Alex (ladydaydreamer) wrote in indie_thinkers,
Alex
ladydaydreamer
indie_thinkers

Has anyone else noticed the phenomenon...

...of criticizing something a little too much for what it is not, all the while ignoring what is is?

That's probably a bit unclear. But I was thinking about this recently while reading an issue of Bitch magazine (which I know I probably referenced in an earlier post, but hey, it had some good stuff). There was an article on the VH1 nostalgia programs, and the author criticized "I Love the 80s" for not delving into social issues of the time, such as the AIDS epidemic. I thought, "Um...but it's a pop culture program, and it's fair that it be restricted to pop culture things!" In the same issue was an article on the TV show "The West Wing" which said that, while the show had had some excellent storylines involving women's issues, a penalty should be given to it because it didn't follow through with them enough. I thought, "But...would they really have time to create the multi-issue, multi-faceted show that it seems to be if they spent so much time on women's issues?" And then earlier today I read a post on another community about a book I quite enjoyed, Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed". Some posters said that it seemed to be a simple liberal rant, that the study wasn't valid because a priviledged and well-off author always had that to fall back on (the book is about Ehrenreich's attempts to live as a member of the working class), and that she didn't spend enough time going into the race and class issues that related to her study. "Well," I thought (and posted), "I rather liked the book, because I thought it did out what it set out to do--show a woman trying to move beyond being an outsider looking in, and put that into language accessible for those beyond the academy--really well."

I suppose what I want to know is: what is the limit to which we can criticize something for not being so much of something? I understand that we want things to be better, and even to encompass everything that they can, but isn't there a point at which we should stop and appreciate something for what it is and doing well within the boundaries with which it was probably meant to exist? Should we always expect that a great work will breach those boundaries left, right, backwards, and forwards to be great?

I hope that this makes sense. I suppose I just feel like I can't expect every book or movie or TV show to do everything for every cause or piece of societal benefit at once, and I wonder where I draw the line between what I am justified in expecting and what I am not.

(I'll be cross-posting this to my own journal.)
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Yes, I've seen that, and it is one of my pet peeves. (Probably because my senior thesis got slammed by a professor in oral defense for not covering stuff that was completely outside of topic...grrr.)

You see this a lot, really. Pick a movie based on a historic figure or a book or some such. Invariably someone will complain that it's not accurate history or not an accurate representation of the book. My first response is "Did they say it was supposed to be?"

I think part of the problem is expectations. People have their own agendas going into things, and they get annoyed when their agenda isn't covered.

Maybe the second problem is lack of critical thinking skills. The first thing you're supposed to do in critical reading/evaluation is assess the author's purpose and biases. I don't know how many people can do that anymore. And then there's the fact that red-herring arguments are commonplace in political and social discourse. Slamming a movie for not covering your pet project is just another variation of the red herring, to me.

Well said! I agree with EVERYTHING you pointed out.
what is the limit to which we can criticize something for not being so much of something? I understand that we want things to be better, and even to encompass everything that they can, but isn't there a point at which we should stop and appreciate something for what it is and doing well within the boundaries with which it was probably meant to exist?

I agree that criticizing things for what they're not can be seriously tedious, especially when when what it's not is not even what it's supposed to be. The limit should be, I think, what is the thing supposed to be about. I Love the 80's is about pop culture stuff, not sociological stuff. If it was a documentary about the 80's on, say, A&E or the History Channel or something, then I would expect social issues to be mentioned. The question should always be, in my opinion, what was this thing trying to do or be? Did it succeed within its own parameters?

For some things one might be able to argue that the parameters were not wide enough, but then you have to think about how wide must they be?

For TV I don't expect wide parameters. The first priority there is to entertain, everything else is second. I don't think many people would find the West Wing entertaining if they spent ALL of their time on 'issues' of any sort, as it's the characters and the plots centering around them that are more important. People tune in to see character interactions, not someone preaching about an issue.

I run into the same thing writing fiction. Time and again my writing teachers and idols ;) have said, 'Don't write me an essay, write me a story.'
Hello - (randomly found this community recently.)

Criticizing something for not being something else -- yes!! I've often noticed this particular problem before. Most recently it struck me at a current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum (NYC) on Childe Hassam, the main American Impressionist painter (late 1800s, early 1900s). Beautiful paintings, varied scenes, cities, countryside, the coast, many different places. But the "wall text" kept giving us "howevers" -- almost along the lines of, this is a beautiful picture of the sunset hour next to Boston Common, HOWEVER, Hassam tended to ignore the ugly factories two miles away."

Everyone does this kind of criticizing-for-not-being of course, in favor of their own interests: Bitch magazine might criticize West Wing for not doing enough about women, while I could imagine some riding magazine criticizing The Lord of the Rings movie for not focussing more on Galdalf's excellent horse, Shadowfax.

What's interesting about the criticizing-for-not-being phenomenon, to me, is that on the whole though, the trend seems to be that beautiful or happy things tend to be more criticized for not being ugly or sad, rather than vice versa (such as in your 80s show example).

Interesting point. Maybe we're all so cynical and jaded in this day and age that we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop and something to go wrong and us to be miserable because life is filled with so many miserable things. Which it is, sometimes. But it's never bad, say, to have a little cheery nostalgia stand on its own. ;)