Pop Culture: A review of reviews and the reviewers who view them
Two moments will soon take place simultaneously: the end of the year and the end of the decade. It’s like a total eclipse of the calendar.
Every 10 years, we get a 2-for-1 special on “top 100” lists. This month, we’ve been hit with a barrage of Top 100 lists of 2009 and the ‘00s in music, movies, TV and more. It’s like a critique avalanche.
Some of us eat it up. I’m one of the some-of-us. But not everyone is some-of-us — they’re among the not-some-of-us.
I checked a few top-100 lists of the decade. Nobody agrees on anything, although quite a few people agree on a few things.
Reader response to the lists is especially telling, because it gives a sense of what people think about what other people think. On one site, somebody posted, “Enough of these top-100 lists.”
I suspect people who say things like that aren’t tired of the lists, but are simply fed up with critics and reviews in general.
I wondered: why do some people hate critics, and are they justified in doing so? I tracked down a few books that explored the subject. My favorite is “Guide to Criticism For People Who Abhor Critics (Volume 1).” The best chapter (arguably) is “Myths and Facts About Critics For People Who Abhor Critics, But Probably for the Wrong Reasons.”
A couple of examples:
Myth: Critics are arrogant. They think they know what people should like.
Fact: Critics get paid to assess the stuff they’re paid to assess, but they don’t tell people what they think should be good or bad. Specifically, their goal is to tell you how you might think if you think you think like they think they think you think.
Myth: Critics always rate obscure stuff higher than the things people actually like. Hey, 100 million people can’t be wrong!
Fact: At least 50 million of them could be wrong half the time, and the other half might be wrong at least once in a while, if not regularly.
“Guide to Criticism For People Who Abhor Critics (Volume 1)” is clearly not the definitive answer. Reviews have been mixed. One Web site, DefinitiveAnswer.com, ranked the book in its top 10 Most Obscure But Quite Useful Books of the Decade. Another reviewer had it in his Bottom 10 of the 2000s.
Still others were in-between. ReviewsOfNonExistentSites.com said, “This book has an interesting take on criticism, but it’s written in a detached, rambling fashion akin to a cat chasing its tail — and then some.”
Plenty of critics had negative and positive things to say about those assessments, too. Michael O’Veranalysis, a frequent contributor to Anti-Critic-Critic.com, wrote, “Generally, most views about a comprehensive book explaining why critique-bashers are, on average, half-wrong has a 50-50 chance of being inaccurate half the time.”
What do we make of all this? That’s a matter of opinion.
Sturgis (Mich.) Journal