I used to get all huffy and puffy when I would hear negative criticism. I still get a little up-in-arms on certain things (ie, Star Wars), but in my older years, I think I've mellowed out. Negative criticism is going to come my way, just like how diarrhea will come my way (unexpected, unplanned and will eventually pass). Along with doing what I do, liking what I like and reading about people that just did their stuff (doubters and all), I've realized this: negative criticism doesn't stop creativity.
In many cases, when people rip someone else's work apart, it tests the creator's confidence. I've never heard of somebody who stopped doing what he or she does just because of what critics say. Some people revel in negative reviews while some cry their eyes out. For me, I know what I'm into and what I want to do. The stuff I'm into isn't for everyone (is there really anything for everyone other than food, sleep and liquids?), so I don't aim that far.
Doing this in the way of a critic, I want to be honest with how I feel about a piece of music, a movie or a book. I'd like to think that a critic would do the same with something of my own. However, if someone were to write a rude, vicious and misinformed tirade, that would probably sting the most. I can't prevent that stuff like that from happening, but I don't think I would ever take comfort in one.
If you've followed the films and fandom of writer/director Kevin Smith over the years, you may very well know that he likes to make fun of the world of anonymous back-talkers on the Internet. Some of these people troll Ain't It Cool News, the popular site for movie gossip, interviews and reviews, and leave comments on every article that is run. In the case of Kevin Smith's films and Kevin Smith himself, naysayers love to diss on the writer/director's work (from saying he can't direct, can't write, he's fat and so on). This isn't just for Kevin Smith; the "Talk-Backers" rip everyone apart, even the most widely embraced. Interestingly (and an AICN first), Smith has decided to fire back at these naysayers by responding in the Talk-Back forums (his latest responses can be found here). I found one of his remarks incredibly right on target:
But here’s the thing: I get that there are folks who don’t dig on what I’ve made. Just like I understand there are plenty of folks who do dig on our flicks. But while I can understand someone seeking out a website/thread to talk about some movie they like, I’ll never get my head around the folks who spew forth the bile. I mean, what’s the point? If I don’t like a movie, I never watch it again. If the dislike is so intense that I need to vent about it, I vent to my wife. If the preoccupation with the flick is still there, I bounce around under the old lady for awhile ‘til my head’s clear. If that doesn’t work, I watch another movie I do like. But never once have I been so hell-bent for leather that I’d go to some website to vent about movie-hating – particularly if I wasn’t profiting off it somehow. I mean, what’s the point[?]
Smith makes a very good argument, but in the case of the most driven Talk-Backers, this doesn't stop them from criticizing, just like they don't stop Smith from making movies, writing comics, etc. Sure, Smith makes no bones about being a little miffed by this kind of criticism (hell, he spent most of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back making fun of it), but he keeps doing what he wants to do. Smith may keep taking the piss out of Talk-Backers, but that won't stop them from dissing his work. They'll keep going as long as there is something to bitch about.
It's human nature to complain and criticize, but why do we do revel in it so much? I think it's easy, natural and relatively harmless to talk about something that works against us. A variety of opinions is great but I don't think we ever truly enjoy negative remarks as much as positive remarks.