Hermeneutics of Suspicion and the Problem with Film Critics

The Sunrise Motel makes note of the same Film School Rejects article that I did, and pulls a good description of the puritanical urge to sieve any piece of art for wrongthink, “hermeneutics of suspicion”. I might go a step farther than this, and say that a great deal of criticism is done not for the sake of art, but simply to create barriers to enjoyment, that one may status-signal.

If you enjoy the same sort of thing that the masses do, and in the same way, then you aren’t a critic, you’re a press agent. It’s thus in the best interest of the critic to find reasons to find fault with things. A Hermeneutics of Suspicion will do as much as any other.

No doubt a certain degree of Exposure Effect is involved. If you watch movies for a living, you become inured to the common storytelling tropes and they cease to surprise you or have any effect on you whatsoever. So your experience of film, hoping against hope to be surprised, is vastly different from the average film patron, who is expecting merely an entertaining story for a few hours. The tendency to embrace absurdism and aesthetic extremes for their ability tweak the tropes is thus explained.

In other words, criticism has a problem.


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