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Critics in Entertainment

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Everyone has opinions, but not everyone gets paid for them. That’s where we have our critics.

A critic is defined as “a person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works, especially one who does so professionally.” These people are the ones who are to inform the public whether or not they deem a piece of work worthy of their time and money. Before modern times, most critics and critiques of work were seen in newspapers and magazines and were only done by a select few people and many people who weren’t critics simply spread their critiques through word-of-mouth; but over the past twenty years or so, with the rise of the digital age, anybody can give their opinion about anything. 

Not everything is black and white though, and just because somebody can state his or her opinion, that doesn’t mean that we are receiving fair criticism. I’m not talking about when a review gives a bad rating, but I am talking about critics who aren’t consistent with their works – namely with companies giving their opinions. One of the most notorious examples is IGN, an entertainment media company mostly known for their video game reviews.

The biggest problem with IGN is how most, if not all, of their reviews and opinions are so divided among its company. When there are multiple writers working for an outlet, it becomes easy to lose track of who is actually saying what. In 2017, IGN featured over 37 different reviewers, which sounds like a good thing on paper, but doesn’t work practically. When you see a review from other critics, such as YouTube personalities (Chris Stuckman, Jeremy Jahns, or Doug Walker), you know exactly whose point of view the reviews are coming from; whereas reviews from IGN have been spread among all these different opinions and ideas.

The reason I bring this up is because it is very important to build a connection between the critic and the audience; every review made should feel like an extension of the last until the audience understands what that person reacts to. It is also important to acknowledge any missteps as a reviewer, whether that be any misguided critiques given to something or simply your state of mind at the time of making the review, it’s important to learn from those and find ways to be better in the future.

I think that one of the dumbest complaints I’ve seen about critics would be. “Yeah, I stopped listening to this person when they said _______ was good/bad.” You obviously don’t have to see eye-to-eye on everything. Critics don’t have to agree with each other on everything, but their power lies in the consistency of their voice, so when there is little to no consistency in a string of reviews, that is when you become Armond White.

Armond White is widely considered one of the worst critics of today, and is mostly seen as a “critic contrarian” as many of the films he has given negative reviews for are generally well-received (Pulp Fiction, The Social Network, Pixar’s Up and Toy Story 3, etc.) as well as positive reviews for poorly-received movies (Jack and Jill, Boss Baby, Grown Ups, etc.) Does this make him useless as a critic? Not at all. When Mr. White tells the audience that Man of Steel is “The Godfather of superhero movies,” and titles it the best film of 2013, the audience now understands that this is the worst film yet created by mankind.

If there is anything that I can say about him it’s that he stands out and isn’t afraid to share his opinion, however unpopular it may be.

It seems like there are a lot of critics who are too scared about saying something truthful or “controversial” about something and there are certainly a lot of factors that play into that fear. Many of these outlets and even YouTubers nowadays have relationships and contacts with the producers and publishers to get interviews with these people, early movie tickets or early copies of the new album or video game, or to be the first to put out their reviews. I’m not saying these people get paid off or anything, but maybe they won’t criticize something as harshly as something needs to be. Going back to IGN, this is a website largely funded by advertising the people who make these products, so if they were to give a bad score to something, those people likely won’t work with them in the future.

There is also the fact that there are a lot these companies trying to be the first review on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb so that their outlet can generate more traffic and revenue and it often results in weak or unreliable first impressions of the product.

The best reviews of anything are entirely subjective, but that doesn’t mean you throw objectivity out the window; you still have to build your critique with honest, unbiased statements that even someone who disagrees with you understands and relates to you.

There is a lot more to say about how to effectively critique any sort of media, but I’d like to end it on this; if you were to critique something, what is the best point of view to go about it? Do you review it as someone who loves or hates a certain type of entertainment? Do you review it as “Is this worth the money I paid for it?” Do I compare this to other pieces of entertainment? There are an indefinite number of ways to critique something and any one of these could be legitimate, but consistency is key.

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Critics in Entertainment