|You're a citric, so critique already!|
|Written by L. M. Lloyd|
|Thursday, 19 June 2008 03:29|
I could go on, and probably will, about the dumbing down of our society for years, but there is one particular area that gets me especially irritated. If you get paid, usually quite well at that, to do nothing more than critique media for a living, do you think you might bother to work a little actual analysis and critique into it? I have noticed for many years that film critics, and even more so video game critics, sound suspiciously like guys sitting on their couch drinking a Bud and opining casually about what they think of a movie or game between hot wings, rather than scholars of the media providing a professional critique of anything. I suppose it is just a function of our society's general anti-intellectual attitude, but it is really quite ridiculous that someone making ten times what that guy on the couch does, has nothing more, or perhaps even less, to say about a film or game than the average man on the street.
What is even worse, is what a massacre of a review a film or game gets, if it is complicated enough to not fit the boilerplate templates. The second a title addresses a concept or uses any words that can't be found in a grade school text, it is accused of being "pretentious psychobabble," "heavy-handed philosophical waxing," or "pompous self-indulgence." It is as though critics get offended that anyone would dare address anything more complicated than a bad relationship. It is so consistent, in fact, that I often wonder if it is a concerted effort to lower the bar, so big studio movies don't have to work so hard to succeed. Even more offensive, is what movies critics do seem to think are worthy of serious critique. Make a slow film about ironically underdressed young trust-fund hipsters, trying to get laid in New York, and you will be treated to a thousand words about how smart and introspective your script is, and how effectively it describes the ennui of today's disenfranchised and disaffected youth. However, make an RPG based on Buddhist teachings on the importance of finding the middle way, or examining how our new relationship with technology is giving rise to the need for new archetypes to refine our understanding of the line between man and machine, and expect to get panned as nothing more than trite story, trying to hide behind overblown pseudo-intellectual window dressing.
Now, as to why things are this way, I can't really decide what I think. Part of me is inclined to think that these reviewers are just shallow people who don't ever think about anything of any substance, so any movie just goes over their head, and as such they pan it. Another part of me, however, thinks that it is all a bit more of a concerted effort by Corporate America to dumb everything down, because stupid consumers are easier to sell to than introspective, educated consumers. There is no doubt that critics are completely in the pockets of these media conglomerates, just look at how many great reviews they keep giving to films and games that you would be hard pressed to find a single person so enthusiastic about. That though, is not some definitive proof of a vast conspiracy to dumb down the entertainment of the masses. What does come a lot closer to proof though, is the number of recent remakes of intellectually charged classics, dumbed down for today's idiotic tastes. I could name several, but what is the point, since by the time I am done writing this, several more will probably have come out. The thing is, it would seem that whatever the reason, our entire societal attitude to art can be best summed up with the stunningly insightful phrase "chill out, it is just a movie (or book, or game, or fill in the type of media)." This would seem to have become the mantra of the entire entertainment industry. This philosophy centered around lowered expectations that the millions of dollars thrown at modern commercial art should not ever produce anything more sophisticated than a fun few hours of mindless entertainment, that should never be expected to sustain, much less evoke, serious scrutiny and contemplation. Sure, you can address politics, or self-realization, but only so long as it doesn't get any deeper than what a bartender might hear from his drunk patrons on an average weekend.
The problem is that the movies are made for the supposed morons the people in New York and Los Angeles imagine live in the 'fly over states,' and the critics then indulge this insulting attitude by assuming that if the movie sold, then the audience must be every bit as stupid as the studios think they are. No one is to blame for this situation but the critics. You critics are the ones who, at least in theory, have your well-paid positions because of some undoubtedly impressive degree in media theory, or some such field of study. So why don't you use that education for some purpose? One would think that if your job were just to report what the man on the street thinks of the latest talking animal family comedy, they could just hire some man of the street for $10 an hour. Your job is supposed to be to bring an educated eye to the media, and provide insightful criticism of what you see. This does not mean another witty series of jokes about poor acting skills of the celebutaunt of the day. This means trying to see beyond the "how would the imagined guy living in the double-wide, which I reduce all of America to, would like it," and to something of substance. Believe it or not, there are still movies, TV shows, and games out there that have substance, and they are not all Palme d'Or winners about the difficulties of finding love in an increasingly impersonal world of globetrotting models and their trucker-hat-wearing boyfriends. Once in a while, a horror film, or cop show, or science fiction property might have something to say too. Just because it isn't mind numbingly boring, doesn't mean it doesn't have a message worth exploring. Hell, as shocking as it is, there might even be a game or two that in several years of production, and 40+ hours of play time, might have actually managed to find a way to squeeze in a message at least as complicated as a 90-minute movie that took nine weeks to produce. You might want to check it out. If critics were to reward these properties with a little more thought, we might see more of them, and fewer mindless bubblegum wastes of everyone's time. Of course maybe that is exactly why you dismiss them, because promoting bubblegum is exactly what they pay you to do.
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 November 2008 10:59 )|