Can Critics Be Wrong?
Absolutely. But it isn't about trying to be right in the first place.
I have been critiquing virtually all forms of entertainment media for almost seven years now, and the longer I do this, the more I sympathise with other critics' increasing exhaustion with the endeavour. Not because it gets boring—although I do very much like to save my creative juices for other projects in the interest of exploring other challenge-filled avenues—but because it sometimes feels like audiences don't understand or appreciate why critique exists in the first place.
I couldn't tell you how many times I've witnessed critics getting personally harangued by their commentators in lieu of receiving constructive feedback on their analytical and argumentation skills alone, for even daring to hold a reasonable opinion—even about something as simple as a children's film, mind you—that differs from theirs, as if they're the ones being attacked. Moreover, if they couldn't be bothered to help critics improve their content creating in this way, then they most certainly wouldn't provide an insightful or well-substantiated alternative reading of the subject in question either.
Even then, I'd dismiss comments like these as nothing more than indicators of despairing boredom that doesn't know any better. What I find baffling, rather, are the individuals who are actually capable of thinking for themselves and demonstrating that ability, but nevertheless choose condescension as their method of delivery. Belittlement over education. This is, needless to say, counterproductive, because we're learning more about their character—and by extension, what we don't need in our circles—as opposed to their perspective.
This mentality seems to stem from people's assumptions that critics are necessarily presenting their observations as fact, thereby doing all the work for the consumer. But I must ask: Since when was it the critic's job to be "in the right?"
Critics are not—and should not—be a source to extract "the answers" from. We write to inspire a reader's critical thinking. We speak to encourage dialogue. Everyone should have access to media and literature through which to formulate their own arguments. Most importantly, participants should share their knowledge and experiences while also understanding or internalising others'.
Whether a critic is right or wrong about an assertion they make all depends on what the respondent gets out of it. If you can produce content of your own in any capacity that effectively contributes to the discussion—and perhaps offers a fascinating approach for the audience to consider—then that's when the critic has done something right. The idea isn't to talk down to anyone—it's to empower and excite in a world that oftentimes feels limiting in how we're supposed to feel and what we're supposed to say.
The same thing applies to positive reactions, believe it or not. I know how wonderful it feels when someone thoroughly praises my work, but I also acknowledge that suggesting helpful improvements whenever deemed necessary can do wonders for career longevity. We aren't always aware if we're becoming stale, or worse, regressing; not to mention, we run the risk of letting our egos get the best of us. At that point, patient and respectful discourse is unfortunately out of the question.
There is another more serious matter I want to address before signing off, however. Just as negativity can reduce opportunities for growth, too much positivity is potentially dangerous, especially when it comes to taking a statement at face value, as it gives rise to the kind of destructive behaviours we see in enablers and cancel culture as a whole. A critic's responsibility lies in providing resources for healthy consumption and a safe platform for their audience, while it is up to the audience to hold the entire community to its own virtues.