On paper, the job of a reviewer of any medium is to provide an evaluation of a given work in the medium, outlining its good and bad points and whether you should check it out. Useful, succinct, and an integral part of any entertainment industry.
Doesn't mean you have to be nice about it.
Enter the Caustic Critic, whose job it is not only to review the work in question, but also to call it names until it cries like a little girl. Why? Because it's funny. That said, the Caustic Critic is almost always rather divisive, especially when he takes on a generally well-liked game / show / movie / album / book / manga / anime / webcomic / webcartoon / fanfic / platypus.
Most Caustic Critics belong to one of two types of reviewers: those who thrive on Bile Fascination and give only negative reviews, and those who review both good or bad recent works but consider merciless panning the only honest way to criticize the bad ones. They need not necessarily be reviewers; they might be essayists discussing trends, but the spirit is the same.
Also note that some (perhaps even many) of the below examples do have human moments where they admit some of the things they review aren't all that terrible. Some may even have special segments dedicated to positive commentary. And some genuine Constructive Criticism can be given. Moments when genuine praise is meted out are all the more precious for their rarity.
On the opposite end, some might go into Comical Overreacting.
Alternately, as the above quote implies, a usually constructive critic is tempted to bring out the sarcasm guns by a unusually bad work or product.
Compare Sturgeon's Law, which might either be the cause or the result of these critics (or both). See also Straw Critic and Accentuate the Negative. The Mean Brit is a Caustic Critic who gives immediate feedback in a competition setting, even if you're ten years old and your eyes shine with hope.
If the critic says that they're accentuating the negative out of tough love to help their victim improve, that's a Compassionate Critic. They still can seem just as mean, but at least they (supposedly) have their target's best interests at heart.
When their targets decide to repay them in kind, you get the case of Take That, Critics!.
Contrast with the Sugar Critic, a type of critic that has mainly been created to show good works.
Not to be confused with Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.
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Real Life Examples
Jamie Kennedy's documentary Heckler takes aim at caustic critics, equating them with annoying hecklers at a comedy show. He confronts a few internet critics who wrote particularly vitriolic critiques of his films and demands to know why they needed to be so mean.
German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno is probably the patron saint of the caustic critics of popular culture. He is slaughtering popular culture as a whole in one of his most notorious essays.
Ellsworth Toohey of The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand was one herself, which becomes obvious if you've ever read her denouncing anyone who didn't think like her in her essays.
Dorothy Parker made her living as a literary and theatre critic, as well as writing several books of poetry and short stories. Famous for her acerbic wit, she's one of the most quoted writers in US literature. She's also known as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, the most prominent New York literary circle prior to World War II.
"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be hurled with great force." "It is at that word 'hunny', my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up." (on Katharine Hepburn) "She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B" "There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism."
"Wasn't it remarkable! How could he see that little pellet fly through the air and enter that distant bullet-hole? Yet that is what he did; for nothing is impossible to a Cooper person. Did any of those people have any deep-seated doubts about this thing? No; for that would imply sanity, and these were all Cooper people."
Even Roger Ebert has been in on the act; he said that in many cases it's more fun to write a review of a bad movie than it is to write a review of a good one (a sentiment voiced by several other critics). Many of his most negative reviews have been collected in his books, I Hated, Hated, Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, Your Movie Sucks, and A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length.
Pauline Kael, patron saint of The New York Times, originated the tradition of pompous, vastly overqualified intellectuals attempting to sit through summer blockbusters. The result was often engaging, with Kael finding odd subtexts here and there. She even wrote an entire book, titled "Why Are Movies So Bad?", which took potshots at popular films. George Lucas included a villain named "General Kael" in Willow as a reference to his consistently negative reviews from Kael.
John Simon is one of the longest-working New York critics today, a fact he attributes to his take-no-prisoners nature. Scratch that; he freely admits he's no more negative than most reviewers, he just comes up with better quips — usually involving the actor's physical appearance (Carol Burnett, Liza Minelli, Wallace Shawn). In this respect, Barbra Streisand has been the perennial dragon to Simon's Don Quixote. Even other critics seemed to dislike him, and Simon has boasted of doors being slammed in his face. (“But who cares? It’s wonderful to be hated by idiots.”)
Michael Riedel, aka the Enfant Terrible of the New York Post. A cross between Tim Gunn and Karl Rove, he mostly writes gossip pieces about Troubled Productions and makes no bones about his search for "juicy" column fodder. He made waves for his one-man crusade against Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (which he spent two years pillorying, but ended up being a smash nonetheless). Unsurprisingly, Reidel's mentor is John Simon. He also co-hosts a public access show, Theater Talk, where he and a co-host interview actors and producers. In the off-season, Reidel devotes a few episodes to chatting with critics from other New York magazines, creating an Event Horizon of snark.
Armond White of the New York Press is the anti-Kael, though he considers her a role model. He is noted for comparing every film to some black & white production from the distant past — specifically, his past, spent watching old movies with his father at the local cinema. Suffice to say, he has a long memory, so watch out. He is also known to go against the prevailing critical views for most films, such as giving Toy Story 3 a negative review and Jack and Jill a positive one. Rotten Tomatoes no longer features him among its reference pool — officially, because the New York Press didn't renew a license with Rotten Tomatoes, but most people say that it's because he gives contrarian reviews to whatever was highest rated on the site. As of 2013, you can add Hanging Judge to his resume as well: White broke new ground by getting canned the New York Film Critics Circle for heckling the directors in attendance (once while serving as emcee!).
When not writing himself, Edgar Allan Poe was a well-known literary critic that tore apart everything, to the extent that he was known as "The Executioner". Such was his reputation that when other authors, as critics, reviewed Poe's work when he was active, they gave him retaliatory negative reviews, diminishing Poe's chances at lifetime success as an author.
Theatre critic George Jean Nathan unabashedly described himself as a destructive critic. Early in his career, he went so far as to review several plays as Satan judging whether they were fit for inclusion in Hell, remarking on one musical that Even Evil Has Standards. When he was caricatured with other reviewers in a revue sketch several decades later, he disapproved of it as being much too gentle.
Nicolas Slominsky, who is almost as famed for his sly sense of humor as his considerable contributions to musicology, compiled an entire book of bad reviews: A Lexicon of Musical Invective. It is absolutely hilarious, especially if you have even a cursory knowledge of the music in question.
In the 1980's and 1990's, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had Joe Pollack, who seemed to hate nearly every film that was released and came off as a bitter old man most of the time. He would especially pick apart films on small details (for example, he trashed Reservoir Dogs and Total Recall (1990) because of their violence and nothing else) and hate for the sake of hating.
The now-defunct horror 'zine Gore Gazette was this towards just about everything, to the point where the reviews were less reviews and more attacks towards people they didn't like (victims included Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Stephen King and Roger Ebert). They also hated anything that wasn't a low-quality Z-grade gorefest and trashed Hollywood fare for being crowd-pleasing blockbuster fare, making them an early form of the hipster in a way (despite all of the racist comments they made in their reviews).
Ambrose Bierce was one, his most famous example being a review that consisted of only one sentence:
Mark Kermode of The BBC has a (deserved) reputation for this (especially regarding Pirates of the Caribbean) including some suggestions that everyone involved with the film hang their heads in shame, that a film be buried in an underground bunker filled with toxic waste, and that a film was akin to the experience of smashing one's head into a glass door elongated to ninety minutes. See also his rants, er, opinion of all Transformers films, Sex and the City 2, Angels and Demons, etc.
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!: The show looks at people like mediums, the war on porn, anti video game crusaders, people who are hoaxes scammers and liars, PETA and the like and viciously tear down and tear apart those they think are frauds, extremists and dangerous. The more sensitive and important the issue is to them, the more personal they get in the name of entertainment: certain issues such as chiropractic surgery on children makes Penn legitimately upset and calmly states how wrong it is.
Room 101 does this for everything people bring in and complain in a lot of detail how said thing annoys them.
Top Gear does this, particularly the modern incarnation and to older cars. Jeremy Clarkson has related a story about car manufacturers getting angry and retaliating by threatening to "take all our advertising off The BBC". The BBC doesn't have any advertising. For example, Jeremy Clarkson (and presumably the rest of the Top Gear team) passionately hates the Toyota Prius and went out of his way to prove how absolutely terrible the car was in every way (including the obvious, but even fuel efficiency).
Private Eye's "Literary Review" (by "Bookworm") and "Eye TV" (by "Remote Controller"). On one occasion when Bookworm quite liked a book, the letters page was filled with complaints that this wasn't like him at all.
Lucius Shepard, who writes film reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Blockbusters are analyzed as representing problems with American culture.
Stuart Campbell built up a reputation for scathing game reviews in Amiga Power. He gave a 4% score to European Champions in a partial-page review, a 2% score to International Rugby Challenge in a three-page review, and, in the magazine's final issue, a 1% score to Kick Off '96 in a four-page review where he argued before a Kangaroo Court that games like this, not reviewers, were responsible for the death of the Amiga.
Robert Christgau is a music critic reknowned for often harsh and controversial reviews. He freely admits that there are some entire genres that he is not partial to. Sonic Youth wrote a song about him entitle, "I Killed Christgau With My Big Fucking Dick" after he labelled their music, pigfucker music. Also Lou Reed ranted about him on a live album.
The essay starts with the now iconic claim: "The fact that so many books still name the Beatles "the greatest or most significant or most influential" rock band ever only tells you how far rock music still is from becoming a serious art." Any more questions?
Besides being viewed as an eccentric composer, Hector Berlioz was infamous for being this trope. His reviews have been said to be unnecessarily abrasive and often outrageous.
Lesser-known critic GeorgeStarostin has some real brilliant moments of caustic reviewing. His best moments are his reviews of Uriah Heep (on the first site) and 10cc (on the second).
(on 10cc's "Ten out of 10") "It's just a bunch of mid-tempo, mid-volume, mid-relevance, mid-everything mid-pop songs written by two mid-aged gentlemen that seem to be but mid-knowing what they're mid-doing."
New York Times food critic Pete Wells is normally actually quite reasonable, but this memetically caustic review of Guy Fieri's restaurant in Times Square will cement him a reputation for being venomous (when warranted).
Bryan Alvarez from Wrestling Observer Radio/F4W can best be described as tough but fair. Though when he sees something stupid he lashes out at it like a shark smelling blood.
Chris Hyatte from Scoops Wrestling and the early days of 411 Mania was a mixture of this and a rare example of a malicious Cloudcuckoolander. From placing a bounty on the daughters of Tony Schiavone's Daughter to turning the Villanos into an infamous crime family Hyatte's columns were a mixture of Non Sequitur and Refuge in Audacity. Sadly the end of Scoops and his falling out with several websites, have made his body of work hard to find.
Bill & Doug (RVDTito4Life) and Kent Jones, who claimed to be the first YouTube "shooter", which is a misnomer since he's not in the professional wrestling business. Bill & Doug, meanwhile, actually became shooters when they were hired by TNA to host their online show, TNA Addicts.
Noah Antwiler from The Spoony Experiment, his short-lived spin-off Wrestle! Wrestle!, and a sister series It Came From Beyond Midnight (in which he played a fictitious cardigan-wearing critic, Leslie Styker).
Jim Cornette. The emotion of "vague or minor but tolerable dislike" does not seem to exist for this man.
In 1964, Israeli critic Khayim Gamzu wrote a review about a play named Sammy Will Die At Six O’Clock. The play was praised and glorified by pretty much every critic, except Gamzu, whose entire review was, ‘As far as I’m concerned, he could have died at five o’clock.’ This review was a huge surprise to many, and Efraim Kishon coined the word ligmoznote לִגְמֹז, meaning ‘to criticise brutally’.
The Angry Video Game Nerd reviews old console (primarily NES) games in this fashion, critiquing such things as poor (for the time) sound and graphics, badly thought out gameplay and tremendous difficulty. Many of his reviews culminate in profane rants and him physically assaulting the game cartridge.
In the same fashion: Klaus Von Hohenloe, anime and game reviewer… who literally despairs when he has nothing to complain about. Nor does he know what he should rate a good anime with.
Jontron, as of late. Though in his earlier days he was rather non-caustic, with rare examples. Jontron's videos that aren't video game reviews are not so full of complaints, though!
Mr. Cranky. Rather than scale his ratings with stars, where more is better, he uses a scale of 1-4 bombs where more is worse (with a bundle of dynamite and then a mushroom cloud when needed in extreme cases). One bomb, stands for "Almost tolerable", and it just gets worse from there.
Although they are not official critics, some gamers readily give games a complete 0/10 on Meta Critic, despite not having actually played the game in question. Some have even been known to downrate games on principle, because of a vendetta against a certain publisher or company, or because of popular opinion. Since there are very few games that deserve an absolute zero, and Metacritic users generally don't vote between 1 and 10, the "User Score" is generally not the most reliable barometer of game quality.
The Filthy Critic, who applies his withering criticism and wanton misanthropy not only to movie reviews but episodes from his (mostly fictionalized) daily life as well. Well-known for his obsessions with porn, beer, and at times disturbingly graphic metaphors, perhaps used most eloquently in his Jeepers Creepers review.
The Necro Critic. He reviews both bad movies AND bad videogames. And, as of recently, is even reviewing anime.
Screw These Comics was a site that did this for sprite comics, and had a group of characters review a given in dialogue. Eventually, the creator quit after realizing his own reviews had degenerated into the same kind of things that he criticized bad sprite comics for overusing. Where once the team would look at a comic's points legitimately while making fun of it, toward the end many reviews consisted solely of variations of the exchange:
Nes: Well, I think the comic is— EvilNes: SHUT THE FUCK UP NES YOU STUPID FAG THIS COMIC SUCKS!
The Snob himself is the most direct comparison: He actually is modeled on snobbish film critics who refuse to adjust their standards, even when reviewing schlock. He has made frequent jibes at the hypocrisies of real-life critics, as well.
In the spinoff series Midnight Screenings, Angry Jake is the most caustic of the bunch, since he has to review sloppily made kiddie flicks.
Linkara, who reviews old comic books that suffer from poor writing, bad artwork, and various other problems. Though not unusually vitriolic for this trope (he's notably the only Channel Awesome member who doesn't use "hard" swear words in his videos), Linkara is somewhat more dedicated to it than others listed here, having repeatedly rejected fan requests to review good comic books stating that the whole point of his regular feature is to rant about the bad stuff.
JesuOtaku, who normally reviews anime, can be seen as one both in and outside of her target medium. She is infamous in otaku circles for her outspoken and harsh opinions of moe culture. Other victims included such shows as RWBY, The Legend of Korra, and Young Justice, among several others. In fairness, most of these opinions were expressed through her Twitter account, but it has soured her relationship with Western Animation fans who had previously deemed her One of Us.
The Distressed Watcher, a former contributor, is even more of a caustic critic than anybody on the website, covering trailers specifically. Also known as The Amazing Atheist, he has made a number of caustic videos on religion and politics on YouTube.
Oancitizen, during his slow slip into a Heroic BSOD during his review of Melancholia, ended up discussing this trope, talking about how the internet is a great medium to hate things, and how you're almost expected to not enjoy anything without riffing the hell out of it.
John Solomon of the now-defunct webcomic review blog, Your Webcomic Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad.
Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation, with a heavy emphasis on "caustic", generally Played for Laughs. He has joked that his job is to ruin the retirement plans of game developers. He usually goes overboard on the negative things, even if they are minor, in his videos. His opinions are also in a state of flux, which is why he often revisits old reviews while talking about a similar game.
Parodied in this comic where the Ninja is being a harsh critic over a Valentine card saying there's no plot, feeling or charm and says he can do better, only to basically make a threat card rather than a Valentines card.
Red Letter Media's Mister Plinkett. He's also a deconstruction and a satire of the stereotypical wannabe- critic youtuber's usual online persona: what kind of person would be as devoted, nerdy and angry to actually write a 60 minutes long review of Star Wars Episode 1, carefully deconstructing all of its flaws? Answer: Not a nice one.
Although not formal critics, pretty much every user at the RPG Codex forum is this for any video game even nominally considered an RPG. Generally they consider most modern games, especially ones by Bethesda, to be "bland, banal, boring, shit" and refer to them as 'popamole' (whack-a-mole with guns, referring to the modern tendency of games to have enemies duck in and out of chest-high cover, often requiring the player to do the same). Bioware fans are welcome, though. No, really.
Confused Matthew: He makes a point of targeting movies that were better reviewed and received than he thought they should be. He actually ends up playing devils advocate occasionally on movies that he feels got an excessive negative reaction. The common opinion he disagrees with is what has him confused.
Wanna see someone try to be a caustic critic only to have the work he's harping on turn out to be be a classic game which he never actually played? Here ya go
Mark of Mark Reads Twilight was this towards Twilight, but only because, in his opinion, it deserved it. He's noted himself that every other review of books he's made after that has been positive.
SF Debris, although what he mainly seems to be caustic towards is poor writing and idiocy. When he reviews something that is actually good, Chuck tends to lapse into impassioned monologues about why the work is so good. Even in otherwise terrible works, he takes time aside to point out things that are done well.
Busy Street represents a Meta example of this. Thrashing and picking apart other internet "Angry Reviewers".
Film Tracks. When they don't give a positive review to an established composer, they will mercilessly trash a score by a newcomer, a score that features guitars and scores by Hans Zimmer and his company (though the third one is done by most film score circles). They also infamously trashed Trent Reznor's score to The Social Network and suggested that the soundtrack would make better use as a frisbee.
The Bad Webcomics Wiki is an entire wiki based on this. Due to the fact that it has many people, not all of whom are qualified critics, and many new members seem to be under the impression that it's a troll site where they can flame at comics they dislike, the quality, accuracy and fairness of the reviews may vary, but it doesn't change the fact that a considerable percentage of the comics reviewed are simply bad, one way or another. It got to the point where John Solomon, of "These Webcomics are Bad and You Should Feel Bad", actually demanded that they remove quotes of his, as he felt that the "nasty critic" schtick was overdone.
Subverted by The Rageaholic, who, despite the name, is not all that caustic; most of his reviews tend to be positive to neutral, and he'll even point out the good with the bad (and the bad with the good); heck, despite spending much of the Fallout: New Vegas review going after it for being standard Obsidian fare, he still cops to liking the game. Even more bizarrely, he was one of relatively few critics to give a good review to Duke Nukem Forever.
Reddit, Hacker News, and Slashdot are full of programmers who love to rip their least favorite programming languages, coding paradigms, etc.
TheAgony Booth, also throws in bad TV (such as Star Trek) in small doses. The site owner, Dr. Winston O'Boogie, is probably the most merciless of the critics, skewering Hollywood values in the Jabootu tradition. On the other side of the coin, you have Sofie Liv, who makes a concerted effort to find positives in anything.
The Music Video Show is also this. The show is where one guy reviews one music video a week, points out the flaws in the video and, occasionally, the lyrics. In the end, he states whether or not he would watch it again.
Tasted's Noah Galuten and Ti, host and producer respectively of "Food Feeder", eat a lot of bad food and drink a lot of awful alcohol. When they actually eat something good, the viewers tend to complain the show is boring, sort of forcing the Caustic Critic thing on them. Ti herself gives movies the drunken MST3K treatment on sister channel Cinefix.
The Archies have had to deal with music critics once or twice.
In one story, a 'Rap McNasty' demeans their style as nothing more than 'bubblegum rock'. The Archies fight back by making a music video of them surroudned by bubbles while chewing bubblegum, in a 'We're bubblegum and proud' manner. the video is a huge hit, and as apology Mc Nasty went to interview them while chewing bubblegum.
In another, Veronica turns down a date offer from one Virgil Venom, and as revenge Virgil starts writing bad reviews of The Archies. (According to Veronica, her reply "Put a large hole in his ego") They get back at him by playing songs written by the son of Virgil's publisher, said to be a great songwriter, but keep that fact hidden until after the reviews are finished and about to be released. Sure enough, the idea that he's insulted his boss' 'baby boy' sends Virgil fleeing from town.
Issue 4 of the My Little Pony Micro Series has Fluttershy forced to endure the scorn of Praiser Pan, a snooty Canterlot art critic who initially dismisses her knitted sculpture as mere "craft" rather than art.
Fulliautomatix in Astérix is a variation. He is frequently described as a 'music critic', and is said in a promotional one-shot to be the ancestor of all music critics. In practice, this just means he beats up the village Dreadful Musician whenever he tries to sing.
Film - Animated
Anton Ego from Ratatouille. His last name is apt, considering he expects any restaurant he gives a negative review to go out of business in short order - and given his opinion is very well respected to the point he gave a chef a heart attack upon being downvoted, the ego is enforced. When he finds out that the restaurant he previously panned is not only open but thriving, he considers it a personal insult. Then again, this trope is lampshaded to a T during his final review in the film...
Castle has a theater critic who wrote a very negative review of the title character's mother, who is a Broadway actress.
The Nanny had Frank Bradley in "Sunday in the Park with Fran", who pans virtually all Broadway plays. C.C. Babcock tries to curry favor with Bradley by making Maxwell Sheffield's youngest daughter, Gracie, go on a play-date with Frank's son, Frank Jr., despite Gracie's insistence that she doesn't like him and Fran supporting her. During the play-date, Frank Jr. is bullying Gracie, so Fran stops him by (gently) hitting him with a baguette. When C.C. and Maxwell learn about this, they try to make Fran apologize to Frank Sr., though it becomes obvious that winning over Bradley is a lost cause, and as he gets hostile towards Fran, Maxwell tells him off about him and his son.
Mortimer Brewster of Arsenic and Old Lace seems to be one of these, from the descriptions of his typical reviews.
Psychonauts: The Critic from Gloria's Theatre, a mental construct of what one presumes was a real critic, though it's unclear whether he was so verbally abusive in real life, or Gloria remembers him as such.
Sonty Mick from These Web Comics Are So Bad is a Stealth Parody of caustic critics, particularly of John Solomon's Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad. Sonty dislikes everything he reads, and he has completely illogical reasons for every single one.
One episode of Bonkers involved such a critic of cartoons having his life threatened. In fact, this critic criticized everything; when Lucky interviews anyone with a motive, he ends up talking to every Toon who had gotten a bad review ("We must have spoken with every Toon in Hollywood"). And as it turns out, the attacker was the only Toon whose show was being cancelled because of bad reviews.
In The Simpsons, when Homer Simpson became food critic he was at first the opposite of this and praised everything, but when another critic told him to be more critical he took it too far and started giving negative reviews to everything. The food critic he replaced was herself an example, as evidenced by her retirement party where she criticized the cake.