The Death of Critical Analysis

Image Courtesy: Ephemeral Scraps
Image Courtesy: Ephemeral Scraps

By Ethan Harmon

Being a writer is fun. You can literally do anything with words: create fictional realities, convey an emotion through the stanzas of a poem, describe in perfect detail the wondrous experiences of a new place, analyze the themes and metaphors of a story, etc. Being a critic can be equally fun. Looking for deeper meaning in art and explaining what “works” and what “may be been too much” can give a writer a lot of power. But it seems, as of late, that power has been misused. More often than not, critics have been absolutely tearing apart movies, comics, books, and other pieces of art, destroying the work at the seams and leaving nothing left except a muddled lump of what used to be a form of artist expression.

Critics, and the process of critical analysis, have effectively been demonizing art due to the overwhelming about of hate and animosity that has been written and blasted throughout the web. It is understandable to want to emulate other writers or critics – to try to follow the same guidelines when analyzing work – in order to gain an audience and validity. But to completely follow the exact same technique, to analyze and only focus on the “wrong” aspects, is why critical analysis is dying.

When analyzing a text, one must search for the deeper meaning hidden within. Essentially, one must find the metaphors, overarching themes, potential parables, allusions, etc. When critiquing, a writer should discuss at length what he or she believes the artist was trying to convey, using what was found as a foundation for the analysis. This means using both the “good” and, if necessary, the “bad” aspects. Writers should not focus solely on the “bad” just to gain attention or feel superior for finding a deeper meaning that “was not effective” or was “terrible.”

This is not to say that every critic is destroying the art of critical analysis or is ruining critiquing for others. And this is not to say that every piece of art has a positive side (there are some works that are offensive, sexist, racist, etc.). But, there is a staggering number of bloggers and critics that are flushed with a superiority complex and are writing their reviews for the wrong reasons, taking the wrong mindset into their process.

Critiquing and analyzing should be two-sided. The critic should explain what they found, why it worked, what it conveyed, why it mattered, what may have not worked, why it may have ineffectively used certain elements, and why the audience should care. It should not be a witch hunt of finding only faults and lavishing in the fact that the artists had these issues. It’s either the good and the bad and why it matters, or nothing at all. Focusing on only one aspect will lead to the downfall of critiquing.