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"The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie."—Jean-Luc Godard
Criticism can be fun. Picking apart works and trying to find and explain (and make fun of) some of the things that went wrong can be deeply satisfying, and at the same time strangely therapeutic. Of course, some people take some of these criticisms to heart, and won't hesitate to chew you out if you suggest that something may be wrong with their personal sacred cow. That person will usually rebut your criticism with something like, "Oh, yeah? Let's see you do better!"
There is a common misconception among fans and people having worked in a particular field that non-experts are not qualified to comment on their work. While it helps to have some background information or experience, it is certainly not required. It doesn't take a carpenter to recognize a poorly-made table, after all. Whenever an ordinary fan calls out another person to try their hand at something (making a film, creating a videogame, or writing a book) before criticizing it, that person has lost the argument. Sort of like Godwin's Law, except usually without the invocation of Hitler. Targets for Snark Bait are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon, as is the person with a Small Name, Big Ego. Let's all remember what Baldassere Castiglione said in The Courtier:
And if [the author] does not attain to such a perfection that his writings should merit great praise, let him take care to keep them under cover so that others will not laugh at him, and let him show them only to a friend who can be trusted...
Just imagine if this were applied to all forms of criticism; "You think the president's doing a bad job, and want to vote for the opposing candidate? How can you even say that when you've never been president?" "You think this cake tastes bad and it's undercooked? How can you even say that when you've never been a chef?" "You think Hitler could have done a better job during World War II? How can you even say that when you've never been a leader of Germany who sparked a war and a Holocaust?" You clearly don't have to be good at something yourself in order to be able to tell whether someone else is good or not. Perhaps strangely, however, this objection is rarely (if ever) raised to deflect positive criticism.
On the other hand, while all opinions may be valid this does not mean that all opinions are equally informed or useful. It is not rare for criticism to form even without any rudimentary understanding of the difficulties inherent in whatever is being criticized. Anyone who's had to manage a "bigger picture" probably understands a lot better that being president can be a horrendous task, and there's much more to large-budget filmmaking than its acclaimed director.
And this argument legitimately comes into play when someone actually is coming out and saying they could do better without producing any evidence to that effect; in such cases, it's not entirely unreasonable to ask them to put their money where their mouth is and pony up the goods.
In some circles, this is erroneously called "Ebert's Law", named after the famous film critic Roger Ebert. This is not an actual trope about his version of Ebert's law, which is "It's not what a movie's about, but how it's about it."
A specific case, where Let's See You Do Better can be applied with impunity is when the critic claims "Everyone can do better" or something to the tune, directly claiming a group they could belong in, indeed can do better.
The most feared response to this statement is "All right then, I will!"
Anime and Manga
- A rather positive, even encouraging, version of this came when Kubo Tite, of Bleach fame, answered some criticism in early 2010 through his Twitter. He said to his fans:
"If you have the talent to draw something more interesting than Bleach, you should become a manga artist right away. If it's interesting, it will definitely be more successful than Bleach."
- There is actually a type of Fan Fiction (Fix Fic) where people actually do try to do better than the original work. The Matrix sequels and the Star Wars Prequels are popular subjects for this.
- The author of Hunting the Unicorn practically states that "this is how Blaine's characterization could have been, if the writers weren't busy pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator."
- The best known example of the above law that actually involves Roger Ebert comes from a review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Actor Rob Schneider took offense to an article by Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times, pointing out that several major studios turned down the chance to finance the year's Best Picture nominees while financing a sequel to a crude sex comedy. After reading it, he took out a full-page ad in the Hollywood Reporter and called Goldstein a "hack" because he had never won any Pulitzer Prizes. In Ebert's review of the film, he taunted Schneider and said that he himself actually did win a Pulitzer, and thus was fully qualified to tell Schneider that he thought the movie sucked. The story took an unexpected turn after several back-and-forth barbs in the press. After one of Ebert's cancer surgeries, Schneider sent Ebert flowers. Ebert conceded that while Schneider may make bad movies, he's a good man. Aww.
- Uwe Boll, "ze only genius in ze hole fahking beeznez", engages in this. The thing is, his targets were Michael Bay, George Clooney, and Eli Roth. Now say what you will about the savagely, critically trashed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or Hostel, but at least one of them is certainly better than Alone in The Dark.
- According to this blog Mark Ruffalo invoked this trope when his directorial debut was panned at the Sundance Film Festival.
- Bruce Almighty provides an in-universe example, where God basically tells Bruce this...then gives him all of His powers for a week.
- In Happy Gilmore this is what leads to Happy discovering his talent.
- From the 1940 film Edison The Man:
Thomas Edison: That spring is too strong, it won't work.
Workman: I'd like to see you make a better one.
Thomas Edison: Well, a fellow can tell a bad egg without being able to lay one.
- Chuck Palahniuk once responded to a review like this.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe author Karen Traviss generally has this reaction whenever readers point out some of the inherent silliness of her work, such as her ridiculously low estimate of the number of clone troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic. Then again, people have flat out threatened her over this. Even though she repeatedly claimed she got her figures from her bosses. For numbers that first appeared in the Attack of the Clones Movie Novelization. So she was taking flak for figures that predated her by several years in a tier of canon her critics ignorantly claimed she had no right to alter, not realizing that said claims undermined their own positions. Seriously, the whole thing is one massive messed up piece of idiocy.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe novelist Keith Topping, responding to critics on the Doctor Who UseNet groups:
Just one tiny question? What's are the titles of either of you guy's novels again? Just so, you know, I can specifically look out for them in the shops and use the stunning quality writing therein to put right all the numerous things I'm so obviously doing wrong.
- Inverted Trope by John Updike, both a prolific author and a prolific critic, who was fond of saying that all writers should write criticism once in a while just to remind themselves of how hard it is.
- Al Franken wrote some funny political satire. Then people started launching this at him. So then he went and got himself elected to the Senate...
- An in-universe example: Sherlock Holmes' criticism of Watson's written records of his adventures is almost a running gag in Doyle's works. Eventually, Watson basically told him the name of this trope enough times so that Holmes grabbed a pen and wrote "The Blanched Soldier" (where he acknowledged that it wasn't as easy as it looked at first sight).
- Another in-universe example from David Eddings: an administrator in the Tamul Empire (an ersatz Imperial China) explaining that the appearance of revolutionaries in a province of the empire was an indication that something had gone seriously wrong (as Tamul acted as Benevolent Tyrants). Since the revolutionaries had already identified the problems the pragmatic solution was simply to replace the incompetent imperial governors with the revolutionaries. This was also an Ironic Punishment as being an imperial governor was one of the most thankless jobs in the empire. NO-ONE liked the governor.
- Ray Bradbury harnessed the power of metaphor to...make this very point:
"If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture."
Live Action TV
- It's almost a given that during any American Idol audition phase, at least one particularly awful auditioner will say this to the judges, which is funny when you consider that Paula Abdul is a Grammy Award winner, and that Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell have both won awards for managing music. In other words, those two know more about what makes good music than good musicians do.
- A similar example from the Swedish show "Let's Dance" (the Swedish adaption of Strictly Come Dancing). When a turned-down contestant said this, the show lampshaded it by cutting to a montage, explaining the judges past experience in the field, showing that they are in fact qualified for the position.
- Known to The Daily Show fans as the "Tucker Carlson defense", after Jon Stewart criticized Crossfire for being bad journalism, and Carlson complained that Jon's show wasn't proper journalism either.
- Wynton Marsalis on Stephen Colbert's Hiphopketball: A Jazzebration: "You should be a music critic."
- This is sometimes Fozzie Bears response to Statler and Waldorf's heckling on The Muppet Show. It tends to backfire.
- Avenged Sevenfold's song, "Critical Acclaim" is more or less this trope as an angry, ridiculous screed against people who criticize The USA because "they've never contributed a fucking thing to the country they love to criticize." Apparently, the songwriter believes that criticizing the country or the war, etc. (not the soldiers) when you've never served your country insults those who have. What's even funnier is that the song calls these critics self-righteous and hypocritical without a hint of irony.
So how does it feel to know that someone's kid in the heart of America
Has blood on their hands
Fighting to defend your rights
So you can maintain the lifestyle that insults his family's existence
Well, where I'm from we have a special salute we aim high in the air
Towards all those pompous assholes who spend their days pointing fingers
All the way from the east to the west
We've got this high society looking down on this very foundation
Constantly reminding us that our actions are the cause of all their problems
Pointing the fingers in every direction
Blaming their own nation for who wins elections
They've never contributed a fucking thing to the country they love to criticize
- Also, keep in mind that M. Shadows said that A7x wasn't going to force its religious or political views on anyone.
- An urban legend says that a band once played a poor set due to their less than stellar guitarist. The band is heckled and the guitarist tells one heckler "Let's see you do better." The heckler (usually mentioned as being Eric Clapton) takes the guitar and blows the crowd away with his playing.
- When 16-year-old Isaac Watts complained about the low quality of the poetry in the hymns his church sang, his father (a deacon) challenged him to write a better one. Watts did so, and went on to become one of the greatest hymn-writers in the English language. Mission accomplished.
- In response to criticism for his bombastic overture "Wellington's Victory", Ludwig Van Beethoven retorted, "What I shit is better than anything you could ever think up!" Considering he was Beethoven, that's probably Justified.
- Vilhelm Peterson-Berger was a notoriously savage music critic for a major Stockholm newspaper in the early 20th century. After savaging an opening night, the composer challenged him to do better. Peterson-Berger... well, lets just say he did. He is now considered one of the great Swedish composers.
- Lynn Johnston of For Better or For Worse fame used to maintain a mailbag feature on her website. After letters complaining about the quality of the strip were run, it was not uncommon for others to write in saying that if the former group thought it was so bad, they should come up with their own comic strip instead.
- This is sometimes thrown out to Smarks by wrestlers. Mainly because some Smarks (though they know about the wrestling business), do not understand the large scope of things be it the business aspect of things, or the physical aspects of things in the ring.
- Losing sports team coaches shut down critics by attacking their lack of professional sports experience as either an athlete or a coach. It became comical when former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli said this during his team's winless season in 2008.
- A weird version of this is when other people (usually fans) criticized the criticizers. As so when an athlete or a team made a bad play or had a bad game and were criticized. There will always be someone to defend said athlete/team by saying "Let's see how you do when (insert challenge of the sport here)"
- After Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez yanked star shortstop Hanley Ramirez out of a game for not hustling and then benched him, Ramirez attacked Gonzalez in the press, saying that since Gonzalez had never played in the major leagues, he had no right to criticize him. Never mind the fact that calling out a player's lack of effort is a manager's job, regardless of said manager's personal major league experience. When Marlins executives Andre Dawson and Tony Perez - both Hall of Fame players - took Ramirez to task as well, he finally got the message and apologized to his teammates.
- Another thing that makes Ramirez's remarks especially ridiculous is that many if not most of the best major league managers have/had little or no major league playing experience.
- Controversial NFL star James Harrison savaged Roger Goodell for this over Harrison's increasingly stiff penalties for late hits, helmet shots, and other violent play that the league was cracking down on. Harrison claimed that Goodell couldn't accurate assess these penalties having never played the sport at any high level himself.
- While reviewing the official PC game based on Dirty Dancing, The Spoony One pre-emptively mentioned that he already has, in fact, coded games that are better than the minigames in the game as homework for his software engineering course.
- The MUGEN fandom's got this BAD. in response to criticism of a character on any MUGEN forum (usually criticism by Wild Tengu), at least one noob is likely to say "you can't judge, you haven't made a character!". It would be a good argument, if not for the fact that if someone who's had no character-creation experience can note when something's very wrong, then the argument becomes redundant.
- Games that let you mod them are also a target for this trope. There are always some people who simply need to tweak a few things before their custom content is considered good or they just need some guidance in the right direction to make something work. However, if the criticism against the creator's work is strong and the creator does not react to kindly to it, they may dismiss all criticism by saying that they put a lot of hard work into it and they don't see them doing any better. This reaction can also occur within the fans of the creator's work(s) since they may see any form of criticism as a sign of bashing.
- This was reportedly how Steve Meretzky got his job at Infocom. He sent them a letter criticizing their work, and they asked if he could do better. He responded by writing Planetfall.
- Touhou exists because ZUN didn't like existing shooter games. Amusingly, the fandom also likes doing this with his art (good designs, bad execution).
- According to Word of God, this is how I Wanna Be the Guy was born.
- A variant, where this was invoked by the critic himself: after the infamously horrible Doom WAD called "Doom: Rampage Edition" (involving the player taking on a role of a Baron of Hell) was released, one of the players commented that "he could pull a better wad out of [his] ass". A week later, he did indeed release a WAD based on the same concept, which gathered warm reviews. To rub it in: the name of this WAD? "A Better WAD I Pulled Out Of My Ass".
- Newgrounds used to be the king of this trope. It seemed that unless you had a movie that was rated in the top 10, you had absolutely no right to criticize any movies There were even movies made making fun of those people who left comments or even rated movies down. But most of these were made about the types of people who made comments like "Your movie stinks" or "You used sprites, therefore you sucked" or attacked the author without good reason.
- Sometimes, even pointing out a bug in a flash game resulted in this...
- The Onion, in its usual style, applied this trope in an unexpected way to fantastic results.
- Atop the Fourth Wall was flooded with these kinds of comments after Linkara introduced "Miller Time," a series of reviews of Frank Miller's worst comics. He responded that he's only been at this for a couple years, while Miller's been working for three decades.
- During the Wolverine: Adamantium Rage review, Spoony (who was watching in the background) mocks Linkara's decision to use cheat codes during a particularly difficult part of the game. Linkara's response is to step away from the keyboard and let Spoony try. After a half-dozen failures and an abortive suicide attempt, Spoony lets Linkara cheat.
- Inverted, during an episode of History of Power Rangers, Linkara notes that Lord Zedd's evil Rangers were just the Puttys painted in the Rangers's colors, and he could make a better costume than that. A few months later, he unveiled a White Zeo Ranger suit in the style of his normal Linkara attire.
- Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation gets this a lot, despite that he actually has programmed some freeware PC games before his rambling gaming reviews gained him the following he has today.
- Having also done some minor webcomics criticism, Yahtzee may also have received these from webcomic supporters. Yahtzee, however, always remarks that his old webcomic efforts were hardly any better than the ones he openly criticizes, and is very aware of the hypocrisy in pointing out other webcomics' flaws. And at least Yahtzee stopped making his horrible webcomic.
- Kippurbird also got this at least once due to her sporkings of Eragon.
- Lost Parody did this for their final episode, after 14 completely nonsensical episodes of jabs at Lost's failings, in the last episode they managed to pull the entirety of depicted events together into something that came very close to making sense.
Hurley: Now it's your turn, Lost! You only have ONE. EPISODE! LEFT!
- If anyone criticizes an articles on Cracked, expect to see this trope show up.
- Except for when the author admits that his article sucks, and apologises for putting it up.
- Criticisms of Twilight will often be met with, "well, let's see you write a best seller." It turns out that they won't actually care if you've written anything or not, as when an author who met this criteria criticized Twilight, fans were quick to declare that he was just jealous because he hadn't written anything popular lately.
- This happens occasionally on high-traffic wikis, especially TOW. In this case, however, because of the nature of the medium, it's a perfectly legitimate request.
- This trope is the basis for the How It Should Have Ended series.
- On Dragon Cave, a popular adoptables site with dragon sprites, fans will occasionally criticise the art- with things ranging from genuine explanations about not liking colours, poses, shading styles etc to others who just say "It sucks, get rid of it!" Some artists and fans have responded with this trope; others of course understand that everybody can be a good spriter and sketcher, and they're perfectly entitled to having an opinion on art.
- This is referenced by Cleolinda Jones at one point. She responds to it with "You don't need to be a farmer to know if the milk's gone bad".
- A common reaction for subjects of Retsupurae, going so far as to call out Slowbeef and Diabetus asking to see them make a better Let's Play. Even though they have none up on YouTube, they're Something Awful regulars with several finished LPs- in fact, Slowbeef himself is the one who started Let's Play to begin with.
- The Nostalgia Chick often lampshades that she'll have nowhere near the success of the people she's bitching about, and that's why it's so fun to tear their stuff apart in the first place.
- After Elly of The Word Weary criticizes a woman's parenting skills, the woman responds with a variation on this.
- There was a South Park episode where Cartman made the morning announcements and relentlessly and mercilessly picked apart everything Wendy did as a class president. As her way of asking Cartman if he could do better, Wendy simply resigned from her spot and let Cartman take over. This actually got Cartman to shut up, as he was prepared to only criticize, not act.
- And, of course, there was the fact that the class president had no real authority to begin with. Since Cartman convinced everyone in school to "ask questions"(i.e. Blame the most prominent authority figure available for anything and everything), he was left with everyone in school blaming him for all manner of problems that he in no way had the power to solve.
- On The Simpsons when Bart is kicked out of Mr. Burns' casino and notes the martinis suck, the Squeaky Voiced Teen challenges him to have his own casino in his treehouse. Bart does just that, leading the teen to note how he was shown up.
- In "Bart Star" Homer constantly taunts Ned about his coaching.
Marge: You know, Homer, its very easy to critisise.
Homer: Fun, too.
- When Flanders has enough, he gives Homer the position.
Ned: Do you have a problem with the way I'm coaching?
Homer: No! No! No no no. Its just that... well... like I was yelling earlier... seems like... anyone with half a brain can coach better than you.
Ned: Half a brain, huh? Well, you know what? Sounds like you just volunteered!
Homer: Me? But you were doing such a great job!
- Used during an episode of Family Guy. Mere minutes from his horrible television pilot going on the air, Brian notices the cast of Two and A Half Men standing there.
Charlie Sheen: You're always saying our show sucks. Lets see yours.
- Bonus points for actually getting Sheen to do the voice.
- Another episode had Meg and Chris claim they could be better parents than Peter and Lois, who gladly oblige. Then it turns out that the kids are right: Meg does the chores in a fraction of the time Lois takes and prepares a delicious dinner, while Chris actually earns a promotion in his father's job at the brewery. Then the stress of his workload causes Chris to have a heart attack, and everything goes back to normal.
- To twist the knife even further, Peter and Lois completely screw up in high school and are even less popular than Chris and Meg usually are.
- Statesmen or generals use this defense in their memoirs, all the way back to ancient times.
- Parliamentary systems such as the UK run on this. If the government of the day doesn't have the confidence of Parliament, they resign and the head of state has the option of either asking another member of Parliament to form a new government (if they can find sufficient votes in government), or call a general election to elect a new Parliament. Macaulay, in his History of England, notes that this practice forces the Parliamentary opposition to be more serious about the business of government, compared with earlier when ministers continued in position without having the support of a majority of Parliament.
- An interesting variant on that occurred when John Major challenged his critics within the Conservative party to "put up or shut up" - he resigned from the leadership of his party, though not from the office of prime minister, and contested a snap election for party leader. He won, but in the event that he'd been defeated, his victorious opponent would most likely have become prime minister and served as such for the remainder of that parliamentary term.