4 Ways Pop Culture Critics Have Made Themselves Obsolete

This isn't going to be one of those "artist versus critic" things where I, the artist, impugn critics and equate them to trolls and demand they create something better than I can or shut up because art. Like it or not, artists can't dismiss critics for the simple reason that art IS in part criticism ...

This is, however, one of those "critics aren't doing it right" things, because when it comes to critiquing art in the 21st century, critics generally suck. Thus I present my review of the reviewers.

#4. They Don't Understand Why People Read Reviews

The conventional reason to read reviews is to see if that thing you're considering dropping 40 bucks on is actually good or not, and conventional reviews reflect this, but just as often people also want to be entertained and to have their opinions validated. I'm sure I'm not alone in immediately jumping on YouTube to find a review that confirms that the game I just enjoyed was in fact the Best Thing Ever, I'm sure I'm not alone in enjoying watching reviews of things from 20 years ago, and I'm certain I'm not alone in watching analysis of things I have no intention of buying, because there are plenty of people with huge audiences making criticism that caters to exactly this kind of stuff. And yet so many reviews are still a generic affair, wherein the product is described, pointlessly compared to an album from 1989 that nobody's heard of, and then given a score out of 10 where anything less than 7 equals disaster -- and all this regardless of the fact that the Internet means anyone can sample anything and thus descriptions of things are less and less relevant.

I started by lashing art and criticism together, and that means one needs to live up to the standards of the other. And if the criticism ends up being more entertaining than what it's critiquing, so be it -- it's the audience who wins in the end, and that's what matters. For fuck's sake we just want to be distracted and/or feel less alone as we're rocketing toward the grave with all our dreams and ambitions disappearing in the rearview mirror, so at least wear a funny hat or something while you're monotonously dancing about architecture. All art is a gift to critics in that they can succeed as entertainers themselves off the back of it, but first they have to accept that gift and run with it, as opposed to tediously panning it and then complaining how everything sucks. There's a group of people who don't even read reviews -- the fucking majority of people, they're called. There's no group of people who doesn't like entertainment.

#3. They Think for the Audience

This review of the show Undercover Boss hits the usual notes of reality TV is for idiots, and everything is staged, and it all distracts the Sheeple from being shaken out of their consumerist stupor and thinking about the real problems in society. Yeah, except what if the audience knows that? What if they aren't complete morons and know that reality TV is staged, or know that it's frankly irrelevant how staged it is because the editing process is so all-powerful as to be able to make anything look like anything else? What if the people watching can see all these problems -- y'know, just like the reviewer could see them, but they enjoy the show anyway because they like it for what aspects of it are authentic. What if reviews suck when you decide to think for the audience ...

What if Undercover Boss isn't a show about pulling fake happy stories out of a nightmarishly unfair corporate deathscape with the goal of placating the servile masses? What if it's a show about seeing the kind of problems that everyday people deal with in a grossly unfair system, and about the shameful distance between management and the shop floor, and about how the most cheerful employee so often seems to have tremendously difficult personal circumstances but is somehow cheerful anyway, and it's nice to see quiet courage actually glorified on TV for once. Because that's my review of Undercover Boss, and others', because even reality TV is only as dumb as your review of it. And if you just want to slag something off, that's what trollish opinion pieces are for.

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Winston Rowntree

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