Hold Up, Something’s Not Right!
You are probably thinking that I’m off my rocker here, “Jon how can a critique not be critical?” and that’s a totally fair question. When I say this I am not saying that a critique of something can’t criticize something, but instead mean that a critique does not always have to be negative. There’s a general misconception that these two things must always come hand-in-hand but do they really? I’d argue, this doesn’t always have to be the case.
I suppose a good place to start is with the exact definition of, “critique” so we are all on the same page. According to dictionary.com, critique means:
So then, what exactly is criticism? According to the same source, that is just passing judgement on something. Note that so far we haven’t mentioned anything relating to positive or negative opinions at all.
The other day I was thinking really hard about Anime YouTube videos that I had watched recently from claimed, “analytical” channels. I then noticed a trend that while they all had several positive videos, overwhelmingly, they were most well known for negative pieces.
An obvious example of this is the infamous Digibro. I’m not here to debate what he brings to the table or not, but looking at his stats (and he being one of the more vocal/transparent person about some of these things is primarily why I’m using him as an example) it is clear that people are drawn more towards his negative content. His fans often state that they want to see more analysis like his popular series such as, “The Asterisk Wars Sucks” and his Sword Art Online videos.
From this observation alone it would seem like people always expect to see these critical pieces as negative representations that spark controversy. Strictly from a views and engagement perspective this is the right move and may be what has contributed to this idea that I’m arguing against here that all critique must focus on negative criticism. After all, there is a ton of scientific evidence to support that things that make you angry are more likely to elicit a response, and thus, garner more engagement from an audience (source for easy comprehension, but be sure to check out the references at the end of the article if you want more detail).
Obviously, or at least it should be, positive analytical works also exist in this same space. Just look at Mother’s Basement and his, “What’s in an OP?” series where he breaks down anime openings. These are almost always positive videos with very little actual, negative criticism. While it is true that his own Sword Art Online (SAO) series gets a fair amount of attention, and in that he is fairly harsh, his entire channel is built more around positivity than anything else.
This should be enough to prove my point that to critique something doesn’t mean you have to be critical of the work in the classic interpretation of that phrase any way. You can see the same in my own writing. Sometimes I write more thoughtful think pieces like this, satirical works such as my GGO article, and other times I just want to get out my thoughts on why you might enjoy something like with my recent Takagi-san article.
All three examples demonstrate a critique but they vary in how they approach and apply criticism. In this article I’m stating that you don’t always need to be negative when you review or approach a topic. It is totally ok to just be positive towards something occasionally. I’m of the mind that more balanced critiques hold more value, but sometimes that simply isn’t necessary. That means, by my same logic, that these negative pieces have a place as well, they just are often over utilized and get the most attention.
An example of taking a negative opinion but placing a positive spin on things would be the GGO article I wrote. The whole thing is making fun of how a lot of people weren’t reviewing Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online but rather taking that as an opportunity to bash SAO more. I’m very much doing a critique of the community in this sense and even apply some small level of analysis but I attempt to keep the article both fun and imply that my statements therein are mostly a joke. This is probably the best example of taking a negative but portraying a positive that I have on my website.
This second example is the kind of works I would like to see more of. How can you take this negative opinion of yours and put a positive spin on it? While it may not be as lucrative in terms of getting those precious views, you may just surprise yourself because creating content in this manner is difficult. In fact, I’d argue that over time you’d come out a far superior content creator with something unique to bring to the table (so ultimately it’d payoff).
My final example from my own work is my mini review of Takagi-san. In that article I just list a few reasons why you might want to check the show out. They are all positive and I don’t mention any of my complaints in with the show in the article at all. Why? I don’t need to. I’m not doing a deep-dive analytical piece here, I am just making a recommendation while providing the bare minimum of criticism: the show is good.
Normally, this kind of article would be boring because it isn’t balanced at all nor am I pointing out potential flaws that you as a viewer may see in the program. However, this particular article performed fairly well. It’s an example of how sometimes you don’t need to always break down something into fine detail and deliver mind-blowing ideas about a work.
When I started this article I had more thoughts to include but I think I’ve made my point well enough here. Maybe this came off as a bit pretentious even? Regardless, this was an interesting idea at the very least that I hope sparks some interesting conversation. That’s where I turn things over to you. Do you think that you have to be critical, and by that I mean negative, when providing critique?
Hopefully this made some inkling of sense. I’d love to hear your thoughts so please provide them in the comments as usual. My donation button is below if you can spare a few dollars for this starving artist. And, as always, thanks for reading!