As I have mentioned here, either a blog or a podcast, everyone’s a critic. Literally and figuratively. We are all critical in what we consume, be it food, art, music, movies, television, news, or whatever else you want to list out. We develop our tastes over time, influenced by what moves us and by what moves those whose opinions we care about. Someone into Indian food will have you try a dish, and it blows your wig back and suddenly you love Indian food. Someone who loves Hip/Hop music, and they play an artist they like, and it doesn’t grab you, so you just aren’t into it.
The important thing for us, as the personal critic, is to be open to be surprised.
To be open to the idea that hey, now THIS Hip/Hop performer is amazing.
Or I don’t like THIS dish but THAT one is great.
This is just a service to us, to growing as a person in the world.
And as we grow our palate then we also want to share the things we love.
THAT is the thing that gets lost in critical theory, the love.
So much of it is about establishing, quite firmly, what one hates that we lose the love.
‘Man, I HATE Country music!’
That’s fine, but some folks love it, so you do you, and let them do them.
‘All horror movies are trash!’.
Well, that’s certainly an opinion but a WISER one is, man, I just don’t like horror movies.
We all have things we like and don’t like and that’s just part of developing that palate.
What I see time and again are critics, the BIG C critics just unloading on things that it oft times seems like wasn’t meant for them.
An example for me, at the moment, is a band I have loved for years, and years called Grotus. They were an experimental/industrial group that mixed sharp cultural criticisms with heavy beats and an influence of world music. Just looking them up I saw old reviews that didn’t just hate them but didn’t seem to understand them.
And that’s fine.
Only, part of ‘getting’ them is to understand what they’re about.
These reviews are why I dislike so much music journalism.
We all have things we like and don’t like and movies and music (and books, too, I guess) elicit emotional responses. If you really don’t like a style of music though, you’re going to not ‘get’ an artist or piece of art.
That doesn’t mean that piece or artist is suddenly ‘good’ but it means that you may be biased before you even experience it.
If I hate romance novels and then have to review one, well, that book better knock my socks off if I am going to give half a hoot.
That goes with everything.
I see time and again horror movies being slagged from critics who it’s clear just don’t dig horror. And that’s fine, you don’t have to, but you should at least have an appreciation of what you’re seeing or at least state your feelings outright from the start.
I Don’t Like __________ On To The Review!
People don’t do that though.
They want to see as if they are above such petty things as taste, no, they ARE taste.
They MAKE taste.
But they shouldn’t!
They should guide us so that we are better armed for whether we want to experience this for ourselves or not.
In an era of ‘Fake News’, too many people want to BE the news and want to be Culture Keepers who decide who is Good and who isn’t.
Back to the band Grotus.
I experience Grotus for the first time when I caught them opening for Mr. Bungle in 1992. They were a band that was as much performance art as performance, and I was immediately in love. There was a raw energy and dangerousness about them that was intoxicating, and I followed their career until the end. I won’t say anyone will like them other than me, but they were one of those bands that was just ahead of the curve on what they were doing. They fell between the cracks of a lot of stuff that was coming out then and just didn’t sound like any of it.
There are a few bands I like that are similar.
Which is not to say that I have some sort of elevated taste in music or whatever.
It’s to say that we ALL like things that it seems like no one else likes.
AND THAT IS FINE!
That is great.
I do say it again and again, and know I have blogged about this, but it bears repeating that we need to love and amplify the things that speak to us.
It’s fine to not like everything.
It’s fine to have deadzones in your tastes.
The HOPE, MY hope is that you will be open to being wowed someday and that your palate will grow.
That’s what this is about.
We don’t need walls, keeping everything out when it comes to this, we need fences to keep out the stuff we aren’t interested in but which we can let in when it moves us.
Critics, be they in a magazine, on a website, or next you in line, should serve only as informers to tell us WHAT these things are and HOW WELL they think they accomplish their perceived aims.
Heck, how many of us experience some of the critical darlings only to put on our Someone Pooped face because whomever that work was speaking to, it wasn’t us? WE ALL do that. We watch awards shows and ask – who the heck are these people? It doesn’t mean we’re wrong, but it doesn’t mean we’re right, either. It means that taste is subjective, and always will be. That’s fine. Just so long as we don’t beat everyone over the head with our opinion while we are at it.
I think a lot of us know a bum review when we read it because the tone is there that the person doesn’t respect the work. That’s fine, but you should at least be honest that you’re going into it jaded.
I read SO many mediocre reviews for the game Far Cry 6 but loved it. It was my second favorite in the series, second only to an entry that was again widely panned for not living up to whatever expectations the critics had.
I am glad I didn’t read the reviews because I loved the game and wouldn’t have wanted to be jaded by it.
Sometimes reviews help us narrow down the vast number of things out there so we can focus on the stuff that will speak to us over the stuff that won’t.
But just as often those reviews poison the river and our interests and doom a work before it has a chance to touch people.
I know that a LOT of people won’t dig my writing and that’s fine.
The HOPE is that the people who can connect to it though, will, and will be moved by it.
And if they aren’t then that’s on me.
As someone that creates though, it’s a drag to have something you worked hard on be summarily dismissed out of hand because it doesn’t live up to expectations that you don’t even know and never had for the work yourself. It’s hard to carry someone else’s baggage.
Be your own critic.
Find what you love and expand it.
Celebrate the things you love and post about them.
Take the things you don’t love and learn from them and what you don’t like about them but don’t feel the need to slag it because your taste isn’t everyone’s and can’t be.
You speak for you.
I review a lot of movies and always try to remember that people poured their hearts into this work and that while I may not dig it, I don’t have the right to burn the work alive.
I have to ask myself is a stupid joke at someone else’s expense worth the damage it does to them, or me?
I used to think differently, but no, it’s not.
Love what you love.
Accept what you don’t and shrug it off.
Amplify that love and share it and maybe you’ll infect someone with your good taste.
Show some good taste and get yourself some of my books!