Dear Armond White:

It has recently come to my attention that there is no Critics Good Citizen program. This is obviously an oversight.

I am not familiar with CityArts where I understand you are a film critic. While I have made the acquaintance of a few film and theater critics, and one of my family members (now deceased) wrote a letter to American Theatre, all of the critics I have met have been well-mannered.

In our family, we have been taught never to complain, mumble or growl in public. Barking off one’s opinion from the back of the room or even across the street is considered unmannerly. One should never bite or make biting comments about guests in public. Grumbling and growling is best done in the privacy of one’s own den.

For these reasons, I was shocked to learn that you were at a dinner and heckled an awardee. In our show classes, we learn not to question the judge, to politely applaud the winner and to not be critical of other competitors. Moreover, in competition, biting, snapping and other signs of aggression can be grounds for dismissal from competition and awards ceremonies.

Your behavior at Monday night’s NYFCC award dinner  was not  your first transgression. Your repeated misbehavior makes me to wonder if you should be muzzled, signed up for rehab or checked for distemper.

The well-mannered dog knows that he/she should not attempt to attract negative attention. I am shocked to learn that the New York Film Critics Circle had to apologize for you and the NYFCC allowed this behavior to continue for several years.

The Canine Good Citizen program was established in the United States in 1989, coming over from Europe. This year, a dog can earn a CGC title. While I understand critics get paid to be critical and sometimes fall into endless snarking and snippiness, such behavior is not considered in good taste during a formal social situation or even amongst intimates. Being critical is your job so leave it at the office. Criticizing someone while they are giving a speech, particularly accepting an award,  is not how one should behave in canine or human society or even canine-human society. The CGC requires basic good manners:

  1. Learning to accept a friendly stranger.
  2. Sitting politely for introductions.
  3. Reacting appropriately to another dog.
  4. Reacting appropriately to distractions.
  5. Calmly waiting for one’s human companion.

From various descriptions of the recent NYFCC awards ceremony, I gather you do not understand that snarling and snapping at an honored guest, someone who begins as a friendly stranger, is not consider good manners no matter where you are in the room–front or back.

When I consult with a human manners expert, “Emily Post’s Etiquette: Manners for a New World” (18th edition),  in the chapter about the social side of business, I  learned amongst humans, as a participant you are supposed to be a good listener. At parties,  one is not supposed to gossip or vent because “You’re more likely to be perceived as a complainer or someone who can’t be trusted.”

I strongly suggest that there be a Critic Good Citizen program for the NYFCC (or CityArts) to prevent future unpleasantness. As for you, Armond White, I cannot trust the validity of your judgment on films because you do not seem to understand the rules of common courtesy that both dogs and humans operate under. If you do not understand the basic constructs of your own culture how can you interpret it?

I do hope in time, with the proper training, you will learn the pleasures of good manners.

Bonayr’s Merroll Flynn Mizzle

(as dictated to Jana J. Monji)

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