Friday, April 12, 2013

Can't we just agree to stop doing this?

I've been writing reviews professionally* for about five years now. It seems like kind of a stupid thing to take seriously, but I do. I think of it as a kind of art on its own that, when done well, can help people to make informed decisions when it comes to more creative art. It is precisely because I take reviewing so seriously that things like this bother me so profoundly.

This exemplifies, to me, the reason so few fans and artists take reviewers seriously anymore**. This is why you get statements like: “Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. Those who can't do either criticize.” These don't come across as professional reviews so much as a self important child on a street corner yelling Look At Me!

8 of the 20 reviews quoted break the most important rule of reviewing: you are reviewing the work of art, not those who made it. They attack either the makers of the film or anyone who has the gall to enjoy the horrid pap those idiots shat out. All of them do exactly what he accuses Armageddon of doing: shout out one-liners without substance.

I get why this happens, especially as dependent as we are on Twitter and Tumbler and Facebook as we are now. A quick, biting quip is more likely to get passed along and aim people to you than a well reasoned, balanced statement of personal experience. It seems to work, initially. It may even get you a deal on a series of books. But it defeats the purpose of a review. It makes the reviewer look just as foolish as if they were blatantly copy whoring***. Also, few people bother reading anything but your cute little gag.

Reviews should never be about either the reviewer or the creator of the work. They should be about one person's experience of the work in question, conveyed in a way as to help others decide whether or not they will like it. Please note that the reviewer is not there to tell them whether or not they would or should like it. The review can, and in fact must be, subjective. This means that no matter how much you are paid, you are not an authority, but an adviser.

The distinction is important.



*Meaning that other people ask me to do them and occasionally pay me for doing so.

**Generally speaking, I consider it bad form to shit upon the recently deceased. They can't fight back and they have family that are trying to grieve for the lose of someone who likely meant quite a bit to them as a human being. It's just a dick thing to do. With that in mind, please understand that the following was not written to cast aspersions upon the character or person of Roger Ebert that was. I take issue with his review methodology and feel that his underlying critical theory, so dependent upon authorial intent, was outdated by a century or so.

***copy whoring: the act of writing a review around short, pithy exclamations in the hope of appearing on promotional art.


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