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Well, I'm back from MoCCA Fest.  Had a great time.  I didn't sell too many books or posters, but I met some great people and had a fine time hanging around with Jim.  Me and him, we're tight now.

But that's not what I began this journal entry to say!  And I didn't start it to drum up support for a humanitarian petition either, though if you're interested there's one right here.  Sounds like a good cause, and worth a few seconds of time.  Think about it, won't you?  Actually, what I really wanted to contemplate here was the nature of the "can you do better" line of reasoning.

You've probably heard this one before.  Someone asks you, after or during some form of criticism, if you can do better.  And if you can't, it's implied, you have no right to cast judgment.  What gets me about this is that the argument might conceivably be valid in some cases... but in most of the examples I imagine, it's really not.  It doesn't make sense.

I started thinking about it when I commented on a movie trailer recently.  The science behind the plot seemed pretty phony to me and I went off on one of my little rants.  I probably was being a bit obnoxious.  Since YouTube revamped itself and made it possible to post longer comments I've had trouble showing restraint.  Still, someone else got his dander up, called me an egghead and said "you think you got the money/talent to do it better? shut the f!#k up and go do it. Otherwise, shut the f@%k up, sit down, and read something."

Incidentally, it's also possible that on some level I only started this journal entry because I wanted everyone to see how mean this guy was so they can rush to comfort me while I clutch plush animals to my chest as I curl into a fetal position and silently weep into my pillow, stuffing my face with potato chips mingled with the snot pouring out of my nostrils, listening to heartbreaking melodies warbling from the radio buried underneath a gigantic pile of soaking wet handkerchiefs.  But that's an outside chance.

Still, it really did get me thinking, and this is something I've thought before whenever I hear that argument...  I certainly can't do better.  I mean, I wasn't directly criticizing the film's acting or direction... it might be a lot of fun if it doesn't take itself too seriously.  But I surely don't have the money or experience to make such a movie.  That is true.  But why on Earth would that negate the validity of my criticism?

Think about it.  You go to a fancy restaurant and order a fancy lasagna.  The waiter smacks his fancy lips with pinched fancy fingers and saunters off with promises of a magnificent fancy meal.  When he comes back, however, he brings you lasagna that's not fancy at all!  In fact, it makes you a little sick.  Do you not have the right to complain because you yourself can't make any kind of lasagna, fancy or otherwise?  Are you stuck forcing this meal down your throat because it's still technically better than what you could come up with in your own filthy kitchen?

The basic function of most any business is to provide people with products or services that they can't readily produce on their own.  This gives us a perfect right, even a responsibility, to point out flaws in the product we're offered.  We're not qualified to make it, but we're still qualified to judge.  Sure, sometimes folks don't know what they're talking about.  We misjudge, we talk out of our asses.  That still doesn't mean we should be blamed for our initial impression.  It falls to the makers of the product to contemplate whatever complaints they may receive.  Even if those complaints lack merit it's still worth hearing because all input grants perspective on the work that the creator may not have.

But on the other hand, surely there are situations where it's fair to say "can you do better?"  I don't think that movie criticism is one of them, but I'd be interested in hearing your ideas.  I ask you, when is it truly justified to ask that of someone?  When should you stand up and throw negativity back to the audience, asking them to operate as an equal to the performer?  It's a technique that's often misused, but I think there's probably a time and a place for it.  So where is the line drawn?

Juggling comes to mind.
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Scezumin Featured By Owner May 10, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I think "can you do it better" is a question best reserved for people to ask of themselves when they have an opportunity to do good in the world around them.  For example, when a teacher was failing to get a concept across to some students in my class, I internally asked "can I do this better?" and got a "yes" so I raised my hand and gave an alternative explanation.

When people ask it of each other, it most often resembles what you described in your journal.  Also, I intend to use the lasagna example next time I encounter such a situation, so thank you for writing it.
JoeEngland Featured By Owner May 10, 2014  Professional General Artist
You're welcome!
HoneyThistle Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014 get to criticize movies.  Doesn't matter what the fuck or who the fuck you are.  Criticizing movies is a 'Murican fucking passtime and as a 'murican you get to do that.  Period.
Artikano Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014
Okay, so I read this article that examined, I don't remember, brain states during arguments or something. The points are 1) it was science and 2) it was about arguments.

The conclusion was that arguments are tools for establishing dominance. If I can beat you in an argument, you better listen to me. Cause if you challenge my authority again, I'll just make you look like a dumbass again.

I want to mention that establishing who's in charge can be necessary, done with intention and the best interests of all. Or it can be a sad little troll who didn't get enough love for his mommy.

The point is arguing isn't about being correct. It's about winning.

Our culture maybe be long remembered for our contribution of techniques for "winning an argument when you're wrong." I want to say the bulk of our contributions to human knowledge fall in this area. What you mentioned, the can you do better? definitely falls into this category. I don't care if the lasagna was crap or not. I'm attacking your credibility. Ad Hominen. Since you can't make lasagna you aren't qualified to comment on this ones quality, therefore you are wrong and I win.

Hey, are you ever around about the Detroit, Michigan area? The northern suburbs these days. We should hang if you ever are.
JoeEngland Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014  Professional General Artist
I can't say I'll be near Michigan any time soon, but thanks for offering.  And thanks for your contribution to the discussion!
peirrin Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014
I kind of have the feeling that when it comes to movies, that maybe, just maybe, YES, I could do better.   I just don't have the money.  I'll go and hang out with my dad occasionally, and he turns to a movie, and asks me if I've seen it before.  And often times the answer is no.  Then I start narrating the characters lines about 1-3 seconds before they say them.
"I thought you said you hadn't seen this before?!"

"I haven't.  I've just seen every movie that this one is based on already."

Drives him nuts. :)
Rianq Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Eat this rock.
- No?
Why not?
- Because it's inedible.
Weeeell, maybe you should make a better, more edible rock, if you think you can do it better.
- What? I can't make rocks.
Then you should probably shut up and eat up.
- That doesn't even
Roscoe3000 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
rofl, I want to draw a cartoon about this.
Rianq Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Be my guest.
butterfly-dragon Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer

I think one should know theory and then criticize in a way to show the flaws and tell what went wrong and how they could get better.

If you do not know theory you should not criticize, or offer your critic only as an "amateur opinion".

Everybody is entitled to opinions. Not everybody is entitled to criticism.

Your opinion might be good or bad about what you experienced, but unless you can criticize properly, telling what went wrong or right. Then you are not helping the person which is the object of your criticism to get any better.

If you can precisely point out what went good and wrong based on the established end which the criticized person was trying to reach via whatever means one used. Then you offered a valid criticism. Something that the person can use to get better.

Opinions. Everybody can have them, and is, in fact, entitled to them. Everybody can voice them. Nobody should theoretically shut you up unless you are showing blatant ignorance of the rules of the means of expression that was used, in which case one should tell you why your opinion is absolutely useless or misguided. If you still insist on not learning anything and you still insist on voicing your misguided or useless opinion, then you should not be surprised that you get ignored.

Criticism is a different matter. If you offer criticism, then you are telling the guy: "I know what i am talking about." And while everybody is human and even criticism can get misguided or misrepresented or misunderstood, at least if you know what you are talking about you can reason with the criticized person and work together with that person to make one better artist. You still might get ignored, but at least you know it's not your fault, but it's that other person's fault.

Of course, as far as i know very few people like criticism, lots of "artists" have barely studied what they try to use as a medium, and behave like moody teenagers. "you don't understand my art" or even worse "i'm not telling you what you should see, you should understand the feelings you get by seeing my art and then treasure them" that is what i normally hear as: "I made abstract art because it's easy and i don't have to study anything, now pay me for you doing my work for me by deciphering random noise as if it were a message that i am broadcasting, while there is, in fact, nothing."

So yeah, you can be a scholar of a given field and get told that what you re criticizing is part of a different field because "reasons" something like "no, you misunderstood, Twilight is not a "bad horror romance" as you described it, it is a "teenage wish fulfilment fantasy", and it does its job graciously, thus your critics are a moot point." in some cases an answer like that could be right and you should go back on your steps and look at the art in a different way, the way that the person just told you it should be looked at. Naturally such shift of perception could still fail to produce a "better" critic and you should tell the artist that even by changing the point of view he is not doing a good job. If the artist tries to fiddle again the way you should perceive that person's art, and/or tells you that you do not understand his art, then you are probably talking to a moody teenager (in whichever age and/or setting that person is currently in, he could be a booming artist or she could be an elder amateur lady, they still have the mind of a moody teenager), and not a serious artist that is striving to get a good result.

If you are an ignorant you can still say what you think is wrong, but don't expect to be taken seriously regardless of the actual "seriousness" of the artist. Moody teenagers (of any age) will tell you that you don't understand. Serious artists, will usually not answer you and if they do tell you that you do not understand the field (though they might still take in consideration your opinion, because you are part of the target audience). Since both answers are basically the same and you are ignorant, then you cannot tell who is going to take in consideration your opinion and who is instead a serious artist which values a target audience for his/her work, which you might be part of.
Roscoe3000 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Look what you started, Joe.

"Everybody is entitled to opinions. Not everybody is entitled to criticism." 

Butterfly-D, you mean everyone should be able to voice their opinions, but not everyone is qualified to give a critique?  I agree with this, but with one caveat: if the critic is someone like a budding artist trying to learn their trade, giving an earnest critique, even if it isn't necessarily a qualified one, is a great learning experience for them and possibly the professional receiving the criticism.  If both parties are mature about it, lots of magic can happen.

"...on the other hand, surely there are situations where it's fair to say "can you do better?"  I don't think that movie criticism is one of them, but I'd be interested in hearing your ideas.  I ask you, when is it truly justified to ask that of someone?  When should you stand up and throw negativity back to the audience, asking them to operate as an equal to the performer?  It's a technique that's often misused, but I think there's probably a time and a place for it.  So where is the line drawn?"

One should probably never use that phrase, actually. :] 

It depends on what your relationship with the critic in question is.

If you're just a strange consumer criticizing another strange consumers' criticism (probably via internet comments?) and you're saying that phrase in anger or irritation then usually it's only going to instigate negativity, possibly butthurtedness.   Perhaps you'd even say it because you *want* to get a rise out of someone.  Yet, if that was your goal, then I suppose you're justified.  You're also an asshole. :3  Possibly immature kid.

If you're the professional criticizing your consumer's criticism, then while you might be justified in feeling irritated with a possibly negative, non-constructive comment from them, you probably still shouldn't say something like that.  It's a little bit immature and unprofessional in the first place (since usually it's said in a sarcastic tone (claim I can't back up, but whatev D:) ), and again it's probably only going to get a rise out of your consumer rather than quell any original frustration or concern they had in the first place, reasonable or not.  Yet again, if the goal was to exasperate them, then I suppose you're justified.

Among friends and loved ones or professional colleagues, it's probably okay, though.  You're either earnest in your use of the phrase, or you just say it for laughs.

*submit comment* *winces*

Longest internet comment I've ever made, probably.  I shake my fist at you, Joe.
butterfly-dragon Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
[[[[If you're just a strange consumer criticizing another strange consumers' criticism (probably via internet comments?) and you're saying that phrase in anger or irritation then usually it's only going to instigate negativity, possibly butthurtedness.   Perhaps you'd even say it because you *want* to get a rise out of someone.  Yet, if that was your goal, then I suppose you're justified.  You're also an asshole. :3  Possibly immature kid.]]]]

I agree in part on what you just said. A$$h0les tweet. It's their trademark. :P

Problem is that what you are describing ad "criticism" is not criticism at all, it's just an "angry opinion". It might be a "strong opinion" if supported by references, but it is still an opinion.

I don't think you understand the difference between a critique and an opinion.

A critique is an informed comment from somebody who has studied and knows what he is talking about.
A critique is also made to show what is good, what is bad, how can errors be corrected of good things exalted.
A critique can tell you if you are trying to sell something as an X while it is obviously Y.

(Example given above: "Twilight" is a "teenage wish fulfilment fantasy" and if viewed in these terms it can be considered decent. If you market it as "horror romance", then it is really, really bad.)

Everything else is an opinion.

If you do not know what you are talking about you cannot critique, you can just say: "I like this." or "i don't like this."
You can give your personal motivations for liking something.
This i just described is an opinion.
Everybody can give one and a good artist that values opinion can do a lot of work to extract data from said opinions which will better one in his/her artist job.

With an opinion you cannot offer:
- a business plan,
- how to market something based on what has been accomplished,
- what the current trends are and how the work will be perceived most probably,
- if there are some structural defects, ask if something was done on purpose or not and what was being tried to accomplish based on the decisions,
- offer advice on how other artists have solved similar conundrums and what their answers have been,
- if other people have tried to accomplish what you did, tell you what were their mistakes and if you did some of theirs or if you did something new offer comparators and what you did better than them.
All this is a critique. Only an expert that has studied the story of art being used and can give a critique.

An a$$h0le just tells you "you are doing wrong." period, being smug in knowing why, but without letting you know. An a$$h0le tweets.

You can be an art critic doing this for a job or an accomplished artist who has studied and kept up to date (thus still doing this for a job) and still give an opinion.
You cannot be a random guy and offer a critique.

You need to have studied and kept yourself up to date and have done something tons of times, studying the works of others to be able to offer a critique.

Well actually you can offer a critique and still be a random guy, but it would be a random occurrence which you would not be able to repeat constantly, be a successful artist (or have a successful job as an art critic in case you are incapable of successfully producing art of that kind).

Note that not all successful artists are learned individuals. You can tell that an artist did not study because he/she behaves like a "moody teenager" and ends up as a meteor, shining once and crashing hard after that one success.

If you study and apply methods you can reproduce success.
Roscoe3000 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hmm, ok.  I understand your meaning, now.  Thanks!
butterfly-dragon Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Sorry. It is a pet peeve of mine.

I know the average person's "meaning" of "critique".

It is just that if you call that thing (which is in fact an "opinion") in that way... how would you start calling an actual critique?

You should start using two different vocabularies whenever you go somewhere based on how advance is the other person's experience of something.

Fact is, that language evolves.

If i could start calling a critique a "flumph" and still get understood, because a "flumph" would be the technical jargon for what i currently call a "critique" then i would be happy to. I would not have to call two completely different things in the same way, thus creating confusion, the word "critique" would then be free to be used however everybody else pleases.

I would not have to mentally "recalibrate" the word each and every time it is used.

It's mostly why academical sound completely unintelligible. They are forced to invent new words to have something that can be technically referred to without creating confusion, because the "normal" meaning of words gets often muddied and completely misused at best, thus making reference to objective facts difficult, because every single person has a completely different experience of a single "commonly used" word.
Novalyyn Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Student General Artist
I've thought about this before, too, and I also find it to be poor reasoning. There's plenty of things that I see that, yes, I know I can't do a better job - but I can still offer criticism, and perhaps help that person to do their job better by offering up an outside perspective based on my own experience and knowledge. Even if they're unlikely to ever see it, I can still state my opinion; I hate being the annoying one to point it out, but, y'know, free speech.

The times when a person really should just shut their face (and, sadly, the times they are least likely to) is when it's just a complaint, with the sole purpose of being negative. They still have the right to state an opinion, of course... but could it please be something useful? If something you can't put your finger on just seems wrong, could you at least be polite, so that your comment is even worth consideration?

And there are times when folks use designers for their photoshop skills (or other purely technical skill) rather than their design knowledge and won't shut up until the thing looks horrible. :| 
Darkfalli Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
just curious, is the movie trailer you watched the one for Lucy with Scarlett Johanssen? Because if so I think I understand, also you make a valid argument and I can't write/type that well so I'll save you the torment of looking at my thoughts on that.
JoeEngland Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Professional General Artist
Yeah, that's the one alright.  Like I said, it might be good.  But I ain't holding my breath!
Darkfalli Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
that moment when I heard them use the lame 10% of the brain thing (that by now I expect most people to know is total BS) I couldn't take it seriously. Especially when they had her at the end of the trailer rewinding time, I was just thinking no you need a better explanation than that, at least make it plausible. which ties in to your rant that I don't know whether or not I could do better (I think I could but that's not the point) but I fully expect better of any writer, creative director, or who ever it is that came up with that because they can easily do better, that's not even something I feel like they would have to try on. I expect at least a competent job done in any profession doesn't have to be perfect just show that you at least tried. "people only use 10% of the brain" falls under I don't feel like trying. so yea

looks like I did subject you to my horrible attempt at coherent thought, also Zebra Girl is awesome and my favorite webcomic keep it up
NeoTiamat99 Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014
I suspect that it may be appropriate if the person who is asked 'can you do better' does in fact have the skills and abilities to 'do better', and is expected to have them. In other words, asking a random restaurant patron 'can you do better' than the chef is not fair, because they are not in the chef-ing business, they are paying money for someone's professional skill there. But asking a different chef 'can you do better' is a fair question. They are also a chef, they are in the business of professional cooking, if they think something in their line of work is bad then they should, in fact, be able to do better.

Same with movies. Saying flat out, 'can you do better' isn't going to make much sense, because (unless you have been hiding a very interesting double life), you aren't going to be making movies. On the other hand, 'can you write a better movie plot' is more fair, though webcomics and scripts are not exactly that similar. If you were critiquing another webcomic, then asking you 'can you do better' would be quite legitimate.
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