As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a people pleaser. It’s my thing. I like to think I’m pretty nice and easy to like. I realize that not everyone likes me, but until the other day, I was moderately confident that no one hated me.
Well, now someone does.
My last review was of a show that just was not good. I tried to be as kind as possible and focus on the positive when reviewing it, but the need for honesty also meant that I said some things that I’m sure those involved with the show weren’t happy about. And I know artist types are sensitive folk. But if you’re going to put yourself out there for public consumption, you have to be able to take criticism, right?
To be fair though, the response I got doesn’t seem to be from anyone connected to the show. I think it was just from someone who liked the show. And she wrote me a letter. And it was mean. Really mean! She called me ignorant. More than once. She said I didn’t use enough opera jargon. She said I was unqualified to review the show. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only qualification you need to review anything is to have seen it and to have an opinion about it. Agree with me, disagree with me, whatever. But a personal attack (and that is very much what this was) strikes me as over the top.
Now, I can honestly say I have never been spoken to or written to in this way. I was shocked. Nope, actually, I’m still pretty shocked. I was also a bit shaken. And hit by a strong wallop of self-doubt. Maybe she was right, the show was good, and I had maligned those performers. Maybe I was unfit to be writing reviews.
But then I got feedback from people I trust. My husband saw the show with me. He reminded me of all the ways the show was awful. For example, here’s some sample dialogue, which was sung:
Sleazy Politician (to Reporter): Here’s your tip. There are deadly jellyfish washing in on the shores that usually only live off the shores of Australia.
Reporter: That’s your tip? Jellyfish?
Reporter: Humph! Jellyfish!
I would love to say I made that up. I might not have got that first line verbatim, but unfortunately, that was pretty accurate.
Then I heard from my clever friend with a music degree, who said that my language and lack of opera jargon was fine and this woman was just a snob. Then I heard from my editor, who said my job was to review shows, not promote them, and I should take the strong response as a compliment. And of course, that’s right. I know that I don’t trust reviewers who like everything because obviously they have no standards.
So I’ve decided not to take this personally. And hey, it’s always good to have new experiences, even negative ones. This is my first ever anti-fan. (Well, that I’m aware of.) This is my first ever hate mail. Actually, there’s something glamorous about that. I might print it and put it in a scrapbook.