On Clueless Criticism

There are these wasabi rice crackers available at my local convenience store. They’re great… provided you know how to eat them. One or two at a time, they’re not particularly spicy: they taste pretty good, they have only the faintest kick, and a small serving more than sates my appetite for snacks.


Of course, if you eat more than three at a time, well, then they’re insane: the pain, the panic, the dizzying wasabi fumes pouring up into your sinuses, the flailing for the nearest cup of anything to dilute the wasabi and cut short that incredible pain. I should know: I have, many times, inflicted that pain on myself when snacking while distracted.

So why do I keep eating them, if they hurt?

Because those episodes of pain… they’re not a result of some flaw in the crackers. Eaten the way they’re intended to be eaten, there’s no pain at all. When that wasabi hell explodes in my mouth, send me scrambling for a drink, it’s because I’m eating them wrong.

Sure, sure, there is no objectively wrong way to eat them. Some people don’t feel the burn, and can eat as many as they like at one time. Some enjoy the burn, and out to eat a lot, I guess. Some people don’t like the taste even when they eat them slowly, or are turned off by even mild wasabi. Some people are even allergic to (fake) wasabi. Some people just can’t seem to break the habit of eating snack foods a handful at a time, and decide to avoid wasabi crackers. Some people are trying to eat fewer snacks altogether.

And of course, it is possible to find bad wasabi snacks on the market. For example, a company habitually using low-quality rice or sesame to make the base cracker, and then slathering on a ton of wasabi to cover for the poor quality. There are some wasabi peas at my local mart that are like that: you can tell the peas were bottom-grade before they were dehydrated, and the ton of wasabi applied to them only sort-of covers it the terrible quality; saying, “Yeah, those are over-spiced because the quality is bad. Avoid them!” is just plain sensible.

So I’m not saying that one cannot criticize, or cannot reject something; criticism sometimes involves rightly pointing things like that.

But if you’re eating these particular wasabi crackers by the handful and the pain hits, and you then decide to react with a self-righteous lecture on the dangers of over-spicing food, or blame the Mizuho Brand snack manufacturer for reminding you of the traumas of your past, when you ate buffalo wings in a bar one time that were horrifically spicy your underwear caught fire before you even managed to get home?

Uh, nah, in that case, you’re eating these here wasabi crackers wrong, and your criticism is just clueless. 

And for the record, no, I’m not talking about any particular criticism of my own work. I’m actually responding to this frustratingly US-centric (and US-racial-politics-centric) criticism of Snowpiercer by diversity advocate Daniel José Older.

I’m not sure whether I’ll respond to it at any greater length, though. We’ll see.