Art is subjective. It’s practically impossible to separate one’s own opinions from entertainment reviews because it’s literally created to be personal.
Because of that, you could walk into a room, hold a book in the air, and almost instantly summon one person who was forever changed by the story and another who felt it was an insult to literature. And because of the way we are intimately affected by the content we consume, both the hater and the lover consider themselves expert critics.
In a way, I guess we are! We’re the foremost experts in our own lives and emotions, so we’re the most valuable opinion to ourselves and those with a similar perspective. There’s no problem with engaging with a book so deeply it causes you to think and, thus, either like or dislike it. In fact, that is one of the great beauties of the written word!
The problem, and perhaps my recent issue with the world of reviews, is that we allow the opinions of others to have a stranglehold over us. Whether that be through a poor Amazon rating, a Goodreads comment, or an English teacher’s curriculum, we are swayed quickly to fall out of love with stories that affect us because Sally from Arkansas called it a “disgrace to the genre” (or something more vibrant–the review section of Goodreads is filled with colorful statements). Your experience with the book is just as important as Sally’s and doesn’t have to be exactly the same as hers, though the amount of times I’ve met someone who recused themself as a fan because of a Sally is sad.
Many times, critique is important and should be listened to, especially if it’s regarding the handling of a sensitive topic or a serious ethical misstep, but the rest of the time, all opinions of the story are allowed to exist while respecting one another.
Did that character annoy you? Or inspire you? Both are okay. Did that movie do artistic justice to the person it was based on? Or did it interpret history in a lesser way? Both are acceptable. Was this book so badly written you couldn’t finish it? Or do you reread it every year? Both are valid.
The world of reviewing in the entertainment industry, though it may bother me for the way it can lord over what we feel allowed to like, could be what someone else most loves about it. I love that, through the subjectiveness of art, we can all think and feel differently about the same thing and come together to share those impressions. That’s the magic of art and creation!
Just don’t forget– next time you scan a book review and wonder, “Why did they give it less stars than me? It must not be as good as I thought,” don’t forget that you’re allowed to take your opinion just as seriously.
Enjoy what you want to enjoy.
Respect the subjectivity of art.
Happy reading, writing, and listening!