The perception of critics in popular culture
May 8, 2019
In the world of film, there is a clear divide between critically acclaimed films and those that do well at the box office.
The films that make bank at the box office are usually what is culturally popular.
The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are a great example. All of them have done exceptionally well in the box office while having middling critical reception.
This divide lies between films that adhere to what the critics say and those that think film criticism is hogwash.
Both sides are right and wrong.
While there are specific trends that make film criticism imperfect, it exists for a reason. It should not be the end all be all of the film, but it should not be written off as a whole.
Critics provide an invaluable service. They watch everything under the sun and document their opinions on the films.
In many ways, they represent the populous’ opinions to those that produce films. The views they state are backed up by the source material and the critic’s prestige in the field.
Nowadays, it seems the opinions of the critical realm have departed entirely from that of the populous it represents. It hasn’t. The way we look at reviews and quantify them has changed dramatically and is the reason for this divide.
Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are what have helped foster the divide between spectator and critic.
There has been much stress on making an average critical score for films.
Metacritic is a direct average, and Rotten Tomatoes is the average percentage of positive reviews. Boiling criticisms down into just a number totally removes their purpose and intention.
Any number ascribed to a review is arbitrary. There is not a set standard numbering a review, nor could one exist. It is too subjective of a subject.
Metacritic is an average of all reviews that have different numbering systems. From thumbs up to five stars, there are hundreds of nuanced film ranking systems.
The issue is that they are all nuanced to the point of incompatibility. Four stars to me will mean something totally different to literally anyone else.
Getting an accurate average is impossible.
The new importance on the numbers has washed review of their author’s opinion.
The opinion is the most essential part of a review. Any good reviewer will back those opinions with sources, mostly using the film in question.
It also removes any conversation of bias. Film criticism is something that relies heavily on preference.
A good reviewer will have the bias upfront, but often it relies on knowing the reviewer’s past body of work.
A reviewer’s bias also comes from the sheer amount of films they watch. Films that are exciting to a general audience is mundane to someone so surrounded by tropes that they can hardly breathe.
A critic and a general viewer are always coming from a totally different background and can never truly see a film in the same way.
When looking at the numbers, there does seem to be a divide between the spectator and the critic.
There is not really that big of a split when the numbers are pushed aside. Many criticisms raised by fans are the same raised by critics.
The imaginary divide comes almost totally from the number-heavy film rating system we have implemented in recent years.