Waxing Philosophical: The Benefits of Negative Reviews

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I’m back from a much-needed break. Time enough for me to recover some of my motivation to write again. I figured I’d write a quick “Waxing Philosophical” post to get me back into the swing of things this week, with my regular reviews beginning again on Wednesday. For today, I want to discuss something I’ve been thinking about the past couple weeks: the advantages of writing negative reviews. I’ve been known to write quite a few negative reviews on this blog. My dislike of Super Lovers and Sex Criminals is well known on this blog if you’ve followed me for a while, and I wind up finding at least one anime a season to write a negative review of if I have the time. I consider these types of criticisms as an integral part of my blog. But why? Why bother taking the time and energy to watch or read something that you don’t enjoy, let alone spend the hours on top of that to write a review about it?

Well, back in 2013 BuzzFeed had the same thought: what’s with all this negativity in book review journalism? Why not just feature the positive reviews and ignore the books we don’t like? I think, both as a writer and as a critic, there are many advantages to writing negative reviews, many of them beneficial to running a review blog and many even beneficial to the author themselves. However, I do think that this idea of life is too short to watch things you don’t like or to give into negativity is a good philosophy to have most of the time. The problem arises when, like me, you find yourself disliking things that the majority of the fans at the time seem to love. This poses a particularly unique problem for reviewers, the issue of whether to ignore that popular piece of media and lose out on viewers or take the time and review it in order to enter that conversation and possibly gain views. I think a lot of the time it comes down to how strong of dislike there is and how many pieces of media are competing for attention at that point in time. But, below I’d like to take a look at few more reasons why I think negative reviews are necessary especially in media criticism.

  1. They help you be more critical. We all love writing positive reviews about the things we love. We get to gush and expound on its merits, hoping that our reviews will garner our favorite things the few more fans that it deserves. However, when I’m writing negative reviews, I find myself being more critical, more introspective, and using the simple question “Why?” a lot more. Why doesn’t this work? Why are these characters boring? I feel the need to prove my point more with actual evidence from that piece of media. I especially notice this happening for shows that are just below average. It makes me think about the mechanics of a show, of storytelling, more than I might if I was writing a positive review. It seems to all stem from this feeling that you have to prove your opinions more in a negative review than in a positive for fear that a fan may call you out on your points being too weak.
  2. They provide a good baseline for your readers. People will always have differing opinions, different genres and characters they gravitate towards. Reviews, while we do sometimes try and make them as unbiased as possible, are always fueled by personal opinion. What keeps readers coming back and staying readers is this sense of a baseline. Through our reviews, both negative and positive, readers get a sense of what we like and don’t like and thus formulate their own opinions and purchase choices off of that. I’m not a huge yuri or harem fan, but I do occasionally review them to give my readers a better idea or feel for where I generally stand on different media on this blog. Without negative reviews, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp for a reader if a reviewer aligns with their own general opinions on media and that may impact their general sense of trust in that reviewers opinions.
  3. It initiates conversation. This point I would equate to the idea of the “echo chamber”. When too many people tend to say the same things about a piece of media, where does the conversation start? Disagreements over matters of opinion are the starting point most people use to discuss something. Negative reviews are a great way to begin discussions on all aspects of that show or series. Going back to point (1), it allows your readers the chance to flex their critical muscles and defend that show or series if they do like it, or provide more criticisms if they don’t. It can even lead to bigger conversations about the nature of the industry or common themes that seem to be popping up time and time again.
  4. Constructive criticism is beneficial for the industry. The keyword here is constructive. Negative reviews that don’t contain the answer to the question of why a piece of media doesn’t work aren’t really useful, and those aren’t the kinds of negative reviews I’m talking about in this post. Take a look at the conversations happening around representation in comics. Much of that started because of negative reviews of comics and discussions of the lack of character variety. Now, we have many more writers, artists, and publishers stepping forward and bringing those kinds of stories to print. Constructive criticism allows writers and industry pros to see what’s working and what’s not, and to craft new stories around those trends.

A little bit of a longer rant than I was planning, but it seemed important to talk about anyways. Let me know in the comments if you find reading negative reviews useful or how you treat them on your own blog. I’ll be back with more comic and manga reviews on Wednesday, with anime reviews starting back up towards the end of this season.

~~Thanks for Reading!~~


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5 thoughts on “Waxing Philosophical: The Benefits of Negative Reviews

  1. I can’t see the point in only writing positive reviews. If you like everything and everything is interesting or good, then it is very hard for your readers to know when something is genuinely good or noteworthy. Whereas if you have a balanced range of positive and negative reviews, it is easier to tell when you really like something as opposed to just finding it okay or actually quite awful.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you for this post. As a long-time blogger/reviewer this is definitely something I struggle with, especially since some of my past negative reviews of things many people in the fandom have liked have garnered a lot of negative/angry comments (even if I’ve gone out of my way to be very fair, reasonable, and non-inflammatory) and that can be exhausting to deal with.

    Nowadays I find it more difficult to have the time to finish something I’m not enjoying and so my opportunity to write more critical reviews has gone down, but I think I might work towards giving myself that opportunity more often. Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I worry sometimes about getting negative comments especially on the popular shows I don’t like. But I think there will always be those kinda of people around that take things a little too personally, and its best to just ignore them if they dont want to engage in a serious conversation. You just gotta keep writing what youre passionate about and remind yourself why you started your blog in the first place. Keep up the great work!

      Liked by 1 person

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