Ah, another day, another “the Internet is killing culture” article. What about someone writing an article about the fact that the so-called critics are out-of-touch and lazy? While I feel for all the people who are losing their jobs, I cannot help but think that so many of these critics brought it upon themselves.
Petitions and protests are not going to change the facts on the ground. Very few of see a future where there will be print coverage of the arts. The fact that there isn’t huge public outcry about these losses suggests that, well, you weren’t as valued by the public you purported to serve. Did you ever think that those online voices are filling the gaps you’ve ignored?
Here is what I’ve learned about arts critics over these past years:
- Real Critics Take a Narrow View of the World. Either due to their editors or their own taste, “real” critics review and analyze media that does not reflect the breadth and depth of today’s culture. While these critics might believe they are defining culture, they are reinforcing the public opinion that they’re out-of-touch.
Very often critical analysis in print publications reflects the vision of the editorial staff. What seems like deep analysis is actually narrow coverage of specific media or art types deemed to be “important” by self-appointed culture mavens. The burgeoning online review culture, at the very least, offers us exposure to a far wider range of art than any print publication could dream of presenting. This allows us to realize that in many case, the emperor is truly naked.
- Real Critics Are Lazy When It Comes to Criticism. As evidenced by the statement, “The online blog and review culture of saying whatever is “cute, smart or attention-grabbing” gives less chance for context and leaves no room for reasoned discussion, [Tom] Moon [formerly of the ”Philadelphia Inquirer”] says.” This is patently wrong, yet it is often repeated is if it were gospel. The range of online criticism is broad and deep. Just because you can’t be bothered to find the good stuff, that doesn’t me it doesn’t exist. Give it a rest.
- Real Critics Assume They Protect Us from Our Own Ignorance. See this quote:
Moon worries that classic recordings like The Beatles and The Beach Boys could fade out over time, as the generations that think they are important recede. Part of the critic’s role is to have heard enough of what came before to comment on what is happening now, he said. Now, as wannabe critics turn to online publication, they no longer have to be deemed knowledgeable enough by an editor.
Yeah, right. Time will tell if these artists stand the true test of time (a la Chopin or Mozart), but anyone who thinks today’s generation is unaware of and will fail to pass on the music of these artists is clearly delusional. For the moment, these bands remain popular and influential within music circles because they speak to our culture. Get over yourself.
- Real Critics Offer Opinions without Context: And we have this, “Internet users are more likely to check out Rotten Tomatoes than to read an actual review from a newspaper,” said J.D. Hoffman, an Atlanta-based film critic. “It’s so much easier for people to read the one pull quote they provide than to read an entire review.”
Reviews are funny things. Every person who uses them goes into the process with different goals. And while I’d argue that the average American is more than aware of the purpose of a pull-quote, perhaps that is the right amount of information for that particular person (believe it or not, a good number of folks prefer to form their own opinions on art, without the heavy-handed guidance of critics).
- Real Critics Think They “Influence” People. And this might be why so many are losing their jobs:
Meanwhile, critics have seen their influence wane in another regard — the summer blockbuster. These films, buoyed by large marketing budgets and big-name movie stars, have become “critic proof.” “Every summer, studios release plenty of garbage, and yet the opening weekend figures are astronomical,” Hoffman says. “Put Will Smith in any action film, and you’re crossing the $100 million mark, guaranteed.”
Oh wow, where to begin? Either our critics have no idea why the summer blockbuster exists or they truly believe they can stop the awesome power of Will Smith. Either way, the belief that this type of influence was ever possessed by critics boggles the mind.
For what it’s worth, I believe it is our natural inclination to absorb a variety of opinions and voices when it comes to art. Given the overall educational levels of Americans, it’s reasonable to assume that a good number of us have a solid grounding in arts, at least enough to understand themes and precedents. Many of the critics who are being laid off (and this has been going for years) spend far more time on spewing sour grapes than they establishing themselves as voices of expertise in new media.