He just shit on your whole life, bitch.
Can we talk about this for a sec?
This exchange was really important to me because I think Nina’s attitude here illustrates a HUGE problem with modern pop culture criticism.
Feedback regarding any work should always be delivered in a constructive way. The goal of any kind of evaluation is to point out what went right, what went wrong, and do so objectively, without bias, so that the recipient can improve himself/herself. Ideally, there should be no prejudice and (to a certain degree) no emotional attachment to the work being evaluated.
While the aesthetic value of a creative work is most certainly subjective, and the passions it evokes can also vary from person to person, the expression of a critic’s reaction to a work should be divorced from the emotional response he or she first received from that work so that the work can be examined within larger context, one extending beyond the scope of the individual person.
Reality TV has encouraged a style of criticism that rewards short-sighted snark and imprecise hyperbole over substantive commentary and fair-handedness. I’m thinking about Gordon Ramsey-style emotional outbursts where there’s cursing or violent shouting. I’m thinking about nasty rounds of Simon Cowell-brand sarcasm, where cute quips and degrading put downs become more important than delivering truly accurate, well-rounded criticism. I’m thinking about those judges who just scream and shout or clap their hands wildly or dance or throw out tired variations of “you killed it” or “that was the bomb” without really providing examples that illustrate what choices the artist made that were truly distinctive or superior. And frequently, when judges DO offer well-rounded criticism, they usually get booed for it by the audience even when it’s polite and accurate (I’m looking at YOU, Dancing with The Stars audience members!!!)
There’s no need for cruelty when providing a negative evaluation. And a positive evaluation needs more than exuberant gushing to be helpful. Both these styles lend themselves to emotional exhibitions that lack real, critical content. They may be better for TV ratings, but I think they also diminish the art of criticism. They perpetuate a culture where people listen to those individuals who are shouting the loudest, not those who might have the best ideas or clearer insights. It’s true that sometimes a pithy piece of snark can be insightful or clever, but most TV judges are a far freaking cry from Oscar Wilde!
In Nina Garcia’s case, she had her chance at express her scathing criticism in this clip, but she was so hell-bent on being as devastating as possible in her delivery that she could not even accept a humble “thank you” from this PR designer.
I don’t know what was going through Chris’ mind during this evaluation, but I believe his reply was meant as a subdued form of polite acceptance for Nina’s criticism. Even though Nina gave him this elaborate negative comment, he still respects her enough as a professional to take what she is saying constructively (even though it was never offered in the spirit of edification).
Nina doesn’t like his graciousness! She goes out of her way to make sure he feels insulted: ”That’s not a compliment.”
Chris responds with a curt, clarifying reply:
"I didn’t take it as a compliment."
Now THAT is my favorite kind of smackdown. It’s understated, subtle, humble, and completely turns the tables on the person who is supposed to have all the power.
I don’t know about other viewers, but after this interaction I was left with the distinct impression that it was not Chris’ understanding of Nina’s criticism that was lacking, but instead it is Nina’s authority as a critic that suddenly became questionable (at least in this one exchange).
Work it, Chris!