As the saying goes: “First the Artist. Then, the Critic.”
Okay, that may not be exactly how the saying goes (and I probably butchered that line from Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part 1) but I’m pretty sure you understand the sentiment. As long as there has been art, there has always been some debbie-downer to come and criticize it.
After being prompted by the absurdity that is the debate between audiences and critics over something as trivial as Suicide Squad, I figured I would make post about this issue. I have noticed a recent trend going on within the entertain industries, particularly the movies industry.
And that is: Audiences really, REALLY hate critics. They hate them so much that there are some people that going to the lengths of wanting shut down review websites just because film critics didn’t like a movie.
You often hear the terms: “Fuck the critics!” or “Who cares what the critics say?!” or whatever dismissing one-liner someone wants to make.
So why is this the case?
Why Do Critics Exist?
As I mentioned prior, criticism has existed as long as art has existed. Hell, not even just art but criticism has also existed as long as science, philosophy, and even human thought has existed. Throughout the pages of history, whenever an idea was presented or a piece of art showcased (whether that’d be music or theatre and later film), there would always be someone, somewhere out there that would say: “That’s a really dumb idea.” or “That seriously looks (or sounds) like shit.” In that regard, everyone is a critic. And while being a professional critic or someone who is a critic as their job is set to slightly different standards, the reasoning for their criticism sprouts from the same thought: either something was awesome and noteworthy or it was terrible. No difference at all.
BUT there is a distinction that is important to make in regards to film criticism. Very important. Not to sound snobbish but professional critics are different from audience members in that they are educated in a way to observe film in ways that audience members are not made to. Film critics are taught to look at aspects of a film that most people take for granted or totally disregard. They are told to observe how the lighting sets the tone of the film. They are told to see the progression of the plot and see if it makes sense with the given information that the movie provides. They are told to look at the motivations of the characters and if they are relatable to normal human beings in some way. And these are just some of the few (and basic things) that film critics are supposed to look at when seeing a movie. While, of course, they want to be entertained and enjoy watching the movie, the main element of being a film critic is this: they ask “Why should we care about this movie?” An obvious question but one that many people surprising don’t ask.
As someone in the audience, you are made to consume film like you would consume food, it’s just through your eyes. Usually one of three feelings come about after seeing a movie. And those are:
“Man, that sucked!”
“Eh. It was alright.”
“HOLY SHIT THAT WAS THE MOST AMAZINGEST THING IN THE PLANET I’M GOING TO DIE IT WAS SO AWESOME!”
That’s the extent that the movie industry wants its audiences to feel (except the “Man, that sucked!” part) as long as they are getting money.
Movie studios don’t want you to think too critically about movies, unless it’s to their advantage. If you are just a normal movie-goer, then you are viewed like animals, made to consume what those feeding you want you to consume and to not think way too much about it. This is because if you think critically about what you saw, you are going to tell your family, your friends, and anybody else interested in the movie. And, you will either praise the movie, or warn them not to see it.
This is the role that film critics serve today. When film became a humongous industry, critics filled the role of being the person telling you to go and see a movie because it is worth seeing or for you not to waste your hard earned money and time off your life. Film critics can be the darlings of a movie studio or its bane. Film critics can help increase or decrease sales just by giving their opinion. Most people like to spend their money wisely and not waste on something not worth it. Film critics serve as the spokesman of the public to a movie studio, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the film.
This is pretty much common sense. So what’s the problem? Why are people bashing film critics like this.
The answer is easy.
The fucking Internet.
Echo Chambers. Echo Chambers Everywhere!
This might come as a shock to you but most people don’t like being told that something they like sucks. With the help of the ever-so-lovely Internet, people can now find spaces where their opinions and ideas are constantly reaffirmed and unchallenged. It’s rather ironic because the Internet literally holds infinite knowledge and information for one to learn things they never knew about or to learn and understand things outside of their own perspective.
As human beings, we like to connect to people with like ideas and sentiments because it gives us a sense of community. It makes us feel accepted and, most of all, it makes us feel right. Nobody likes being wrong. Sadly though, the Internet allows people to hide away from others with differing ideas and, instead, has allowed people to become coddled by this clique-ish communities who just keep reaffirming everything they believe. It’s almost similar to enabling.
Most of the time when I discuss a movie with someone (usually on the Internet) and it’s a movie I didn’t like, a lot of these people freak the fuck out like I’m attacking them personally. It totally confused me for the longest time. And then, I realized it’s just because these people have been told they are right for so long that when someone comes around and says “Hey, I don’t agree with you.”, then I assume it’s a reactionary response criticizing their intelligence or something. I can’t say the exact thought process but when logically thinking about it, that’s the conclusion I have come to.
And all of that arguing and insult-throwing came about…over a movie? Wow. But when you think about it, you can understand where it all comes from.
The Big Issue
Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course. Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. You can scream to high heaven about how someone else’s opinion is wrong and yadda-yadda-yadda. That’s great. More power to ya.
My problem comes when you start to censor people. That is where you cross the line.
This whole thing with Rotten Tomatoes just shows how much these echo chambers have gotten so much out of hand. The Internet has become a breeding pool for people to react in rage to anything, but most of all, things different from them and different from their own thoughts. People are literally wanting to silence anyone who dissents to their ideas and opinions just because it’s different from theirs. Now, I know that this an issue that extends across so many things, but in the context of criticism of film, censorship is the most pathetic and unproductive thing you can do. It’s just inexcusable. Everyone has a right to say what they think not matter how dumb or different it is. To censor that totally defeats the right to the freedom of speech. This shit that was going on with Rotten Tomatoes is totally inexcusable and downright dangerous. Art is a major component of designing the structure of our culture. It weaves in and out all ideas, beliefs, and traditions that we as a society hold and value. Art is a reflection of that, and film is the most widespread and consumable way for that reflection to be seen. When you censor something you don’t like, you take away a part of that structure until it all falls apart. Eventually, only a few ideas (or just one) is considered right. And if you have a different thought from that, it can lead to this:
Now, I don’t want to argue that censoring film critics leads to this kind of slippery slope. But as a nation with the right to the freedom of speech, when you censor certain things, whose to say that your thoughts or ideas or opinions wouldn’t be next on the chopping block?
So all in all, here’s what I want to say.
You have a right to an opinion. Everyone has a right to think differently than you. Don’t start fucking petitions to try and censor people because you don’t like their ideas. Learn to live and deal with it. Otherwise, eventually, YOUR opinion might be censored next.