In a paywalled article for Harper’s, Thomas Frank lays part of the blame for last year’s mass shootings on our culture of gun violence. Movies like “Django Unchained” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” he says, are “advertisements for mass murder.” And, in a non-paywalled article at Salon, critic Andrew O’Hehir further outlines and then rebukes that argument, which includes a portion that indicts film critics for their role in endorsing and propagating those advertisements:
“Journalists have enabled the sadistic crimes of Hollywood, he suggests, through ‘puff pieces and softball interviews and a thousand ‘press junkets.” (Why the scare quotes? Are those not familiar English words?) Bootlicking movie critics have crowned Tarantino as a genius, and have refused ‘to tell the world what god-awful heaps of cliché and fake profundity and commercialized sadism this industry produces.”
It wouldn’t be fair of me to comment on an article I haven’t actually read, so I’ll simply point you to O’Hehir’s examination of it — which takes Frank’s essay and accusations seriously and considers them fairly. I will say that a day after critics lost the support of NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this is particularly disheartening to see. First, we ruined the Oscars. Then we destroyed American society at large. Not a good week for the profession.
In a world where critics are routinely laid off, fired, or forced into early retirement, and those who pursue the profession do so at their own financial peril, it’s odd to see so many people simultaneously attacking them and painting them as a bunch of freeloading, airheaded boobs. When the final few remaining critics are put out to pasture, people are going to have to find another scapegoat to blame these things on.