An open letter to all those that review and analyze films, music, TV, and books
I’m writing to you today because I’d like to ask you one simple thing:
Why do you think you can speak for me? How is it that you presume to know what I like or don’t like? Who are you to tell me what I do and don’t want from my art and pop culture?
I have zero doubt that you don’t want someone to tell you what you should want out of your films, albums, books, and TV shows, even art and architecture, and yet I’ve lost count of the number of reviews that include phrases like, “This is a film no one wanted,” or “No one cares about this group any longer.” I realize hyperbole is the spice of writing in the 21st Century, but when something turns a profit or spawns a sequel, clearly it resonated.
Even if you hated it.
The most egregious act? Employing the all-inclusive “we” when you really mean “I.” If you want to write a review or even an opinion piece on Star Wars or Yeezus or the latest James Patterson offering, that’s great, but don’t wrap your personal viewpoints and desires for what a product should or should not be in a cloak of populism that is meant to be representative of us all.
I’ll admit: most of the time you write eloquently – or at least interestingly – and approach your review from an angle or vantage point that is different from many of us, giving us an opportunity to think about the subject in a new way. That’s appreciated. That’s what you’re supposed to do.
To me – and maybe I’m wrong – a critic should look at piece of pop art, I don’t know, critically, rather than personally. I don’t like Michael Bay films, but didactically sermonizing on how Bay is single-highhandedly ruining the wonderful gift of cinema and anyone that likes him is either dumb, lazy, or an easily-led automaton is not only patronizing, but also insulting.
I’m a fairly well-educated man. I read a great deal. I try to think critically. But yet, I’ve loved plenty of albums, books, TV shows, films, and various other things that would make self-aggrandizing, self-important critics gag.
Hell, I literally wrote
the a book on the subject.
I’m not against critics. I would never tell someone to stop doing what they’re doing, particularly if they enjoy it. And, besides, critics, when they do it right, do serve a beneficial role.
But when they become enamored with their own opinions and subjectively try to superimpose their own feelings onto the reader (or the viewer) rather than simply objectively viewing the work in front of them is when it becomes a problem.
At that point, you’re just telling me what I should like and if I disagree with you, then I’m wrong. And then you’re no different than Jay Sherman.
Unfortunately, this type of “criticism” is becoming more and more common. That’s why I would never let a Rotten Tomatoes score or an Amazon star aggregate tell me what to like or not like.
I don’t tell you not to love that black-and-white Serbian-French drama set in 1881 that would have subtitles except there is no dialogue, just nine hours of a woman standing in a field staring at a flower, or whatever it is you guys like.
This does not apply to all of you, of course.
But it does apply to many, if not most, and while some of you may not like being grouped together and painted with a broad brush, I didn’t think you would mind.
After all, critics do it to the rest of us every single day.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Christopher Pierznik’s eight books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, and many more.Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.