Being hyper-critical in society
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
As I’ve gotten older, my social circle has certainly grown. Through various jobs, friends, or other reasons, I often find myself in situations where I’m required to interact with people I don’t know very well. The reason I bring this up is because it has forced me to become more “worldy.” I need to be able to have conversations without the fallback of years of cultivated friendship.
Popular topics of discussion are often various films, cartoons, comics, celebrities, etc. This has fed my fascination with pop culture as a whole, which pushed me into a growing interest in how the average Joes and the experts—people who review things in a professional manner—perceive and express their opinions of certain artistic endeavours. In exploring this, I have noticed a disturbing trend among both professionals and hobbyists alike—the rise of the “Negative Nancy.”
If that term sounds archaic it’s because it’s something my mother used to call my sisters and I when it was obvious to her that we were in a mood where nothing would please us, and like those times when I was young, I find that society is suffering the same.
I am, of course, talking about the trend of hyper-criticism. For some strange reason people loathe to admit that they like something, or worse yet, that they don’t understand it, or that it’s not really for them. Instead we think it’s more appropriate to regurgitate criticisms we find online, even if they’re not necessarily true. I have seen a lot of this lately with critic-panned films such as Batman vs. Superman and Ratchet and Clank. That isn’t to say that these films didn’t have their issues, but after hearing some people speak about them, you’d assume that the movie killed their entire family and stole their credit card.
The reason behind this doesn’t have anything to do with the piece itself. In my experience, it all has to do with the illusion of sophistication. As traditionally highbrow entertainment (opera, theatre, etc.) slowly fades into the wayside, cultured media is forced to become more accepting of pop culture as a means of filling in the empty space in order to draw in a new crowd. This creates an odd dynamic where traditionalists are forced to criticize various niche productions that are not necessarily meant for them.
To put it into perspective, I wouldn’t take my musical loving grandmother to a dubstep concert and then ask her to write a review on it based off the simple fact that musicals and dubstep concerts both contain music.
Expectedly, the traditional critics pan the niche productions and in an effort to appear “in the know,” readers of theirs will parrot the same opinion. This is almost as annoying as people who will value the original production over the remake simply because they want to act superior, even if they never experienced the original in the first place. All of this is done in order to give the illusion that you’re incredibly discerning and sophisticated, but in truth, if your standards are vague to the point you don’t even understand them—mostly because they’re not yours—how can they ever be met?
I acknowledge that there have been times when I have reviewed things that I know weren’t meant for me (sexually explicit comics catered more towards heterosexual men and gym wear for fitness lovers, for example). I think that that level of self-awareness is important, because it allows you to look at different aspects of a product—artistry, quality, etc.—instead of just basing your criticism on your personal tastes.
Most importantly, whether you are someone who reviews things professionally or just someone looking to strike up a conversation, forming your own opinion and expressing that instead of just simply repeating things is what will make you more engaging and memorable in the long run.