Rotten Tomatoes Movie Scores Don't Matter, So Quit Whining About Them

When fans attempt to discuss a film or TV show's strengths or weaknesses, they might call attention to the script, direction, cast, or production value, all of which are valid components to praise or criticize. however, few things are as meritless in the realm of analysis as a Rotten Tomatoes score, the weaponization of which causes even the most eloquent of critics to have their opinions deservedly dismissed. While Rotten Tomatoes as a company is harmless for compiling data from critics, the only harm it has caused is the ways in which movie fans attempt to utilize the data to support an arugment, going so far as to conjure conspiracy theories that studios and critics are intentionally gaming the system to push some sort of agenda. Despite the number of people who claim the site is problematic, those same dissenters can't seem to stop whining about it.

For those unaware, Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator site that compiles reviews of movies and TV shows to give readers a metric of what percentage of said reviews are positive versus negative. While this concept might seem straightforward, it's not a system without its flaws. All submitted reviews are forced to deem themselves either in the binary of "Fresh" versus "Rotten," with all critics using their own personal scale. Some outlets use numerical ratings, some use a grading system, and while one outlet might deem a 3 out of 5 a negative review, another might define that as being positive. There are a number of variables when a film's score is calculated, which understandably has turned some movie fans off of the site entirely.

While this system has been relatively unchanged since the site's debut, it has only been in recent years that fans have begun expressing vitriol towards the site itself or using these metrics as objective evidence when discussing films.

One of the biggest catalysts for toxic discussions surrounding the site came with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which sits at 28% positive reviews with more than 400 submitted critical ratings. While Marvel and DC Comics have always had a playful rivalry, the film earning poor reviews created a backlash against critics by some DC fans, while some devout Marvel supporters attempted to attack those who enjoyed the DC film as though its Rotten Tomatoes score served as objective proof of its poor quality. Given Marvel's relatively positive track record of Rotten Tomatoes scores, some fans even started conspiracy theories that Disney was paying critics for positive reviews, despite no proof of such a concept appearing anywhere online, other than the franchise consistently earning positive reviews. This divide has only grown stronger over the years as viewers debate the merits of the franchises more passionately, though DC films have seen an improvement of their average scores on the site.

Above all else, audiences need to accept that whatever opinion they have about a movie or TV show is as valid as anyone else's, regardless of whether you're a critic with decades of experience writing or you've only ever seen a handful of films. You do not need validation from any critic or fellow fan, as art is an entirely subjective and personal experience. If you find faults with an award-winning movie with hundreds of positive reviews, or if you love a movie that is almost universally hated, attempting to change someone's mind by using other anyone else's opinion as ammunition only ruins the point you are trying to make and invalidates the strength of your own opinion. No matter how insightful you might normally be, your argument boils down to, "This thing is good because other people also like it."

This isn't to say that Rotten Tomatoes is a perfect system that should merely be ignored, especially given the ways we've seen toxic fans attempt to exploit it. Ahead of the release of Captain Marvel, the film earned thousands of negative reviews from fans, despite no one having seen it, forcing the site to adopt new policies about audience ratings. The only reason this deluge happened in the first place is that, to the fans trolling the film, an audience score was seen as a valid metric that was worth noting. These audiences could point to a poor rating to support their interpretation of the film, seemingly validating their hatred with the number of other users who shared their disappointment. The film currently has an audience score of 48% positive and, of course, we can assume many of those poor reviews from users were made in good faith, though, sadly, we have to assume at least some portion of those poor reviews serve more as a symbolic gesture of animosity towards the film than as an honest expression of why the film fell short of expectations.

There's an old adage that "lions don't lose sleep over the opinions of sheep," which conveys the notion that a powerful, confident predator shouldn't be concerned with what something much weaker than them might think. This phrase should also apply to critical analysis of any art form, and if you don't trust what a critic has to say for any reason, there's no reason to be bothered ever thinking about them or allow their opinion to influence your own. For better or worse, critics bring their own personal perspectives to every film they review, which also includes their own personal biases. If they don't personally enjoy horror movies, they're more apt to give one a poor review. If they love a certain actor, they might be more apt to give their projects more positive reviews. Critics are both as powerful and as pointless as you believe them to be, no matter how highly regarded they might be in other circles.

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A Rotten Tomatoes score can be helpful to some people in some situations, as critics praising one movie more strongly than another could signify to you that you are more likely to enjoy it, but a Rotten Tomatoes score is always useless to everyone who attempts to cite an algorithm as concrete evidence of a film's strengths or failures, serving only to deflate the argument of anyone referencing the aggregator. No matter how intelligent or insightful any movie fan might believe they are, nothing should invalidate their opinion as quickly as their use of any score from Rotten Tomatoes to either support a film's quality, or lack thereof.

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