Criticism and Meta-Criticism in Television

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By DEVON SHERIDAN
COLUMNIST

I started watching HBO’s wildly popular “Game of Thrones” series early this semester and caught up to the show just in time for the season four premiere. Prior to viewing, my relationship with the show felt like all my friends had this hip, new friend, whom they refused to talk about whenever I was present. Existing as a man with way too much time on his hands, I convinced myself that it was necessary to take the plunge.  I regret nothing.

Now, having spent the last four Sunday nights entrenched, real time, in the revelry, debauchery, barbarity and sadism of Westeros and all its neighboring lands, I find myself fascinated by the show for two reasons.

First, on a level of pure entertainment, “Game of Thrones” renders its viewers awash in a captivating deluge of content. Most of the story arcs, which are plentiful to say the least, are intriguing, and more importantly, almost all seem to hint at a great future. That being said, the uniquely great thing about its story arcs is that if you’re a viewer who is not terribly concerned with the names and geographic location of every character, not much is lost in terms of entertainment.

Second, if you are a person who looks forward to reading “Thrones” recaps and the comment sections of reddit.com on Monday, the second layer of entertaining speculation and well-articulated conversation that Thrones promulgates transcends the Sunday night experience. Now, for me and my fellow TV nerds, Thrones is a gratifying every-day-of-the-week affair.

Particularly interesting is the culture of criticism and meta-criticism that surrounds “Thrones.” The “Thrones” world is on a larger scale than “True Detective” when it comes to microcosm, and this provides television critics with a richer pastiche from which they can paint their own perspective of the show. In 2014, one critic can easily comment on an opposing or supporting point made by a different critic. For instance, in his recap of Episode 4 last week, “Grantland’s” Andy Greenwald attempted to tackle his conflicting feelings on a controversial rape scene. In doing so, he linked AV Club’s Sonia Saraiya’s recap of the same episode. Whereas Greenwald’s reaction was of confliction, Saraiya’s reaction was of anger towards the show’s show runners.

What happens next is called meta-criticism. Suddenly, writers are starting to review the way people review shows watched by both parties. Usually, professional critics nod to their peers in order to create a larger critical narrative about the show; comment board messengers, on the other hand, are hidden behind the veil of anonymity and tend to be overtly critical of the critics by poking holes in theories.

Can this culture get annoying? Yes. Does it add valuable perspective? Yes. The key to enjoying criticism as it pertains to enjoying “Game of Thrones” hinges on one’s ability to wade through negativity for negativity’s sake. Multiple perspectives allow us to see our culture through a variety of lenses.