An Enthusastic Critical Framework

Kyle tweeted the following recently:

all text is hyper-text
all canon is head canon

In response I made a bad joke and then mentioned:

I think I subscribe to authorial intent way more than you do. Not like there’s one true canon, but there are some that are interpretations we can and should agree on.

To expand on that somewhat the questions I use to interrogate media (and art) are as follows:

  • What was it trying to do?
  • Did it successfully do it?
  • Did you like how it did it?

What I’ve found is that this helps me approach the work on the author’s terms. Afterward I can decide if that approach and result was something I subjectively liked. If I don’t ask these questions it’s easy to default to simple descriptors like “terrible” or “awesome”. This also has the advantage of helping me appreciate work I might otherwise choose to interact with and find that, yeah, I did like how it accomplished its goals!

A Further Question

A subset of the first question is “Who was the audience this work was created for?” If you’re not the target audience then it can be helpful to understand that up front. You might not have the capacity to understand what the work was trying to do because it relies on shorthand experiences you don’t have. Alternatively–and this is most of my life right now–you might not be a toddler so the repetition or low stakes just don’t work for you, but would work for your toddler.