Movies

Is the Divide Between Film Critics and Audiences Real?

HereditaryThe Kissing BoothThe Greatest Showman.

These are all movies from the past year in which the scores from official film critics on Rotten Tomatoes have been notably higher or lower than the user decided audience score, and this issue in general has caused a fair amount of debate over the past couple of years.

It arguably was first thrust into the public eye upon the release of the controversial Suicide Squad, which garnered a large amount of appreciation from loyal DC fans, but a cold reception from critics in print and online alike. Of course, it is essentially impossible to definitively declare which group is ‘correct’ in this respect, but it is possible to analyse discrepancies like this and why they may have occurred.

Although I’m about to make some incredibly vast generalisations, it can be argued that film critics may be more educated and more film literate than the general public. They may also have a greater awareness of social issues to an extent, and have a greater understanding of more incoherent, unconventional movies. On the other hand, they may have a certain level of snobbery when reviewing certain types of films (action films or teen films, for example) and could potentially be somewhat out of touch with what society at large wants to see in movies.

There is then the issue of fandoms — a different category altogether. They are far more passionate about film than people who may only go three or four times a year for a night out, but are more specific in their interests than critics, who are often asked to review anything and everything. This is also the group that is arguably the most volatile as a whole, becoming incredibly angered by the other two groups, in particular critics, if responses to a new release don’t line up with their own. You can see this clearly with Star Wars: The Last Jedi; critics loved the risks it took, whilst many fans felt like it strayed too far from the classics.

All of this goes some way in explaining the sometimes huge differences of opinion in aggregate scores. The specifics are different each time, but inevitably, the different backgrounds of each demographic will heavily influence the general consensus of a movie within a group and therefore create disputes between these said demographics.

I say all of this as a Rotten Tomatoes certified critic, who definitely comes under the umbrella of many of these statements. But I can’t say that I feel particularly different about movies I’ve seen since gaining this privilege; I thought that Suicide Squad was a huge disappointment before I even started writing. So why is there such a perceived difference between film critics and moviegoers if the former is just a more enthusiastic breed of the latter?

We should be reading far less into the review scores of others for our own film watching experiences and have enough security in our own opinions to not bash others for theirs, and this goes for each group. Ultimately, we all just want to watch films and enjoy them, and no one is being forced to see anything that doesn’t interest them. As long as these differing opinions aren’t disrespectful or bigoted, debates like this can spark fascinating discussion, and allow every kind of moviegoer to view art differently.

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