What do Cats and Madonna have in common?
Now, I am quite sure that there are many answers to this question, most of which I will never have thought of, some of which I don’t wish to contemplate, but the answer I had in mind is that they have both received simultaneous 5-star and 0-star reviews.
This seems to be something of a new trend amongst critics. I read a review of Tom Hooper’s film version of the musical Cats and Madonna’s Madame X show at the London Palladium and, in each case, the reviewer gave the performances both 5-stars and 0-stars. The implication is clear: the critic is indicating, in a postmodern fashion, that the film/gig is so bad that it is actually good.
21st century irony, or cowardly cop-out? I swing towards believing that it is a cop-out. And I’ll tell you why. The critics are not alone in their capitulation. To explain, I’ll pose another question.
What do the Booker Prize 2019, the Turner Prize 2019, and the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 2019 all have in common?
There may be multiple answers here, too, although they are probably neither as numerous nor as colourful as with Cats and Madonna. My answer is: there was no outright winner.
The Booker Prize was shared between Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other; the Turner Prize between Oscar Murillo, Tai Shani, Helen Cammock, and Lawrence Abu Hamdan; and the Bad Sex in Fiction Award between Didier Decoin’s The Office of Garden and Ponds and John Harvey’s Pax.
What is going on? It is like a massive 1970s collective love-in of ‘what is yours is mine’ and ‘what is mine is yours’.
The current argument for this apparent generosity of spirit is that there is no place for competition in art. I think this is woke bullshit. I fear what it actually represents is that critics and judges have become so cowed by the lowest common denominator, mob pressure of social media dissent that they are scared to voice an honest and definitive opinion. Better to sit on the fence rather than upset the Twitterati.
I want a critic to be decisive precisely because it then opens up a dialogue to either agree or disagree with them. Similarly, I want a judge to make a singular judgement, whether I consider it right or wrong. The current trend for bland egalitarianism is purely a tool for silencing the masses; stifling debate; snuffing out critical thought.
And we are all the losers for it.
© Stephanie Snifter
Steph Snifter likes to make her opinions clearly known.