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It stinks!
Jay Sherman, The Critic
A critic is a legless man who teaches running to the fleet of foot.
Haer'Dalis, Baldur's Gate 2

The Straw Critic is the bane of all living writers, performers, and other artists everywhere. He comes in two forms, both of which live to Accentuate the Negative:

  1. The guy who only likes True Art, which is, of course, angsty, foreign, incomprehensible, daring]], political, and created by someone who is long since dead. He thinks less of you for liking whatever it is that you do like, and firmly believes that Viewers are Morons. After all, if viewers weren't morons, they obviously wouldn't be watching Lowest Common Denominator crap!
  2. The guy who is incapable of understanding True Art, and judges it harshly based on its stubborn failure to hold to any conventional formal scheme.

Any character in fiction who is described as a well-known or influential critic, an editor, or as an English professor, is likely to be a Straw Critic as well as an insufferable snob.

A variant of the Straw Critic is the Straw Editor, who takes joy in rejecting perfectly good story submissions, demanding ridiculous changes, and otherwise has no purpose in life other than to make the writer's Author Avatar miserable.

Critics and editors often attract the ire of writers, because it's their job to tell people when stories suck. Needless to say, "Your story sucks" is not something most writers want to hear, which sometimes leads to a writer becoming a bit bitter and filling their stories with subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at the editors and critics who are too closed-minded to appreciate them properly. Frequently involved in a Take That, Critics! moment.

Can occasionally be a case of Truth in Television, since some critics have been known to make pronouncements about media which they haven't even seen firsthand. But this rarely happens so spectacularly as in fiction.

As with other tropes in the War On Straw, please refrain from adding Truth in Television examples, as there is a very thin line between an actual Straw Critic and a troper attempting to portray a critic they don't like as one.

See also Reviewer Stock Phrases. Compare Fan Dumb, Unpleasable Fanbase, Caustic Critic, and FanHaters.

Examples of Straw Critic include:
  • J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Grounded had an entire slew of straw critics in the form of reporters asking Superman a series of (perfectly reasonable) questions about why he randomly decided to walk across America. Not only does this attempt completely fail to recognize the in-universe hypocrisy (Clark Kent is a reporter) but it also foreshadowed that we'd get a series where basic logic is ignored (even though the story is supposed to take place in a more realistic depiction of America) in favor of Superman being a dick.
    • Hilariously JMS gave up on the series completely because it sucked. A series that uses a Straw Critic in its very first issue pretty much screams "I refuse to do my job competently!".
  • One character in Lady in the Water is a movie critic whose primary traits are that he is very Genre Savvy and is extremely jaded. He sometimes gives advice to the other characters. Eventually, he suffers from Death by Genre Savviness. It's worth mentioning that the director M. Night Shyamalan's most recent movie at the time, The Village, had been critically panned, something which did not go unnoticed or unremarked upon by many of the real-life critics who reviewed the movie.
    • Roger Ebert found that in fact, the Straw Critic got off easy.
  • Jay Sherman, the main character of The Critic, is a film critic who hates almost everything he reviews. However, the movies he bashes really are horrible.
    • He's portrayed sympathetically, though Your Mileage May Vary: in the first season, he was portrayed as an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist; in the second season, he was portrayed more as The Woobie, given some humanising traits and a sweet romance with a nice young woman.
    • At heart he's still a grasping, weak, lonely man who is roundly disliked or at best pitied by almost every character, save precisely two, one of which is his son. Add to this the fact he's an open snob and extraordinarily hostile to his employees and boss in equal measure (usually for suggesting a course of action that, while logical, he disapproves of... for some reason), and the fact the show all but outright states he bashes movies to indulge his power fantasies, and really he comes off more as a kind of mild Anti-Sue at worst and at best a Butt Monkey. Also, hilariously, he shows up later on The Simpsons in a nuthouse screaming "It Stinks!" impotently as a doctor there-theres him and calmly jots something down, ignoring him completely.

 Jay: [singing] I love French films, pretentious boring French films, I love French Films, two tickets s'il vous plait! [man punches him]

  • Piers Anthony, in his Author's Notes and introductions, and even some of his stories, frequently bashes critics and editors. His defense of his works (which are basically the print equivalent of a Summer Blockbuster) usually boils down to Quality by Popular Vote; plenty of people like them, so they must be good.
    • Piers Anthony even wrote a short story in which an alien comes up with a plan to stop humanity's technological progress. The alien is going to do that by shutting down science fiction so nobody will be inspired to create anything new. To shut down science fiction, he's going to shut down science fiction magazines so new writers can't get published. To do that, he's going to send the editors of those magazines an unsolicited two-page story with a picture on the second page that will drive anyone who sees it insane. The alien realizes he failed when he gets a pile of rejection letters - not one editor looked at the second page of the story!
      • As Anvilicious as that is, it may have some small basis in reality. In talking about his career, Anthony said that he used to do detailed, extensive write-ups for stories, all of which were rejected. When he started submitting small blurbs that basically communicated nothing more than the general idea of what he wanted to write, he got approved. Which doesn't make the story any less strawmannish, really, but hey, write what you know.
    • In fact, the opening chapter of Currant Events contained an extended Take That on critics, in the form of an evil version of Clio, Muse of History parroting frequent complaints about the Xanth series. (The real Clio responds to this by basically saying "Yeah? So What?")
    • Anthony also has a species of vile, obnoxious, and thoroughly useless bugs residing in Xanth, known as "cri-tics".
  • The film Ratatouille features as an antagonist a restaurant critic, Anton Ego (who looks more than a bit like author Will Self). In a partial subversion, Ego is extremely hard-to-please, but his high standards are sincere, and when confronted with true culinary genius, he recognizes and supports it, even when it would jeopardize his career. He also receives a small but powerful bit of Character Development. Therefore, it turns out that he's not really a Straw Critic.
  • Psychonauts parodies this with Jasper Rolls, a critic boss character who was the absurd epitome of this trope; an ugly, obese, snobbish man who has many jokes at his expense and who literally hurls cliched derogatory adjectives like "tedious" and "monotonous" etc. whilst you battle him. This gets even more interesting when you remember that the battle takes place in the mindscape of demented former actress Gloria van Gouton, where Jasper represents Gloria's own insecurities and harsh self-judgements about her performance.
    • In a bit of a Fridge Brilliant subversion to this trope, Jasper doesn't die after you defeat him--he just shrinks from his previously huge size. Having an inner (or outer) critic isn't bad in and of itself (without it, we wouldn't feel the need to improve ourselves)- but if it grows too harsh or too negative (like in Gloria's case), it can become a problem.
  • The American Godzilla featured the incompetent Mayor Ebert, an obvious caricature of critic Roger Ebert, who had given the director several bad reviews on previous movies. Ebert expressed disappointment that they hadn't even bothered to give him a nasty fate.

 "I fully expected to be squished like a bug by Godzilla. Now that I've inspired a character in a Godzilla movie, all I really still desire is for several Ingmar Bergman characters to sit in a circle and read my reviews to one another in hushed tones."

    • Then there's Willow where the critcs got to be the monsters. The two headed dragon in the film was nicknamed "Eborsisk" by the cast and crew while The Dragon is named General Kael, after Pauline Kael. Both Siskel and Ebert had consistently enjoyed the writer/director's previous films, even when other critics did not, so it was probably not meant to be offensive but rather an odd sort of Shout-Out. Kael, however, definitely counts since she had lambasted Star Wars way back in 1977.
  • Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita featured some of those, based on the real critics he had to put up with (as well as literary bureaucrats and so on). He then had a witch utterly trash the apartment of one of them.
  • Michael Crichton had an extreme variation of this trope: he makes a character transparently based on someone who had criticized him - giving the character a very similar name and expositing that the character is a "Washington-based political columnist" who was a "wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate", just to make it clear - rape a baby. Fortunately, damage to the boy's rectum was minimized because the rapist had a very small penis. After this is over, the character isn't heard from again.
  • A Bit Of Fry & Laurie parodied this with a recurring set of critic characters, although they were more of the academic, literary-analysis type. One of them (the one that Hugh Laurie played) said that he had written a book of his wise sayings, but it had been critically lambasted. "But what do critics know of the work we do?" he wonders.
    • This is a very particular Author Tract -- both Fry and Laurie have talked about why they can't stand real-life Caustic Critics, including the actual mannerisms they use in the sketches -- affected "tiredness" is one of the things Fry has mentioned specifically, and it's taken to an extreme in the sketches, where the critic characters slump down further and further each time they appear and end up sprawled on the floor eating ice cream, so exhausted are they are by the sheer mediocrity of whatever it is they're criticizing. Considering that bad reviews were to be a major factor in the attack of depression/stage fright that caused Fry to flee the country and consider suicide in 1995, I kind of wish they'd stuck it to the Straw Critics even harder.
  • Parodied with Those Two Guys on The Sean Cullen Show, who were a pair of guys in the audience who overanalyzed everything and complained about continuity.
  • In John Carpenter's They Live, Siskel and Ebert are revealed to be aliens. They don't notice that their Masquerade broke because they're too busy complaining about violence in the films of Carpenter and George Romero.
    • Which is sort of a Straw Man on Carpenter's part: Roger Ebert championed Halloween alongside the Village Voice when it was being dismissed as just another slasher flick by other critics.
  • Statler and Waldorf, on The Muppet Show, who appear in the "audience" and only exist to heckle Kermit and the rest of the Muppets.
    • In a subversion, though, they are generally shown as being sharp-witted and incisive; usually they come off as the show being self-deprecating, rather than making a strawman out of their critics.
    • Sam the Eagle occasionally took on aspects of the True Art breed of straw critic. The laughs at his expense usually derived from his complete ignorance of the subject in question (he thought Shakespeare wrote Robin Hood) or by having a classically trained guest star (Rudolf Nureyev, Beverly Sills) cheerfully joining in on the show's usual silliness to Sam's chagrin.
      • In a more recent internet video Sam tries to sing American Woman (hazarding that it was written by, "I don't know...John Philip Sousa?"), only to discover that it is not, as he believed, a ballad in praise of Lady Liberty, at which point he starts getting into this on patriotic grounds. But what really gets his hackles up is that the Guess Who are Canadian.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Number Of The Beast has a "Critics' Lounge" where literary critics are trapped. Lazarus Long is sure that it will get rid of his problem with critics because in order to escape, you must be able to read plain text without distorting or "interpreting" the meaning, which he implies that critics cannot do.
  • Katie Teidrich would like you to know that all her critics are legitimate (First panel, look close).
  • Nicolas Slominsky, who is almost as famed for his sly sense of humor as his considerable contributions to musicology, compiled an entire book of bad reviews: A Lexicon Of Musical Invective. It is absolutely hilarious, especially if you have even a cursory knowledge of the music in question.
  • An unusually good-natured example is in Gremlins 2, when Leonard Maltin appears as himself, criticizes Gremlins, and then gets strangled with film. Good-natured because Leonard Maltin was willing to do it.
    • He made a similar cameo in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Gorgo where he claims he liked the titular movie despite "sending two of [his] assistant editors into intensive care". Maltin had in fact written a positive review of Gorgo prior to the episode and his cameo was equally good-natured, despite the show having in earlier episodes brutally mocked Maltin's scores of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies: the episode The Undead where Crow made Mike dress up as Maltin and read a humiliating apology for "his" review and of course the episode Laserblast where Maltin's two-and-a-half star rating of the titular movie is constantly mentioned as a Running Gag culminating in Mike and the 'bots going through one of Maltin's books comparing his scores of classic movies to the one he gave Laserblast (coming to the conclusion that, for example, Maltin considers Laserblast to be superior to Being There and equally as good as Unforgiven and Sophie's Choice).
    • In his review of The Undead he called it a black comedy, however, so it's possible he thought it wasn't supposed to be serious.
    • Please note that all of these were in good fun and Maltin holds no grudges, and even freely admits that his reviews are pretty much just his opinion and if you disagree that's fine and dandy too.
  • The Cinema Snob, played by Brad Jones, is a character based on this. He actually loves exploitation movies, but he plays, as a character, an effete, snobbish and stuck up movie critic wannabe who hates them. For the most part if he says he hates a movie, it means he actually likes it (with exceptions...) and the whole thing is basically a parody of movie critics in general. Before reviewing Caligula, Jones notes, out-of-character, that the film is his favourite movie ever and it hurts him to "snob it".
  • Tom Stoppard's play The Real Inspector Hound features two critics Moon & Birdboot. Moon is an incredibly anally retentive over-analytical type who insists on comparing the play they are watching (basically a sub-Christie type play) to the works of Sartre whilst Birdboot is a Dirty Old Man who gives high praise to any actress he fancies seducing.
  • Noboru Yamaguchi of Cromartie High School describes himself as an expert of comedy, despising vulgar, sophomoric jokes that are made and being critical to successful acts of comedy. The latter includes hiring a ventriloquist as a new right-hand man, finding out what makes the in-show Pootan so popular, and admiring his rival 'Honey Boy' (Takashi Kamiyama) for a sense of humor Yamaguchi has yet to surpass.
  • The episode of Caroline in The City where Richard takes advantage of his death being accidentally reported featured one of these as the "antagonist". His money quote: "Struggling artists are struggling for a reason: they're bad!"
  • Starslip's Memnon Vanderbeam is an art critic from The Future who sees amazing depths in 21st-century relics like World of Warcraft and the movie Catwoman, but goes into a fit when he discovers the woman he loves owns a "Hang In There!" poster. He resolves his cognitive dissonance by writing a hundred-page dissertation defending the "Hang In There!" poster as an example of True Art.
    • On the other hand, he frequently comes off as something more like an Absent-Minded Art Professor - his detailed analysis of a Brown Note MacGuffin is so spot-on that it prevents it from working on him, for example. He's only wrong most of the time because he thinks out his observations to ridiculous levels, and then assumes that the artists had that in mind every step of the way.
  • Averted in Extras. Andy's show, When the Whistle Blows, is unanimously and viciously panned by critics, and both we and Andy know they're right.
  • Aaron Sorkin somewhat famously had a run-in with the folks at Television Without Pity. The argument sprang up around his insistence that The West Wing was just a drama and did not in any way contain copious political Author Tracts, therefore he shouldn't be held responsible for any messages inferred, no matter how obviously intentional they seemed. Television Without Pity disagreed. He responded by writing the episode "The U.S. Poet Laureate," which has a) the "lemonlyman.com" subplot, in which a helpless main character falls victim to those crazy fans on their computers; and b) a storyline in which the title character learns that she's not allowed to have political opinions and be the Poet Laureate at the same time, delivering an end-of-episode aesop about how she's JUST AN ENTERTAINER and her job is not to project a message into anything she does. Yeah, good job proving you write independently of your personal beliefs, Aaron.
  • The Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Critic" featured a theater critic who reviewed a play Julie Teeger was in. He generally praised the play but singled out Julie's performance as "forgettable." It turned out that he hadn't even been there during that number, meaning that he wrote the scathing comment based on a wild guess. Oh, and he also killed the woman he was cheating on his fiancee with, and had only attended the play in the first place as an alibi.
  • The Viz strip "The Critics" is a type one parody.
  • In Theatre of Blood, Vincent Price plays a Shakespearean actor who kills the critics who had panned him. While dueling with one (the only one who makes it to the end of the film), he delivers an Author Tract lashing out at critics.
  • In Gian-Carlo Menotti's opera Maria Golovin is the character Dr. Zuckertanz, who scoffs at the sentimental duets that the mother keeps, insulting nineteenth-century Romantic music that Menotti himself was fond of emulating, asking "must music only be sweet?" Then he sings an Italian duet written in precisely that style.
  • Bakuman。 has an arc with a new editor, Miura, who has a passion for gag mangas that he tries to force onto the protagonists. After a lot of argument he and the protagonists find a compromise, getting into a style that the protagonists prefer, but with much more humour. His approach is partially influenced by his believing that gag mangas generally do better and, being a new editor, needing to edit a successful series in order to keep his job.
  • Dean Koontz's Relentless has as its villain a hack of a literary critic who disdains works that aren't deconstructionist and postmodern, locking on to the main character because he writes stuff that's conventional. Not only that, but he's part of a murderous cabal that's literally out to restructure cultural standards through low-key terrorism.
  • Former German association football pundit Günter Netzer falls in the Type 1 category, but was hugely popular because of his extensive knowledge about the game, and other pundits at the time being the exact opposite.
  • Spoony joins in on the fun in the short lived MST'ish show, It Came From Beyond Midnight. At the end, the hosts would invite Leslie Striker, a insufferable critic that was let on the show due to a debt owed by the host. He will typically nag on the low quality of the show, point out the plot holes, and insult the intelligence of the hosts for good measure. The bit tends to end in him doing something related to the movie (like getting a death threat from ants) followed by the hosts questioning why they keep bringing him on the show. The character itself was a Take That towards then-WWE color commentator Matt Striker.
  • The Weird Al Show featured parodies of Siskel and Ebert, who in real life had given UHF a negative review. Somewhat averted as they aren't portrayed as exclusively stupid or negative people.
  • History of the World Part One has The First Artist in the Prehistoric segment painstakingly paint an animal on the cave wall. He is followed by "the inevitable afterbirth, the First Critic," who immediately pisses on the painting.
  • Parodied/Exaggerated in a few Dilbert strips where Dogbert becomes a Straw Critic just so he can get paid to insult people and their stories.

 Dogbert: Hmm...remove the murder, and change the protagonist to a purple dinosaur.

Writer: But it's a murder mystery!

Dogbert: Oh yeah, that's original.

  • When Homer Simpson became food critic he was at first the opposite of this and praised everything, but when another critic told him to be more critical he took it too far and started giving negative reviews to everything.
  • Subverted in the Tony Hancock film 'The Rebel' where George Sander's art critic Sir Charles Broward is portrayed as being the only one to recognise that Hancock's work is actually rubbish and that Paul Massie is the real genius.
  • This is the entire point of the Toby Keith song The Critic.
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