Why stars should think twice before calling out their criticsApril 30, 2021
From Lizzo to Lana Del Rey, celebrities have taken umbrage with reviews online. But arguing with journalists only warps the public’s view of the media, and puts writers under siege
In 2018, while working as a freelance writer, I travelled three hours outside of London on a train, and then a coach, to review a music festival. I camped in the cold and the rain, waking up at 8am each morning to make sure I didn’t miss anything. When I got home, I filed what I thought was a generous review. I did not expect the organiser and the founder of the festival to find me on Twitter to tell me that I clearly hadn’t attended, or that my three-star review was full of lies. They were hurt that I hadn’t given it five stars. I was hurt that my hard work – complete with blood blisters, swollen glands and glitter that took two weeks to wash out of my hair – was now seen as a declaration of war.
As an editor and sometime critic specialising in pop culture, differing perceptions are par for the course. I find it skull-crushingly boring to see the same TV show or album receive near-identical reviews across the board, or read identikit reviews of the same film. I inhale people’s opinions – the good and the bad, the funny and the touching, the flippant and the problematic – and exhale them. I don’t internalise them. I don’t agree with a lot of what I read, but I take something from it: someone else’s views. I go to certain people because I know, nine times out of 10, we think very, very differently (here’s looking at you, Camilla Long). Reviews can serve as a guide but they are also an artform in their own right. They entertain, inform and challenge readers. The writer AO Scott described criticism in his 2016 book Better Living Through Criticism as “art’s late-born twin”.