So while I was away the Internet was talking about the widespread firing of arts and movie critics from our nation’s papers, and the situation that puts us in. It may be a general coincidence that the death of criticism, for economic reasons, follows so closely after the death of theory (in this case, supposedly, for non-economic reasons.) It certainly is a personal coincidence that I was catching up on this while belatedly reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. So my thoughts processed like this:
It is only natural that criticism’s defenders are critics. It is much like this week’s letter in defense of corn syrup, penned by Corn Refiners Association president Audrae Erickson. But exactly what are the readers consuming, and what will they lose if criticism disappears? At its most refined, criticism after theory takes a work of art and processes it until it emerges, just to pick a random example, as a vehicle for discussion of Marxist struggle. Now that piece of criticism can be really satisfying, but not everyone is going to believe those ingredients were there in the original. Which is to say that criticism is a value-added. It is something new, and artificial. It is corn syrup, chicken mcnuggets—the same nutrition in higher density.
So life after criticism, if what the papers say is right, will probably see a go-organic or return-to-natural movement, which I guess would mean taking in our movies and music raw and un-pre-criticized. Or it could be a return of artistic locavores—more “Fugazi fucking rock because they’re from DC!” and less “José González fucking rocks because he’s from everywhere!” It would be hard for me to say what effect any of these developments would have on the triumph of global capitalism.
Fact: Corn syrup is the best!