal with it as best as I can, and try not to burden others with it if at all possible.
Then I find something happy to dwell on instead.
*The exception to this are Flick Filosopher's reviews. I can admit that I sometimes look forward to her reviews of things I suspect I will not like or are stupid, because generally she sees them the same way, and manages to convey as such in a witty and amusing manner.
**Except for reality shows. I maintain that they are inherently stupid and I cannot get behind them.
***This is really hard when it comes to reality shows. I cannot understand how anyone actually enjoys them and I am not sure I want to, because I fear it would make me weep for humanity. Or myself. It disturbs me that I am that much different from, apparently, the rest of the world.