Friday, September 17, 2010

From the Audience

Now that The Mentalist is ready to go I can slow down a touch and talk about something that's been bugging me since it came up. This is a comment that I got on my second Heroes critique:

"your review was pretty good and well tought out. But it was very subjective, which is fine considering your review title." -- wasalp

I could rag on the lack of a fifth-grade level editing skill, or the spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and clause placement mistakes. It would be mean of me, and probably pointless, but I could. Instead though, there's a concept here that deserves some thought: the idea that subjective reviews are a problem.

Quite simply, no review is objective. Part of objectivity is the ability to quantify, or assign a number to, the object being reviewed. And while, yes, you can give any feature of anything a numerical score, you have to do so arbitrarily, so that number has no meaning to anyone but you. Bit of a waste then, huh? And that's assuming that your perception of the object being reviewed isn't filtered through your experiences, opinions, and prejudices. If it isn't, then we've got bigger problems than subjective reviews because you are a robot.

So, since no review can possible be objective, why is subjectivity a problem? It seems to me that since objective reviews don't exist, if we bitch about the subjective ones, what have we left? Nothing.

And if you think about it, every time someone expresses their opinion, that's a review. "Hey, you went to see Scott Pilgrim last week, right? Whatja think?" "Oh, it's awesome you should totally check it out!"


Not a great one to be sure, but a review nonetheless. And that's really what professional written reviews are about. Not just the opinions, but also the reasons behind them. What's good and why. What sucks on a saguaro and why. So when we read reviews, we're not looking for opinions, we're looking for someone else to justify our opinions.

Ponder that one.

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