Friday, June 17, 2011

I Give This Review a C-

Being a critic of a number of things, whether on this site or in conversation, until recently I have been quick to assign a ratings scale similar to that of a grade school teacher. By grace of an alpha numeric designation I would either designate cheer or jeer the subject du jour.  But when you think about what beer or any other consumable is to the consumer, do these types of ratings do the subject justice? As I am assuming you have read one of my reviews, you probably know that I do not believe so,  for I do not use them in my own reviews.

At its essence, treating a beer, bottle of wine, tobacco, or other consumer goods like a formula that has an end result that could be classified as A+, perfect, or 100% right, is treating a subject like there is consensus of what that item should be. I would contend though, that beer, for the sake of this website, is more like a painting than the mathematics test that can be easily deconstructed to such a numeric grade.

I will contend that one could grade art on a technical basis, perhaps gauging the use of established techniques to make the result more in line with an academic standard, but when you’re enjoying something, who cares about an academic standard? The best beer or the best painting is going to be the one decided by the work’s consumer. By me telling you that Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks is an A+ painting I have only told you that I like it, but I’m not giving you any other information to base the recommendation from, making the grade a shallow, almost unusable, critique.

Now, most, if not all, critics will go into the details of what they liked or disliked about their subject. This is great; this is what a critique should be. After reading what this person or that person liked or disliked about a beer, for instance, why does the reader need a C- to know whether you did or did not enjoy the beverage? 

Assuming you have taken the time to describe something clearly, by the end of the review I should know that you liked or disliked the subject of your critique without the need for a foil star from the writer to designate their perceived quality.

If you like using an alpha numeric scale for evaluation, more power to you, but in my own opinion, it only really supports advertising firms’ attempts at marketing luxury goods and lazy consumerism.

Pope Crisco

1 comment:

Sud Savant said...

I totally agree with the art/beer metaphor. In the defense of alpha-numeric evaluations it does provide a "summary for dummies." People like summaries as they're quick and easy. Besides, even in academic works (journal articles, thesis statements,etc) a summary is not out of place. In fact, sometimes its easy for a reader to get caught up in the minutia of an article and a summary can help that.

We also agree that a GOOD summary should reduce the need for the use of a "scale" in the summary. They're nice to have, but shouldn't be the end all be all.

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