Essay on criticism
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own.”
This quote from Alexander Pope’s poem Essay on Criticism gives a perfect categorization of all critics, in his time and in the modern era. No one has a parallel judgment that is aligned with everyone else. Instead, there would be different words used by everyone, in the description of the same event. However not everyone may see the same event as everyone else, and instead, hear it in a word of mouth manner. That is precisely why this account (or criticism) is so important, that it holds true, or at least that it is made with good etiquette.
Critics nowadays dictate the majority of things; from examinations of groundbreaking research in the field of science, that may affect thousands of lives, to reviews of restaurants and theatres that would influence a person’s day-to-day choices. Thus, this essay will not only discuss the importance of critics but also what differentiates a good critic from a poor one, thus defining the important traits of one.
Importance Of Critics And Criticism
There are a variety of different types of critics, from social and political critics to film critics and food critics. But the basic and objective principle stands, that critics are there first and foremost, to serve as a type of feedback for the government officials (in the political sphere) and creatives (in the creative sphere). These reviews and evaluations would directly affect the public’s opinion, thus there is a great amount of responsibility tied to these critic’s words. However, the caveat with this job, is that no single person can be entirely objective, and that the personal feelings and opinions would most likely be tied with a review that is meant to be generally objective. (Basuoy, 2)
For example, a movie critic could begin watching a film, and despite the beautiful production value or cinematography may be wholly displeased due to the casting decisions made by the director, which would most likely create terrible impressions for the possible audience members. An example of this was the box office film Office Space that only grossed $10.8 million with the production value being $10 million. Making a very minimal profit, it was deemed a "box office fail”; and it was greatly impacted by the critic’s reviews, as the minority of people that did watch it, found the movie to be a hit.
Similarly, as in the arts sphere, critics are just as, if not more important in the political spheres. Critics here would be the various journalists that delegate the news of government activities to the public. The manner in which that they choose to phrase this news would shed either good or bad light on the government, changing the opinions of majorities on things that may even affect national security. Instances such as the Watergate scandal, as great as the fault with the government was, were far more played out in the public sphere because of the sensationalization created by the reporters of that time. In this manner, the importance of critics is clear, as they are the intermediate between the public and the various creators.
Character Traits of A Good Critic
"What matters is not what is said but how it is said” (Tracy, 3) As previously mentioned, criticism is necessary for the bettering of whatever it is aimed at; however it is delivered is just as important as its content to be considered a good piece of criticism. Critics are required to be eloquent and be as objective as possible, as not everything would be to their personal liking. Furthermore, when critics become possessed over the idea of gaining more influence, prestige, or even money, that they begin creating reviews for the sake of it, it would garner a lot more negative consequences than positive ones.
"Be silent always when you doubt your Sense,
And speak, tho’ sure, with seeming diffidence” (Pope)
If there is no true opinion or feedback to be given on the matter there should not be a criticism to speak of in the first place. This quote exemplifies this perfectly, that when you are doubtful, you should not criticize, and when you do, it should be done so with modesty. Any critic should have sensitivity, as, despite the subject matter at hand, it must be dealt with a level of caution, as there are serious repercussions to the words that are said by any critic. A bad critic, on the other hand, would wish malice and harm on the subject matter, consciously or not. He would not have the sensitivity to speak about anything worth criticizing with objectivity and delicacy.
Thus we have also defined the necessary traits for a critic, such as; being well educated (so as to provide a well-substantiated criticism), being as objective as possible (to provide the best feasible feedback), and being sensitive and delicate to any possible subject matter. In total it can be summarized that, for criticism to be good or bad, its purpose needs to be discovered. (Shrum, 31) If a reprove was made out of poor taste, it would not provide any feedback, but instead feed into the minds of the listeners and target audience, creating more subjective and segregated thoughts in the minds of others. Thus the responsibility of a critic is an extremely hefty one, and anybody that may start to criticize anything and anyone should heed the steps of objective reasoning.
Basuroy, Suman, et al. How Critical are Critical Reviews”, October 2003
Pope, Alexander. Essay on Criticism, 1709,
Shrum, Wesley. Fringe and Fortune: The Role of Critics in High and Popular Art, 1996
Tracy, Karen. Et al. "Good” and "Bad” Criticism: A Descriptive Analysis, Journal of Communication, 1987