"The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie."
— Jean-Luc Godard
Complaining About Shows You Don't Like can be fun. Picking apart works and trying to find and explain (and make fun of) some of the things that went wrong can be deeply satisfying, and at the same time strangely therapeutic. Of course, some people take some of these criticisms to heart, and won't hesitate to chew you out if you suggest that something may be wrong with their personal sacred cow. That person will usually rebut your criticism with something like, "Oh, yeah? Let's see you do better!"
There is a common misconception among fans and people having worked in a particular field that non-experts are not qualified to comment on their work. While it helps to have some background information or experience, it is certainly not required. It doesn't take a carpenter to recognize a poorly-made table, after all. (Helpful hint: If a table spontaneously falls apart, things probably didn't go according to procedure.) Whenever an ordinary fan calls out another person to try their hand at something (making a film, creating a videogame, or writing a book) before criticizing it, that person has lost the argument. Sort of like Godwin's Law, except usually without the invocation of Hitler (see below). Targets for Snark Bait are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon, as is the person with a Small Name, Big Ego. Let's all remember what Baldassere Castiglione said in The Courtier:
And if [the author] does not attain to such a perfection that his writings should merit great praise, let him take care to keep them under cover so that others will not laugh at him, and let him show them only to a friend who can be trusted...
Just imagine if this were applied to all forms of criticism; "You think the president's doing a bad job, and want to vote for the opposing candidate? How can you even say that when you've never been president?" "You think this cake tastes bad and it's undercooked? How can you even say that when you've never been a chef?" "You thinkHitler could have done a better job duringWorld War II? How can you even say that when you've never been a leader of Germany who sparked a war and a Holocaust?" You clearly don't have to be good at something yourself in order to be able to tell whether someone else is good or not. This objection is rarely (if ever) raised to deflect positive criticism, but then, very few people to begin with are particularly inclined to reject positive criticism or praise, regardless of the source.
On the other hand, while all opinions may be valid this does not mean that all opinions are equally informed or useful. It can be a lot easier to sit back and criticise someone else's creation than it is to create something yourself, and it is not rare for criticism to form even without any rudimentary understanding of the difficulties inherent in producing whatever is being criticised. Anyone who's had to manage a "bigger picture" probably understands a lot better that being president can be a horrendous task, and there's much more to large-budget filmmaking than its acclaimed director. Whether the criticism is valid or not (especially if valid in some cases), it can be disheartening for a creator to have their hard work casually and bluntly dismissed by someone with no experience of what it took to produce it, thus making this response understandable (if not exactly admirable). At the very least, informed criticism is usually aware of when genuine effort has (or has not) been made in trying to achieve something and is willing to acknowledge that effort, even if it didn't pay off, rather than dismissing the entire thing out of hand.
This argument legitimately comes into play when someone actually is coming out and saying they could do better without producing any evidence to that effect; in such cases, it's not unreasonable to ask them to put their money where their mouth is and pony up the goods.
In some circles, this is erroneously called "Ebert's Law", named after the famous film critic Roger Ebert. This is not an actual trope about his version of Ebert's law, which is "It's not what a movie's about, but how it's about it."
"Those who can, do; those who can't, criticize," is also a common variant. Compare Don't Like, Don't Read, when this trope is applied to Fan Fic, or Hire The Critic, which sometimes happens in order to test their challenge. Also compare He Panned It, Now He Sucks. An Older Than Radio example is Benjamin Disraeli's remark that the ranks of critics are drawn from those who have failed at literature and the arts. (Disraeli earned his living as a novelist.)
A specific case where the trope can be applied with impunity is when the critic claims "Everyone can do better" or something to the tune, directly claiming a group they could belong in indeed can do better.
The most feared response to this statement is "You wanna bet?"
The best known example of the above law that actually involves Roger Ebert comes from a review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Actor Rob Schneider took offense to an article by Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times, pointing out that several major studios turned down the chance to finance the year's Best Picture nominees while financing a sequel to a crude sex comedy. After reading it, he took out a full-page ad in the Hollywood Reporter and called Goldstein a "hack" because he had never won any Pulitzer Prizes. In Ebert's review of the film, he taunted Schneider and said that he himself actually did win a Pulitzer, and thus was fully qualified to tell Schneider that he thought the movie sucked. The story took an unexpected turn after several back-and-forth barbs in the press. After one of Ebert's cancer surgeries, Schneider sent Ebert flowers. Ebert conceded that while Schneider may make bad movies, he's a good man. Aww.
According to this blog Mark Ruffalo invoked this trope when his directorial debut was panned at the Sundance Film Festival.
Tim Burton's 1994 kinda-biopic Ed Wood was interpreted by certain critics as an implied declaration of this trope, with Burton defending the man who is often regarded the worst filmmaker in history by showing that he may not have been any good, but at least he tried, and had a good time doing so - whereas most people who mock Ed Wood have never even attempted to make a movie.
One particularly hardcore Star Wars fan was so upset about 'Film/'The Phantom Menace'' that he cut and edited a new, more streamlined version of the film on his home computer.
Just one tiny question? What's are the titles of either of you guy's novels again? Just so, you know, I can specifically look out for them in the shops and use the stunning quality writing therein to put right all the numerous things I'm so obviously doing wrong.
Inverted by John Updike, both a prolific author and a prolific critic, who was fond of saying that all writers should write criticism once in a while just to remind themselves of how hard it is.
Al Franken wrote some funny political satire. Then people started launching this at him. So then he went and got himself elected to the Senate... Reviews from Minnesotans have been pretty good.
Ray Bradbury harnessed the power of metaphor to...make this very point:
"If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture."
According to legend, the career of James Fenimore Cooper - and thus, all of American fictional literature - got its start when Cooper's wife made him read a wretched European novel to her. Reportedly, James was so disgusted by the novel that he claimed he could write a better one himself. And he did: The Last of the Mohicans, which is still considered one of the greatest adventure novels of all time. (This is made all the more awesome if you know that Cooper lived in New York City all his life and never even visited the upstate forests he wrote about.)
Edgar Rice Burroughs said the same thing: he wasn't making a very good living in the various jobs he had, was reading some penny novels and thought to himself that he could write crap at least that good and make money too. Creations such as Tarzan and John Carter of Mars proved he underestimated how good he could be.
A classic example comes from French literature. Famous critic Saint-Beuve wrote a book called Volupté, and enemy Balzac just rewrote it. It became Le Lys dans la vallée, an all-time classic.
Live Action TV
It's almost a given that during any American Idol audition phase, at least one particularly awful auditioner will say this to the judges, which is funny when you consider that Paula Abdul is a Grammy Award winner, and that Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell have both won awards for managing music. In other words, those two know more about what makes popular music than popular musicians do.
The Swedish show "Let's Dance" (the Swedish adaptation of Strictly Come Dancing). When a turned-down contestant said this, the show lampshaded it by cutting to a montage, explaining the judges past experience in the field, showing that they are in fact qualified for the position.
When the Mythbusters declared the myth about Archimedes destroying ships by reflecting sunlight busted, many complained that the results weren't satisfying enough, and were biased by the conditions and poor execution. Their response was inviting anyone who felt they could do better to try and set fire to a ship in a special episode. They all failed.
Avenged Sevenfold's song, "Critical Acclaim" is more or less this trope as an angry, ridiculous screed against people who criticize The USA because "they've never contributed a fucking thing to the country they love to criticize." Apparently, the songwriter believes that criticizing the country or the war, etc. (not the soldiers) when you've never served your country insults those who have. What's even funnier is that the song calls these critics self-righteous and hypocritical without a hint of irony.
So how does it feel to know that someone's kid in the heart of America
Has blood on their hands
Fighting to defend your rights
So you can maintain the lifestyle that insults his family's existence
Well, where I'm from we have a special salute we aim high in the air
Towards all those pompous assholes who spend their days pointing fingers
All the way from the east to the west
We've got this high society looking down on this very foundation
Constantly reminding us that our actions are the cause of all their problems
Pointing the fingers in every direction
Blaming their own nation for who wins elections
They've never contributed a fucking thing to the country they love to criticize
Also, keep in mind that M. Shadows said that A7x wasn't going to force its religious or political views on anyone.
An urban legend says that a band once played a poor set due to their less than stellar guitarist. The band is heckled and the guitarist tells one heckler "Let's see you do better." The heckler (usually mentioned as being Eric Clapton) takes the guitar and blows the crowd away with his playing.
When 16-year-old Isaac Watts complained about the low quality of the poetry in the hymns his church sang, his father (a deacon) challenged him to write a better one. Watts did so, and went on to become one of the greatest hymn-writers in the English language. Mission accomplished.
In response to criticism for his bombastic overture "Wellington's Victory", Ludwig van Beethoven retorted, "What I shit is better than anything you could ever think up!" Considering he was Beethoven, that's probably justified.
Vilhelm Peterson-Berger was a notoriously savage music critic for a major Stockholm newspaper in the early 20th century. After savaging an opening night, the composer challenged him to do better. Peterson-Berger... well, lets just say he did. He is now considered one of the great Swedish composers.
In 1962, the Beatles had just released their first single, "Love Me Do." Their producer, George Martin wanted their next single to be a cover of "How Do You Do It?," but the boys weren't happy with their take on it and declined its release. Martin told them "if you can come up with a better song, do it." They recorded their original tune "Please Please Me." Martin: "Boys, you've got your first number one single."
Lynn Johnston of For Better or for Worse fame used to maintain a mailbag feature on her website. After letters complaining about the quality of the strip were run, it was not uncommon for others to write in saying that if the former group thought it was so bad, they should come up with their own comic strip instead.
This is the go-to tactic of choice for defenders of Funky Winkerbean. Most, if not all of them state verbatim that only another nationally syndicated cartoonist has a right to criticize Tom Batiuk. And the times a pro cartoonist has criticized him, they state that they're just jealous/too inexperienced/must hate cancer victims.
Statesmen or generals use this defense in their memoirs, all the way back to ancient times.
Parliamentary systems such as the UK run on this. If the government of the day doesn't have the confidence of Parliament, they resign and the head of state has the option of either asking another member of Parliament to form a new government (if they can find sufficient votes in government), or call a general election to elect a new Parliament. Macaulay, in his History of England, notes that this practice forces the Parliamentary opposition to be more serious about the business of government, compared with earlier when ministers continued in position without having the support of a majority of Parliament.
An interesting variant on that occurred when John Major challenged his critics within the Conservative party to "put up or shut up" - he resigned from the leadership of his party, though not from the office of prime minister, and contested a snap election for party leader. He won, but in the event that he'd been defeated, his victorious opponent would most likely have become prime minister and served as such for the remainder of that parliamentary term.
Political pundits and other commentators sometimes end up running for office themselves after making a name for themselves criticizing the existing political leaders. More generally, people frequently run for office because they genuinely think they can do a better job running the city, school board, etc. than whoever's doing it right now.
This is essentially how Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got elected. They became vocal and well-known opponents of what the government (mostly its Republicans, but neither shied away from calling out Democrats, either) was doing. America's collective response was essentially this trope; their response was "Okay!"note Warren, at least, had been a key architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, financial lawyer, and professor of contract law before her election. Franken? Was a comedian. Warren, of course, made waves, but Franken surprised many by how serious — and good at — the job he is.
This is sometimes thrown out to Smarks by wrestlers. Mainly because some smarks, though they know about the wrestling business, do not understand the large scope of things be it the business aspect of things or the physical aspects of things in the ring.
Losing sports team coaches shut down critics by attacking their lack of professional sports experience as either an athlete or a coach. It became comical when former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli said this during his team's winless season in 2008.
A weird version of this is when other people (usually fans) criticized the criticizers. As so when an athlete or a team made a bad play or had a bad game and were criticized. There will always be someone to defend said athlete/team by saying "Let's see how you do when (insert challenge of the sport here)"
After Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez yanked star shortstop Hanley Ramirez out of a game for not hustling and then benched him, Ramirez attacked Gonzalez in the press, saying that since Gonzalez had never played in the major leagues, he had no right to criticize him. Never mind the fact that calling out a player's lack of effort is a manager's job, regardless of said manager's personal major league experience. When Marlins executives Andre Dawson and Tony Perez - both Hall of Fame players - took Ramirez to task as well, he finally got the message and apologized to his teammates.
Another thing that makes Ramirez's remarks especially ridiculous is that many if not most of the best major league managers have/had little or no major league playing experience.
Controversial NFL star James Harrison savaged Roger Goodell for this over Harrison's increasingly stiff penalties for late hits, helmet shots, and other violent play that the league was cracking down on. Harrison claimed that Goodell couldn't accurate assess these penalties having never played the sport at any high level himself.
The M.U.G.E.N fandom's got this BAD. in response to criticism of a character on any MUGEN forum (usually criticism by Wild Tengu), at least one noob is likely to say "you can't judge, you haven't made a character!" It would be a good argument, if not for the fact that if someone who's had no character-creation experience can note when something's very wrong, then the argument becomes redundant.
Games that let you mod them are also a target for this trope. There are always some people who simply need to tweak a few things before their custom content is considered good or they just need some guidance in the right direction to make something work. However, if the criticism against the creator's work is strong and the creator does not react to kindly to it, they may dismiss all criticism by saying that they put a lot of hard work into it and they don't see them doing any better. This reaction can also occur within the fans of the creator's work(s) since they may see any form of criticism as a sign of bashing.
This was reportedly how Steve Meretzky got his job at Infocom. He sent them a letter criticizing their work, and they asked if he could do better. He responded by writing Planetfall.
Touhou exists because ZUN didn't like existing shooter games.
In a meta example, the fandom also likes doing this with ZUN's art, as he has good designs but poor execution. ZUN himself encourages this, and it's pretty much the main reason Touhou got so popular in the first place.
A variant, where this was invoked by the critic himself: after the infamously horrible DoomWAD called "Doom: Rampage Edition" (involving the player taking on a role of a Baron of Hell) was released, one of the players commented that "he could pull a better wad out of [his] ass". A week later, he did indeed release a WAD based on the same concept, which gathered warm reviews. To rub it in: the name of this WAD? "A Better WAD I Pulled Out Of My Ass".
A Hilarious in Hindsight moment for Left 4 Dead 2. The fan base complained for a long time about the game's glitches and other nuances, claiming Valve hired morons to playtest the game. While Valve never responded to the criticism, they decided to let the fan base own up to their claims of doing better by letting them beta test the Left 4 Dead maps that they were porting into the sequel.
Newgrounds used to be the king of this trope. It seemed that unless you had a movie that was rated in the top 10, you had absolutely no right to criticize any movies. There were even movies made making fun of those people who left comments or even rated movies down. But most of these were made about the types of people who made comments like "Your movie stinks" or "You used sprites, therefore you sucked" or attacked the author without good reason.
Sometimes, even pointing out a bug in a flash game resulted in this...
Atop the Fourth Wall was flooded with these kinds of comments after Linkara introduced "Miller Time," a series of reviews of Frank Miller's worst comics. He responded that he's only been at this for a couple years, while Miller's been working for three decades.
During the Wolverine: Adamantium Rage review, Spoony (who was watching in the background) mocks Linkara's decision to use cheat codes during a particularly difficult part of the game. Linkara's response is to step away from the keyboard and let Spoony try. After a half-dozen failures and an abortive suicide attempt, Spoony lets Linkara cheat.
Inverted, during an episode of History of Power Rangers, Linkara notes that Lord Zedd's evil Rangers were just the Puttys painted in the Rangers' colors, and he could make a better costume than that. A few months later, he unveiled a White Zeo Ranger suit in the style of his normal Linkara attire.
Having also done some minor webcomics criticism, Yahtzee may also have received these from webcomic supporters. Yahtzee, however, always remarks that his old webcomic efforts were hardly any better than the ones he openly criticizes, and is very aware of the hypocrisy in pointing out other webcomics' flaws. And at least Yahtzee stopped making his horrible webcomic.
Kippurbird also got this at least once due to her sporkings of Eragon.
Lost Parody did this for their final episode, after 14 completely nonsensical episodes of jabs at LOST's failings, in the last episode they managed to pull the entirety of depicted events together into something that came very close to making sense.
Hurley: Now it's your turn, LOST! You only have ONE. EPISODE! LEFT!
If anyone criticizes an articles on Cracked, expect to see this trope show up.
Except for when the author admits that his article sucks, and apologises for putting it up.
This happens occasionally on high-traffic wikis, especially TOW. In this case, however, because of the nature of the medium, it's a perfectly legitimate request.
On Dragon Cave, a popular adoptables site with dragon sprites, fans will occasionally criticise the art- with things ranging from genuine explanations about not liking colours, poses, shading styles etc to others who just say "It sucks, get rid of it!" Some artists and fans have responded with this trope; others of course understand that everybody can be a good spriter and sketcher, and they're perfectly entitled to having an opinion on art.
This is referenced by Cleolinda Jones at one point. She responds to it with "You don't need to be a farmer to know if the milk's gone bad".
A common reaction for subjects of Retsupurae, going so far as to call out Slowbeef and Diabetus asking to see them make a better Let's Play. Even though they mostly keep their own LPs away from YouTube, they're Something Awful regulars with several finished, quality LPs - in fact, Slowbeef himself is the one who started Let's Play to begin with.
The Nostalgia Chick often lampshades that she'll have nowhere near the success of the people she's bitching about, and that's why it's so fun to tear their stuff apart in the first place.
The Trope Wiki was founded as a Start My Own version of this very wiki because one of the Admins of TV Tropes challenged the founder of the Trope Wiki with the line, "If you think you can do better, then let's see you try." So he did.
In Season 10 of Red vs. Blue, when Carolina demands to be implanted with an AI, the Director lets her choose which one she'll obtain (and therefore take from one of her teammates) under this basis.
The Director: If she thinks our decisions are so easy, then let her make one.
Fansubbers have a unfortunate tendency to fall into this, especially if they're the only ones translating a show.
In the restaurant chain Jimmy John's, individual restaurants all use the same posters on the walls. One of these posters reads, "If you want a faster sandwich, make it yourself!"
Something of a subversion when You Can't Do That on Television was on the air, a boy named Adam Reid complained about the acting of the kids on the show. The producers let him audition and he ended up being one of the show's standouts.
Thomas Edison: That spring is too strong, it won't work. Workman: I'd like to see you make a better one. Thomas Edison: Well, a fellow can tell a bad egg without being able to lay one.
The Movie Bitter Feast has the life of Peter Grey, a celebrity chef ruined by caustic blogger JT Franks (he loses his TV show, his job as head chef at a fancy restaurant, and an endorsement deal). Grey takes revenge on Franks by kidnapping him, chaining Franks up in a basement in hte Hudson Valley and forces Franks to cook dishes with total perfection: anything less and not only does Franks starve, but Grey beats him up with a hot skillet. Needless to say, in this Black Comedy of ''Saw'' meets FoodNetwork,Hilarity Ensues.
Sherlock Holmes' criticism of Watson's written records of his adventures is almost a running gag in Doyle's works. Eventually, Watson basically told him the name of this trope enough times so that Holmes grabbed a pen and wrote "The Blanched Soldier" (where he acknowledged that it wasn't as easy as it looked at first sight).
David Eddings: an administrator in the Tamul Empire (an ersatz Imperial China) explaining that the appearance of revolutionaries in a province of the empire was an indication that something had gone seriously wrong (as Tamul acted as Benevolent Tyrants). Since the revolutionaries had already identified the problems the pragmatic solution was simply to replace the incompetent imperial governors with the revolutionaries. This was also an Ironic Punishment as being an imperial governor was one of the most thankless jobs in the empire. NO-ONE liked the governor.
Numerous Dom Com programs through the 1990s employed this "job switching"-type trope, under two varieties: the domestic partners (i.e., the husband and wife) will switch roles for a day; or the kids will take over the parents' role. Either way, it is certain that both sides will become enlightened by the difficulties of the other's role and the whole situation will be called a draw.
The most famous "let's just see you do better" example was the I Love Lucy episode "Job Switching." After Ricky and Lucy get into an argument about their roles – Ricky being the breadwinner and Lucy doing the housework – and drawing the Mertzes into matters (with Fred and Ethel, predictably, taking sides), both sides say, in essence," "Let's see you do better." There's plenty of comedy with Ricky and Fred's efforts to cook dinner (arroz con pollo) and ruining their shirts in a poor attempt at ironing ... but the real fun comes as Lucy and Ethel somehow get jobs at a candy factory. A hilarious fight in the candy dipping department, instigated when Lucy tries to swat away a fly and accidentally hits a co-worker, is NOTHING compared to the infamous conveyer belt scene, where a seemingly simple task of gathering chocolate kisses and placing them in a box quickly proves to be overwhelming when the fast pace of the belt (and the supervisor's stern threat that any candy that falls off the belt will mean they're fired) make it impossible to keep up, although they surely try. In the end, both sides – the guys admitting they damaged the apartment, the gals getting mercilessly fired from the candy factory – concede defeat.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: After forcing Joel and the bots to suffer through The Castle Of Fu Man Chu, Dr. Forrester awaits them to acknowledge he finally found a movie bad enough to unleash on the world. Joel snaps and tells Dr. Forrester off on what a sad little man he his, telling him to try sitting through these movies and make up his own jokes. Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank decide to do just that, only to fail miserably.
In thisxkcd comic, a man complains about a long traffic light, whereupon the engineer of the traffic light appears and responds with this.
Used in The Nostalgia Critic's review of Devil. When the Critic bashes the movie's Twist Ending, M. Night Shyamalan (not the real one, of course) challenges the Critic to come up with a better twist. He then decides on the Devil being the religious security guard (aka "Crazy Toast Guy") who was monitoring the elevator the entire time, and Shyamalan admits that that actually is a good twist.
There was a South Park episode where Cartman made the morning announcements and relentlessly and mercilessly picked apart everything Wendy did as a class president. As her way of asking Cartman if he could do better, Wendy simply resigned from her spot and let Cartman take over. This actually got Cartman to shut up, as he was prepared to only criticize, not act.
On The Simpsons when Bart is kicked out of Mr. Burns' casino and notes the martinis suck, the Squeaky Voiced Teen challenges him to have his own casino in his treehouse. Bart does just that, leading the teen to note how he was shown up.
In "Bart Star" Homer constantly taunts Ned about his coaching.
Marge: You know, Homer, its very easy to criticize. Homer: Fun, too.
When Flanders has enough, he gives Homer the position.
Ned: Do you have a problem with the way I'm coaching? Homer: No! No! No no no. Its just that... well... like I was yelling earlier... seems like... anyone with half a brain can coach better than you. Ned: Half a brain, huh? Well, you know what? Sounds like you just volunteered! Homer: Me? But you were doing such a great job!
Another episode had Meg and Chris claim they could be better parents than Peter and Lois, who gladly oblige. Then it turns out that the kids are right: Meg does the chores in a fraction of the time Lois takes and prepares a delicious dinner, while Chris actually earns a promotion in his father's job at the brewery near-immediately. Then the stress of his workload causes Chris to have a heart attack, and everything goes back to normal.
To twist the knife even further, Peter and Lois completely screw up in high school and are even less popular than Chris and Meg usually are; meanwhile Peter's boss pretty much refuses to let them switch back until the above happens because Chris is such a better worker than Peter ever was.