Want to know why so many people hate movie critics? Here you go.
This is not the best time to be a mainstream movie critic. Some of them are getting fired, and the ones who aren't live in daily fear of the sassy film bloggers that threaten their existence. Rotten Tomatoes provides ongoing evidence that there may be too many of them, or at the very least, that there is an urgent need to diversify the largely white, male members of the cinema reviewing community. Average moviegoers often make scathing remarks about all those "snobby critics" who just don't understand "real entertainment." And on top of everything else, some people in this profession had to sit through "Marmaduke."
So as a frequent film reviewer myself and a lover of people who love cinema, I hate to jam my thumb into an already open sore. But the truth must be told: movie reviewers sometimes deserve to be disliked. And in an excellent piece today on NPR's Monkey See blog, Linda Holmes shows us why.
Holmes turned our attention to the inordinate number of reviews of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" that have assumed a condescending, borderline insulting attitude toward the potential audience, i.e. teens and young adults. Holmes cites a number of examples. Two of my favorites:
From the St. Petersburg Times: "First of all, I'm not a video gamer. I have discovered more appealing ways to not have a life. " Guess that makes everyone who plays "Halo" and Wii Sports Resort a plebeian. (I know. A big word from someone who occasionally plays video games.)
But the real flame-igniter, which irked Holmes for the same reason it irks me, comes from the Philadelphia Weekly, which claims that "Pilgrim," "offers no possible point of entry to anybody over the age of 30."
Several people that I know who saw this movie -- including myself -- loved it, and are well over 30. But the point isn't whether the film itself is great. That's subjective. The point is that there's no need to fling around such disdain for the individuals who might embrace every Sex Bob-omb moment "Scott Pilgrim" has to offer.
Critics often do this for some reason, especially when reviewing a movie that, at least on the surface, can be classified as youth-oriented. They make biting jokes about the limited attention spans of millennial ticket-buyers, or act like they've never heard of certain tween-appealing stars, thereby making anyone who might care about those actors feel insignificant and stupid. In the process, I think critics -- especially in the print medium -- may have alienated potential readers that now they'd desperately love to add to their shrinking circulation numbers.
The first newspaper I started reading as a child was this one: The Washington Post. What sections did I start with? The comics and the Mini-Page. (I couldn't help it. Mighty Funny is just so high-larious.)
But it didn't take long for me to move to the portion of the paper that actually contained lengthy sentences. And where was the first place I turned? The part of the publication with the movie reviews.
I suspect a lot of other kids follow similar patterns. But if they pick up a newspaper or a magazine and find that, on a regular basis, the critics treat their generation with less respect than they'd show a sewer rat asking for directions to the nearest Applebee's, they will stop reading. After all, they have iPods and cell phones to fiddle with, and those can serve up plenty of reviews that weren't written by people with what comes off as Gen Y bias.
I'm not saying that more fair and even-handed reviews of, say, "High School Musical 3" could have saved the newspaper business. Here's what I am saying: we're living in a digital-journalism era where not only are there infinite movie review-reading options, but where the defining principle is that we're all in this together. The critic/reporter/blogger is no better than the reader.
In other words, critics: tell us whether the movie was good. Share your cinematic wisdom and perspective. It's so, so needed in the world. But stop being snobby and condescending, especially when it comes to moves that are for and about young people. That's a film critic cliche. But sadly, even now, it remains a cliche because too often, it's true.
| August 12, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
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