Everybody has an opinion, and they are going to critique you based on them.
Every time an artist or creative publishes something, we want to voice our opinion about it. What’s more, this is the age of social media where the proximity to celebrities, artists, and the likes is greater than it ever has been and everything happens so instantly. The moment a creative releases something, opinions are poured out so fast one begins to wonder if the critique is actually warranted or people just want to join the bandwagon of online hate.
We all want to be part of the conversation and be heard when we comment on our favourite artist’s work. The big question is, where do we draw the line?
When our opinion on the artist’s work is less than pleasant, do we keep it to ourselves because we do not want to hurt their feelings, or we voice it as loudly as we would if it was positive? Bear in mind the argument that negative feedback is as good as positive feedback as it charges the artist to go back to the drawing board, fix the loopholes, and get more creative for their next project.
An example of people not being too happy about an artist’s work, or rather artists’ work, is the recent outburst on Twitter over the current state of the television scene in South Africa. Many people feel like they aren’t given quality content on television, and that everything seems like a watered down version of what we get from American television. When these grievances were shared on Twitter, some people condemned them to be personal attacks on the people who work on these shows.
The fact that we know some of the writers and producers personally makes things worse. These writers and producers tie their work to who they are – it is a form of representation of what they stand for – so when the feedback to their work is negative, it is understandable why they would feel like it is a personal attack on them.
Another example of an artist’s work being hotly critiqued was when Rihanna recently released a lingerie line Savage Fenty. People expressed their gratitude for the representation that was shown by Rihanna with the lingerie line. The models were of different sizes and colour and the pieces in the lingerie line were designed for everyone. People were happy because it was a breath of fresh air, as such level of inclusivity is not a norm in our media. However, as happy as most people were about the lingerie line, some other people weren’t so impressed; they felt like the pieces were just regular pieces and nothing like the kind of lingerie they imagined someone like Rihanna would wear. So, when these people expressed their disappointment, they were dismissed as just being haters because majority could not understand how anyone wouldn’t be happy about a prominent, successful black woman like Rihanna, creating a clothing line that is inclusive and makes everyone (big or small, black or white) feel represented.
In both examples of people critiquing an artist’s work, there is valid criticism and there is also negative commentary that wants to be negative just for the hell of it. When you comment negatively on an artist’s work and the reason has nothing to do with the work but more to do with the artist or your personal feelings towards their person or work, then that is hating. It renders your critique invalid because your judgement is clouded by the feelings you have towards the artist. These artists get to see all these critiquing first hand because some manage their social media themselves and it must be hard to ignore because they put a lot of effort into their work and want to see people reacting positively towards it.
I am calling on everyone who consumes the work of artists to think carefully before expressing their opinion. I would like us to carefully reflect on the work because sometimes we get sucked into the bandwagon of online hate without properly going through the artist’s work. I am also calling upon artists to understand how their art is consumed by their audience and how they can use criticism to their advantage by tweaking things here and there, without completely removing themselves (or who they are) from their work.
Long live art.
Mpumi Ngwenya is a social media enthusiast who comments on social issues that affect (mostly) young South Africans and the world at large.