While watching Ratatouille with my son the other day for what had to be the 16,456,729th time I became focused anew on a speech by Anton Ego at the end. Now, if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to please don’t read further as this will be a spoiler of epic proportions. Here is a portion of the monologue I wanted to discuss:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.
In writing I often feel this is the case. To work so hard, open one’s self open to the criticism of critique partners/groups, then again to judges in competitions and of course to the almost inevitable experience of rejections from agents or editors. Is it any wonder so many feel reluctance at putting their work “out there”? Admittedly I fall into that camp of enjoying, perhaps all too readily, the snarky goodness of eviscerating reviews and have even delivered one or two in my time but that quote has brought to light some excellent questions.
Why must we thrive on such negativity? Why is it appropriate that now, as adults and through the safety barrier the internet provides us, we think it’s okay to laugh at someone else’s expense? At their work? I am not saying we should cease being critical but it seems as though this behavior, the very behavior we would seek to eradicate from our children’s emotional vernacular, is permissible for ourselves. Human beings judge, we critique and sometimes we forget what we’re looking at was made by another human being. A person who, perhaps just like us, had to struggle against rejections and misunderstandings while still pursuing the creation now laid out before us- whether that be a sculpture, painting or even a book. I think it’s time we get back to thinking about the person, the creator, the conduit of the piece before us and perhaps not be so cruel or callous in our judgments. If there’s something good to remark upon, then there should be ample attempts made to mention those things as well. Would that not mean balance? Would that not also mean there was something objective about the analysis?
What are your thoughts? What makes a good review? What makes a bad review?