Bristle’s Babbles #6 – ‘Harsh Criticism Is Not Inherently Good Criticism’

NOTE: Old post, sorta rambly.

One thing that’s bothered me for a long time is that a lot of people who aren’t experienced as critics but want to have a sense of a critical voice will often see it as being more important to understand flaws than it is to understand quality. Worse still is when the person gets so wrapped up in that mindset that they lose any passion they had and get so nitpicky that they pick up ten shows every season just to drop eight of them at 1-3 episodes and give ultra low scores with haphazard reasoning. It becomes less a matter of the person being able to understand the value of something and more a matter of strict evaluation which often has double standards. It’s plain bad critique that at most barely has more value than rating everything highly out of nothing more than enjoyment, but it’s worse than simply liking everything because there’s less enjoyment to be had out of the experience.

To be a harsh critic typically takes a lot more than to be a nice critic, which is why people aim to be harsher, but unless you’re achieving a critical identity that makes you appreciate the truly great works not out of strict analysis but out of the experience it’s just not worth it. I bring up Siskel & Ebert a lot when I refer to critique, but the reason I do that is because they’re brilliant measuring sticks for critical thinking. Gene Siskel was probably the harsher critic out of the two, but he didn’t simply pick on everything nor did he reserve himself from praise. When there was a movie Gene Siskel loved you could tell he really loved it. Ebert was perhaps the nicer critic. Personally, as with many people, I prefer Ebert because I find his outlook was more profound. Roger Ebert is my idol, and the reason for that is that in being so lenient he was intelligent about it. Despite being more willing to give out his “Great Movie” honour he was still more than fine with tearing something apart. While I don’t agree with some negative reviews of his such as A Clockwork Orange and Tim Burton’s original Batman movie, I can still acknowledge that he knew what he was talking about and that he berated both movies out of passion for film.

Even worse than sounding uninspired when you berate something is sounding uninspired when you praise something. As a fan of Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain, I’ve read my fair share of positive reviews for both shows that were unbearable to read. Sure there were a lot of fancy words, but there was rarely a sense of “this series is amazing” or even “this series is good” coming from the reviews. People get so caught up in the harsh critic mentality that they act reserved even when it comes to something they can safely praise. That’s the point where you should really stop and think about why you’re even trying to be a critic, because I can almost guarantee the only reason you would make your life so boring is for a sense of intellectual superiority. Anime is such a petty thing to be elitist about.

You’re not going to become a good critic just by watching a bunch of Anime and pointing out flaws, you’re just going to make your life boring. You might get some pats on the back from people who fall in to the same train of thought as you, but you’re not likely going to be a fun person to many, or even an intelligent person for that matter.

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