The Boneyard: To Critique or Not To Critique?

From the desk of Sean Tuohy: "Has being a writer/photographer/designer affected the way you enjoy books, movies, art, photography, or television shows? Are you able to unplug long enough to enjoy the experience, or are you constantly on the lookout for things to critique?"

Alex Tzelnic: I am constantly being critiqued for how critical I am. Nary a pop cultural experience passes by without my friends expecting me to expectorate all over it. The truth is, not only do I love so many things, but I also love to hate so many other things for failing to achieve the standards of the things I love. Why devote hours to an experience only to passively move on to the next? I'd rather parse the minutiae, debate the details, and become fully immersed in the consumption of culture. I critique because I care.

Sean Tuohy: I can unplug and enjoy myself when reading a book. I'm a reader and not a writer at that moment. However, when it comes to television and movies, the screenwriter in me is very critical of the pacing, the dialog, everything.

Yet, I still watch “Empire.”

Daniel Ford: I've discovered I'm way more critical of written communication than I ever was in my twenties. Once you learn the rules, and know how to bend and break them effectively, it's tough to read something that is written poorly. Typos in articles, lists, and emails now stand out like me in a hot yoga studio. It doesn't necessarily make me devalue the content, but it makes me question why this person didn't have a more competent editor. 

Then again, I once went on a diatribe about being a stickler for the rules entitled "F U Grammar Po Po," so I could just be full of shit.

Reading a novel is different. I think I give authors more leeway than say a blogger or journalist. A book has to be really bad for me to start tearing it apart midway through. But I do notice and appreciate when authors do things that surprise or impress me in regards to sentence structure, characterization, or word choice. It all fits into the writer's toolbox I cart around.

Lisa Carroll: Being an English teacher certainly puts me on high alert when it comes to reading just about anything, especially personal and professional communications. I spend a great deal of time crafting emails and letters and I expect others to do the same. Blogs, editorials, opinion pieces, and some “news” articles (especially in our local paper) make me want to cringe and I have, on occasion, sent an article in after brandishing my red pen and marking it up. Apparently everyone knows I'm a little judgy because a friend of mine recently sent me a shirt that says, "I am silently correcting your grammar." (Like I do anything silently!)

However, as a theater educator, I am never able to unplug at a show. I am constantly hyper-aware of the technical elements. “Where is that light coming from?” “How did that set piece move that way?” “How did she change so quickly?” “Is that a wig?” I'm also aware of directorial decisions: “Why did she cross there?” “Was he really the best person for this part?” “I love the relationship they've built between the father and the daughter."

No matter the level—local, educational, professional, or location—from Bristol to Broadway, I cannot just watch a show. And my daughter has been blessed/cursed with the same critical eye so when we go to a show together we deconstruct every moment. And she is also a grammar Nazi who will probably have a few comments on this piece. It's pretty awesome that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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