|American film critic, David Denby, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
There's the adage that says: "Those who can, do: those who can't, teach." While in some cases this may be true, I know there are and have been a great many fine teachers who have done their jobs well. I have had some of those teachers in my school years and seen others who are dedicated to a profession that requires great effort and skill to do well.
The somewhat dubious claim made about teachers I think would apply to a greater extent to critics. Critics seem to relish in dissecting and tearing apart that which they themselves cannot do. Though I enjoy reading critical analyses of artistic works, I'm often in opposition with what they say, especially from the standpoint of music, film, and literature. A critical essay can be enlightening, thought-provoking, and even entertaining, but all too often such a study is some attempt of pedantry in which the author is saying, "Look at me and how knowledgeable I am about my own opinion!"
Let's face it--critical analysis is almost exclusively opinion based. There are few (if any) factual evidences that can prove that a work is great or terrible or mediocre or whatever might be that which a critic is trying to tell readers. There are no university degrees in taste or preference. The critic can cite what other proclaimed experts have said about something, but that is merely providing more opinion in order to bolster an argument about opinion. If I happen to like something or someone else says they like something then our opinions have proven wrong the opinion of any opposing viewpoint that says that what we like is rubbish. That is if we can say there is truly any right or wrong when it comes to taste and preference which I would argue there is not.
The critic often comes across as pompous with a know-it-all attitude. Some people are suckered in by this high and mighty attitude. Rebel and skeptic that I typically tend to be, I won't cower to someone else's opinion when that opinion seems to be an attempt to negate my own. However, I will listen to reasonable argument and perhaps reexamine my own point of view. If I like something then little will change my mind other than something within me such as passing of time where I no longer have an interest in that which I formerly liked or a personal reevaluation that puts things in a different light for me.
Any actual change of mind such as this in my own life is speculation at the moment as I can't think of many things that I formerly liked a great deal, but no longer like as much now. Maybe it might be something like Spike Jones and His Orchestra, but I haven't listened to that group in many years--or at least not on a regular basis like I did when I was about ten years old or so. I guess I'm not so much of a fanatic about the old Batman TV show from the 60's. It's on in syndication on ME TV and I might watch a few minutes as I'm passing through the channels, but I never have stayed in recent times to watch an entire episode. Not that the show is bad, but it just doesn't interest me like it did when I was in high school.
I suppose I'd make a pretty lousy critic as I don't usually go overboard condemning most things unless I just happen to be in a bad mood at the moment. In fact, I can usually find something good to say about most things. There are times when I might play the critic role in an attempt to be funny, but so much of the time that kind of humor gets misinterpreted and people sometimes get upset.
The critic's ego might sometimes annoy me and occasionally even anger me. But I'd be better off to remind myself that sometimes those people need to go off on their rants to make the rest of the world aware of their presumed expertise in a subject. If that presumed expertise goes against my opinion then I take it as a different way of seeing things and it's not based on the critic being better or smarter than I am. And then I think to myself how sad and perhaps even ignorant that opposing view is.
After all, an attack on what I like is almost like an attack on my ego. In the final analysis, my ego is just important as the other person's and actually more so since I'm the one who has to live with my ego. Should the ego of the critic influence me? It partly depends on how the opinion is delivered. Maybe there is something reasonable to consider in the critic's arguments against what I like. I doubt it, but that's my ego speaking. Why should any of us change our taste in what we like because someone else says it's "bad" or "lacking in talent" or whatever the reason that is offered?
Our likes and dislikes are what makes each of us who we are and no critic with an overblown ego should discourage us. And same thing applies to me as applies to you.
Do you enjoy hearing what critics have to say? How often do you find yourself disagreeing with critical essays? Is it possible for a critic set aside ego in order to give a completely unbiased review or do preconceived notions and other interfering ideas taint the process of honest reviewing?