In a recent tweet you said:
“Modern media critique includes knowing how to navigate right-wing culture war attacks. Any new show probably has problems worth talking about, but you have to say it without sounding like you agree with bigots.”
Do you have any advice on how to do this?
Thank youDave L
Hey, Dave, great to hear from you! As luck would have it, I do indeed have some advice on this sometimes-thorny topic.
The first thing to consider is whether the story in question is in your wheelhouse at all. If it’s not, it’s probably best to just leave the critique unpublished. For example, I don’t at all care for Disney’s practice of remaking their animated movies into live action, but I’ve never really written about that issue on Mythcreants before. As such, I wouldn’t start such a critique with the upcoming Little Mermaid film, because it would look like I was singling that movie out for daring to make Ariel Black.
On the other hand, I have a long history of critiquing big-budget fantasy adaptations, so when I inevitably publish something about Rings of Power, it’s less likely to look like I’m piling on with the people who are mad about Sophia Nomvete playing the best dwarven character we’ve had in ages.
Once you’ve decided whether something is in your sphere of critiques or not, it’s time to consider how to write the critique itself. This can be tricky, since a lot of bad-faith critique isn’t as blatant as “BLACK MERMAID BAD.” Instead, people make huge deals out of technical issues. With Rings of Power, the reactionaries are all apparently upset that it’s deviating from Tolkien’s canon, as laid out in some letters that almost no one has ever read. With She-Hulk, there’s a lot of noise made about the show’s allegedly bad CGI.
It’s hard to say whether these critiques have merit. She-Hulk’s CGI doesn’t seem particularly bad to me, but I don’t exactly have an eye for these things. Nor can I say if Rings of Power is actually contradicting what Tolkien wrote down. Granted, I also don’t care, but that’s another issue.
Assuming those points are correct though, how big a deal are they really? Be honest about it. Even if we accept that She-Hulk’s CGI isn’t the greatest, the show is still primarily a courtroom comedy. How much does bad CGI really hurt it? Was it also an unforgivable mistake when Peter Jackson’s LotR trilogy made some pretty hefty changes, or is it only a problem when Rings of Power does it?
After that, you can move on to more substantial critiques, like how Rings of Power’s plot can generously be described as “sedate” or how giving the Harfoots faux-Irish accents turns them into a bunch of nasty stereotypes. But you should always keep fairness in mind. Other shows have had similar problems in the past, so it shouldn’t feel like you’re inconsistently condemning Rings of Power for them. Describe the problem and explain the damage done, but don’t sensationalize it.
Finally, there will always be judgment calls. I didn’t much care for Dead End: Paranormal Park, but there are so few shows with a trans boy (voiced by a trans actor) in the lead role that I’m not looking to write a critique of it. I have critiqued similar cartoons in the past, so it wouldn’t be out of nowhere, but that extra context means I just wouldn’t feel good about it.
Hope that helps, and good luck with your critiquing!