A criticism of critics

Entertainment has a lot of critics: books, movies, television, broadway, dance, etc. Critics can be useful in consensus (as shown by rottentomatoes.com).

Sometimes critics come off as bitter wannabes: obviously intelligent and interested in the field, they couldn't make it in the business so they make a living criticising their more successful peers, etc. Catty prose, inordinate focus on the negative, and unjustified confidence in one's own opinion. Reviews tend to be excessive exercises in hyperbole and melodrama. One often gets the feeling the reviewer makes specific assertions merely because it makes the review read better or offers an oppurtunity for witticism.

But those are the bad critics (or good critics having a bad day). Good criticism is thoughtful, conclusions are solidly supported. Good critics have no axe to grind - they are merely sharing their opinion. One walks away from a good critic thinking, "Perhaps I don't agree, but I respect where they are coming from."

I find myself doing criticism every day: of myself, of others, of art, of ideas. While it's good to be in contact with my own opinion, I think it's important not to get too caught up in that opinion. But if the urge to opine arises, to at least make sure that the review, even if only mentally drawn, is solidly supported.

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