12:45 pm EDT, August 4, 2016

On Criticism vs. Enjoyment: Can we stop being cruel to others when we disagree?

I love reading reviews of different types of media, whether that be for the latest movie or a book by one of my favorite authors.

Additionally, I enjoy writing my own reviews and sharing my opinions of the things I love — or maybe don’t love — with other people. I’ve had my moments of being overly, sometimes unfairly, critical (I’m sure that Riddick wasn’t as bad as I thought it was… but R.I.P.D. definitely was!), but on the whole I try to approach criticism from a more positive light.

We live in an age when it is incredibly easy to share our opinions, often anonymously, and therein lies the problem: it’s too easy to be cruel to others because they don’t agree with us. What we all need to realize is that we are all entitled to our own opinions — and so are the so-called “critics” — but, in my opinion, it’s equally important to be primarily positive in our criticism rather than constantly negative.

Our Own Opinions

Back to the Future remake

What’s so wonderful about sharing our opinions with others is that we all come from different backgrounds and approach things differently. That’s why we don’t all have the same favorite movies — our experiences give us individuality and diversity of opinion.

If my favorite movie is Back to the Future (hint: it is), I can share a million reasons why — its charm, its timelessness, the musical score by Alan Silvestri, the performances by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, and many others — but some of the very things that I enjoy about Back to the Future could be things that someone else might dislike about it, and that’s perfectly okay!

While films, books, and other media do have documentable evidence of quality — i.e. proper grammar in the case of books — so much of the perceived “quality” of entertainment is left to the opinion of the person consuming it. Just because we disagree with someone else doesn’t mean that we — or they — are wrong.

A fantastic side effect of realizing this is that we can have conversations with people of opposing opinions from different backgrounds than ourselves that will help us to grow in our own opinions, whether that means we strengthen our already-existing beliefs or learn to see something in a new light because of the different perspective brought by someone else.

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Looking at the Positive

leslie-jones-ghostbusters-hate

Let’s face it: negativity is contagious, and there are unfortunately far too many examples of this in recent times, from the new Ghostbusters film (which I thought was perfectly fine, although a bit unremarkable), to the fan reactions to the current critic approval rating of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, to the recent release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Now, the response to Cursed Child has been nowhere near as vitriolic as the response to Ghostbusters or Suicide Squad, but what is interesting is how the general consensus regarding the play varies so widely from all levels of Harry Potter fans.

Personally, I’ve been reading the Harry Potter series since I was a second grader in 1999, and I surprisingly enjoyed the play; I say “surprisingly” because, when considering the negative response to the plot by dedicated Potterheads following the play’s preview performances in London, I didn’t expect to like it at all. And me saying that I enjoyed the play in no way means I forgive it of its flaws (no spoilers here), but I acknowledge that the medium of a play is much different than that of a book, and I therefore looked at it from the perspective of an audience member and found much more to like than dislike.

I don’t say this to say that I’m better than others who maybe didn’t enjoy the play as much or to say that those fans approached it “incorrectly” but rather to say that looking at something flawed from a different perspective changed my enjoyment of it.

As I mentioned before, I’ve written reviews in the past and have often been extremely critical, but as I see more of these big releases getting absolutely slammed by critics and fans alike, I start to ask myself: what’s the fun in hating something? Sure, videos like Honest Trailers can be extremely funny because they point out the flaws in some widely-accepted “bad” films, but I’ve always thought that HT makes it clear how much they love movies in the process; everything they do is done out of the love of the medium.

Something that is flawed doesn’t need to have its imperfections ignored, but rather than focusing on those imperfections, consider exploring what the movie or book does well instead.

In Summary

best-fandom-month-ever

I am not here to chastise anyone or the way they enjoy their entertainment; I’m merely issuing a challenge to approach criticism in a different way. Can you imagine how much more fun the Internet would be if it became a place of positivity rather than a place to spew hatred at those who disagree with us?

The best part about reading reviews of things that I’m interested in is comparing my views to those from someone else and considering their opinions. Doing this gives us the opportunity to grow in both knowledge and in personal belief, and it gives us a means of connecting with others regarding mutual likes rather than mutual dislikes.

Give it a try. Find the positives in your entertainment. Go to something you dislike and figure out what it does well — you just might find yourself enjoying something new.

Chad can be found on Twitter @chadadada and as the host of his new podcast, The Cinescope Podcast, which seeks to celebrate the films we love rather than criticizing or assigning ratings.

Related: It’s okay to not love everything in fandom

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