Death of the Critic


Written by: Tom Blaich

Memory is a powerful thing. Especially precious memories. Every one of us has a certain set of things that remain precious to us over the years. We remember fondly the time that we first experience them, and we always look back to them. Be it a particular book, movie, album, song, or game, nostalgia is a powerful force that shapes our opinions and our tastes.

That being said, it has no place in criticism.

This is a mistake that many of us make when talking about media. A remake, or sequel, or reimagining of a beloved franchise is announced, and all of a sudden, the new project cannot be viewed on its own merits any longer. The older piece becomes even more “flawless” in our eyes, while the new one becomes vilified. I’ve seen it happen countless times over the years in which I’ve been paying attention. And it is ruining the discourse about media.

This is not to say that these new projects are entirely good ideas. Many times, it seems to see that studios are attempting to capitalize on the fame behind a name in order to bring more consumers out of the woodwork. And this is a completely valid criticism. However, this criticism cannot be levied until the project is in our hands. Even then, once we have the new project, we need to evaluate it fairly, based upon its own merits as opposed to any predecessor.

It has become impossible to offer any praise of these new projects or criticism of the old. Look at the recent
Ghostbusters remake. The massive debacle that surrounded the remake has much to do with this phenomenon. I’m not saying that this is a fantastic movie by any means. It was mediocre. Lots of movies are mediocre, especially comedies. I’d even go so far as to say that we are looking at the franchise with major rose tinted glasses. Ghostbusters was ok. The second wasn’t great. We aren’t even talking about all of the supplemental media (cartoons and games) that have come out since that failed to impress. Yet now, for some reason, it’s being paraded about like some kind of seminal franchise full of flawless projects.

This attitude bleeds into criticism all of the time, and it really shouldn’t. It’s reflective of the new, constant cycle of content that sites (like ours) must pump out, where we need to comment on every little piece of media, even before it can be consumed. I’m not trying to say that you can’t critique trailers, or compare new movies to old ones. Far from it. We just can’t let our opinions and biases unfairly color our judgment.

I love
Fallout 3. The Raid: Redemption. The Expendables. I like all of them much more than the sequels that came afterwards (even if I think that The Raid 2 is a much better movie technically). But when I discuss them, I do my best to temper my expectations against my nostalgia. I want to give each piece that I discuss its fair shake, and I see a growing trend towards not doing that.

As critics, we should never be afraid to recuse ourselves if we feel that we cannot remain impartial. Because that is our duty. We have an expectation of honesty and lack of bias to our audience that we need to uphold. We need to temper our nostalgia against our reality, put the past aside, and focus on what is ahead of us.


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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