Criticism is strange. We all face it, and we all give it. Apparently, my statement about good writers vs. smart-sounding people on Twitter reeked of superiority, and as a lover of art (but not as a writer, I guess), I should understand the work that goes into these things.
I do understand the amount of time and work people put into their various projects. My comment wasn’t undermining that, and it wasn’t implying that I’m an amazing writer, either. It wasn’t a passive-aggressive dig at anyone. It was simply a statement I consider to be a universal truth–a term that was then hurled back mockingly at me–about the quality and purpose of writing.
The amount of time and passion someone puts into something isn’t the same as the quality of the end product, and time and passion don’t give anyone a free pass from criticism. Shit, we’ve built an entire culture around criticism. One tweet on the world wide web is nothing compared to entire websites dedicated to criticizing Twilight alone, and I’m sure others exist for 50 Shades of Grey. The writers of both series put a lot of time and work into their books and I’m sure even on a minuscule level the criticism they get does hurt. Poor quality and problematic themes shouldn’t be ignored because someone put a lot of time in something. If I spend a long time captioning or transcribing a show at work but the quality was terrible, my bosses wouldn’t say, “Oh, well, this isn’t acceptable to air on television, but you put a lot of time and hard work into it so that’s okay.” I’d receive a list of things I did wrong, how to correct them, and expectations to do better.
The same applies to everything–music, movies, TV, maybe even small-scale Tweets and Facebook statuses. Nearly everything takes time and effort, but this isn’t an “A for effort” world. Just in the past few weeks, the internet has shamed a little old lady who tried to restore a painting and “botched” it instead (point one: I feel bad for her! Point two: Some people like the new version better. I don’t, but hey!). We’ve even managed to make criticism personal with people like Perez Hilton dissecting celebrities and telling people who’s cool and who’s not. TV shows and magazines are dedicated to discussing what people (read: women) wear and whether or not it looked good on them (insert rant on the bullshit of the fashion industry here). Clothes take time and effort to make. Are fashion critics exhibiting some form of superiority, then, when saying things look like trash? As lovers of fashion, they should understand the time and work that went into those clothes.
Reality TV is, in a sense, built on this premise. We have Project Runway, Craft Wars, all those cooking competitions and other shows whose names I don’t know because I do not now and will not anytime soon have cable–willingly.
What about the superiority laden in jokes about my own writing? If my Tweet is full of superiority, then so is every joke about me being a writer–“Here, you write this list of songs we want played at karaoke. You’re the writer.” “Oh, that’s right, you know so much about music because you write for that music blog.” “You’ll never get a job with that degree.”
The problem doesn’t seem to be criticism itself–it’s selective criticism, a realm of acceptable criticism. Naturally, hypocrisy is a big part of this (“you can dish it out, but you can’t take it”). One generic comment about pretentious writers? Bad. All these other things I’ve mentioned–the websites, the TV shows, the professional critics? Good, or at least okay.