As someone who has been a harsh critic of Rotten Tomatoes for quite some time, this week feels like a good week to point out the site has been dropping the ball lately. It’s obvious that Rotten Tomatoes has become a place seen as the be-all and end-all of film opinion. You see it in movie adverting “This movie has a high score on Rotten Tomatoes, Certified Fresh!!!”. Then you go watch the film and wonder if these critics even watched the same movie you did. On the flip side, they also like to tear a film to shreds and proclaim it to be a disgrace, yet you watch the movie and you have no idea why they were so upset about it in the first place. The reason why you have such a discrepancy between critics and audiences is one reason…Politics.
Hollywood is an industry that doesn’t even pretend not to be political yet lie constantly about their intentions. However, the problem is much deeper than that, I mean has anyone noticed that when talking about RT (The movie site not the Russian propaganda channel) no one ever talks about the audience score? And why would you? Why talk about what the people who paid their hard earned money actually thought about the film when you have the selected opinion of Collider and Vox to tell you what to think about a movie? If the Shape of Water winning best picture, a story about a woke mute woman with a gay neighbor teaming up with a kind-hearted Communist & strong independent black woman to rescue a fish-man from evil US government, who she then has sex with isn’t a big enough example that critics (and the industry for that matter) don’t have their finger on the pulse on what the people actually want, then you and Stevie Wonder have the same eye doctor. But even then, I’ll give you 5 recent examples of where the critics’ got it wrong, whether intentionally or unintentionally (It’s likely intentionally)
Critics Score: 13%
Audience Score: 86%
You knew this one was coming, I’m not even sure if I can call this a polarizing movie because there were many liberals who watched this movie and enjoyed it for what it was, a throwback action film pulled straight out of the 1980s. However, Liberals are not the same as Progressives and it was the progressives whose blood pressure went sky high at the notion that a film could be positively received by a group of people who may have a favorable view about their constitutional rights. Make no mistake about, progressive critics wanted to sabotage this film and it’s not hard to spot who those people were. They are the ones who always tell you about what film ‘Is time’ to make and what film ‘is not the right time to make’. These people care more about controlling the narrative rather than judging a film in the window of being a film. With a 73% gap between what the fans thought and what the audiences thought, there really isn’t much explanation for this one outside of someone had an agenda. But this wasn’t the only film where the bias of Progressive critics was exposed.
Critics Score: 90%
Audience Score: 48%
Now, this is a polarizing film, you either loved or hated it. I can’t remember anyone who saw this and thought it was ‘okay’. Kathleen Kennedy has made it no secret that she wants to cater Disney Star Wars to a female audience. Kennedy wants to use the Star Wars Universe to push cultural and societal change that translates to ‘more relatable characters’. The problem is, it’s not working and this ticked off Star Wars fans who watched their beloved franchise flush continuity and mythos which they respected out the window in favor of representation and Disney Humor which the critics ate up. But no matter how hard critics tried to make Rose Tico a thing, audience reaction and the surplus of Tico toys at your local Walmart confirmed that the fans literally weren’t buying what they were selling. I mean, when the media are complaining about the fact that the Star Wars movies have been directed by mostly white men, I thought to myself “Well of course, that was everyone’s biggest complaint about the Prequels, there wasn’t enough women or people of color behind the camera to direct the poor CGI, lack of chemistry, and Jar Jar Banks”. With this movie, the agenda was clear, and the fans didn’t respond well to it. Disney’s Star Wars future is in more trouble than they want you to believe and claiming your audience is just threatened by women isn’t going to put butts in seats.
Critics Score: 40%
Audience Score: 76%
You know things are bad when a Marvel fan is defending DC but it feels like I have no choice here. It’s becoming the mainstream stance to completely trash DC movies and overpraise Marvel studios (*cough* Disney *cough*) films. Batman vs Superman was bad, yes, but Suicide Squad was a decent film and Justice League was far better than it was given credit for. Now I’ll accept that the film should have been a lot better given it was Warner Bros’s superhero team-up movie, but the film was not better or worse than superhero films like Guardians Vol. 2 or Thor: Ragnarok which got heaping praise from the same lot who seem to itch whenever a Disney film gets a lower than 90% critic rating. The comic book world is already drenched in politics at the moment and it feels like critics have chosen sides. Now, while I don’t believe that the reason for this is political (yet) it does feel like brand loyalty made be clouding the judgment of critics.
Critics Score: 27%
Audience Score: 85%
Now I didn’t think this film was great, but you have to ask yourself, what did critics miss about this film that fans seem to love? From my perspective, it was two things, one Max Landis became a #MeToo victim (victim in the sense that he was added to the long list of accused) before the film’s release. Secondly, reading a few mainstream opinions, it sounds like the film wasn’t political enough for them. Numerous critics cited the ‘messaging’ and ‘social context’ of the film, but were upset that the film didn’t go far enough with it. Well, audiences didn’t care about that crap because what they saw was ‘Bad Boys with magic’. They liked the fresh idea of a universe that had elements of fantasy along with the gritty realism of current day Los Angeles. It was a simple and enjoyable movie for audiences, but that wasn’t enough for critics. I’ll just let this audience reviewer tell you how they felt…
Summer L: These over analytical conceited puff bags that can’t get enough of the smell of their own flatulence can go stuff their reviews up their backsides. The only thing their negativity for a film like this does is make me see how much of a disconnect there is between them and the average viewer.They are out of touch with how the majority of viewers feel. When they blast a movie like this with such fervor when it’s really not that bad it makes me wonder what they are doing and why – and yes we absolutely do have a right to call them on it.
Sausage Party (and the Christian Genre)
Critics Score: 82%
Audience Score: 50%
I can’t for the life of me understand why critics loved this movie. This movie has everything that most of them would shred other films for. This film takes offense to Black People, Asians, Mexicans, Jews, Muslims, etc. As much as people are terrified of white nationalists these days, I think the alt-right would actually love this film because it mocks everyone that they hate. I mean Adam Sandler makes a film like this and people freak out, but Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg make it and suddenly it’s thought-provoking and smart. And then I thought to myself, well the film is basically a huge attack on religion in a nutshell and if there is one genre that progressive critics hate, it’s religious films. There is no better example of critics vs audience discrepancy than any Christian film you can think of, such as I’m Not Ashamed (Critics 22%, Audiences 82%) for example. Now I’m not here to defend the genre, but to point out that it’s clear progressives dislike religious films as much as they dislike the Christian faith. So a film attacking the idea of faith would score high with them, but not with everyone else. Hollywood has a knack for being condescending, but being condescending to the very audience that is watching your film isn’t a very smart business plan. BTW, treating your workers who spend hours of their lives putting this piece of crap together like dirt and blacklisting them also won’t win you any supporters.
I know there are some people going “You are complaining about biased critics when you are biased yourself”…Yes. However the difference here is one, I’m pretty open about my biases and don’t try to hide it from anyone, unlike others who try to pretend they are just calling it from a perspective of neutrality. Secondly, my biases doesn’t stop me from being objective (or as objective as I can be) in my reviews. I can give films I know aren’t necessarily for me credit where credit is due. I can also call out a film that would normally pander to me for not being very good. But most importantly, I try to look at a film from the critics perspective AND the audience’s perspective. There are just things that critics love that audiences simply don’t care for and vice versa, and a failure to understand that is not doing your job service especially if it’s the audiences that you are talking too. Now whether critics are actually trying to understand the fans perspective or just tell them what to think is a debate for another day, but it’s clear that there are two different mindsets when it comes to films. So keep in mind when you see the Rotten Tomatoes score hyped up for a film or that certified fresh label that somehow films like Ghostbusters (2016) got, just remember you are only getting one side of the story, not the whole book.
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41 thoughts on “Are We In A Culture War? Rotten Tomatoes Critics vs Audiences”
Great post. I have, since a very long time, considered Rotten Tomatoes ratings to be nothing but crap. Unless you click down to what the actual audiences say about a movie their ratings mean nothing.
I’d go so far as to say that if Rotten Tomatoes trashes a movie it is probably worth looking further at that particular movie.
Rotten Tomatoes reviews are so out of place… i’ve learned that long time ago, the only time I check it is when I wanna find out what the audiences think about the film.. But other than that, big no!
I have long believed, especially after the Disney fiasco… last year I want to say, most critics are paid to skew their reviews one way or the other. And for those not paid, because they want to maintain free press passes and things of that nature, they only go after films handled by companies that can’t blacklist them into obscurity. That, if they tear apart their movie, it won’t kill the multitude of privileges which come from getting things not only free, but sent to them for free. So they don’t even have to possibly leave their home.
Because, let me tell you, the handful of occasions I got something unsolicited to review, and I wasn’t fond of the movie, there was that thought of, even though I generally try not to be cruel, how to word this so that I’m truthful without burning a bridge in the process. Especially since, who knows where this person could end up. They are doing PR and things of that nature for this company, an indie studio, now, and down the line could end up at a big name company and whether I’m still doing reviews and recap or actually writing stories on the other side, who says they can’t have the type of influence to make or break you.
For, in the long run, and to not make a comment an article, I deeply believe anyone who writes about movies more often than not do so because something, most likely that person, is holding them back from making their own. So, with the way some of these critics talk, it seems like they are so mad other people can get financing, but they can’t, that they lash out.
I’ll say this, it’s definitely very easy to get caught up in the perks of being a movie critic
That used to be the case, if you knew everyone read the New York Times critic. Thats the guy you pay, but right now its impossible in my opinion to sway the public with one paid critic. I think you’re absolutely right in them sort of wanting to fit it, specially since most of the critics work in small websites and publications that can suffer a lot from even one company deny in them screeners or interviews.
I’ve never been paid for any review (or even offered to be paid) during my 18 or so years as a critic (dang … what am I doing wrong?) But there does appear to be a groupthink with many critics … to go along with their hard-left bent.
Now I joke all the time about Disney paying for good reviews but I believe it was Film Gob who pointed out that some critics (Mostly Collider) would spend so much time pointing out the flaws of a Marvel or Star Wars film and then give it an 8/10. My concern with Disney gaining more power in the industry is that they will also gain more power in terms of opinion.
Well you know I’m just in it for the big, pillow breasts. 😉
Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That…
Well said. I loved The Last Jedi, but even I am able to tell you there is a huge disconnect between the audiences and the critics. Sausage Party was so garbage and probably accepted by the critics because it just went to reaffirm their biases. The film literally ends with a giant orgy! WTF?!?! And then goes after religion like some propaganda.
I think what the movie industry needs is a group of people who are right-leaning. Now hold up, I know it sounds forced and all, but everywhere you look the media as a whole is extremely liberal. Even the shows I watch with enjoyment such as ScreenJunkiesNews eventually spout something left-leaning that makes you cringe. Shape of Water won because the Academy is mostly composed of, you guessed it, the left. I was so happy yo find blogs like yours because I was finally able to find a site that better represents the public opinion. This is partly why I also just started my own movie blog (that wasn’t the only reason though). So going back to what I said there should be a group that doesn’t talks about movies with love, passion. It doesn’t have to introduce politics in practicality, going off of what you said, the people need someone who is leaning any political party, but is open about their views, biases yet doesn’t let them dominate their own opinions.
I noticed a lot of movie shows like ScreenJunkiesNews or ColliderMovie Talk try to avoid talking about anything to do with politics, but why would it hurt if one them stated their uncensored, respectful opinion and recognise the fact that it doesn’t reflect the entire movie industry? Why is that so hard? So yes, movie culture needs those kind of people, and if they happen to be right-leaning I think that would also maybe increase some of their influence, thanks to their future popularity, on the industry itself so we no longer have a film about hip mutes with gay neighbors teaming up with a strong independent black woman winning Best Picture.
The problem in media is that is it Liberal by design, they don’t want anyone with a Conservative, Libertarian, or Centrist point of view and that comes from the top. But imagine if the industry actually had a diversity of political opinion? If they didn’t force people to adopt a hard left stance politically? If people in the industry were allowed to be honest, they would have a completely different stance without the fear of their careers being affected and even people who consider themselves liberal wouldn’t have to feel pressured to amplify they views because they don’t feel comfortable with being a political mouthpiece. It would be a game changer because that again would have to come from the top.
Do you see a shift happening any time soon?
By choice? Absolutely not. It will take a MAJOR scandal that makes Harvey Weinstein look like misdemeanor infraction by comparison to radically change the power structure in entertainment and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Whoa! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a totally different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Great choice of colors!
This article hits the nail on the head. It isn’t the films that have gotten a low score that made me question critics sanity, it’s the films with high scores. Every time I try to watch a Marvel film with an open mind (The Avengers, CA: Civil War) I end up asking myself, “what the “bleep” were they thinking? This movie is boring!” Deborah Ross at The Spectator wrote an excellent article about it: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/04/i-swear-this-is-the-last-marvel-film-i-see-captain-america-reviewed/
And thanks for being brave enough to thrash “The Shape of Water”. Despite appearing to be progressive, that movie is SO problematic.