Working With Rotten Intel
Humans have odd habits. We drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming who we vote and brake for. We wear t-shirts with obscure references to shows we watch. We post our every thought and action on our social media. Why? In the hopes that someone might look at it and say, “Hey. Me too.” Validation. It’s important to us as humans. The feeling that we’re not crazy or stupid for liking something. The best way to feel like your opinions are in fact “right” is to find a majority of people who agree with you. Feelings on movies are no different.
Now I realize the irony of someone who spends his free time writing movie reviews to be warning people of the dangers of trusting movie reviews, but I’m an honest guy. The truth of the matter is that I don’t write them to tell you what to think of a movie. I highlight the positive and negative aspects in detail so you can see if these are things you care for in a movie, and maybe to get you thinking about it a little more. Too many times I’ve heard people attack or justify a movie with the opening phrase of “Well the Rotten Tomato score is-”. Let me stop all of you right there. No matter how professional, educated, or experienced a critic is, it shouldn’t MAKE your opinion of a film.
The second problem with that statement is that a Rotten Tomatoes score is the most misleading statistic since “On average, every person has 1.5 X-Chromosomes”. Technically it’s true, but at the same time it’s nowhere close to reality. In an unofficial poll I conducted, it became clear to me that there is a widespread misconception on what a Rotten Tomatoes score represents. Every person I asked (people who check these scores semi-regularly, too) was under the impression that this was an overall average score of verified film critics’ opinions. This is only half-right. What people are thinking of is a “Metascore”. Rotten Tomatoes is not that. It is a sort of representation of verified critics’ scores, but not an average. What they do is scan all of the “verified” scores of reviews (to be considered verified, the critic must have so many likes or followers). Any score that totals to a 60% or higher, is qualified as a “good review” and given a fresh red tomato. Anything lower and it is given a rotten green tomato splat. A Rotten Tomatoes score is actually the percentage of fresh red tomatoes. This means that it is actually an average of reviews where anything 60% or higher is rounded to 100%, and anything lower is rounded to 0%. They turned what was basically a percentage based system into a binary system, then back into a percentage system after their data became skewed. For example, let’s say a movie scored a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. Sounds good, right? A lot of people are thinking that the movie is 91% awesome! But, this is 91% of people who think it’s better than 59%. 60-100% is a LOT of wiggle room! If you averaged a 60% in your classes, you’d be getting a letter to your parents, not making the Dean’s List. Furthermore, this means that 9% of verified critics HATED it. Granted, there’s always THAT judge that’s going to low-ball your score no matter what, but almost a tenth of the same pool of judges whose opinions you’ve respected enough to support your argument on why a movie is good or not, said it wasn’t even worth 60%. It got an F. Look at Get Out. Scored a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perfect movie, right? It’s Metascore, however, while still positive tells a tale of differentiating opinions with a score of 84 (don’t get me wrong, I thought it was near-perfect movie [just see my review], but I don’t base my opinions off of other reviews, see?).
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Jarrod, you just said we shouldn’t base our opinions off of movie reviews, what difference does it make if the Rotten Tomatoes score makes as much sense as giving a snake a tandem bicycle.” The reason I even bring up the Rotten Tomatoes score is because reviews do serve a purpose. They can give a person an idea of what to expect when they go see this movie. Previews can be very misleading, and I know I can think of a few times where I wished I read a review of a movie before deciding to see it (Clash of the Titans for instance). When a person reduces everything to a movie’s score, especially one that makes very little sense, they don’t see the reasoning behind it. Maybe a movie got a bunch of bad reviews because the majority of reviewers hate toilet humor, but you LOVE poop jokes! You’d be missing out what might be a great movie because you didn’t look further into it. All because of the all-mighty number: The Rotten Tomato Score. So if you do, for whatever reason, decide to still use Rotten Tomatoes, read a few of the reviews they are gracious enough to link to before you take the score for granted. Read a positive one and a negative one and figure out which closer aligns with your standards. Or, if you’re looking for a convenient, cohesive, well-structured review written by a dedicated, debonair film critic with great hair and a sonorous voice, keep checking back here at the Keystone Statement.