Critics and bad words, or About Bad Manners

appalledI was just reading a discussion in Ballet Alert!  about  what  a critic is entitled to write, and how. It was VERY enlightening.

I discovered, among other important things, that I use the word  REALLY too much, kkkk… Luckily, being a writer is NOT on my future plans!

Jokes apart, I discovered that in USA a lot of people agree that a critic has the right to write down, and publish, exactly what he thinks, using whatever words come to his mind. He may even offend someone personally, if he is angry with that someone  – the critic may be angry, they said, because he is watching a bad performance, and this would justify any words he uses.


It baffled me!

Freedom of speech is something tricky, and I heard too many times that merely thinking to impose censure on words is a malevolous symptom of marxist ideals… I must conclude, then, that my parents, known for their definite right-wing positions, were marxists deep down, because they taught me abusive words were bad manners, no matter what.

I, in my turn, taught my daughter that, if you don’t agree with someone’s behaviour, you can state it clearly (never abusively), BUT you cannot state anything about the person herself, because you don’t know what caused the behaviour – that is something you may ASK, preferably  even before criticizing.

That someone has the right  to call Ratmansky an “idiot”, affirm that Ivan Vasiliev’s dancing is “driven by ego”, that Vishneva “was a Giselle who was living up to her own press notices rather than to the role’s drama”, or that a ballet dancer “should have been strangled at birth”, is beyond my understanding.

To be fair, though, I must say not all Americans agreed this was good reviewing, one remembered reviewing is supposed to be educational – not just about the critics enhanced personal feelings -;  one agreed there are media where you can get “coloquial”, and other media where you have to keep to standards – that were not met; one wondered if you should cricize just the performance or decision, not the artist personally. So, it seems, ethical values did  not all go down the drain-pipe. Still being fair, critics in other countries also go over the board – I read russian (Google Translator…) and english reviews that were scathing and personal too.

It seems it is a trend typical of our times (thank God, it has not arrived here, such wording is unthinkable in my country’s journalism, yet): more and more people agree that you have the RIGHT to state your opinion no matter what – no need to think about possible bad consequences, nor about taking facts into account, nor about respecting the Other like you would like to be respected, nor about fairness, nor about personal freedom (yours ceases where mine begins). If you have the right to attack  my dignity as a person or professional, if you have the right to act aggressively toward me based on assumptions and opinions, this sounds definitely like infringement of individual rights to me.

Because it comes down to that, or not? A lot of totalitarian regimens, and power relations (like white-black, colonialism, christian-other, islamic-other, master-slave), have exactly this kind of infringement of individual rights as ground-stones.

Are you thinking, man, now SHE’s is gone completely over the board?

Sadly, you know, I’m not:  you must know were the way you choose will take you – I’m  just taking the argument to it´s logical conclusion, nothing else.

What next: will critics have the right to beat up performers they do not like? Or maybe even the audience will have this “right”?

Oh, no, you will say, that’s completely different!

NO, it’s not, or don’t you know that words can cause just as much havoc as a beating, or more?  In what way is such a critic different from, for example,  a bullying kid, or a bullying cop, or an abusive parent? Critics ARE in a power position, and words can be weapons, those who know how to use them should use them REALLY carefully!

But such things make you stronger, you will say  (waving your 30 years old whisky before my nose), the world belongs to the fittest!

Well I hope that ballet dancer that should be strangled at birth belonged to the fittest!  (I’m  spilling my beer all over the place, I’m SO angry!!!)

Some artists have huge and healthy Egos (freudian sense now), and won’t be harmed by any opinion about them. But others are messed-up and over-sensitive, what then? If  someone wrote, in a large newspaper, I should have been strangled at birth, it would take me years to recover, if at all… A lot of artists, and a lot of people that love art  like me, do not belong to the fittest. It is not uncommon that a great artist’s talent is deeply entwined in an unbalanced and overwraught personality. Should we throw the baby away with the bathwater?

In short: I believe good-manners are philosophically and ethically grounded on individual rights, not just an empty social nicety.

But that does not make sense in liberal thought, so, in an american-way-of-life-wording: does cost/benefit justify such behaviour in critics?


If  this bad-manners-are-ok-trend persists, it will be only one more aspect where I will become “border-line” – not completely out of the system, but surely, and  proudly!, a misfitted component.

One thought on “Critics and bad words, or About Bad Manners

  1. After the terrible terrorist attack in France, this post may seem ill-timed and wrong, but I maintain my position. I quote from one comment on the 23 JeSuisCharlie cartoons: “Political art is a form of expression that is rebellious in its nature. May it continue.” I fully agree. The key word here is political – they are questioning power relations, and as such, MUST use whatever power they have as press, and humour is a most powerful one,
    Even humour is more effective when it’s not offensive – serenely subjecting someone to ridicule denies ALL the power he has over me – all the way down to the last straw – while being offensive means he gets at me, I’m re-acting in a game where the rules are not mine.
    Anyway, if there is a power relation in Art, something is wrong!
    Art must be free by definition, and should never be subjected to power relations – even if I know it is utopic, I will always fight to bring them down.
    I believe that’s why I use humour to fight, for example, the way some reviewers use press power, or the Sacred Institutions of Dance use theirs.
    I hope I’m not being offensive myself, I would be really ashamed!


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