It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
That was a quote I reblogged on my Tumblr back when I regularly used one. It has stuck with me since then.
I consider myself a critic. Half of my budding journalism career and about 95 percent of this blog thrives on pointing out all the hits and misses done by entertainers. However, Teddy’s quote is why I’m not too keen on slapping the label on myself.
There’s a line between criticism and flat-out slamming a person or their work, but everyone has their own limits and definitions of where that line is. The approach I try to take when reviewing a film, an album, or a concert is to attempt to accentuate the positive. Maybe a film absolutely bored me to pieces, but the actors really immersed themselves in the story and their characters. Maybe a performer absolutely can’t sing live, but the production value of their show is breathtaking. And maybe it is true that there is absolutely nothing that can save a piece of work, and it really is all-around awful—I still try to be nice and point out what areas had potential to bloom and how they could have done so. To me, it’s considered bashing when I use curse words and insults to describe something and kick something or someone when I’ve already put them down.
We all have a right to our opinion, and public figures and their work put themselves out there with the knowledge that they’ll either be ridiculed or admired. But both as a writer and a fan, I have to remember that I’m not the one who invested the time and effort to write a script for a blockbuster action film or to memorize lines and make my crying somewhat believable for a cheesy romantic comedy. I’m not the one who actually knows how to play guitar and pen their own song lyrics about their latest publicized breakup. I’m not the pitcher or the quarterback who spends hours in practice and leaves it all out on the field. I’m just on the sidelines, watching and waiting for a moment to either wow me or a downfall to make me analyze all that went wrong. Every once in a while, a family member, a friend, or a total stranger will state an opinion I totally disagree with and the snarky response that I prepare to fire back is usually along the lines of “Well, maybe you should try doing that stuff!” But being a critic puts you in a humbling position, and you’re suddenly reminded of your own normalcy.
Yeah, I don’t know why I still do it—and why I still want to sort of make that my living—sometimes either.