Being an indie author/filmmaker, I “follow” a network of other indie authors. Following for me involves not only reading and/or viewing their works, but also supporting them in whatever way is needed. (Even if it’s to bitch and vent about the benefits of being called an indie vs. a self-published author). Yes, we “indies” are a tight-knit, vociferous group. We have found it almost impossible to enter the “mainstream” world of publishing, so we simply created a publishing world of our own. This doesn’t negate the fact that we all hope in our heart of hearts to become, if not famous, well-known enough (whatever ENOUGH is for any given indie). This will let us know that our works are being shared and discussed by more than ourselves; that the possibility exists for us to create, maintain and grow a following of fans; that perhaps (fingers crossed) one day we might even (hope against hope) be able to eke out a decent living. That is why when people outside or our “network” review our works, we try to make sure and review, well, the review-er.
Recently, a couple of fellow indie authors received a negative review by someone who purports herself to be a professionally “honest and fair” reviewer. This person not only critiques books, but also is a panelist for a well-known independent literary award. To me, this is a conflict of interests mostly because you’re not really critiquing, you’re judging. This reviewer (who shall remain nameless), cannot in her own words “separate the author from the fiction he/she is writing”; so, how can she be trusted to remember to take of her judge “hat” and put on her “critic” hat?
One of the authors’ whose work she reviewed wrote about “praying the gay away” in his FICTIONAL book. (I made that all caps for the reviewer, (not that she’ll read this, but you never know) it seems that fiction is akin to real life for her.) *RME* (That’s Rolling My Eyes for my non-Twitter/FB/texting shorthand followers). Anyway, instead of simply critiquing the content of the book, she attacked the author for making her feel uncomfortable because his character was guilty of undertaking this reprehensible practice. Yet another author AND his work was decimated by this reviewer for creating a misogynistic character who does alot of soul-searching and wants to become a better person and fails. (Art mirroring reality? Apparently not for her. Apparently all the people SHE knows are perfect and accomplish their goals with no problem…).
Now I may be in the minority by thinking this way (which is fine because I’m used to being in a minority), but isn’t art supposed to be provocative (even if the provocation is negative)? Isn’t art supposed to take you out of your comfort zone and make you think differently (even if by thinking differently we want to vomit); or see things differently? Isn’t art supposed to mirror the authors’ worlds and the times in which they live? When I took English Lit in college, my professor gave a Reader’s Digest-condensed version of the world/times of any given English author we were to read and discuss/critique in order to give us a broader understanding from what “place” the author was writing.
Now I’m no fan of most film critics, mostly because they use the vindictiveness born from not being able to “make it” in the entertainment world, to destroy careers. I mean think about it. If those who prevented his acceptance into art school, knew about the potential for Adolf Hitler to go off the deep end if he couldn’t realize his artistic dreams, simply let him try; imagine all the heartache that would have been stopped before it had a chance to begin? But I digress… As I was saying, I’m no fan of most film critics because they either don’t realize or don’t care about the power they wield with their negative reviews. The book “critic” I have ranted about above, had many comments from her followers thanking her profusely for stopping them from buying and reading a book they were mulling over; thereby preventing them from making up their own minds AND stopping an author’s work from being purchased and discussed. (I blame the followers as well because, I mean GEEZ! Don’t you all have frakkin’ minds of your own?! Are you all sheep, or what?! … WOO SAA!)
Some film critics, however, like Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert have said/written in their critiques that what they are saying is in fact their own opinions AND they encourage people to make up their own minds. These critics (and others) do know how to separate the filmmaker from the film. I mean, I’ve never heard or read Roger Ebert referring to Michael Bay as an unfeeling robot simply because he directed “Transformers” or Tim Burton as a dark and disturbing person simply because his movies have that tendency. Carefully constructed criticism though difficult, isn’t impossible and it should be attempted with at least as much vigor as one would attempt to, say, save one’s child from certain death; because that is what art is to an artist… Their child… Their creation… something through which their immortality may be realized, whether the creation be “good” or “bad”… in any reviewer’s OPINION.