In this day and age of cut throat competition it is difficult to understand if a review is a genuine criticism of the content / product being reviewed. At the same time, the person whose work is being reviewed generally expects a positive review. I guess that is human nature.
Reviewee expect good review: It takes maturity to accept criticism. Most of us want to hear only good things about our work. A bad review may lead to loss of revenue. Many well known producers, directors keep journalists in good humor so that they write a good review. We have seen Kangana Ranaut chastising journalists on national TV on the suspicion that she was not given a positive review for a film she thought was a gem.
On a much smaller scale, I once wrote a review on a person’s book. I had complimented that the book would be a great reference material for interested readers. At the same time I also included a few comments I felt I should. The author went ballistic and became personal.
Reviewing is an art: The art of criticizing a work I learnt from my research supervisor, a Scottish lady. After a presentation she called me into her office. Without raising her voice, she tore me apart point by point. “What you did was very good,” she would say, “but I think this would have been better this way.” When I came out of her office, I realized how much there was a scope of improvement in my work.
Review can be subjective: One has to accept that a review can be subjective. A movie or a book may evoke different reaction in different reader / audience. The fact that a review may not always be an honest appraisal can be seen from the fact that movie rated with two stars may come out to be great and another movie rated with four stars may come out to be a trash. It is advisable that instead of relying on a single reviewer, it is safe to judge a product on the rating given by more than one reviewer.
Reviewer is a human being : In an ideal world, one would expect that a review will be honest and highlight strengths and weakness’ of the product in right earnest. However, we do not live in an ideal world. In this day and age, a good review may mean high footfall and lot of money exchanging hands.
One should not forget that at the end of the day, a reviewer is also human being with human frailties. So a review may depend on, but not limited to, the following factors:
- reviewer’s relation with the reviewee – was the person being reviewed nice to the reviewer in earlier interaction?),
- reviewer’s mental state – did he have a fight with his spouse,
- reviewer’s financial status – does he need money and future oppourtunities.
My first brush with the politics of review process happened when I was a graduate student. In the cut throat environment of “publish or perish”, I had submitted an article in a peer reviewed journal. The article was rejected on some pretext or other, eventually me and my supervisor realized that the reviewer wanted his paper quoted in our article. As soon as we complied, our paper was accepted.
Abroad, I have seen grants being rejected unless one tows the line of big scientists. I have seen professors carrying suitcases of such big and powerful science managers who often sat on more than one grant review committees.
The same principle also applies to blogosphere. Unless an author has acquired a great follower base, name and fame, an ordinary blogger has to visit many blogs to increase footfall to his site. Many sites openly encourage bloggers to visit, read and comment on posts written by fellow bloggers, in the hope that the gesture will be reciprocated. Is this much different from the reviewer who forced me to include a reference to his paper in my article?
Conclusion: In summary, I think it is important to understand that reviewer’s are humans first. One reviewer may react to a content differently than another reviewer. It is always good to get sounded by more than one reviewer. How to write a scathing review without being hurtful is an art, not many of us know. A bad review may have affect a writer / director emotionally, professionally and financially.
Note : This post is written in response to Indispire prompt. More posts responding to the prompt may be found here.