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¢ritic$ July 3, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I have a love-hate relationship with critics. On the one hand, they aspire to make the world a better place, I hope. On the other they’re insufferable, irritating idiots.

Every year there are best dressed and worst dressed lists. Every year there are opinions about television shows and movies. Every year there are music and television and movie and Broadway and existence award ceremonies. And everyone has bought into the hype of it all. The critics may have paid their dues to get where they are, and they may have a valid point to make. They may want to make the world a better place with their recommendations, pans and suggestions. Or maybe they’re just blowhards.

I can be insufferable. Somewhere sitting behind a computer screen is a reader doing their best “Walter” impression. You know Walter, he’s one of the characters created by Jeff Dunham. Jeff is a genius. In the face of critics and oversensitive people everywhere, he gets away with saying some of the harshest things because his characters are characters, and they are funny. It’s a joke, so people go with it. My critics mimic Jeff’s “Walter,” saying, “Geez, Michael, just ‘shut the hell up!'” Sometimes they’re even in my family. They say it, and I shut up, and I still love them.

As a writer I want to tell my critics to shut the hell up even as, and especially when, they are telling me I suck and need to shut the hell up myself. As a critic, I am constructive, supportive, and loving. I always find exactly the right way to encourage people to keep on doing what they love and keep on improving their craft. Yeah, right. I’m insufferable, irritatingly opinionated about everything, convinced my opinion is the only right opinion, and I don’t always have a constructive reason. But I can express it and explain it, or I can write an elaborate work of fiction within a word-count, because I’m a writer.

I confess. Sometimes my opinion is like the restaurant critic in the movie Ratatouille, heavily influenced by my love of the product and by my childhood. And sometimes it’s based on my feeling about the direction of the world at large. If I feel something is a negative influence, further pushing the world in an already bad direction, I won’t like it. For instance, sometimes I don’t like music because like Walter, I don’t think the kids these days are growing up with any kind of proper respect for their elders. But in general I love music, even music that tells the elders to shut up sometimes. Because we need to listen and validate that audience. But it depends sometimes on how it’s being said. If I feel like something is a positive influence, or a new way of doing something that’s gone stale, I’m going to like that. If it’s just a catchy beat and the same old empty headed crap, not so much.

The most recent critic I read was someone commenting on actresses and how and why they were bad. But, “shut the hell up,” critic! If they were good enough to sweat through an audition, memorize their part, get on the movie set and work through hours of makeup and filming and whatever else they do in production, it means they were good enough according to the casting people to select them and the director not to fire them. Clothes? Unless that thing is custom made for the one person you’re putting it on, it’s not going to be perfect, and if it is, it costs too much for me to have one done. I wonder how much criticism is just fluffed up personal attacks against whomever the critic doesn’t like, and not about the actual product.

As a writer, I want my critics to fawn over my work lovingly and share it with the world if they like me. If they don’t like me, I want them to be constructive and supportive and suggestive of where and how I might improve my craft. If I said it somehow wrongly, or weakly, well, how should I have said it to say it more correctly? How might I say it in a way that appeals to my target audience, or perhaps even a broader audience than my targets? As a critic of writing, I know only how I would have said it and why I think my way of saying it is better. I look for the description to take me to whatever is written about, so I can sense it, or see it, through the authors words.

I think actors and politicians make silly spokesmen, and critics all seem to fall short on qualifications. We want actors and celebrities to sell us stuff because they look good and by association they make the product look good. But do they really use the product and do they really have to pay for repairs when the product wears out, or do they just do another commercial and get a different one for free? We want critics to tell us what to think and what’s fashionable and who looks good for their age and what restaurant is hot. But, what qualifies a critic? Sure, they can have years of experience in their field, and they may know if something is good or not. But can they say why the thing is “the thing,” or not, or are they just saying that they don’t like it so I’m supposed to take their word for it? They have an opinion and so do I.

I am a great critic of restaurants and food and drink and clothes and shoes and books and appliances and cars and houses and home decor and health and beauty products and sometimes movies and TV shows, and especially, desserts including ice cream and chocolate and coffee. Send me coupons for a lifetime supply of your product and service, and especially, a handful of cash, and I will tell you what I like and what I don’t, and on top of that, I’ll write a positive article about it, and how I’d improve it or why the customers should buy that instead of whatever they’ve been buying. And if your product is bad, I’ll suggest improvements and do a rewrite when the next one comes to my door. Why is my opinion more valid than the next persons? Try me and you’ll find out!



1. Erik Conover - July 3, 2014

It’s not the critic who counts but the one I the ring. Very smart post commenting the culture of celebrity we live in


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