If I have learned one thing in my decades of engaging, one way or another, with culture and art, it’s that if you’re going to make a public critique of something, make sure that your critique stems from what you believe, and not what other people believe, or what you think other people believe, or what you think other people believe about what you believe. It’s fine to contextualize your ideas within a popular or social framework; it’s even necessary at times. But there is absolutely nothing more wasteful or pointless than building your criticism around what other people think about something. If your opinions aren’t your own, if they’re not built around aesthetics or theories or ideas that you have about art, then why bother to have them? One of the most frustrating, boring, stupid things about criticism in the present age is watching people react against ideas that they think someone else has, or write about opinions they assume are prevalent about this or that cultural object, or let their expressions be guided by the reaction they anticipate some completely imaginary person is going to have about them. If you can’t be bothered to believe in what you’re doing, why on Earth would anybody else?
-Leonard Pierce, outlining one of his own personal Ten Commandments. (I’ve broken this one more than I’d like to admit.)
I think breaking it is probably unavoidable & even desirable at certain times, definitely think that in general, though, the tendency is too much meta-criticism, too many “why like A when B exists”-type statements ineffectively used, too much circle-jerk writing / writing for other critics.
It’s a fine balance, though, because I think, at least in the genres we write about, there’s far too much tunnel-vision writing that presumes the centrality of whatever happens to float right in front of the writer’s face.