Reviewer or Critic?
My new Twitter friend Justin Kownacki wrote a great post last night on the subject of criticism. Justin talks about the role of the critic and the impact they can have on an an artist’s success. He also makes the point that everyone is a critic and challenges people to consider our own personal motives for recommending or trashing a book / movie / TV show / song.
“Is a critic’s primary function to be a guide for the audience or the artist? Should a critic support the work of an artist who has the potential to become great, even if that work isn’t yet fully commendable, because the risk of smiting that dream too early might mean the absence of new work that could someday change the world?
Or, should a critic be exceedingly harsh and unrelenting, fostering an environment where only the strongest survive?”
There are a number of excellent comments addressing the question. Here’s my take:
There’s an interesting take on the question “What is a critic” over at filmreference.com.
It says that the people who write about the latest release in papers are “reviewers”. They may call themselves critics, but the write to deadlines and their primary goal is to entertain, which drives their writing style. They are concerned with recommending the things they review (or not) to a readership assumed to be primarily interested in being entertained. Like you said, they know their audience and don’t tend to stray too far from what the audience will agree with.
To the point of your question, I believe “critics” should be guides for the artist. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. What we have in our high-consumption, instantly-disposable culture are “reviewers” who, by necessity, are guides for an audience that doesn’t have the time or patience for serious discussion.
You point out that we all have the opportunity to be “critics”. I would add that we can also be (and often are) “reviewers”. The next time you write about something “critically”, are you going to be a “critic” or a “reviewer”?