I have to speak out. It’s time someone did. America is wasting one of its great national treasures, and it’s a disgrace.
I’m talking about the sad plight of the movie and theater critics. The recession has hit this group as bad or worse than any other, and not one voice has been heard advocating its cause. Not one Congressman has introduced a bill to relieve their distress. And yet, the evidence of their plight is everywhere. I have never seen so many out-of-work critics.
Just the other day, as I strolled through the Hennepin Avenue Theatre District, I saw this poor fellow on the corner. He was holding a tin cup, and had a sign that said: “Criticism: Five Cents.”
I was wearing a large felt hat, and I wasn’t sure it went with my outfit, so I put a nickel in his cup, and asked, “How’s my hat?”
“The rainbow-striped brim is garish.”
I waited a moment, but he didn’t continue, so I asked again, “How’s my hat?”
“You only get one criticism for a nickel.”
I put another nickel in his cup
“I’d change the scarf.”
“I wanted to know about the hat.”
“For a nickel, I choose. For a dime, you choose.”
“It doesn’t say that on your sign.”
“It doesn’t need to. All my regulars know that.”
“When do you get to the hat?”
“After your makeup and that dated seersucker suit.”
“That’d cost 15 cents more?”
“OK, here’s a dime. How’s my hat?”
“Doesn’t work for me. I’d lose it.”
A couple days later, I saw a guy at the side of the road with a sign that said: “Will Criticize For Food.”
He looked awfully hungry. Of course, I walked over right away. Because it looked like a great deal for me.
The guy was really good. Even before we got to my apartment, he had straightened me out on my high-top tennis shoes, and told me everything wrong with my Bermuda shorts. I had always liked my Bermudas until then. If it hadn’t been for him, I would still be walking around wearing the wrong proportions for my body type, and not even know it.
Just before we got to my place, on a whim, I decided to take him to a restaurant instead of my apartment. OK, it wasn’t just a whim. I had lived in that place for 15 years, and didn’t feel like moving yet.
But I made a mistake, and took him to a restaurant that I kind of liked until then. Still, I found out a lot about the life of a critic.
He said he had a miserable home life. His wife wouldn’t let him alone: Do you like this, dear? How was dinner, dear? Is my new belt all right, dear?
He finally had to tell her, “Hey! I’m not working now. Can I rest?”
She wouldn’t quit, so he eventually had to leave her.
Friends were just as bad, he said, so he finally had to tell them: “If you made doughnuts, how would you feel if I kept asking you for free samples? Well, this is how I make my living. No free samples.”
He also told me how he warmed up on the way to work: There’s a nice car over there….Look at that pile of junk….Liked the way that light changed right on time….That driver is insensitive and obviously inexperienced.
Our conversation certainly opened my eyes. These people are absolutely invaluable to us. There are countless things that we’d be perfectly happy with if a critic hadn’t pointed out their defects. There are many more things we’re using right now that we think we like because no one has pointed out to us what’s wrong with them.
And that’s not right!
Things have gone bad, my critic concluded: “The recession. There have been cutbacks. Lots of good critics are out of work.”
He sighed, then took a bite from his third piece of “barely adequate” pie.
Now, maybe I’m wrong for doing so, but I’ve decided to stop seeking advice from the roadside critics. I just can’t afford them. If I want free, unsolicited judgment, I’ll just go to the gay bar. Gay men are all critics, right? Oops.
Well, consider the source.
Bye for now.
PS: See you at the Pride Festival. I’ll be the one wearing a rainbow-striped hat, Bermuda shorts, and high-top tennis shoes.