In a recent interview with The New York Times, comedian Chris Rock made his own opinions known about whether social media disasters like Chick-Fil-A’s opposition to gay marriage and the comedic failings of Daniel Tosh are relevant.
He said, “We just live in a world where the audience gets a say now. My actual belief? Only fans should be allowed to criticize. Because it’s for the fans. When I hear somebody go, “Country music [stinks],” I’m like, well, country music’s not for you. You’re just being elitist. Only a fan of Travis Tritt can say the record [stinks], because he’s got every one.”
Now, let’s think about this for a minute. I’ve always held the firm belief that people should express their informed opinions on any subject whether they love the idea or not. Only fans should be allowed to criticize? That, in my opinion, is elitist in itself — thanks for the contradiction, Mr. Rock! If a person who watched a few Daniel Tosh YouTube videos did not find them funny at all, doesn’t he have a stake in complaining? I understand that the Internet is home to many people who solely want to make negative opinions or just create a fuss, but I wouldn’t discount the opinions of someone who may not be a fan, yet has knowledge of the artist or fan. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Yes, being a fan of something can help you form a more informed opinion, but you don’t have to be a fan to simply express praise or criticism. Sometimes, being a fan can be more of a liability than an asset in expressing an opinion because you have biases toward the artist.
If I’m not a rabid Daniel Tosh fan, am I shut out of the social media conversation because I am disappointed with his rape jokes? Forget about aiming for a mainstream audience with his “Tosh.0” series; if he’s trying to act cavalier yet takes offense about how everyone who “doesn’t understand” his work is mistreating him, he’s only got himself to blame. So saying that only fans are the only ones who can criticize may improve his standing with his existing fans, but new fans may not see it that way.
Chris Rock’s reasoning that only fans should have a say in whether an artist or a company is out of line is too simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. If you’re an artist, and you’re seeking to build your audience beyond your fan base, don’t bother with Rock’s reasoning. You can’t go out and say whatever’s on your mind if your goal is becoming mainstream. It may win the hearts of your base, but it won’t guarantee new fans. While
I strongly believe that artists and businesses should freely express what they think, they have themselves, and only themselves, to blame if it does not work out to social media’s favor.
Do you think that only fans should be able to criticize a person’s work?