We're all critics. All of us. (Even you, peace-loving person reading this — if you're critical of this piece, you're a critic, so there you go. Join me.) Criticism is important. It brings attention to topics in dire need of such, and it can create change as a result. On the flipside, criticism can be less monumental but also great: it can happen when you see a movie, which inspires you to form an opinion. Then, you find another person who has an opinion, and then you talk about it, and a debate is had, and good for us, we all look cultured.
But here's what's not cultured. Actually, here's what sucks: mindless criticism. The kind that sucks the fun out of literally everything in an attempt to turn us into bored-looking Instagram models holding — in the words of Ray from Girls — cool cigarettes.
You know what kind of people I'm talking about. They're the people you've said "Oh I like this thing!" to, and they return with "Pfff that thing sucks, and here's why, and I don't care how little or how well I know you, you're wrong and I'm going to make you feel that way." And then you're stuck standing there either trying not to engage, or forced into a confrontation. If you say nothing, you feel bullied. If you say something, you're playing into their hand. If you say something that shoots them down (I personally prefer a solid, "Yeah, well I do what I want" so loudly they can't physically talk over me), you're an asshole. But in reality, they are the assholes. And not just because they don't agree with you.
Universal agreement is dangerous, and challenging is important. If we all agreed on everything, we'd be mindless zombies on par with the cast of The Walking Dead, and let's be honest: baby Judith isn't much of an actress. But this isn't about criticism for the sake of meaningful discussion or politics, it's about the criticism used to make somebody else feel small.
This move isn't new. We've seen it growing up, and most of us have been on either end of it at some point. We've felt embarassed after somebody slagged off our shoes in grade seven, or we've made somebody in high school feel stupid for liking a movie your "cool" friends didn't. It's a power move. But unlike a power move of, say, someone whose power actually matters, it's the power move of somebody with such low self esteem they only know how to measure their own against somebody else's. And we know this! This is not new information. We're smarter than succumbing to this, we're better than succumbing to this, and we'd dismiss the offender in a heart beat if they hurt any of our friends. BUT it still happens to us.
I get how awesome it is to feel "cool." I have felt "cool" for a total of about six months over the course of my entire life, and during those six months, I felt awesome for about 12 days. Afterwards, I began a highly choreographed performance of not getting myself kicked out of the group, and from there it was all downhill. I laughed at jokes that weren't funny, I wore clothes I didn't like, I went to parties I'd rather eat poison than attend again, and when me and the group finally broke up, I was relieved. Every time. Constant critics are exhausting. People who can't let other people enjoy things like shitty movies and pop music are exhausting. Having to defend eating McDonalds for lunch is even more so. (Because yeah, I like McNuggets so DEAL WITH IT, YOU MONSTERS.) If you're not hurting anybody, WHO CARES. You're not the Police. I'm not Sting. How somebody else chooses to spend a Saturday is none of your business.
And when exactly did we start over-romanticizing pessimists? When did it become "cool" to be the person who saw the glass "half empty"? (More than one person has actually said that to me — I think they were trying to seem interesting.) What am I supposed to say to that? "Cool, man. Hanging out with you must be a lot of fun. Can we do it sometime? I'll make sure to wear something I'm sure you'll find is uninspired, then you can tell me all about how I got it wrong." That's not criticism — that's being a massive downer. The best kinds of critics look at things and talk about improving them (or do). Being somebody who pointlessly nitpicks isn't "cultured" or even a real "critic" — they're just that relative you don't sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner.
And don't get me wrong: I hate a lot of things. A lot of things. I hate art installation parties. I hate parties I don't have at least a few good friends at. I hate heavily posed Instagram photos that pretend to be spontaneous. I hate soup, 85% of the time. I hate low rise pants. I hate lemon-filled donuts. (HATE THEM.) I hate any event I need a password for. I hate 50 Shades of Grey and I haven't even read the series. I hate humblebrags. (JUST BRAG, IT'S WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.) I really, really hate most Charlie Sheen-related TV shows, and I hate cigarette smoke. (Which I've especially earned the right to hate because I smoked for 12 years.) See? I hate lots. And amongst friends who also hate those things, I'm in all of my glory. But am I going to tell somebody eating their lemon donut that I hate lemon donuts? Am I going to see someone in low rise pants and say "I don't like them on me, so screw you"? Am I going to tell a smoker to quit? Nope. Why? Well, WHAT IS THE POINT. WHAT AM I TRYING TO PROVE BY DOING THAT.
I know most of us feel like losers sometimes. I know we want to figure out the cool currency and use it in moments of feeling particularly uninspired. I know we want to set out some code we can master so we can be better than everybody else. WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE. None of this is original thought. But making somebody feel like shit isn't going to make us feel amazing. Criticizing for the sake of having something to say isn't going to make us any smarter; it's going to make us bullies. (Or at the very least, the last person anybody wants to hang out with, ever.)
Criticize the things that need to be criticized. But making somebody feel bad because they liked the Katy Perry movie is only proving you're somebody who isn't open to different opinions. And that's terrifying. Dictators think the same way. So instead, let's criticize what needs to be criticized. I mean, how on earth is Charlie Sheen still on television.