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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

entry arrow9:22 AM | In Defense of Going Against the Popular

As a sometime critic, I get bashed all the time for dissing on popular works, and for championing the strange and the largely unseen or unread. I've been called a dinosaur, a tadpole, and a never-been who has resorted to criticism for lack of the real thing. Time's Richard Corliss, heaven bless him, has a sharp reply to this silly notion that critics [in this case, for film] are a useless bunch of people who are not in-tune with the popular culture:

Instead of parroting the company line, we are the informed, independent voice amid the cacophony... In a fragmented cultural landscape, we're the last generalists, fascinated with all kinds of movies, seeing everything, so you don't have to.

In print, and increasingly online, we help guide readers who might want to see a movie for a reason other than that a barrage of 30-sec. commercials told them to. Critical praise for Little Miss Sunshine and Pan's Labyrinth launched those films into the public conversation. Indeed, the reader feedback I get is less "Shame on you for dumping on that megahit" and more "Thanks for championing that 'little film' I might have missed."

Hollywood's marketers have become tremendously efficient at getting their core audience to see their big movies. They don't need critics for that. But critics have a larger utility: to put films in context, to offer an informed perspective, to educate, outrage, entertain. We're just trying to do what every other writer is doing: making sense of one part of your world.

And I must add: critics are certainly the last arbiter in determining who or which in the cultural landscape gets immortality. Popular taste does not make something necessarily good. Lord Alfred Tennyson was a popular poet during his lifetime, but he was easily outsold by a religious hack named Martin Tupper. The best-selling poet during Robert Frost's lifetime was another hack named Edgar A. Guest. And dare I even mention Dan Brown for today's readers?


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich