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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Should critics let nonrelated issues influence how we review a film?

Recently the members of the Online Film Critics Society pondered this question, which was suggested by OFCS member Susan Granger:

“Will Mel Gibson’s overt and confessed anti-Semitism affect your review of his upcoming film, Edge of Darkness? Does the fact that the film contains no Jewish themes affect your answer? Ultimately, can a critic can truly separate an artist from his professed prejudices and moral values? Should we let nonrelated issues influence how we review a film? Is it even possible to avoid such biases?”

Reponses from OFCSers are here.
For me, it comes down to the question about whether film critics should be “objective”… which I don’t think is possible. And I don’t think I’d want to read a critic who was “objective” — what makes critics interesting to read (or not) are our biases and the particular perspective we bring to our criticism.

In the case of Edge of Darkness, however, the only preconception about Mel Gibson that was front-and-center in my mind when I went into the movie was that he has tended to play crazy characters, or characters who pretend to be crazy for effect. (I had other unavoidable preconceptions, too, because I recently watched the BBC miniseries it’s based on.) I’ve already written my review, too, and I have to confess that even though I had previously handled that OFCS post — from emailing the members to ask the question to collecting the responses and formatting the material for posting — it just occurred to me as I write this QOTD that nothing else about Gibson even crossed my mind as I was crafting my review.

What do you think? Should critics let nonrelated issues influence how we review a film?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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