How to Be a Successful Culture Critic, With William Evans and Omar Holmon

How to Be a Successful Culture Critic, With William Evans and Omar Holmon
Photo: Micaela Heck/Elena Scotti

Have an interesting take on the latest Marvel film? Are you itching to have someone hear your unique view on Nine Perfect Strangers? This week we’re learning how to become sophisticated, compelling culture critics will help from Black Nerd Problems cofounders William Evans and Omar Holmon. Listen to hear William and Omar talk about how to find your lane when it comes to criticism, how to develop that ever-necessary thick skin against those who want to fight you, and how to decide what to consume and review among the glut of entertainment out there these days.

Be sure to check out William and Omar’s new book, Black Nerd Problems: Essays, which just came out this month.

Listen to The Upgrade above or find us in all the usual places podcasts are served, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher.

Highlights from this week’s episode

William, on how to get readers to hear you out:

I think it was important for us to start with something that we wanted to embrace, right? Like…if there’s a TV show that had all the esthetics and I wasn’t really feeling it, my criticism started with, ‘Man, I went into this thing really wanting to like this thing and here’s what held me back from that.’ Right. And so I think that couches it in a way where someone that does like the show, that wants to read criticism of it, doesn’t come into it like, “Oh, man, they just over here hating on my show.” I think that helps get us in the door of some readers so that they’re more open to whatever criticism we might be offering.

William, on how to decide when to critique or not:

My voice may not be needed on everything. It just may not. You know, I think there’s a sliding scale of like what is something that is squarely in my wheelhouse where I could feel like an expert, and what is something that I’m just interested in? And then also what’s outside of my particular experience and expertise? For instance, we have an Asian-American writer on the staff [named] Mikkel. And so like him and I were talking about when Superman was Asian-American in the comics. Right. And like we’re both reading the comic at the same time. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I would love to write something about that.’ And [Mikkel] was like, ‘Yeah, I’m really interested in writing about it too.’ I’m like, ‘Well, then you write it.’…And so I think it’s also nice to not be in a silo and not just be like my voice is the only one that matters in this kind of a thing and having people that you can bounce off of…Which is why I don’t envy people that do this on their own. There’s, like, no way I would do that.

Omar, on knowing when you’re prepared to put your take out there:

You can’t be afraid to wait till you have the needle through the thread. Like, oh I got the needle that’ll piece all these things together. You can be really passionate about something but like wait until you have all the pieces first…Because if you’re just writing it to be writing it, people can tell. It’s like, it’s like, ‘Oh wow. Two lines and a gif, two lines and a gif…’ Wait until you have like a lot of meat to give your audience as well. They’ll appreciate [your critique] more for that.

To hear more of William and Omar’s insightful tips on effective culture criticism, we highly recommend listening to the full episode.

Episode Transcript

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