I am amazed, amazed, at the outpouring of grief this poor gnome’s passing has evoked. Really, is there any occupation more loathesome than ‘critic’? Who needs these people? Can’t we see a movie, or read a book, and experience our pleasure or displeasure on our own?
The history of criticism has probably been written, though I haven’t read it. I suspect the genre arises from bourgeois status anxiety — the same source that gives us etiquette manuals. But correct me if I’m wrong.
Nowadays, of course, ‘criticism’ is also a kind of muted, muffled, bloodless blood sport, like American Idol. Siskel and Ebert even made the blood-sport parallel explicit with that horrible thumbs-up, thumbs-down thing they did: Rogere atque Eugiene Caesares, morituri vos salutamus!
Caesar in this case is not of course Caesar himself but rather some fairly quick-witted drone in a cubicle whom Caesar employs to provide a kind of second-order entertainment, deriving its livelihood from entertainment proper, like a lamprey in the trout fishery.
A kind of court jester, and therefore of course, the funnier-looking the better.