What’s the point of a reviewer in an age when everyone reviews? A common defense of the endeavor centers on three qualities: expertise, eloquence, and attention. Critics have essential skills that Blogging Bob does not. They know more. They are decent writers, who can give a fair encapsulation of a work and detail their responses. And they’re focussed: since their job is studying and explaining the object at hand, they are especially alert to its nuances.
This case, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up in the age of Yelp. Professional critics are knowledgeable, sure. But amateurs are hardly less so: film buffs have enjoyed easy access to their canon since the V.H.S. era. Reviewers write with skill, but so do lots of tax-accountant bloggers. And the claim that critics bring unique attention to their work seems inattentive to the tenor of an age that brings us Genius (an open online tool for annotating pop lyrics and other vital cultural texts in the manner of “The Norton Shakespeare”) and what’s been called “recap culture” (a redoubt of erstwhile English majors poring over last night’s TV in a flutter of summary, analysis, cross-analysis, and intertextual concordance). We’ve reached peak criticism; a peacock spread of hermeneutic attention has become our basic greeting for creative work.
Nathan Heller, “Says You”, The New Yorker (7 March 2016), 62-63.