The Great Audience Critic Divide - Part Two

Editor's Note: We recently had C. Robert Cargill weigh in on the sentiment of "hating critics." This week we present Maryann Johanson's (veteran critic and reciever of hate mail) take on the situation.

Why don't people like film critics? That's an odd question for a film critic to field, because no one likes to think of herself as hated, and yet it's clearly true that some moviegoers, at least, consider me a blight on the glory that is the studio system. Actually, that's a rather polite way to frame the typical complaint I hear; most of the less-than-friendly feedback I receive is not fit for the ears of a nice website of tender years like Film.com.

This is the thing, though, too: While most critics can regale you with horror tales about hate mail, most critics will also acknowledge that the "I hate film critics" meme is generally not about a specific critic, not even the one on the receiving end of any given instance of hate mail. It's just "critics" that the haters hate.

Here's what I think is going on: It's hard to hate an individual person. (Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I respond to vulgar condemnation of my opinions, the hater relents and admits he let the anonymity of the Internet carry him away, and becomes much more pleasant when confronted with a real person.) But "critics" aren't people. "Critics" are a faceless, nameless conglomerate of snooty snoots, probably suspiciously liberal and urban ones at that, who think they're better than everyone else and are somehow under the impression that they have the right to tell other people what to think about movies. Also, in a bizarre paradox of nonreason, critics are believed to hate movies.

And the truth is, of course, that no one would sit through G-Force or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen if they didn't love movies in general and fervently wish to love every specific movie as well. And when that hope is crushed, it's true that we can be harsh. Imagine having your heart broken every other time you went to the movies. Don't hate us because we were disappointed by a movie you loved (that's usually where the "I hate critics" thing springs from), pity us instead. We were denied what you were granted: a good time at the multiplex. And pity us our addiction; you can avoid movies you think you're gonna hate, but we critics can't. And not because we're getting paid to sit through bad movies (critics don't get paid that much). We're there because we're hooked, way worse than you are.

Remember that the next time you hear someone say, "I hate critics." We are the way we are because we love movies too much not to be upset when we don't love one. We're not telling you what to think about a movie. We're just telling you what we think ... and never as vociferously as when we're brokenhearted.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

MaryAnn Johanson loves movies, honestly, at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)