In defense of criticism

At the very core of what I love, and what I want to write about, is a great respect for critique and criticism.  By this I do not mean negativity, elitism, or insult.  If culture, all culture, has an important part in representing who we are as a generation (nation, form of government, niche group, etc.), and literacy in the symbols and meanings of that culture is the key to understanding and controlling it, then the ability to break culture down into pieces and throw together an interpretation, and decision on its meaning and quality, is incredibly valuable.

That was a horrible sentence.  What I mean is that if culture represents us, then we need to know how to understand it.  And understanding does not come passively.  Feeling does, consumption does.  But not true understanding, and thus not the power over it and how it influences and effects us.

 

I studied art and literature in college (and yes I am gainfully employed, thank you), and the studies went hand-in-hand.  Authors and artists have similar coded vocabularies in their respective areas.  Criticism is just exciting.  So many people in America are afraid and even angered by modern art.  And I’m not saying modern art isn’t without many faults.  But I think the fear comes from a lack of understanding, from feeling lectured to by someone much smarter than you.  And the anger comes from the same place: feeling looked down upon, insulted in a language you don’t understand.  What if we taught people to read art and visual stimuli the same way we teach children to read books?

 

All this to say: people don’t really like critics too much.  Critics who take on summer blockbusters get shouted down for making serious work of a popcorn film for 13-year-old boys.  And in some ways, that’s right.  I think anyone who outright dismisses pop culture as worthless for its exciting, flashy, and popular methods isn’t doing their work.  We still need to talk about what the film is saying, who it’s saying it to, and if it’s a good message.  

I don’t hate a movie or a book if I break it apart and talk about its faults.  I actually like it more as I study it.  So I hope you won’t take offense if I want to talk about your favorite movie.  Let’s talk about it!

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