I recently responded to a comment on “On Anime Criticism” that got me thinking. Often, when I talk about reviews and criticism, people assert that it’s all just opinion.
I can’t possibly disagree more.
(Before we begin, I must stress that this is not meant to be antagonistic to the individual whose comment I linked. While her comment did inspire this article, this article is not directed at her.)
Opinions, by themselves, are without value. I can get an opinion anywhere. I can ask any random person off the street what they think about Steel Angel Kurumi. If we’re looking for an opinion, that’s just as valuable as the opinion of a well-known critic. If we were only ever looking for opinion out of a review, reviewers and critics would not exist.
Anyone can give an opinion. I can give an opinion about Gad Guard. I’ve never seen it, but if an opinion’s what you’re looking for, I can give one. Harlan Ellison once said “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” I believe this especially holds true when it comes to reviews and criticism.
Nobody’s looking for just an opinion out of a review, and especially out of criticism. Both are meant to be an informed assessment of a work, with criticism having the added purpose of creating discussion. Nobody cares if Average Joe Anime Fan thought Virgin Fleet was good. That doesn’t say anything. It’s a raw opinion. Nobody can engage with that. It stalls out discussion.
Opinions are useless without facts and perspectives to back them up. We can’t discuss opinions. If we try, the only thing we get is two people talking past each other saying “I like this thing” and “I didn’t like this thing.” An opinion isn’t going to help anyone make a purchasing decision, in the case of a review, and an opinion isn’t going to facilitate a discussion, in the case of criticism.
These aren’t supposed to be opinions; they’re supposed to be perspectives. They’re supposed to be the informed perspectives of individuals knowledgeable enough about the subject matter to give the public valuable insight. Personal opinions don’t help anyone. They’re masturbatory, serving only the ego of the person disseminating their opinion. An opinion doesn’t inform anyone of anything, except for the person’s opinion.
This isn’t to say that opinions don’t play a factor. This is to say, however, that opinions aren’t the only factor, and are, in fact, a minor factor compared to informed perspective and insight based on facts and knowledge. Everyone has biases and everyone has their own likes and dislikes. These play a factor, but they are far from the only factor meant to be at play in a review or a piece of criticism.
The countless times I’ve heard this assertion come up, most of the time it was a result of me finding a review or work of criticism deficient, and people working my opinion versus the reviewer/critic’s opinion into the mix where it doesn’t belong. In these cases, when people say reviews and criticism are just “opinion,” they’re being disingenuous. If reviews and criticism were just opinions, nobody would care. They’d just be so much more noise out in the noisy world of the Internet. People are pretending to care about “opinions” because opinions can’t be criticized. It lets people brush off criticism as simple disagreement.
Harden up. Grow a spine. Realize that 1: “Opinions” don’t matter to anyone. My “opinion” doesn’t matter to anyone. Your “opinion” doesn’t matter to anyone. Their “opinions” don’t matter to anyone. Only informed opinions matter. Perspective matters. And realize that 2: There’s no room for raw opinions when the goal is to inform a purchasing decision or to spark a discussion.