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I think that criticising the work of others is less like weight lifting and more like singing.
May 16, 2012 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Fourteen Ways To Spot A Bad Critic : Tarol Hunt, illustrator of the webcomic Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes [Previously], weighs in on hate mail sent by his readers.
posted by Smart Dalek (57 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
i agree with everything except #8. Sometimes I do want that time back. This is why sites like youtube are addictive. If it sucks, well, you only wasted 3 minutes. If it's a book or a movie sometimes you've killed hours you could have spent doing something non-sucky.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:23 AM on May 16, 2012


I only read the first paragraph, but that was the worst article on flawed criticism in history! Period!!!!! The writer is probably just responding to on-point criticism he can't handle. Really, one word comes to mind when I read this: facile.

I've written award-winning critiques of criticism during a pistol duel with Salman Rushdie, and want these five minutes of my life -- which were like tapdancing in the pouch of a boxing kangaroo encrusted with pig feces that have sent tapeworms directly into my brain -- back.
posted by Shepherd at 10:27 AM on May 16, 2012 [25 favorites]


13. Anyone who tries too hard to be funny or focuses too much on creative ways to insult your work.

In the words of great critic Randall Jarrell, this article gives "the impression of having been written on a typewriter by a typewriter."

What a load of bunk. As if literary criticism isn't an art--and one primarily meant to engage the reader--as any other.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!

(Okay, with my own stuff I always read the comments. Sometimes I hunt them down. And read them. But this is because I am an idiot, no good can come of it.)
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, I can't critique a work - like, say, Goblins - without consuming all of it? Sorry, no, that doesn't work. I can buy "you need to look at a reasonably representative sample to make a fair judgement," but that sample isn't going to be "everything."

You don't need to watch the entirety of Transformers 2 to fairly decide that Michael Bay shit that out, and you don't need to read all of Goblins to fairly decide that it's derivative and often boring.
posted by mightygodking at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't think you need to consume a whole work before having an opinion on it (and on whether you should finish the work), but I think it is fair to do so before critiquing it. They are different things.
posted by grouse at 10:39 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


You can say what you want about critics, but most of them don't rely on numerical lists to get their point across.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:41 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It really doesn’t matter how adamantly a critic defends the swiftness at which he’s come to judgement on your work. If he didn’t encounter your entire project, then he’s unqualified to critique it.

Well, that's just demonstrably not true.

There are many cases in which people rush to judge too quickly, but once you've reached a certain threshold of expertise and experience in a given field you become very good at separating the wheat from the chaff. Ask any literary agent how many pages of a novel they have to read before deciding whether or not it has a chance of being publishable. A book may have some really strong elements -- an interesting plot, a well-constructed setting -- that aren't obvious in the first chapter, but if the basic craftsmanship of the writing is poor then those strengths don't actually count for much. Likewise, a skilled artist or art critic can glance at a page of comics and make some pretty sound judgements. The comic may improve later, as nearly all comics do, but that doesn't change the fact that the art in the beginning is weak.

(Having just looked at the oldest and newest pages of Goblins, I can see why some people might immediately dismiss it based on the art alone. Whatever strengths the comic might have, the technical skill of the illustrator isn't one of them, and I can see why some readers would choose not to check it out for that reason. I try not to judge comics based completely on technical artistic skill, but plenty of people do, and that's their choice to make.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:41 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(meant to say, "The comic may improve later, as nearly all WEBcomics do.")
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:43 AM on May 16, 2012


Meh. I saw Daredevil and thought all 14 of those things.

They were all valid points to be made about that movie.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:44 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the author is conflating criticism offered by a knowledgeable critic, and the (sometimes) knee-jerk reactions of readers. It's like the difference between reading a review of a concert in the paper written by a knowledgeable critic, and getting immediate feedback from audience-members streaming out of the concert hall after the performance is over. They are necessarily two different things, and it's common to hear "that was great!" or "that sucked" after a concert from the audience, than it is to hear it from the critic.

If, as an artist, you're interested in using criticism to improve your work, you look to comments offered by knowledgeable and seasoned people, and you look for comments like, "while I felt the treatment of X was well done, the author's sense of timing at Y place needs work". You don't listen to the little deaf granny who sat in the third row with her hearing aids squealing, who tells you she thought you did a good job.
posted by LN at 10:44 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have done a poo. It will taste like chocolate and be the most nutritious food you will ever know. Here is a spoon, please do not provide feedback until you have eaten the lot.
posted by biffa at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: Anyone who tries too hard to be funny or focuses too much on creative ways to insult your work.
posted by Fizz at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the author is conflating criticism offered by a knowledgeable critic, and the (sometimes) knee-jerk reactions of readers.

I don't think so. I think the author is trying to help others distinguish between the two. Knowledgeable criticism is useful (although often painful). The knee-jerk reactions of readers are generally much less so.
posted by muddgirl at 10:50 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


These people aren't "critics" -- they're internet comment contributors. If you find yourself thinking such people are "critics," then you yourself may not be a "professional" either.
posted by aught at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Where do I go to ask for a moratorium on titles that start with numbers?
posted by Nomyte at 10:52 AM on May 16, 2012


LN: I think the author is conflating criticism offered by a knowledgeable critic, and the (sometimes) knee-jerk reactions of readers. It's like the difference between reading a review of a concert in the paper written by a knowledgeable critic, and getting immediate feedback from audience-members streaming out of the concert hall after the performance is over.

Exactly. None of those 14 comments would come from a knowledgeable critic (unless the work in question was really, really bad, but I can't imagine , but those are commonly spouted by people in conversation or online. This article came across as someone speaking out against the stupid emails they have received, and bolstering other content creators who face such criticism.

A shorter write-up would be to say "ignore all hyperboles and comments without supporting evidence."
posted by filthy light thief at 10:54 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Number 10. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard someone say, "It sucks" about a movie, book, tv show, song, etc., and when I ask why they don't like it (usually, but not always, because I do), all they have to say is, "because it sucks!"
Sometimes, when I'm in a good mood, I'll ask what they don't like about it, and get better answers, but not usually.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:55 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except Batman and Robin really WAS that bad. It was the first film I ever saw where I realized I would pay extra to unsee it. I remember realizing that at the end of the movie, and feeling how strange that realization was as I walked out of the theater.

It was terrible, period. One of the worst super-hero films in history. I would pay extra to get that time back. All of these are actually true statements.
posted by pmb at 10:55 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is not a great list. For one, most of the complaints are style issues -- yeah, criticism using cliches isn't likely to be the best, but some of the points are just matters of taste. Second, I most definitely do not have to see an entire work to judge it, especially a serial -- if the first couple of pages of a web comic fail to grab me, I won't continue, since life is short. I wouldn't write a critique of it beyond "the first few pages bored me," but I can judge it. Third, Behind-the-scenes reasoning -- yeah, technically, I should say "it seems to me that the author read Tolkien and ignored the last 50 years of writing" instead of just asserting it, but I also think authors often don't know their minds as well as they think they do.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:59 AM on May 16, 2012


tl;dr. Though, I have to say, this is the WORST BLOG ENTRY in the history of... etc, etc. This is all pretty obvious. Hemingway's 'crap detector' applies to readers of criticism as well. I think writers/artists understand their work has an audience that will respond seriously only to the kind of criticism that corresponds in style, thoughtfulness, etc., to the material being criticized. Someone said it earlier: YouTube commentators are not critics. Is a serious artist upset when someone on YouTube calls her or his work 'dog balls'?
posted by TropicalWalrus at 11:00 AM on May 16, 2012


You don't need to watch the entirety of Transformers 2 to fairly decide that Michael Bay shit that out, and you don't need to read all of Goblins to fairly decide that it's derivative and often boring.

Right, but then you're not an especially good critic. Possibly you're an accurate critic, but Hunt is getting at the idea of criticism being more than simply making an assessment.

I've been reading a big-ass book of Pauline Kael criticism lately, and one of the things I marvel about with her is how thoroughly she critiques a movie's landscape. With the ones she dislikes, she pinpoints all the things she does enjoy, or at least isn't actively hateful of. With the ones she likes, she identifies all the places she thinks might have been better. I don't always agree with her appraisal, but clearly she took her work seriously.

Similarly, "Michael Bay shit that out" might be accurate, but it says nothing interesting about the movie. Even bad movies have a lot of variation, mixes of decency and weaknesses and outright shit. If a movie is truly consistently awful, then it becomes astonishing, like The Room or After Last Summer. It's harder to be constantly bad than it is to be the usual mix that blends into mediocrity.

It's bad taste to offer a half-formed opinion of a work to the person who made it – and that applies to being nice about it, too. I love unformed criticism when it's between friends – some of my friendships are actively predicated upon them trying to convince me that Joss Whedon isn't shite, the liars – but I'd never write the person to tell them how I felt unless I'd taken pains to make my criticism more useful.

What a load of bunk. As if literary criticism isn't an art--and one primarily meant to engage the reader--as any other.

He pretty clearly wasn't talking about that sort of "creative" criticism. You've been on the Internet longer than 60 seconds, so you've probably seen know the sort he means.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:02 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


THAT ARTICLE WAS THE WORST ARTICLE IN THE HISTORY OF ARTICLES!!!!!! PERIOD. AND I SHOULD KNOW BECAUSE I INVENTED ARTICLES!!!!!!! IDK, but i tink THE WRITER WAS MAD ABOUT the 1 PAGE I READ BEING SHIT HE MUST HAVE DUN IT WHILE WATCHING MADEMEN!
posted by clvrmnky at 11:03 AM on May 16, 2012


Numbers 8 and 2 kind of answer each other.

If something isn't worth taking in completely, people will feel like they've wasted their time--and, indeed, they will have. If something seems like it will end up being a waste of time, people will give up early.

Hint: Put some good stuff near the front, content creators. Failure to do so is entirely worth criticizing.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:08 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're wishing for your time back, it's too late. You should've walked out of the theater, changed the channel, closed the browser window when it exceeded a certain level of discomfort. BUT, when you do, your latitude for criticism is significantly shrunken. Any complaint (which most web comments are, NOT criticisms) must identify when you gave up and what made you give up and just that. And coherency counts; if your rant resembles clvrmnky's obvious parody in any way (even when it IS an obvious parody), you forfeit the argument. Go home.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:09 AM on May 16, 2012


(Which is to say: If you can't keep the audience's attention, your work is fundamentally unsuccessful.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:09 AM on May 16, 2012


I agree with the general sentiment here about this thing being a pretty weak critique of criticism, but it did hit on one very important point:

5. Anyone who jumps to conclusions about behind-the-scenes reasoning.

This. Good fucking grief but there's nothing more tiring than the internet's great armies of amateur semioticians, armchair psychologists and sell-out cops, ever vigilant for a hidden motive to discern or a stated intent to question. Figuring out that some people get paid for creative work or that institutions have biases doesn't make you sound like the next Noam Chomsky or Naomi Klein; it just makes you sound like you haven't ever actually been involved in creating something for a paying crowd.
posted by gompa at 11:16 AM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Good criticism has been written about Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Community, Girls, and other TV shows that haven't finished their runs yet.

There are certain things that you can't know about a work of art until you have seen the entire trajectory of all the character arcs and plot arcs. But that doesn't mean that there's nothing interesting or valuable to say about a still-running serial.
posted by Jeanne at 11:18 AM on May 16, 2012


14 ways to spot a bad fan (offered without further explanation, because satire is better that way):

1. Anyone who says “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life“.
2. Anyone who praises your work without seeing the whole thing.
3. Anyone who uses the word “history” in a comparably definitive way.
4. Anyone who writes “period” as a way of re-enforcing a previous point.
5. Anyone who jumps to conclusions about behind-the-scenes reasoning.
6. Anyone using multiple exclamation marks or caps lock.
7. Anyone who uses the phrase “One word comes to mind…”.
8. Anyone who uses the phrase “take X minutes and see this now“.
9. Anyone who tells you that you have a "gift".
10. Anyone who says “This rules“.
11. Anyone with terrible spelling/grammar.
12. Anyone who brags about themselves during the review.
13. Anyone who tries too hard to be funny or focuses too much on creative ways to praise your work.
14. Anyone who says “Don't listen to the critics“.
posted by pokermonk at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


the thing is that every two hours of your life is two hours you won't get back
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


He pretty clearly wasn't talking about that sort of "creative" criticism. You've been on the Internet longer than 60 seconds, so you've probably seen know the sort he means.

He was talking about using stylistic flourishes to make one's point. There are plenty of "real" critics who do that, from Roger Ebert to William Logan.

"If the review briefly states 'This is awful' and then follows with an entire paragraph colourfully explaining how he had to pour gasonline on his eyes and light a match while having a team of tap dancing priests cast satan out of your work before throwing it into the fires of Mordor, he might be working harder at trying to be funny than at trying to fairly review your work."

God forbid.

The very idea that reviews need to "fair" is a fallacy. Every reviewer brings in his or her own baggage. A creator can hope that this baggage will be minimized, because a creator wants reviews to be "subjective." (Often, also "constructive.) But by their very nature a review can't be. My good friend Sean Wills has a blog post on this.

The vast majority of artist responses to reviewers show a stunning lack of familiarity with the culture of reviewing. Which is weird, because reviews are everywhere--in the newspaper and around watercoolers and at dinner parties. Of course reviewers will sometimes say things you don't like, in ways you don't enjoy. Of course some will make their responses more about their own egos or experiences than about the work. Sometimes I feel like these responses come from other planets entirely. Aren't these people part of the broader culture?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:25 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


the thing is that every two hours of your life is two hours you won't get back

Unless you're Phil Connors.
posted by O'Bama at 11:29 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Figuring out that some people get paid for creative work or that institutions have biases doesn't make you sound like the next Noam Chomsky or Naomi Klein; it just makes you sound like you haven't ever actually been involved in creating something for a paying crowd.

YOU SOLD OUT, MAN!
posted by Hoopo at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2012


Well, y'know, in order to not prematurely dismiss Goblins, I went through a good 15 or so pages, from beginning, middle and end. The comic itself just isn't very good — it's a fairly cliche role reversal where the minions give the main narrative thrust, in a style derivative of Phil Foglio. It's full of unnecessary self-awareness, which is more frequently used as exposition than as humor, and hews pretty mechanically to the more boring parts of rote D&D adventures. A lot of comics mine the fantasy humor vein pretty well, from Knights of the Dinner Table to Cerebus, but there was literally no moment in perusing where I ever felt like I'd like to know more about any of the characters or cared about their fates. Now, granted, it's possible that every three page set that I looked at was simply at an awkward part of the arc, but if you can't get me interested in five tries, I'm gonna bet that it's not going to be worth my time to look in further.
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


YOU SOLD OUT, MAN!

It's worse than that. I never really bought in. All that time, I was smoking harmless tobacco!
posted by gompa at 11:42 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


My first reaction was "this is an awful lot of words to spend yelling 'stfu!' at lazy commenters."

Then I took some time to think back to the last period I spent writing for a large, fractious audience and remembered what it felt like to get dismembered by people in that audience, who were often very unfair and took a lot of cheap shots. I had to pull double duty moderating comments about my work, which meant I couldn't even choose to ignore them: I just had to eat that shot and keep moving. The advisor I learned under when I was a columnist in college had also taught us to show a lot of restraint when nasty letters to the editor came in. It was a policy that made a lot of sense in print, where you can't spend all your space feuding with idiots, and I brought it over with me when I started writing for Web publications. I thought of it as a kind of discipline, and while the Web confers practically infinite paper and ink, it does not add to the sum of time we have in the day.

Remembering all that softened my response to this particular piece a lot. It's not the first of its kind (I've seen a number of paid/professional Internet film critics who've eaten enough shots from disgruntled fans write something very much like this in tone if not exact content, and with the twist that they're defending their assumed Critic License against unwashed commenter masses) and it's a good way to lose just one hour of your life to defending yourself that'll last you for months or years than frittering away your days rebutting idiots. It's also a way to let the readers you most care about know that not responding to particular styles of comment or criticism shouldn't be read as aloofness, which is poison for people who depend on their reading communities to keep doing what they love to do.
posted by mph at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


From now on I'll just keep an extra, final page of anything I do that no one else will be allowed to see in a safe in my house. That way no one will ever be able to read/view any work of mine in its entirety. I am now immune to criticism.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always find it strange when someone writes out something saying "here's how not to be shitty" and people read it and go "NO I DONT WANNA".

It's like the people who say, in all seriousness "I get why the have the law for OTHER people, but the thing is, I really DO drive better when I've had a few."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:51 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


There's really little point in complaining about criticism. I get a fair amount of it, and only respond to it if there is a factual error, and even then only if the error is significant. Speaking as somebody who has been a professional critic, there are very few critics who, by force of their particular opinion, can actually have much of an impact in terms of sales and whatnot. And so all that really matters when you get audience reactions or unfair small-press critics or whatever is that it sort of hurts, because it's often sort of mean.

But those are the birthing pangs of any sort of success, especially nowadays. For every accomplishment, there are teams of bullies waiting to take it down. It helps to know that ultimately being talked about is better than not being talked about, and having idiots says bad things about you actually increases your credibility in some ways. I can generally tell, for instance, that a contemporary artist is doing something worthwhile when there starts being an overwhelming din of people rushing to declare it shit. Not always, of course, but often enough -- the truth is, the really shitty stuff is generally ignored. Punishment for mediocrity comes, not from criticism, but from silence.

As an artist, it's sort of useless to distinguish between good criticism and bad anyway, and criticism is generally not meant for you, but as a consumer guide. And, in that way, it's increasingly irrelevant. Anybody with access to the Internet should be able to directly reach a targeted audience that is going to be predisposed to liking your stuff, whereas, historically, critics wrote for a general audience. When I lived in Omaha about a decade ago, the critics there were notorious for warning people about stuff in art that might be offensive. And, for a while, that really irritated me. Really interesting art often will offend somebody. But then I realized who these critics target audience is, and I realized that it might be a good thing for that audience to be warned away from a piece of art that they would neither like not understand. There is so much art in this world, and there are so many audiences, and they have such different tastes -- it's fine if somebody who likes, say, 20th century musicals to not really want to see Mac Wellman's 7 Blowjobs. Further, a whiff of mainstream disapproval will help a challenging piece find its audience -- John Waters used to specifically go to movies that were condemned by the Catholic League.

I think the point of this piece is to tell an artist what criticism to ignore so they don't get their feelings hurt. I recommend the opposite. Read it all! Develop a backbone! After a while, you really start to like the noise, especially when its frothy. I once had an online critic describe my first album as being so bad he would rather strap kittens to his face than listen to it again. Bravo! I don't know what it means, but I love it. A critic once described one of my plays as a one-hour trip through pretension. I put it on all subsequent advertisements and started selling out. A state senator once condemned one of my plays and called for a boycott, and I called the press and alerted them to the fact. That play is now my most successful, and has been critically lauded by the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Variety. All that has been very nice, but none of it did as much for the play as the official condemnation, and I still feel I owe that senator a thank you.

There are a lot of people producing relatively new work out there, because the process of creation has been so democratized. And that's wonderful. But the process of criticism has also been democratized, and so there are all these newish artists who are dealing with what feels like waves of unfair online commentary, and they haven't come up in any sort of institutional setting that teaches them how to deal with it. Here's what an artist needs to know about criticism -- once in a very blue moon a critic will say something that will shock you with its insight. You may not like what that critic says, but it will reach into your core and you will find yourself thinking about it all the time. That's the critic that is worth listening to, and it may just be that one piece of criticism that did it, and the critic may never be so insightful again.

Everything else is a potential tool of self-promotion, and should be seen as nothing else. Good reviews should be stuck into press releases, because they encourage more good reviews (critics, like everybody else, sometimes don't really know what to think about something, and look to see what others are saying to bounce their ideas off of). Bad reviews can be recontextualized to make you seem like you've got a sense of humor about yourself and are a lot of fun. Terrible reviews should be put front and center, because a really scalding review can provide as big an audience and a good review. Anybody who has worked in criticism long enough knows that the best way to kill a piece of art is to ignore it, and the best way to make it immortal is to excoriate it.

Welcome the excoriation. It means you've arrived.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:53 AM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Admit it, Smart Dalek -- you only posted this to troll the Metafilter Kneejerk Threadshit Brigade. Well done! I could smell the wavy stink lines of indignant superiority before I even sat down at my desk!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2012


It's a great comic by the way, even if the article wasn't.
posted by real_paris at 12:31 PM on May 16, 2012


Sucks
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:51 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It kind of seems like maybe he's conflating criticism with expressing a negative opinion about a work in a place visible to the creator or audience? I don't know, the guy who posts on a forum about how you're the worst artist in the world and you should stop making art isn't trying to offer up a thoughtful critical analysis of your work, he's pretty much just hatin', and I don't know that I would use the word "criticism" to refer to that.

And people are gonna hate on your shit whether it's good or bad or wherever in between. Whatever it is you're doing, however well you're doing it, someone somewhere is going to declare that you're a talentless hack sooner or later. Probably a lot of someones. Especially if you build any sort of following - motherfuckers hate that. The more successful you are, the more it'll happen. Don't get me wrong, I see the impulse and I get how it's rewarding, and it can be really fun to rip into something. But some folks are just gonna hate, and that's how it goes. When something like that happens, there's pretty much nothing you could do that they'd like or even refrain from shit-talking, so there's no reason to take what they say seriously.

Basically, if you're gonna create and put it out to the public, you have to become cool with two things as soon as you possibly can:

The fact that there's more than one person telling you that you suck doesn't mean that they're right.

The fact that the person who's saying you suck is an idiot doesn't mean that they're wrong.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are going to read the comments, AND YOU SHOULD NOT READ THE COMMENTS, then for fucks sake don't argue with the comments, that way lies madness. Dry, factual corrections to anything that is factually wrong at most.
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I liked this. I hope to never read anything like those examples again. Of course that would cut out about 90% of internet comments and discussion, not a bad thing at all.

The only thing I disagree with is the idea that you have to experience a whole work. I will seldom review a book if I haven’t read the whole thing, but life is short, and I’m more getting used to abandoning works I don’t like. On that note, this is maybe the greatest dumb review ever (and the competition is fierce).
posted by bongo_x at 2:35 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


it can be really fun to rip into something
paxil seems to help with this
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2012


I liked it too. It's always a useful public service to push back against Internet cliches.
posted by steinsaltz at 3:03 PM on May 16, 2012


1. Anyone who says “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life“.

Exception: If your name happens to be Uwe Boll, even the best critics will say this about your work, because it will be true.
posted by dgaicun at 4:27 PM on May 16, 2012


Uwe Boll is sort of awesome in his own way.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:30 PM on May 16, 2012


Next up, the author of Goblins inviting comment writers to a just-for-laughs charity boxing match.
posted by Artw at 4:56 PM on May 16, 2012


> 2. Anyone who criticises your work without seeing the whole thing.

I switched off at that point. The riposte to that is the well-known truism: "You don't have to eat all of an egg to know that it's rotten."
posted by raygirvan at 5:03 PM on May 16, 2012


Making obnoxious lists of declarations online is usually a good enough sign for me.
posted by jonmc at 5:11 PM on May 16, 2012


2. Anyone who criticises your work without seeing the whole thing.

I've had useful critique of my webcomic from people who haven't read every single page.

If I want crit on the whole plot, and how the next page is going, I need to ask someone who's read the whole thing and vaguely remembers what's going on, sure.

There's a minimum amount, though. I wouldn't listen to someone who hasn't read at least a chapter (8-10p).

Most of Thunt's points are, in fact, signs that you really don't need to bother listening to someone's disparaging opinion. I agree with most of 'em. But #2, especially in the case of an epic webcomic with several hundred pages of archive to read? Man you don't need to read all forty bazillion pages of ”Homestuck" before you're authorized to say "this art is all over the place" and "this gets pretty tl;dr sometimes".*

And honestly, there are some pretty big weak points in Thunt's craft. He can spin an amusing yarn but it doesn't really feel very layered - and over the course of the comic, his art has grown from "barely functional" to "functional" IMHO. On the other hand he was able to get his fans to give him enough money to BUY A HOUSE so obviously he's clearly meeting a lot of people's standards for "webcomic inspired by my D&D experiences".

* I say this as someone who has looked at pretty much panel of Homestuck to date but has read about 10% of the total words.
posted by egypturnash at 6:48 PM on May 16, 2012


I don't think you need to consume a whole work before having an opinion on it (and on whether you should finish the work), but I think it is fair to do so before critiquing it. They are different things.

That's all very good and dandy, but what about when Steven Erickson, for example, was responding to criticism of his (in my opinion weak) 800 page novel The Deadhouse Gates, by declaiming that it was only number 2 in a ten novel cycle, why won't you stupid readers trust me? Things that look like fan-service and lazy narrative escape hatches will be totally justified by book 7!

I don't think it's necessary to read approximately 3, 300 000 words in order to criticise a meagre 250k or so. Ridiculous.

More broadly, I don't think this piece is really addressing criticism, per se, so much as random haters on YouTube and the like. They are wont to be idiotic, but I wouldn't classify them as criticism.

More broadly, I think a lot of authors and others think of criticism as some kind of horrible demon-child their work has spawned. An unintentional, and unholy byproduct. Good criticism, in my opinion is a creative work in and of itself. And, like any creative work, it can have different goals and different ways of achieving them.

I don't review professionally any more, but when I did for a number of years, my lodestar was "does the work fulfill its promise to the audience?", ie not judding something on what it isn't, but rather what it is. Of course, that didn't prevent any number of reviews filled with wrath and bitchy jokes like Legally Blonde II, Original Sin, Secondhand Lions (dear god), etc.

Those jokes were funny, damn it, and I will defend them to the death.
posted by smoke at 6:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and he's wrong about hyperbole - that's one of the most fun things about a gleefully bad review. Rue Morgue reviewed the film A Sound of Thunder, and the line remains in my head - "a film so bad it should be classified as a sex crime."

If loving that line is wrong, I'm not even interested in what right looks like.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:35 AM on May 17, 2012


Wait, I can't critique a work - like, say, Goblins - without consuming all of it? Sorry, no, that doesn't work. I can buy "you need to look at a reasonably representative sample to make a fair judgement," but that sample isn't going to be "everything."

The response that irritates me is 'so, what have you done?' I don't need to have a degree in architecture to spot when a roof is falling down, so I'm not sure why people think that critics have to score a number one/win the Pulitzer Prize before any criticism can be deemed valid.

(Also, Tarol - all critics are men, now? Vary your pronouns a bit, man, it's good manners not to ignore half the population even if professional criticism is a sausagefest.)
posted by mippy at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


8. Anyone who uses the phrase “I want my X minutes back“.

If you have ever used this phrase in a critique, I’d like you to stand up, go find a mirror, look at yourself and realise that other people are creating original art while you can’t even muster up the creativity to insult that art without vomiting a pathetically overused phrase like this.



Instead of doing this, I'll reiterate - James Cameron still owes me three hours of my life. I'm prepared to overlook the holding hands with a sweaty boy. Send it over now or when I get round to making my five-hour epic about the Summerhill disaster with a trite love story thrown in, I'm not fussed.
posted by mippy at 7:01 AM on May 17, 2012


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