Fraud is such an ugly word, one made all the uglier by its thoughtless misuse.
In the span of less than a month I have see separate essays that have decried the words of Alejandro G. Inarritu and David Foster Wallace as fraudulent, with the artists in question labeled as frauds. This is not a new thing, either; on searching my memory I can recall any number of instances where a critic or even a fellow artist blasted off an F-bomb at some target or another. I suspect I've done it any number of times on my own. If I have, it's high time I quit.
Fraudulence in art, if it has a meaning, seems to involve two things: 1) The artist in question is insincere, or has questionable motives that are being concealed, and 2) the work produced by that person can be demonstrated to be a product of that insincerity, but few choose to recognize it. In other words, it's more about some self-appointed one with clear vision unmasking another as a fraud — about being a canny critic that can double as the guileless child who declares the emperor naked.
Don't assume I say this because I'm trying to go to bat for Wallace, whose work I have always felt to be terribly overrated. (Inarritu, so far, is hit or miss.) Rather, it's because I would rather see a critical takedown of a deserving target be given the right label, and done along the right lines. Critical darlings like Oscar-winners for Best Picture that in retrospect turn out to be nearly unwatchable always deserve to have the air let out of their tires, but it's the work that needs that drubbing most, not the people behind them. You always want to give the creator the benefit of some doubt.