I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but people are fucking dishonest and it’s hilarious. My example of the day takes place in the realm of theater; a magical place of “families”, ego, and passive-aggressive rivalry. The most disgusting form of this sort of thing exists in the form of peer critiques that fill most of the acting or performance-based classes. Here, students are forced to complement the performance of their peers and give them “constructive criticism”. Now, let’s get one thing straight: peer-to-peer critiques are a load of complete bullshit that I like to call: diplomatic dishonesty. It serves no purpose except to hear the opinions of those unqualified to give it.
Now, I try to avoid participation by quietly analyzing the performance in my head, but more importantly analyzing the character of those who speak after the performance. On my journey of silent social experimentation, I’ve noticed there’s a few common trends in the reactions.
Here are a few of the stereotypical bullshit responses procured by peer critiquing:
1) THE EXPERIENCED ADVICE-GIVER
The Bullshit: This student raises their hand for almost every person. They have an opinion and they want everyone to know it. But they totally know a ton about theater. Right? They use big theater terms! They spew their carefully thought out responses, and give advice using their own past experiences. They just want to spread their knowledge to everyone!
The Truth: This person mostly babbles the same generic bullshit, fill-in-the-blank responses, dropping meaningless vocabulary whenever they can. They make sure they mention their resume at every turn. They don’t care about helping the others, they just want to make sure the teacher still remembers that they’re the best.
2) THE PITY PARTY
The Bullshit: The student that tells those who give a bad performance that they’re “so good” and that they “try so hard”. And that they have “so much courage, getting up there”. They continue, by critiquing with diplomatic and measured compliments. They say, “even though you messed up, you totally pulled through.”
The Truth: This is code for pity. No one will ever tell someone that they gave an awful performance. But this person is sure to convey their benevolence at every turn, you know… by NOT giving the performer advice, or any sort of honest critique. Because that’ll help right? Right? This person doesn’t want to you to be any better, they want to keep you far below, where they can see you.
3) THE SILENT TREATMENT
The Bullshit: A technically good performer will get very little compliments from the following students. In fact, none at all. Their logic? “They already know they’re good.”
The Truth: Passive aggressive jealousy. They refuse to give the “enemy” any more fuel. A blank response will keep the performer doubting their performance. After all, what is a performer without a good audience?
4) THE SELECTOR
The Bullshit: Much like the advice-giver, this person is eager to share their expertise, but only with specific performances that they claim were “so, so, so, good”. They make sure to correct the tiniest of details, since they just want to “help” you be “the best you can be”.
The Truth: This person marks their rival, and makes sure to upstage them with their fabulous response. They want the teacher to notice their sharp eye, and make sure he or she noticed that almost invisible mistake, or the mistake that they merely made up.
So alright, I exaggerate slightly. (And I mean slightly) Some people may be honest when they say they really liked the tone of your voice, or how natural your monologue sounded. I give artistry comments more credit than technical ones. But honestly? Deep down, there’s a reason you’re saying what you’re saying, in the specific way you’re saying it. 9 times out of 10, if you dig deep enough, all motives are selfish.
I admit this sounds a bit cynical, a bit cruel even. But I can assure you one thing: it’s fucking honest.
And that’s better than nothing.