first a GIF, then a YouTube video, of a monkey pissing in its own mouth
January 11, 2019 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Writers from Pitchfork, The New York Times, and others reflect on The Art of the Pan: What’s the Point of a Bad Review in 2019?

Snipped from the article:
Jeremy D. Larson, Pitchfork: “I can’t really speak to if it was like a meeting one day where it was like, ‘No more monkey-piss GIFs,’ you know?” Larson says. “But I think it’s just sort of a, ‘Well, did we accomplish all we needed to accomplish with doing criticism like this? Is there a way we can challenge ourselves more?’ … I don’t think there was a meeting of the High Council of Pitchfork Reviews being like, ‘We are done having fun now.’ I think we sort of realized it’s a strong spice. You know? You gotta use it a little more conservatively.”

Andrea Long Chu: "It’s pernicious and condescending, because it’s a different kind of dehumanization when you assume that the aesthetic contribution of a minority group is simply existing, as opposed to actually producing things of interest and value,” Chu says. “It’s important for me not just as a critic, but as a sort of public trans person for better or worse to be able to say, ‘No, actually, extending humanity to historically dehumanized people means that when they make shitty art, you tell them they have made shitty art,’ you know? Like, that is actually where dignity lies.”

A.O. Scott, The New York Times: “I think that this is often true, that the negative reviews—the sort of vicious, stinging pan—you’re used to doing, is more gratifying to do, and feels more justified when you’re younger,” A.O. Scott says. “Partly because you feel like you have something to prove against the world, and also, you do want that kind of revenge. And I did, when I was starting out as a film critic, I did take bad movies as a kind of personal affront—like, ‘How dare you put this piece of shit out in front of me? And expect me to watch it, and take my time?’ But, over time, I think that I saved the really harsh negative reviews for something that I think is a greater betrayal than that.”

Jeff Weiss: The Washington Post "Nothing is personal in criticism. It’s art. You’re doing art. I think that’s this weird misunderstanding now, because everything has become this me, me, me, personal, like, this is my brain, this is my brand. All that bullshit. Criticism’s art and culture. That’s a thousands-of-years-old tradition. It’s one that’s probably broken down on the rocks right now, but like I said, I assume Post Malone is a pretty nice guy.”
posted by not_the_water (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
“I just remember reading that,” Jeff Weiss tells me now, “and being like, ‘Honestly, you’re a contemptible hack.’”

I'd pay so much to post a Darth Sidious GIF right now.

The article is a great discussion but I feel like it doesn't go anywhere in the end...

So sound off in the comments—after all, that’s where all the best, or at least the meanest, criticism gets written nowadays.

uh

am I getting called out here? rude.
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on January 11


This is interesting, and that opening anecdote hits at something I think a lot of creative people have worried about.
I think it's a sign of the times that two of my favorite movie review shows are strictly, intentionally about celebrating good rather than attacking bad (movies with mikey and really that good) and the other one seeks to spin gold out of crap (obviously, I'm talking about the whole plate)

ALong the same phenomenon, we've never seen the angry punk music movement that was supposed to come out of the Trump years. This generation's approach to art seems to be, there's enough negativity already. If we're going to make something, let's try to be either positive or thoughtful.

upon edit: Guyzero points out the exact mechanism that might be at play. Online discourse is shitty enough without people who claim to take criticism seriously joining in on the hate train.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:21 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


This generation's approach to art seems to be, there's enough negativity already. If we're going to make something, let's try to be either positive or thoughtful.

That, plus a growing awareness that negative attention is still attention and The Algorithms That Rule Our Lives don't care about the distinction.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:28 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


My first exposure (NPI) to the monkey piss gif was at a church group ski trip in high school. As evidence that evolution can’t possibly be true “because there is no way we could be related to this.”

My teenage eyes nearly rolled onto the floor.
posted by q*ben at 2:48 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]


Guyzero points out the exact mechanism that might be at play. Online discourse is shitty enough without people who claim to take criticism seriously joining in on the hate train.

Also a quality hate-on has become such a commodity from amateurs that professionals need to find something new to do. I can go read 20 0.0 Pitchfork reviews on my phone in bed, I'm going to need a better reason to actually bother typing in p-i-t-c-h-f-o-r-k-.-c-o-m
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Considering Really That Good, Bob's video explaining why he did his three part takedown on Batman v. Superman is worth a watch, as he talks about the problem with "chasing the dragon" of negative reviews. He's also done a couple of introspective pieces discussing where he's been wrong i the the past.

So yeah, I think the negative review is something that can too easily go bad, based on the "failure state of clever is asshole" principle, and people wanting and needing positivity.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:22 PM on January 11


Some valid points here, but also some snowflakiness. We should be able to give and receive criticism without having a tantrum. One of the highlights of my musical career is when Okayplayer panned my band’s EP, deeming it a “filthy orgy.” We laughed for hours.
posted by gnutron at 3:37 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Wasn't sure who William Logan was, so I looked up his Wikipedia:
In Logan’s most recent review of Leonard Cohen, he revealed his true nature, as an unlikeable jealous butt hole whose fledgling poetry and self written Wikipedia barely pushed him beyond the obscurity he now shoots his tiny, useless darts from[6].
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:09 PM on January 11 [8 favorites]


My first exposure (NPI) to the monkey piss gif was at a church group ski trip in high school. As evidence that evolution can’t possibly be true “because there is no way we could be related to this.”

My teenage eyes nearly rolled onto the floor.


If you want a picture of the future, imagine a man pissing into his own human face — forever.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:11 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


There’s plenty of punk. The dirtbag left is punk as fuck. Meme culture, punk. A big part of being counterculture though is not spending 100% of your political time/energy on Trump. Because criticizing him is actually quite mainstream.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:55 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


It’s art. You’re doing art.... Criticism’s art and culture. That’s a thousands-of-years-old tradition.

This has been my take for a while now. We are well past the point of people "needing" critics to tell them what to consume. But that's never really been the sole purpose of criticism, the best of which stands on its own as writing. And the diminished relevance of criticism as recommendation/anti-recommendation also means while hatchet-jobs-as-a-stunt can certainly get tedious it really matters less and less whether they are "unfair."

But then I also thought Andrea Long Chu's review of Jill Solloway was a good example of the value still to be found in just saying "this book is full of shit" sometimes, because you believe it is.
posted by atoxyl at 6:02 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


If you're someone who's paid to tell us what's good and bad, and you never think anything is bad, yes there's probably something wrong with that picture.

But when rando jackasses on twitter want to tell me how bad something is, I want to reflexively reach for that "Shhh let people like things" cartoon.
posted by fungible at 7:22 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]


In conclusion, criticism is a world of contrasts.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:16 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, I don't read a lot of criticism, and I especially try not to watch anything resembling a "take down" on YouTube. Much if it is way too angry for my taste. I'm already angry enough at the general state of the world. I don't need help being mad at entertainment. The exception is that I love podcasts that review bad movies and TV shows. I think that's because the ones I listen to aren't usually loud or angry. They use disappointing, boring, or nonsensical media as a jumping off point for jokes (a lot like MST3K).
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:20 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Good post, thanks. One of the things linked in the OP article was the following slate article from last year on basically the same topic (from a very different angle), which I thought was good/interesting enough to draw attention directly to here: When Critics Could Kill.
posted by advil at 10:41 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


That’s an interesting article about something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. For the last few years I’ve been writing reviews for an Icelandic magazine I’m on the editorial board for, which is published twice a year. I write two reviews in each issue, of about 1000 words each, and the rule I set myself in the beginning was that it would be about books that have received limited amounts of attention. That means I read a lot of books to find the two that I want to write about. Frankly, a lot of them aren’t good, some even foul. Since I choose what I write about I have the luxury of putting the book down.

Being a book critic, or a critic in any other field, is just as much of a calling as being an artist. It takes a lot of work to get anywhere and gain proficiency. I’ve been writing criticism for most of my adult life, in many different fields, and it’s no more or less difficult than any other kind of writing.

For a while I wrote quite a lot of concert reviews, and I wrote some pans. I never enjoyed that part of being a critic, not because I was terribly worried about how it would be received, but because I found it really difficult to explain why something was bad. It was generally easy to detail individual faults but explaining the full effect of the badness was hard to put into words without reaching for simile, which was good for describing a subjective experience, but not for analyzing how it draws out those responses. Learning how to do that was one of the most valuable skills I have acquired in my life.

I find people who keep at it admirable; keep reading, watching, listening, even if they have to experience, and then analyze, awful art. That’s a really beautiful dedication to art.
posted by Kattullus at 12:11 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I’ve always wanted to see a critic become a producer of somebody they’ve criticized. Like, if you think you know how to make this better, get your ass into the control room and let’s see what you’ve got. Sort of like High Fidelity.
posted by gucci mane at 1:53 PM on January 12


I have long observed that never-endangered species, the critic, hoping I might find him contributing to the production of that which he had at first been critical. After all, he seems to think he knows how to make a thing better!—and so to the control room or to the canvas he should proceed, to show the world exactly what he can contribute.

gucci mane feat. sylvanshine
posted by sylvanshine at 7:56 PM on January 13


i mean, i get the impulse to tell a critic “if you’re so smart, why don’t you try it”, but on the other hand you don’t need to know how to cook to know that something tastes terrible
posted by murphy slaw at 3:34 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


« Older Let Everybody Sing   |   Löfven, Lööf and Lövin Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.