I can’t say that I sympathize much with Jonathan Jones’s suggestion that the world needs more critics — in part because of the self-importance oozing from his smug pores, the cocky wink and triumphant knuckle-to-chin inviting even the most pacific souls to lacerate the man’s halitotic face with an X-Acto rather than raise a hearty toast in commiseration. Granted, it’s possible Jones didn’t plan it this way. I’m almost certain that someone at The Guardian played a sick joke with that photo. Perhaps Jones rudely berated some unpaid intern and the photographer got a comeuppance when she asked Jones to wear a blue shirt that made him look as if he was some corporate huckster smashing in a kid’s piggy bank with a smile.
The only reason I’m even writing about Jones at all is because the Guardian, rightly assailed by public outcry, has decided to not only switch comments off, but to erase the public record. There is no trace at all of the disastrous reception. So let’s spell out a few home truths.
I’ve experienced more joy talking with tedious taxmen and colorless bean counters than enduring those peculiar critics who can’t get beyond their cultural entrapment and who can’t marvel at the great human world before them. The world that, you know, most of us live in.
And I object to Jones’s wankage because the person who complains of having too much cultural information to process often doesn’t understand that this seemingly saturated existence isn’t nearly as bad as having to endure a wretched job in which the worker may be fired tomorrow, the worker must maintain a plastic smile, and the worker contends with the abuse of insensitive men with money. We’ve moved past a time in which one critical mind even matters. Or has not Jones noticed this little thing called the Internet, in which people stumble onto blog posts and articles and frequently fail to look at the byline?
So the question of what’s on Jonathan Jones’s mind is largely moot. I could get more profound insight about Michael Haneke from the fresh grad down the street now forced, by financial necessity, to toil as a barista. Haneke has plenty of admirers. He needs little help from Jonathan Jones. He needs real help from people who are willing to make sense of his films and offer original viewpoints, and I can’t see how a hack merely stating that Haneke’s films “are perfect and they are profound” or going on about how The White Ribbon is “the best of such films I have ever seen” is anything less than giving the okay to a form of writing nearly indistinguishable from a press release.
No, Mr. Jones, the curse of our time, in the arts, is having to endure your gushing folderol and then experience you express why you are entitled to have someone pay you to bang out such meaningless modifiers. Tickle our fancy like Jonathan Rosenbaum or Anthony Lane or Roger Ebert, and then you may have a case. But in the Internet age, everyone can be a critic. And the ones who write for free and who still feel cinematic passion are often much better than you.
© 2010, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.