To Jesse Eisenberg: Why I write

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Critics are in an uproar over Jesse Eisenberg’s scathing commentary on critics in the New Yorker.  In the column, he pretends to be an Internet reviewer who sums up his thoughts on a film he reviewed with:

In sum, these are the main problems with “Paintings of Cole”: it was inconveniently shown on the Upper West Side, written by a guy I envy, screened by a cute intern whose name was too confusing to remember, based on an idea that I poorly executed in grad school, and praised by the Times, which rejected me.

Look, I appreciate satire as much as the next guy, but this is a real unfair assessment of most Internet critics.  I can’t help but get the sense that Jesse Eisenberg saw some negative reviews or maybe some posts online, and he wrote this as a reaction without knowing or considering the vast majority of us who write online. 

I sincerely doubt Mr Eisenberg cares, but I found his column incredibly insulting.  But instead of just writing a snarky response, I decided to write a column to explain why I write online reviews and columns.  Despite what Eisenberg thinks, it’s not envy, it’s not because I am hard up for a date, and it’s not just my response to any personal or professional rejection. 

I have written columns and reviews for three terrific sites over the last thirteen years. 411mania, Inside Pulse, and Critical Blast.   This is purely volunteer work and takes up a significant amount of my time and energy. I am not paid by the sites, and I am certainly not paid for by the companies and individuals who produce the works that I review.  The closest we get to compensation is getting some review copies, but even then I typically pay for most of when I end up covering.  Add in the costs of running the site (something I have never had to worry about thankfully), and it’s definitely not something anyone does lightly.

So why do I write?

1)    I write about comics, movies, books, etc, because I have a genuine love of comics, movies, books, etc.  I love to share things I enjoy and to help others find new things they might never have heard of.  You won’t find a lot of snark in what I write, though I do try to look at things with a critical eye.  If there is something about the work that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t appeal to me, I will call the creator out on it.  If you put your work out there for consumption, you can’t expect everyone will like everything about the work.

2)    There are more entertainment options now than even before.   And those options can be overwhelming.  If someone reads my work and finds that we have a similar interest, maybe that can help them wade through the mire to find something they will enjoy.  Ironically, both positive and negative reviews have led me to works I might not normally know about.   I also want to say that there is a HUGE difference between a negative review and a badly-written review.  A honest negative review that does a good job explaining what something is all about can often lead me to becoming a customer, no matter how the critic felt about the work.

3)    Comics, movies, books, etc have gotten ridiculously expensive.  If I want to take my family to a movie, it can quickly end up costing us over $100.  Same goes for comics.  That is the whole reason we do a weekly “pull list recommendations” and our monthly “Critical Look at solicitations.”  With most of comics costing $4, a visit to the comic shop can end up costing the reader a small fortune.  So I write to help people figure out the best way to spend their money.  Again, they might agree with my thoughts, they might disagree.  That is perfectly okay.  But it’s better than only listening to what the companies who have a vested interest in selling you something have to say.

4)    The last reason that I write these reviews and columns?  I really enjoy to write!  I don’t believe I have the inclination or talent to do it professionally, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy doing it.  Sites like Critical Blast give me an opportunity to write and find an audience.  And I really appreciate that.

Now of course, this isn’t to say there aren’t sites out there that do thrive on doing hatchet work.   But painting all critics with a real broad brush is just frankly insulting. 

Besides, Jesse Eisenberg should be happy that someone cares enough about his work to talk about it at all.  Any publicity is good publicity, right?   He reportedly made $75 million from October 2014-October 2015.  Try explaining to me how he deserves that while someone who actually PAYS to see his movies is lucky to make 1/1000th of that.    Maybe I should sit down and write my belief of what a typical movie star does on set each day…I bet it would be just as ill-informed as Mr. Eisenberg’s attempt to look at what an online critic does and why we do it.

End snark.