An Open Letter to Critics (especially Mr Adam Postans)

Ok, so it’s been a very long while … but I’ve been prompted to return to the world of blogging in response to the following article …

To those who have not read the article, Mr Adam Postans argues that “Miranda” is not particularly funny, original and does not deserve the ratings that it is currently getting.  Furthermore, several of the comments posted after the article declare, quite definitively, that “Miranda” is not funny …

Now, in the interests of fairness I have to say that I have quite enjoyed watching “Miranda”, though I haven’t enjoyed the most recent series nearly as much as the first two.  I also slightly hesitate to write this post, as I know that I have been guilty of doing exactly what I am about to criticise … please trust me, that in these instances, I hold myself completely to account and am wholly criticising my own behaviour when I have been guilty of the “critical spirit” that seems to pervade the mass sharing of opinion that is the Internet …

It’s this stance that says “My taste is right and good” (Mr Postans even claims that if you agree with his taste in comedy, then you have exquisite taste) “but if you disagree with me, then you have no taste”.  It’s the firm opinion that says that this comedy “is not funny” or this kind of music “is a load of rubbish.”

Now, this is not to say that I don’t think people should have opinions – I certainly do!  There are kinds of films (rom-coms), TV (reality shows) and music (rap, Hip-hop, R’n’b, cheesy, Boy-band, X Factor contestants) that I frankly can’t stand and would have to be dragged to watch/listen to kicking and screaming.  But I understand that other people genuinely enjoy these things, even though I really don’t.  And that’s ok, because some things in life really are just a subjective choice.  I think especially music and comedy are very personal tastes … and you can’t always explain why you like what you like, or why certain things make you laugh – they just do

Of course “Miranda” is not the cleverest comedy out there, it’s not really deep, intelligent and subtle … but it’s not trying to be any of those things.  It’s just trying to entertain and make people laugh … which it seems to be very successful at doing.  As far as I’m aware, no one is forced against their will to watch “Miranda”, unless there has been a spate of unreported “comedy- jackings” recently.  Therefore the millions of people sitting down to watch this show are choosing to do so, perhaps because they enjoy it and do find it funny.

It’s therefore staggering that Mr Postans claims; “For a television show so derivative and unoriginal, it certainly doesn’t warrant the ratings it receives.”  I’m sorry, Adam, but clearly it does warrant the ratings it receives – as all those people are choosing to watch it because they find it entertaining/funny/enjoyable.  You may not understand why they make the choice, but the fact of the matter is that they are doing … Perhaps it’s because some people don’t mind if a show is unoriginal and derivative, if it is funny and makes them laugh.

It seems that Mr Postans has confused comedy with NASA or a scientific research lab – it is their job to discover something new or ground breaking – to pioneer new territory or uncover something previously unknown.  The job of comedy is to entertain and make us laugh – if that’s with the same old formulas, then so be it … If it happens to be a new brand of comedy that makes us laugh, all power to that … but the core virtue of comedy comes in making people laugh, not necessarily in the art of discovery.  And at the end of the day, I understand that most modern TVs come with the very useful function of on/off power … if you don’t like it then don’t watch it!  But don’t snipe and sneer at something because it doesn’t meet your own very personal tastes.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that your own personal tastes are somehow superior to other people’s … that’s a mistake I’ve been all too guilty of – and I’m sure I will continue to be, because I’m imperfect.  Too many critics act as though their opinion is inherently more valuable than that of other less qualified people.  It may be that as a critic you can render your opinion in more sophisticated and well crafted language than most other people.  It may be that as a critic you have watched more TV/films or listened to more music than most other people and so have a greater frame of reference when comparing the product in front of you.  But this self-elevation, whereby I’m tempted to effectively sit in judgement, not just on the artistic offerings of the world, but on the opinions of those who enjoy them, is nothing short of self-justifying pride and personal elitism.  It says that my taste is good, my standards are right and my choices are uniquely discerning and impeccable.

All the while, we look down on those who just don’t measure up to our own personal high standards and dismiss them as simpletons/unintelligent/sheep/no taste/chavs …  And this is the particular culture amongst critics that I would like to challenge.  The “Dismissive Culture” which immediately renders so many things as sub-standard.  The sitting in austere judgement on films, books, TV, music, food, art – things made to be enjoyed and appreciated … so often lambasted by the critics for not living up to the hopelessly high expectations that only they seem to expect …  Many critics often act as though they are a representative of the people – trying on our behalf and letting us know if it’s worth our time, effort and money.  And yet, how often are the critics out of step with the people?  How many films have been a critical success but a commercial flop and vice versa … ?

How many critics have actually offered up something themselves?  How many have contributed positively to the process?

So, Mr Postans, you may not enjoy “Miranda”.  It may not make you laugh or fit with your idea of a good comedy, which is fine.  You are perfectly entitled not to enjoy it.  But before declaring so definitively, so authoritatively that this show (that is enjoyed by millions and millions of people) is overrated and does not deserve to get the number of viewers that it does … ask yourself this … Is it not enough that some people do genuinely think it’s funny?  Is it not enough, that some people can enjoy it?  Is there not value in a show that seems to entertain so many people and bring them back week by week of their own free choice?  Does comedy always need to be pioneering and groundbreaking?  Can it not just be funny?  Are critics so blinded by a superior sense of their own impeccable taste that they are completely incapable of seeing things from anyone else’s point of view?

I find it so surprising that so many critics seem to lack an awareness that preferences in entertainment are deeply personal and often unexplainable.  I don’t always know why I like what I like – sometimes I just do.  The fact that critics so often seem to try and define “good taste” and standards of excellence, usually in terms of themselves, leads me to the conclusion … Critics are so often overrated.


1 Response to “An Open Letter to Critics (especially Mr Adam Postans)”

  1. 1 Phill January 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Wow! A blog post! I agree Joe – although I’ve not enjoyed this series of Miranda so much, I think it’s wrong to criticise it for th reasons that Mr Postans did… it’s the same as any kind of criticism really – critics need something to criticise to justify their existence. Plus ca change 😦

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