Friday, August 14, 2015

Pity the Creator (A Rant)

I've spent a lot of my life mindlessly consuming entertainment like we all do in this consumer culture. Video games, movies, TV shows, even live performances. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with any of that, but it seems to me that there should be a balance - some moderation. I see it all around me now, in others, and it's really warmed me up to the previously-offensive notion that we are all zombies plugged into our devices.

I've decided that I don't just want to be a consumer, but that I want to also be a producer - I want to be responsible for contributing some of my own personality into the melting pot of media influences that this society defines itself by. Some things are beyond my reach as an isolated introvert - movies require large teams to put together, for example. But in the little ways that I can - writing my thoughts down, taking pictures as a photographer, learning to play guitar, even trying to develop some of my ideas into games - I like to try to produce original material, instead of just consuming things that have been created by others.

And I've found that it's a very satisfying way to spend one's time, and is at least as engaging (if not much, much more so) as plugging into a television set and zoning out. But one thing I've noticed ever since I've re-imagined myself as a fellow creator - one who understands what it means to bleed into one's work, and then put that work on display for others to evaluate - is how unflinchingly critical most people are. Not all art works for all people, this is true. But in most cases, real effort was put into that art, and it represents something somebody feels strongly about, and is probably proud of.

That doesn't mean you're not allowed to discuss what you don't like about it, or how you think it failed to come together, and how it could potentially have been something better than it turned out to be. But I'll read a review of an episode of a television show, for example - and it might not be the most enthralling episode of the show's multi-year run, but it's still something beyond what I could create with the resources at my disposal - and what I see is people callously writing it off, and disparaging the considerable efforts of the people who put that piece of entertainment together.

I don't want to say that if you've never filmed a television episode (for example), then you're not allowed to criticize one, but I'd just kind of like to see a little bit more consideration for the blood, sweat, and tears that people put into their work, even when the result fails to meet a certain level of expectation. Maybe it's because I have an unusually sensitive personality, but I've never felt comfortable giving things poor reviews, or poor ratings. Now, I have no qualms about ripping something apart if I have a really good reason to, or if it's so bad that I actively hate it.

But I'm mainly talking about the majority of entertainment that comes in the middle somewhere - you don't hate it, but you don't especially love it, either. I have a tendency to give those creations the benefit of the doubt, and even if it doesn't thrill me, rather than disparage it, I simply try to focus on what I liked about it, and make it apparent from what I don't say (that is, when I refrain from being overly enthusiastic when talking about it), that maybe I thought it was only so-so. But maybe that's just me.

I am reminded of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer becomes a food critic, and, despite loving food, he gets criticized for writing nothing but good reviews, and subsequently gets into the habit of tearing everything apart, because that's what critics are supposed to do, right? Well, I don't think so. Critics should be honest, certainly. And that means taking the good with the bad. But I think they ought to have respect for the things they criticize, too.

It's a lot easier to sit back in an armchair and criticize things than it is to take an idea and turn it into something concrete, for others to experience. And in this internet age, I think we're getting quite a lot of the former. I'd like to think that technology is making the latter easier as well, but I guess there'll always be a difference of proportion between the two. I think critics do stand to gain from trying to create things. It gives them a better understanding of the creative process. The best critics are, therefore, creators themselves.

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