A.O. Scott moves on from the movies
A.O. Scott is leaving his post as the co-chief film critic at the Times, and wrote his own exit interview in recognition of the past 23 years.
Scott is, if not my favorite film critic, certainly the one I’ve read the most, given his tenure at the Times tracks with my own cultural growth. I haven’t always agreed with his critiques (it’s probably more like a 90% hit rate), though I can always see his point. He takes the work (thankfully, not himself) seriously, isn’t above popular fare, but also isn’t going to be bowled over by public opinion.
I thought this riff on the toxicity of modern fandom was excellent and, given his perch overseeing the tumult in culture over the past two-plus decades, exceedingly fair.
I’m not a fan of modern fandom. This isn’t only because I’ve been swarmed on Twitter by angry devotees of Marvel and DC and (more recently) “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” It’s more that the behavior of these social media hordes represents an anti-democratic, anti-intellectual mind-set that is harmful to the cause of art and antithetical to the spirit of movies. Fan culture is rooted in conformity, obedience, group identity and mob behavior, and its rise mirrors and models the spread of intolerant, authoritarian, aggressive tendencies in our politics and our communal life.
Beyond his movie reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed his book Better Living Through Criticism, a paean to the gift that true criticism can, though often fails, to be. Published in 2016, Better Living arrived at a massive cultural inflection point — the post-gamergate internet of the aforementioned toxic fandom, but before the fully unleashed torrent of Trump-era culture warring that has subsumed nearly everything.
Scott isn’t leaving the Times or his role as a critic, instead turning to a critic at large. I look forward to more of his critical gifts.