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How Not To Respond To Criticism

by  in Comic News Comment
How Not To Respond To Criticism

There’s a good way and a bad way to respond to negative criticism, and complaining that it’s “uncool” or claiming that it comes from people who “are just not legitimate reviewers, period” is most definitely not the good way. So why isn’t someone trying to stop the people behind Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark from saying anything about the show’s bad reviews?

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the news about the show that redefines the idea of “troubled,” both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times (amongst others) ran reviews from the show earlier this week, ahead of the rescheduled March 15th opening date – but, tellingly, on schedule for the abandoned February opening – offering up confused-but-relatively-negative experiences. By itself, that wasn’t too surprising (Every report from the show, from preview audiences to even earlier reviews, have suggested that the narrative is confused and the songs unmemorable), but the official responses to the reviews? Well, that’s been something else. Firstly, here’s the show’s spokesman:

The PILE-ON by the critics was ridiculous and uncalled for. Their actions are unprecedented and UNCOOL!

And here’s producer Michael Cohl:

Any of the people who review the show and say it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period. It’s hard to have people that don’t get pop culture reviewing a pop culture event, isn’t it?

I’m trying to think of some way that those two comments don’t sound like whining, and pretty much failing. I can understand the idea that no-one involved in the show wants news outlets to be telling people how much their show fails before it even opens, but calling the reviewers unprofessional or complaining that bad reviews are uncool…? In what world is that anything close to a good idea?

It’s clear that the reaction comes from the fact that everyone involved knows that the show still needs some work – running separate focus groups for separate acts suggests just how much work – but even so, there’s nothing to be gained from this kind of petulant complaining. I’m not even saying that they should embrace the bad buzz, but at least don’t seem even worse by condemning those who didn’t like what they’ve seen. Say “We’re still working on it, and just wait until we officially open,” say “We’re sorry they didn’t like it, but what can you do,” say nothing – any of those are better than the statements released.

See, here’s where you can be too negative for the audience ahead of time; if I’m paying money to see a show/a movie/a television series/whatever, I want to think two things about the people making it: Firstly, that they’re trying their hardest to entertain, and secondly, that they care about the audience in some way. What the Turn Off The Dark reactions say to me is that the former may be true – You don’t get that upset unless you’re invested in what you’re doing, after all – but that the latter definitely isn’t. And there’s something about that, about the petulant, snapping reactions that makes me not want to support the show as it gets closer to opening… and that’s what the producers should worry about far more than any bad reviews. Because if people don’t want you to succeed, it’s unlikely that you will.

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