Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The End of The Critic

GI Joe is opening this week, and like Transformers 2--which has been the biggest hit of the summer--it isn't being screened for critics.

In the past, when a movie wasn't screened for critics, it was usually because the producers knew it would get terrible reviews.

But we're moving toward a world where producers don't seem to care about that once-valued stamp of approval. And there's a reason for this.

You, the consumer, don't care about critics.

In years past, the critic had a role to play. They informed and opined about upcoming releases--releases you may not had heard of, or that you had heard of but wanted to know more about.

But now, anything you want to know more about is just one click away. And if you're looking for opinions and reviews, you can get them from your peers.

Rottontomatoes.com and IMDB.com are where people look for movie reviews. And unlike critics, many who are notoriously tough, biased, or eccentric, these sites provide an average rating.

The masses have spoken.

Books are similarly covered (pardon the pun--actually, embrace the pun.)

With the meteoric decline in newspapers, the rise in Internet reviews has more than compensated. Besides personal blogs and websites, booksellers like Amazon, BN, and Borders all allow users to rate books. Goodreads, Librarything, and Shelfari are dedicated specifically to book reviews and recommendations.

Bye bye, Mr. Critic. You had a good run.

Personally, I find it both liberating and disconcerting. It's great that someone like Roger Ebert no longer has the power to kill a movie with a downturned thumb. No matter the media, chances are the artist worked like a dog and poured their heart and soul into the project. It isn't fair for one person to destroy potential profits.

But at least that one person was somewhat informed. While the masses seem to agree on their overall ratings, and the average is a better indicator of worth than the words of one man, there are still thousands of barely literate chuckleheads who have no clue how to review, yet continue to do so.

So we've traded snooty for ignorant.

I'm okay with that. I've spent my writing years hoping for the big newspaper and magazine reviews, and haven't gotten many. But search the net, and you'll find plenty of people willing to review my books. It levels the playing field.

It also makes me wonder when awards will follow suit.

I'm not a big fan of awards. Nepotism rules. Judges' opinions carry too much weight. Often they don't even need to read the nominated work. The self-congratulatory nature of most awards is a turn-off, and I rarely agree that the winners were indeed the best.

But what if the masses actually could pick?

I'm curious why Amazon.com doesn't give awards. Couldn't they sell a few more books by giving the top 5 Best Reviewed Books of the Year an award?

Why don't Goodreads and Librarything give awards? This seems like a more honest, and realistic, way to judge merit than just about any award I can think of.

What do you think?