The writer Brian Aldiss once noted that British science fiction fandom could be characterised by the 'whine of tiny critics', in contrast to its US equivalent, which tended to be far more supportive of the objects of its affection. Indeed, I think that his observation can be applied far more widely. Here in the UK, everybody seems to be a critic - it isn't enough just to enjoy something anymore, it has to be dissected and analysed in minute detail. Now, this would be fine if the criticism involved was constructive, but more often than not it simply seems to be nit-picking and pedantry. Take the reconstituted Dr Who
, as an example. Now, as someone who always enjoyed the original version, I was simply happy to see the series back after a sixteen year break. I was
pleasantly surprised to find that its latest incarnation is a well-paced, slickly made, wittily written entertainment. But of course, what it isn't, is simply a continuation of the old version with rickety sets, storylines often convoluted to the point of incomprehensibility and camp costumes and performances, all produced on a zero budget. Of course, that,
it seems, is precisely what the die hard Who
fans wanted - they don't want progress, they can't accept that TV and audiences have moved on since the original series was cancelled. Viewers now have far higher, and different, expectations of TV drama. Not only that, but the majority of the new series viewers are not
fans, or even science fiction fans for that matter. However, these die hards are, unfortunately, highly vociferous, so message boards, phone ins and letters pages are clogged with their moronic dribblings. Look, if you don't like the new series, just fuck off and watch your videos and DVDs of those creaky old episodes from yesteryear.
But it isn't just Dr Who,
we've also had campaigns by so-called fans waged against the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, before anyone has even seen him in action. For Christ's sake, let's give him a chance! But like the Who
fans, these obsessive see themselves as keepers of the flame, guardians of some idea of a 'perfect' Doctor Who or James Bond. Of course, these never existed - if you watch old Bond films, they are often just as creaky as old episodes of Dr Who
, and actually aren't faithful to their source material, the original Ian Fleming novels. Ultimately, the trouble with fans is that they think they have some kind of 'ownership' of the object of their affections. There is nothing so conservative as a 'fan' - they hate the idea that their interpretation of a character/book/TV series?film isn't the definitive
interpretation. When their perspective is challenged, altered or reinterpreted by someone else, their response is to become a 'tiny critic', continually whingeing and sniping.
Of course, the critics would say that it is us creative types who are being over-sensitive and precious, resenting any reinterpretation or appraisal of our work. Maybe they have a point, but I feel there is good reason for our hostility to them. The other day I was reading about the '10%' principle as applied to the web. What this postulates is that for every hundred web-users, there is one who will actually create a site or community, whilst another nine or ten might contribute to it, whilst the other ninety percent will simply use the site without contributing. Now, I'd add that of that ninety per cent, a good twenty five to thirty will also take it upon themselves to criticise
the work of the creative ten percent. In my experience, their criticisms are generally trivial - the number of times I've come across message board discussions of my stories where the neither the content nor style are critiqued, but instead posters gripe about the background colour of the page, or the font size! For fuck's sake, get a grip! - and seem to be made just for the sake of saying something. You see, this is what pisses us creative types off - if you are going to be a tiny critic, at least try and have something worthwhile to contribute to the debate. In fact, why not actually try and get a debate started rather than just sniping? But of course, that would require some kind of creativity on their parts, and that's what they lack and that's why they're tiny critics, whining away on some message board nobody cares about!
I know, I know, I'm just another bitter and twisted failed artist...
Labels: Musings From the Mind of Doc Sleaze