If Lara Zarum has an actual point to make in her review of the premiere episode of season six of Game of Thrones, I don’t know what it is. I think the point is that she’s become bored by it all but, if so, she’s spent an awful lot of space to put across a simple idea.
She’s also displayed the trait that destroys a critic’s usefulness in society. She’s not alone in revealing her boredom, either. A.O. Scott, the principal movie reviewer for The New York Times, is also bored by it all, and resents the fact that Hollywood refuses to turn out the art-house movies he wishes all movies could be. A man or woman is entitled to hold a judgment, but when our boredom begins to show up in the work we do for a living, it’s time for a vacation.
A certain amount of boredom will set in the longer we do anything, but the solution was pointed to years ago by Truman Capote. He said, “If I’m ever bored by something, I study it to figure out why I’m bored. Pretty soon, I’m not bored anymore.” The mistake Ms. Zarum makes is to believe that the hoopla surrounding the premiere is the same thing as the premiere itself. It wasn’t and it isn’t. The episode itself was well done, and the season itself promises to be fresh, as there is no more material from the published books to draw upon.
I can sympathize with Ms. Zarum in her lament that there’s a tremendous number of shows and movies clamoring for our attention. Unlike her, I have the option of simply not watching most of them, and I don’t. But that doesn’t let her off the hook. Even a critic responsible for giving us a sense of an entire field has to be selective, and Ms. Zarum should be. If she must watch shows she doesn’t like, she has to choose either to not review them or tell us why they fall short. Roger Ebert, the finest, most generous movie critic America has ever produced, reviewed many, many movies he found positively dreadful, but he always explained why they were bad in literate, thoughtful prose. And he never lost his enthusiasm for his subject. His work is the standard of criticism to which I would point us all.
Being boring–or bored–was never an option for Ebert. It ought not to be an option for any of us who write.