The Critic Stumbles

In response to a post by Seth Godin

Seth asks: ‘ Do mainstream critics exist to tell us what to like, to warn us off from the not-so-good, or are they there to punish those that would dare to make a piece of work that doesn’t match the critic’s view of the world?’

For me, the point at which the critic becomes more important (by his own reckoning) than the work he reviews, is the point at which he ceases to be relevant.

Someone knowledgeable, whom we trust, can be an important source of information – not to tell us how we feel, but to provide a point of view that may not have occurred to us previously.

This happens mostly with our peers. When information comes from people who are paid to critique, it becomes more and more isolated, the more they review.

Eventually, the expectation of knowledge and insight – which comes from themselves and their audience – means they are experiencing the topic from a highly specialised angle, looking ever deeper for meaning and justification that takes them beyond any contextual appreciation and dislocates them from the experience in the real world.

When we attend a show or event, we come home from work, get changed, go back out and arrive at our destination with the hope and expectation of being entertained. If we are, we appreciate it, because it is such a change from our working life and family commitments. If we are not, we can still enjoy the experience for the same reasons.

The critics view is slowly skewered and warped to fit the world view they have developed; to become so highly subjective that the art for review cannot stand as art against a backdrop of everyday human existence; it only exists in relation to other, similar, art. The result is their opinion means less and less to the rest of us.

I am sure that politicians suffer a similar fate. They start out as a representative of their constituency in the real world, but then get embroiled in a false, narrow environment that skewers their perception and disconnects them from the world they came from and the job they started out to do.

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