To anyone that has read this blog for any length of time, it’s no secret I love reviewing stories in all forms of media.
It enables me to think critically and learn what makes a story fail or succeed.
I owe much of my growth as a writer to watching other reviewers discuss what they did or didn’t like in stories and, more importantly, why.
While I don’t claim to be a professional critic, I believe there are certain steps one can take in order to not suck at reviewing.
1. Know Thyself
Before you can judge something, it is important you have examined your own personal tastes and biases. These, as well as your own experiences, will influence how you digest media.
Recently, I read a review about the film Ford v. Ferrari in which the “critic” spent the entire article berating the movie for being about white guys and….that’s it.
She failed to mention anything about the writing, characters, lighting, cinematography, editing, music, or other elements actually relevant to the story. I learned absolutely nothing about the film or whether or not I would have enjoyed it since the crux of the article was devoted towards berating the subject matter rather than the execution of the story.
I felt like I was reading a diary entry by a moody teenager that was angry at her father rather than a review someone was payed to write.
It’s fine to have opinions whether they be political or otherwise, but it’s important you are able to compartmentalize your feelings. You have to ask yourself if you dislike something because it is genuinely bad for the story/characters, or simply because of your own intrinsic biases.
2. Don’t Nitpick
If you look closely you will find flaws in every form of fiction. Perhaps the writer described a character as having brown eyes in one chapter and then mistakenly refers to them as cerulean a hundred pages or so on. Yes, this was something the writer or editor should have caught in re-writes, but honestly it isn’t that big of a deal.
There are entire channels on Youtube dedicated to nit-picking *coughCinamaSinscough** and while they can be amusing to watch, unnecessary emphasis is placed on minuscule infractions.
Small things can add up over time, but if you are constantly hammering on things that are essentially inconsequential to the main story or details most people wouldn’t notice anyway, you need to reevaluate.
Most people don’t care.
Or if they do, they don’t care that much.
If a problem is big enough it will find you.
3. Don’t Be an Elitist Prick
Having a degree in the medium you are reviewing is a wonderful resource. You can apply what you have learned from your studies in order to give informed opinions. I’ve learned a lot about the art of storytelling from watching video essays and attending lectures by people who studied extensively in their respective crafts.
The issue is some use their education as a trump tool, believing that their opinion is greater than the unwashed masses because they own a piece of paper that says Department of English or Department of Film and Media on it.
The truth is most people don’t care whether or not you have a degree. They care if you can provide them with an interesting or humorous perspective.
While the average joe might not be as well versed in the arts, they are still capable of snuffing out what works and what doesn’t in a story. Remember, most stories aren’t for the elites. They are for the other 99.9% of people.
4. Don’t Insult People Who Like What You’re Reviewing
I recently watched a review of Joker by a Youtuber named ralphthemoviemaker in which he makes a huge mistake.
In this video, Ralph essentially calls everyone who enjoys the movie a moron. But he doesn’t stop there. In fact, most of his review seems to be directed towards people who enjoyed the movie and how dumb they are for not sharing his clearly more researched opinion.
I will be the first to admit I have ridiculed many a property, so I don’t have a problem with him badmouthing the movie.
But insulting people who like it is an extremely bad move.
By doing so you all but guarantee your audience will disregard everything you say on the subject. Worse still, it will turn people who might have otherwise agreed with your assessments against you.
It’s not even an argument that can be supported with evidence.
Why are these people stupid? Because they like something you don’t?
Are people that like blue smarter than people that like pink?
This brings me to my final point-
5. Remember It’s Your Opinion
I don’t believe all opinions are created equal. Some are weak and easy to refute when presented with enough evidence. However, it’s important to realize that there is really no one “correct” opinion when it comes to art.
In the end, art is just one big Rorschach test that is influenced by our unique experiences.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express pleasure, disdain, disappointment or any other emotion that comes with examining stories. But we need to be open to other interpretations of the messages we consume and cognizant of how they may resonate with other people.
Thanks for reading!