question of the day: Is there too much snark in film criticism today?

Hunting of the Snark

The Telegraph’s Scott Jordan Harris sees a big problem with how film criticism is done today, as he explains in “Let’s drag film criticism out of the snark ages”:

[Snark] has escaped high-school cliques and infected film criticism, where, increasingly, the aim is not to write a review of a film but an amateur-night stand-up routine about it. There are many honourable exceptions, and inexcusably snarky reviews are far more prevalent online than in print, but overall the rise of the snarks is undeniable.

I often receive emails from aspiring film critics either asking to contribute to a publication I am editing or simply seeking advice. A great many of these contain variations of the sentence, “I think I am a good writer and that I have the right snarky sense of humour to be a film critic”, as if a film critic is by definition a jaded, uninspired insult merchant.

(I get a lot of similar emails, and I’ve never ever had anyone indicate he or she believed that a talent for snark is a requirement of the job.)

Whenever I raise this point, I’m given the default answer: “It’s just laziness. It’s always easier to make silly comments than it is to write something meaningful.” The second part of this is true: it is always easier to make silly comments than it is to write something meaningful, which is why if you can’t write something meaningful you shouldn’t write anything at all.

Is snark “inexcusable” in a film review? Can’t snark be both silly and meaningful? I can’t help but feel that Harris is waaaaay off the mark here, and I can’t figure out what his problem really is.

What do you think: Is there too much snark in film criticism today?

(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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