MovieBob - Intermission
How To Talk To A Critic (Assuming You Want To)

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 3 Feb 2012 12:00
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2.) Recognize that the internet offers a skewed perception of time.

Piggybacking off of #1, the bane of my own existence as a critic/commentator is the fact that the internet saves things forever, and I can't possibly be alone on this.

While I try my best to remain above blatant trolling, there really is no more irritating thing than to click into a disagreement post and find A.) "In this you said X but over here you said Y" as the content and B.) that the "Y" example is citing a statement made so long ago even I don't precisely recall making it.

The fact is, all human beings change their minds (and tastes, and turn-ons) over time about any number of things. We tend to accept that, up to a point, with friends and acquaintances because the passage of time is real to us in those situations. But when your relationship with another party is wholly in the form of digital pieces that can be called up from any era with a keystroke, it's easy to lose track of the fact that the sliver of white space between Google'd-up hyperlinks can sometimes represent years of opinion-reshaping experiences.

Now, to be fair, the argument can certainly be made that people whose job it is to make public pronouncements of quality have it incumbent upon them to keep said public appraised when they no longer agree with their past selves, but the plain fact of the matter is that most changes of outlook aren't all at once epiphanies - they occur gradually, over time. And almost no one has the time or inclination to go back over everything they've ever written to check for ideological consistency.

3.) Consider that space is finite.

Oh, boy! A critic has just covered a game/movie/property you've got a really great working knowledge of, and you've noticed that they did not mention a piece of background information that you'd consider pretty key! Time to become a mini-superstar by hopping down into the forums and offering this information to your fellow readers/viewers: "Hey, gang! Y'know, it didn't come up in this review but _______ actually fills in some details about that one part!"

But for some reason, this often takes the form of the fan in question concluding that the critic in question didn't mention this or that detail because they didn't know about it, and winds up phrased as, "I can't believe he/she didn't..." or "How could you have ignored ...", which doesn't really help anyone.

I can offer from experience that most obvious oversights of tangential material are usually a simple matter of not having the time/room/wordcount/whatever to hit every single point. Call this a pet peeve of mine, but it's really a matter of etiquette - "ass of u and me" and all that.

4.) You are probably not a mind reader ...

... in which case, assuming ulterior motives on the part of someone offering an opinion without evidence is incredibly tacky.

I don't deal with this one quite so much, but you see it crop up all the time elsewhere, especially in cases where the critic in question is known/perceived to be part of a minority group or culture. Because, as we all know, white heterosexual men are the only people who can be objective about anything because everyone else is blinded by their victim mentality. Or whatever the talking-point is these days.

I can't tell you how many times I've read through the comments of reviews to see casual dismissals on the lines of "Bah! She can't be trusted on this, she thinks everything is about sexism!" or "Of course he gave it a good review, he gives a pass to all Black Movies." I honestly don't know how some people stay in the business, when their work is going to be subjected this kind of make-believe scrutiny devaluing them at every turn.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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