Rotten Tomatoes is a movie review aggregator launched in 1998 with the intention of gathering the views of movie critics into one easy source. Currently, the site is under fire from movie-goers who found that it offered a poor rating of David Ayer’s upcoming movie Suicide Squad. A petition to have the site shut down has been launched and I will include it in the sources below so that after you have read what I have to say, you can decide if you want to sign it or not.
Fans of DC have had a somewhat troubled history with the site, earlier this year it gave Batman V Superman a scathing score of just 27%. Admittedly the movie was divisive, to say the least, but thanks to the distinctly outdated method that RT uses, the score given is just one sweeping judgment. Sites like IMDb offer a much more comprehensive viewpoint as they hold the views of the audience member in high regard. With RT, it seems to me like they see themselves (and critics) as the defining word in what movies you should see.
A cynic could say that the reason behind the bad reviews for DC movies could be because DC Movies is a Warner Bro’s property and, until February this year, Warner actually owned Rotten Tomatoes. RT is currently owned by movie ticket seller Fandango, so why would they benefit from a company they own saying bad things about movies? Because nowadays, when we read a bad review, we vent our rage by going to see the movie and proving the critics wrong. Which means more people buying tickets from Fandango, which means Fandango earn more money.
Even before Fandango owned RT, they were being called out for controversies involving their reviews. FiveThirtyEight covered the issues regarding why Fandango reviews are biassed back in October 2013, the article noted that there was a distinct lack of poorly reviewed movies when compared to sites like MetaCritic and IMDb.
“Of the 437 films with at least one review, 98 percent had a 3-star rating or higher and 75 percent had a 4-star rating or higher.”
FiveThirtyEight Article (October 2015)
In September 2015, The Guardian noted that when comparing the critic score on Rotten Tomatoes with the gross box-office earnings on opening weekends, movies that had low scores would be huge failures more often than not. Yet since Fandango purchased RT, we have been seeing the reverse effect. A poorly reviewed movie tends to often see a decent taking on opening weekend. In fact whilst researching this article, the top two news stories regarding Suicide Squad were “Suicide Squad Breaks August Pre-Sale Record on Fandango” and “Suicide Squad Slayed by Critics who Called it Disastrous”. Which is odd considering that Rotten Tomatoes were the ones slating the movie, yet the company that owns them was profiting from it.
So, is there a bias from Rotten Tomatoes? Yes. There was a bias from its parent company Fandango even before they owned RT, all Fandango cares about is selling movie tickets and they will do anything to ensure that they sell tickets. Even if that means inciting hate against the service that they used to tell people not to see the movie. They take advantage of the fact that their ownership of RT is not commonly known to get people to “Stand up to the critics” by going to Fandango and defiantly buying a ticket to see the movie.
So really the problem is not with review aggregator sites at all, the problem is with companies owning them. So here is a handy guide to who owns what, to help you see who has a bias where. I don’t think people should stop reading reviews, but I do think that they should be aware that there is a bias and that they should base an opinion on more than one viewpoint. So here is the handy guide.
- Rotten Tomatoes: Owned by Fandango. (Movie Ticket Seller)
- IMDb: Owned by Amazon. (Online Shop and Digital Video Streaming Service)
- MetaCritic: Owned by CBS. (Multi-Media Entertainment Network)
Many geek sites are not owned by a parent company and rely on sponsors and ads to run, but this opens up a new set of problems. The rules set by Rotten Tomatoes as to what they consider a critic, essentially blocks newer sites from entering the medium.
“Publications must achieve and maintain status as one of the following:
- – A top 100 daily US newspaper
- – A top 100 weekly US newspaper
- – A top 100 magazine
- – A top 10 entertainment-based publication”
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Submission Rules
Sources like The Guardian and The New York Times aren’t going to suddenly stop being top 100 publications overnight. This means smaller yet still reputable sites are not entering the medium and this leads to companies that have a target audience of mainly older readers, end up controlling what movies we watch. It seems like unless a massive company buys you, there is no hope for your voice being seen as a respected critic. We need a balance of sources being included. We need the voice of both conventional critics and those who specialise in the field of geek movies, if the voices of the people that the films are aimed at aren’t being heard then we end up listening to the people who honestly don’t care about comic book movies and just want money.
So now that you know the facts, decide if you want to ban review aggregators or if you want a more transparent policy for bias from critics. To paraphrase an idiot, we need to “Make Reviews Great Again”. We did actually reach out to Fandango to comment on the points I made in this article and they have yet to reply, but we will keep you updated. I would also like to say that I am not a hypocrite. G33k P0p is not a review site, we have posted reviews in the past and whilst we do continue to sometimes post reviews, we have a policy to avoid scoring movies so that they don’t get included in aggregated scores. We also phased out a lot of usage of the word “review” over the past few months as we would rather consider our content as a recommendation of a good thing, rather than an attack on something that is bad. We don’t try to tell you what to watch, but if we watch something good we will share it with you.
Thanks for sticking with me until the end, if you want to pledge support to changing reviews forever then click this button to tweet and tell the critics that you demand change. Or if you just want to divert your attention away from the real problem, you can sign a petition here to try and shut down Rotten Tomatoes.. Until next time folks, keep it G33k!
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