It’s always bothered me when critics call a work or performer “boring,” but now Susan Sontag, in her 1965 essay “One Culture and the New Sensibility” (from Against Interpretation), helps put my finger on why:
The charge of boredom is hypocritical….Boredom is only another name for a certain species of frustration.
The moment a critic declares (through her nose) that she is bored, she’s abdicated her responsibility: to illuminate causes, not just effects. “Boring” is like “wonderful” or “marvelous” or “splendid”–it says nothing except that you liked something or didn’t, and that you are so self-evidently justified in your taste (because you are you, and you are marvelous) that you needn’t bother to say more. That’s why teenagers, with their uncanny ability to make the most of adults’ worst traits, love the b-word: they understand “boring” annuls all argument and holds the listener at bay.
For a critic, it’s also stingy, backing away right when the writer needs to move in. It’s arrogant, asserting, “I am so much better than this dance/this performer that I will not deign to explain.”
Explanation is a humble thing–what subordinates do, never their bosses. “Boring,” on the other hand, is the aristocrat of response: a seeming explanation that tells you nothing (why Sontag calls it hypocritical). By means of indolence, the critic asserts her dominion over the reader and the art.