Call us crazy, but the whole time we were reading Roger Ebert’s screed on the death of film criticism, and even more so when we were reading TOC film critic Hank Sartin’s significantly better response and elaboration, we were thinking to ourself “just swap in ‘food’ for ‘film’ and this is same old, same old.”
Ebert’s point is, broadly, that a culture of celebrity gossip and shortened attention spans — coupled with the ongoing death of print media — has ruined film criticism for everyone. Sartin’s point is that Ebert is probably in a bad mood today, because there is plenty of great writing on film to be found if you can sift through the dross. Sound familiar? Here’s one of Sartin’s paragraphs — changing only five words, it’s completely rewritten to be about comestibles:
The change, then, is that serious criticism is for the most part no longer a paid profession. Fewer venues employ full-time critics or allow them to engage in long-form criticism. And, as Nagrant also smartly points out, it’s not like newspapers outside a few urban centers were exactly fostering an army of smart cultural critics musing on food. Dig back through the last 20 years of restaurant reviews at papers in, say, Pittsburgh, Iowa City and Denver (a random selection, I swear, with no offense meant to these cities in particular), and you’re more likely to find sloppy menu summary and a simple indication of whether or not you can take the kids to eat it.
Look, y’all, exactly the same thing is happening to everyone, everywhere. The film critics are feeling it, the food critics are feeling it — heck, even the tech critics are feeling it, now that PC Magazine’s been eaten alive by the internet. Everyone’s being eaten alive by the internet, and everyone is complaining about it, and then everyone who’s not complaining about it is rebutting the complaints by pointing out that, actually, no, there’s still plenty of intelligent discussion about Topic Of Choice going on, it’s just happening on the internet by people who are writing for free.
Celebrity culture, gossip, and soundbites are, yes, taking over the American appetite for food journalism — remind us again how many blogs are recapping Top Chef these days? — but they’re also expanding the interest base. So many more people are interested in food (and movies, music, art, fashion…) these days than there used to be back when a supportive and informative community was farther away than google-enter-click. It’s the same story for everyone. Blah blah blah.
Death to film critics! Hail to the CelebCult! [EbertBlog, S-T]
Death to film critics? Ebert on the practice of professional criticism [TOC Blog]
[Photo via dro!d’s Flickr]