When Critics Bash The Left

I have a question for all the biggies out there. You know, the critics who have three writing jobs and a blog and a book deal and a mansion in the Hollywood Hills–basically, your run of the mill big shot:

Why this incessant deriding of left-leaning sentiment in the arts?

Just two days ago, we posted about a line in Fred Kirshnit’s review of Into the Little Hill, which he censured for being “heavy handed in its political message.”

Then today, we find this line in good old Charlie Isherwood’s Times review of “The Black Eyed,” a new production at New York Theater Workshop. When praising one of the actor’s (Jeanine Serralles) performance, he trails off into this little barb:

“This endearingly unhinged character also leads us into some of the play’s overtly tendentious passages, unfortunately, as she imagines a day when “Palestinians are allowed the right to self-determination,” and “Iraqis are not killed so their oil can be stolen.”

Even in Sasha Freres Jone’s review of Tori Amos’ latest album, he labeled the first track Yo George (which includes the line “Where have we gone wrong, America?”) “a dicey gambit.” But dicey for whom? I don’t imagine many of Tori’s fans were like, Shut up about politics, bitch! It seems to be only dicey for those critics who think they know better than to let artists’ political frustrations enter the serious realm of artistic discourse. [I’m linking here to a crazy/beautiful discussion over at Post Classic!]

Is it possible for a work of art to lean left without critics explicitly voicing a sort of de rigueur attitude against it?

If critics are attempting to be non-partisan, then why openly disparage it? Why not just not mention it?

It sounds from his review that Isherwood thought “The Black Eyed” was rather interesting theater. So what makes this moment not work, other than that serious-minded critics know better than to fall for some left-winger’s “tendentious” propaganda?



I think I should make a point that this kind of trend is especially unfortunate when you take into account the concurrent trend of critics not to draw any associations between art/performance and our nations the current climate of war. This basically sets a precedent that, critics will only talk about politics if they’re disparaging an artist for bringing it up.


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