Movies, like every other piece of art, are often the subject of criticism. Professional critics judge popular movies with an emphasis on both box office success and observations based on expected standards of quality.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregate site founded in 1998, compiles reviews from both professional critics as well as user-generated audience scores to give movies either a “fresh” or a “rotten” rating. This can be a tremendous help for consumers wondering if it’s worth buying tickets for the latest blockbuster or reading about different viewpoints on a particular film.
Lately, there has been a huge backlash against Rotten Tomatoes and critics due to the discrepancies that exist between critics and general audiences. “Don’t Listen to Film Criticism,” a petition started by user Abdullah Coldwater on change.org, has accumulated nearly 23,000 signatures since Dec. 29.
The petition claims that Rotten Tomatoes should be shut down because of an apparently broken review algorithm, bias and bribing amongst critics. The petition also states that general audiences should follow their own views rather than pay attention to the opinions of certain critics. Many individuals also take issue with the fact that films with loyal fan bases, such as those of DC Comics, get treated more harshly by critics than other films.
It’s worth noting that Rotten Tomatoes simply compiles reviews and does not endorse particular films itself. To argue that Rotten Tomatoes is at fault is to ignore the true target: the critics.
This assault against critics stems from an issue regarding a film’s subjectivity. While everyone should accept that films are inherently subjective, this can cause people to feel that they can hold any opinion without need for explanation. It’s an erroneous attitude that leads some people to believe everyone should have their own opinion without fear of it being challenged.
The issue here is that discussion requires that beliefs be questioned. Critics often analyze a film by looking at the quality of several aspects, including acting, writing, cinematography and editing, which many moviegoers don’t notice. Even if they don’t argue against someone’s individual interpretation, critics often highlight observations that some people take as a direct attempt to undermine their own beliefs or tarnish the reputation of a beloved film.
The other problem with reprimanding critics is that it assumes audiences do not hold bias and do not have the power shift the perception of a movie. One example of such bias, however, was when several groups planned to “review bomb” Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Black Panther by creating new accounts on Rotten Tomatoes to lower the overall audience score. The groups had not even seen the films, and cited an issue with the films’ progressive castings as the basis for their goal, showing an immediate prejudice rooted in sexism and racism.
Critics can often counter these “review bombings” because their articles contain reasons regarding they feel a given way about a film, contrary to the people who ignorantly rate a film without seeing it. A critic’s ratings come from observations of the film itself, rather than any kind of agenda or bias.
Even though it’s important to respect each individual’s tastes, attacking film criticism is a detriment to the overall grasp of a film’s quality. Constant discourse between film critics and audience members alike are an intrinsic part of the movie watching experience.
Websites, like Rotten Tomatoes, are essential for this discussion, as they give a platform to both critics and audience members to effectively express and expand upon their views.