Criticism and Enjoyment
By Daniel Rigney
My question today: Is it possible to criticize an experience (in the faultfinding sense) and to enjoy it at the same time? I don't doubt it's possible to critique an experience at one moment and enjoy it at another, but can we really do both simultaneously? Or does one inevitably diminish the other?
All of us are critics at one time or another, and some even manage to make a living at it. We have food critics, film critics, literary critics, art critics, social and cultural critics and the like.
I'm not saying that finding faults is always a bad thing. While there may be an oversupply of critics in some areas of American culture, there may be an undersupply in others. Here are some cultural precincts in which I think we need more (or fewer) critics:
We need more critics of packaging, and of why it should take a pair of trimming shears to open a plastic-sealed product.
We need more critics of the seemingly endless commercialization and tabloidization of our deeply shallow political culture.
We need more critics of reality television, which seems to have practically nothing to do with most people’s actual realities. (How often have you had to eat tropical insects to advance to the next level of a real competition? I don’t’ mean metaphorically. Everyone’s done that. I mean literally.)
On the other hand, some kinds of criticism seem to diminish our enjoyments. Although I enjoy reading food critics, I wonder whether it’s possible to criticize food and enjoy it at the same time. Food critics make me wonder whether it’s possible criticize anything and enjoy it simultaneously. Should there be sex critics? Oh. There are?
Music critics. Film critics. Literary critics. Art critics. How in the world do they know our preferences and enjoyments?
Maybe film reviews should read: “If you're an adolescent male with an underdeveloped intellect, you’ll probably enjoy this action film about fast cars and exploding buildings."
As for myself, please wake me up when this movie's over.
I don’t mean to be overly critical here. I’m just tired of a relentless culture of negativity and faultfinding.
I'd rather enjoy life.
I realize that, paradoxically, my finding fault with the culture of criticism is itself a cultural criticism. It seems there is no escape from this spiral of endless critique, except perhaps in silence. And in the enjoyment of the everyday pleasures of life.