Self-Styled Siren quotes a professional film critic about the impact of blogs: "I have no idea what is going to happen with the...review biz. The Web has created this false sense of authority, in which everyone believes his or her opinion is equally valid. Witness blogs. Witness the e-mail I get, in which my correspondents rip me a new one each day."
. . .the Amazon and IMDB comments pages, and blogs, enable some badly educated and tasteless people to give an inflated rating to their own opinions. It's difficult to argue with that. While some people in those forums write from a careful consideration of what they have read or seen before, others rant, ramble and cannot even bother with spell check. There is a definite streak of anti-intellectualism in the anti-critic school of thought, too. Critics are snobs, rage the IMDB chatboards. What do they know? I'd rather listen to someone just like me.
Some critics, however, have devalued themselves. The movie studios get sycophantic, third-rate members of the press to write "HANG ONTO YOUR SEATS!" or some such about their latest ghastly shoot-'em-up, and after a while even the word of a writer for a major daily carries a great deal less weight.
It is true that not everyone's opinion is equally valid--but this means only that not everyone bothers to support his/her opinion with equal weight. Simply writing for a newspaper does not in itself convey a "true" authority to the critic, if the views expressed do not go beyond plot summaries and vapid opinionizing. Speaking for myself, I don't find much critical weight in the opinions--about either film or books--expressed in most of the "major dailies" The amount of space given over to reviews is much too sparse to allow for much real criticism of any kind, and, if anything, SSS understates the extent to which film and book reviewers have become appendages of their respective "industries."
We can only hope that blogs don't succumb to the same temptations to sycophancy. If litblogs become just another opportunity for publishers to hawk their wares, as Dennis Johnson fears might be happening, a real opportunity to provide a critical alternative to the media powers-that-be--to rip them a new one indeed--will have been lost.