Too many fans in too many fandoms do not really understand what criticism is. Far too many fans think that criticism is not liking something. Not liking Captain America being a Hydra agent is not criticism. Not liking a gay character in a Star Wars novel is not criticism. Not liking Thor because it is a woman is not criticism.
Now, don’t get me wrong, not liking something is completely fine. I don’t like lots of things. But the teacher in me knows that is not criticism. Not liking a plot is just a matter of taste. Realizing a plot is not fully developed and being able to state concrete reasons why is. Not liking a character’s choices is not criticism. Being able to demonstrate why a character’s choices are not in that character’s character is criticism.
As a football coach, I would never tell a player they played poorly and leave it at that. I would explain why and how to get better. Now, I’ll never ever tell a writer that I think they did a poor job until I get published. And since I’m not writing for publication anytime soon, that won’t happen. Too many people send tweets to authors telling them they hate their work. This boggles my mind. What is this person’s endgame? Do they think the writer will change? Do they believe that the author will write the story that is in their head? No. All they will end up doing is taking away access to these writers from their more level-headed fans.
Am I saying not to write negative criticism? No, that would make anyone with a blog, like me, a hypocrite. But I won’t tweet an author or artist a negative review. They don’t need that negativity in their lives. Nothing gets published without going through many different reads, so they have heard many of the criticisms. Plus, some people do this for a living and do it well and properly, that the authors can turn to if they want to read valid criticism of their work.
So why should someone like you and I write criticism? First, it will make us better readers and writers. Reading a story for point of view, symbolism, plot and character development allows us to grow as readers. Learning how to articulate how well a story does these things allows us to grow as writers. We should have spent many years of our K-12 and, in some cases, college education learning how to do this. Put it to good use.
Now, some people in fandom hide behind the word “criticism” when they really just mean bigotry. People that oppose diversity and social justice too often just make hateful comments to authors, and when the author responds, they reply that the author cannot take criticism. Almost every time, however, they never truly offered criticism. It’s a free country, and you can be against diversity and social justice. You can also not read the book or the comic or watch the movie. That’s part of being in a free country too.
The next argument will be that I’m trying to limit someone’s freedom of speech. I’m not. If you want to tell an author you think they suck, you have that right. What I’m arguing is don’t hide behind the word critic, when, in fact, you are just a jerk.
(Or you can be a “professional” critic and still a jerk. And still not not understand criticism….i.e., Harry Knowles reviews).