Constructive Criticism and The Relationship Between Fans and Artists

Hello - if you’ve been linked this article after the original posting date, it was because we want to clarify to you our position on “constructive criticism”, and our commitment to changing attitudes towards creators and performers, those creative types who have fans.

All thoughts are my own, but I know they're shared by all of the current core ADS staff as we've discussed it amongst ourselves many, many times.

Often times, we and other creators will receive feedback under the guise of being constructive criticism. There’s an inherent problem with that - that being that the definition of what kind of criticism is “constructive” is subjective to the judgment of the person you’re giving it to. What may be useful feedback in your opinion may be useless to the other person.

Furthermore, if critique hasn’t been specifically requested, that means the creator is not open to receive it. For various reasons, they have decided not to ask for critique at this time. It could be that you are viewing a finished work that they have no intent or plans to make modifications to (so criticism is therefore useless). Additionally, the creator gets to choose whom they absorb criticism from.

Most creators have trusted friends and contemporaries whose opinion they respect. They have their own methods of learning and studying to get better. To listen to just anyone and everyone who may not understand their creative vision would leave a work directionless and bland - it would no longer be the creator’s, but work as dictated by the masses. If they really want to know what their fans think, just knowing what people liked the most can help a lot in itself. After all, if something is well liked or popular, they will tend to do more of that and minimize the rest.

In all situations, if the person has not asked you for critique on what you would like to give critique for, they will feel disrespected, as if you are overstepping your boundaries, and feel attacked and either ignore it or become defensive. Imagine drawing something, being personally satisfied with it. You post the picture up on a wall so people might hopefully enjoy your work and ignore it if they don’t. But instead someone came by and told you “I don’t like the face. Change it to my personal preferences.”

You might feel a lot of negative emotions - after all, you were satisfied with it, and you have never met this person in your life for them to speak to you so abrasively, as if they personally own you or your work. But let’s say you were to grin and bear it, and agree to change the face. And then someone else walks past. “Why did you change the face? I liked it better the other way. Change it back.” Perhaps a third person comes by and says “I hate both. It’d look much better a completely different way.”

At this point, you would perhaps be sick of your own work, and could no longer remember what YOU, the creator doing the work, wanted the face to look at. You can either continue on a path listening to other people who make you hate your work, make you feel insecure and question why you’re even trying to show anyone what you do, or you can ignore it.

Over time, the criticism you receive, even when you ignore it, wears you down as people try and pull you this way and that. Let’s say finally you tell people that you are not changing the work nor are you accepting any criticism. They then become angry at you for trying to defend your work and consider you close minded. Why shouldn’t you take THEIR opinions? Now they’re angry with you - after all, you’re a creator, you should be open to feedback about your work in their opinion, and you seem to be the bad guy.

The problem is that people assume that if someone or something is viewable to the public, it’s consent to criticize it and frankly say whatever they want. But the fact is that performers and creators are releasing a small part of themselves to the public because they want people to enjoy that part of them - it does not imply they give the public consent to do literally anything else.

If you enjoy what they’re releasing or showing to you, then that’s great. You’re now a fan. But it doesn’t go any further than that without their express consent. They are a human and deserve minimally, the same basic respect everyone else. As a fan, you get to enjoy only what they let you. There is no ownership in being a fan. And no one owes you more than they agreed to give.

There will be times where you don’t like something about them or their work. No one can like everything all of the time. It’s up to you if you want to continue to be a fan after that point. But if you do want to continue, you have to respect what they’re giving you. You can complain about it amongst yourselves if you must to vent your own emotions, but never bring it to the creator if they don’t ask. That’s directly disrespecting their work.

Exceptions would obviously be problematic or harmful depictions, or inaccuracies that could be severely harmful. If you do decide to tell them you dislike their work, then remember they’re human and have every right to respond back in any manner. You can hope they’ll be at least as caring as you were when you told them, but like any other human interaction, they’re free to react however they want.

It’s creators/entertainers right to give of themselves what they personally wish to give and no more than that. They don’t have to be kind or even thankful to you for liking their work or themselves either. They don’t have to do anything extra. It’s great if they do more, but it’s their choice. This is how we feel about all creators and performers. We feel blessed to even be able to enjoy someone’s talents. If we don’t like something about them or their work, we can make the choice not to support it anymore.

However, demanding literally anything is absolutely something we have no right to expect of anyone. Even if you’ve purchased something from that person, you only have purchased the rights to exactly what it said when you bought it. Support after that point is a courtesy that we all hope people will give, but you only have a right to what you both agreed to.

TL;DR? The Creator/Entertainer-Fan relationship gives you absolutely no rights to anything. They share what they will, and you can take it or leave it. They do not owe you anything. And the Seller/Customer relationship only gives you rights to what you BOTH agreed upon at time of purchase.

Anything else is extra and their choice to do so. They reserve the rights to protect themselves and their works from people who may harm them, they reserve the rights not to change anything, no matter how much someone may wish otherwise.

This is how it is as its core, but this is not how many people think or work. They expect more, they claim a sort of ownership over others work or bodies, just because they like them. There’s an entitled sense of “I support this, therefore I’m valuable and can talk or demand anything I like” from many fans. And then there’s a mob mentality of victim blaming whenever someone who was attacked actually defends themselves.

As a result, many creators withdraw and do not interact with fans in order to keep creating in a pure environment, which is unfortunate because the Creator/Entertainer-Fan relationship can be so enriching and healing for both sides. But it is due to the behavior of entitled fans desiring more than a creator wants to give that such a toxic environment exists.

We at Aeon Dream Studios choose respond to negative criticisms publicly occasionally because we wish to change the atmosphere. We hope to see a world one day where celebrities can tell fans to respect their space without facing backlash. A world if someone steals someone’s work (and insult them, as has happened to us), that a creator can call attention to the thief’s public action without being victim-blamed. Where if someone says something thoughtless and hurtful to an artist, they can reply back just as honestly as they wish to, just like anyone else would. 

It’d be even nicer if the aforementioned situations didn’t happen at all one day in that wonderful future, but we understand change takes one small step at a time.