Recently, I have been thinking about the role of art critics. I am a theater kid at heart, and my TikTok page is filled with reviews of recent Broadway openings of various shows. For many shows, the opinions of the general public have been different from critics’. One example that comes to mind is a new Broadway show titled Hell's Kitchen, which is both based based on the life of Alicia Keys and features her music. This Broadway show has received glowing reviews from various press outlets and has even received a New York Times “Critic’s Pick,” an accolade that only a few shows every season have the honor of receiving. While the show has amassed the praises of critics, the same cannot be said for general audiences and the average ticket purchaser. A key word used amongst many audience goers is “baffled” at how this musical garnered such high praise. The divide between the critics and general audiences brings to light the question of whether or not critics are truly necessary in this day and age—they are doing more harm than good while being out of touch with today's audiences.

Though I cannot speak on Hell’s Kitchen itself, I can understand how these differing reviews can be annoying. The Broadway market is an extremely competitive one. Shows fight for good reviews because the business is built on the back of the critics. More people will go to see a certain show if the New York Times gives it a glowing review. Because of that, shows that are not praised by critics are forced to close due to low ticket sales. Many musicals this season are facing that fate, receiving mixed reviews from press outlets—even though the general public has been far more favorable of these musicals compared to Hell's Kitchen, for example.

In the case of Broadway, the need for critics' love is much more crucial than in the business of movies. For example, while Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire received less-than-kind professional reviews with a 51% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, it received an audience score of 91%. This stark contrast between critic and audience opinions can truly be seen in the movie’s 80 million dollar opening weekend. Even with awful reviews, this film was able to rally an audience, and those who saw it absolutely loved it. It seems like critics could not kill this film with their reviews, and if that is the case, then what is the point of their scathing reviews? It just seems like unnecessary negativity

Even for art outside of Broadway and Hollywood, the question for me still stands: What is the importance of critics? To close a show? To make a movie not gain a profit? To harm the businesses they are supposedly a part of? The critics cannot even say that their role in reviewing films relates to awards bodies, because critics are not included in the esteemed awards groups—they use wholly separate committees of people. If art is so subjective, then why do we rely on the opinion of a few people to determine our own? I do not think it is healthy as a society for everyone to follow the opinion of solely the select group that is critics. People should enjoy what they want to enjoy, and if critics limit that access with their negative reviews, then are they really helping the business that they are a part of? I do not think so. We need to reflect on what the role of critics truly is within their outlets—and whether or not they are even necessary anymore.