Some time ago I’ve been having a mildly heated discussion about using other’s judgment to issue my own statements.
You know – there was this movie, or this book, a play or whatever floats your boat. And apparently EVERYONE has seen/read it. And it got immensely popular. Heroes sparkle while having some fierce, BDSM orgies on a magic university while fighting back against some space alien predator invasion with the help of monsters that live under your bed, elves riding shields like a skateboard and loosely organized groups of superheroes. Some of them don’t have pants (although they used to in the 50’s).
You get the deal – something gets mega-popular. And yet wherever you turn in search for a decent, well-written review – all you get are lashes. The plot has more holes than Pearl Harbor after the party, heroes are even more plastic than figurines based on their originals, their acting suits more a Class D move from the 80’s rather than a blockbuster from the XXI century. Or the only thing you can say about the book is that the plot is so monotonous that maybe only a Catholic mass beats it in that respect. Although you must admit you’re shocked that it is a paperback BOOK that’s became popular. After all the “me” or “y” generation hardly remembers what actually a book is and what do you use it for.
So you see all of that and you deeply consider the worth of your time (which we know you don’t have a lot – you’re a busy person, you don’t believe you can make up for your lost time in any kind of afterlife) vs the opinions, reviews and so on. You go to the RottenTomatoes since you’ve had a good experience with it and films it recommended turned out to be real good piece of art while movies it did not advise you to watch turned out to be a complete and utter waste of everything – starting from your time, memory wasted to remember that crap, oil and/or electricity used to get you to the cinema, used to make the movie, print the posters and leaflets and advertise it both in TV and in add blocks screened before other movies of the same (lack of) quality. You weigh pros and cons and you conclude “Most people like it, people who know what they say do not like it, reviews are not that good and they seem reasonable. They say it’s a shit ergo it’s a shit”
And then someone turns up and says “You can’t do that!”
How so? – you ask.
You can’t spread such opinion if you haven’t even seen/read it! – you hear.
Well – actually I can. Because seeing the movie/reading a book is not the only way to actually get to know it. And that is the biggest mistake people who bash you commit.
Let’s face it – in today’s culture you are bombarded with various information. Multitude of sources, formats, channels and subjects makes it impossible for you alone to check everything on your own. It’s just physically unfeasible. And even if the president of the USA turned up to cheer you on in your pursuit of knowledge – the simple truth is that “No, you can’t”.
You can’t check everything. But guess what – neither does everybody else. But since you can check some and others can check something other…ultimately you can come across people who will recommend good things and criticize bad ones.
That’s the ultimate reason behind why places like Rotten Tomatoes are what they are – a perfect place to get a good recommendation and be warned against an utter waste of time.
Now – granted, if you don’t know anything about X then you can’t really say anything about X – whether it’s good or bad, awesome or crap – because simply you don’t know.
But if you join the influx of an information from sources which earned the respect and reliability ‘the hard way’, with the simple fact that most of people are unsophisticated popcorn-eaters who prefer 90minutes of explosions in a ‘thing’, devoid of anything substantial ranging from plot through characters to logic, over a great movie that has the perspective to become a ‘cult’ one since the very première – then you’ve got yourself a very good indicator of what not to get yourself involved with.
Those are people who prefer a simple, undemanding music (country/DiscoPolo/ItaloDisco/Jessica Black/etc) rather than something more challenging. They watch soap operas, those are viewers that worship Oprah or Mr. Springer, those are people who cannot perform a basic mathematical operation of multiplying two two-digit numbers, who go to movies and behave worse than cattle…
Now – those people declare something as worthy, as ‘cool’, good or decent. What is the probability that it REALLY is a good, decent thing?
I’d say the same as conviction of banksters from WallStreet. It is obvious that in absolute terms I have no basis to claim something is a shitty something. But in reality factors mentioned above give me more than enough of a foothold to stand firmly and shout at the world “THIS THING IS SHIT. No, I haven’t seen it, thank FSM!”
And it doesn’t matter if you are an opinionated man or not – there are ‘institutions’ you can safely rely on the evaluation of certain work of art, etc.
One can say that there is a number of thing that were popular in the beginning among the ‘crowd’ and then went into the mainstream cult movies. Sure – but it hardly (if ever) ever is that a thing gets very negative reviews, the crowd loves it and then it gets to the mainstream ‘greatest movies’ alley. I dare to assert that one can count such cases on a fingers of one hand and as such – it falls within the margin of error.
If something is really good and I previously declared it as a shit – it will get to me one way or another. And if I then change my mind (which I think I am perfectly allowed to do) – then I’ll say “I was wrong!” World will not end because of that – I know ’cause I’ve done it a number of times.
The point of the note is that popularity within the range of broad public is a great indicator of shitness of the movie/book. If we couple it with the negative reviews from trusted, well-established sources – the practical probability of me being deeply disgusted after trying to watch/read the thing oscillates around 1.
And boy do I know the feeling when you’ve seen the movie/read the book till the very end, the closing subtitles went up and you’re sitting there with this awful feeling that you’ve been abused. You’ve lost your time, you’re not getting it back, what you got instead was horrible, it didn’t bring anything to you – if anything it dumbed you down – and all you want to do now is to forget that you have ever ever had anything to do with it.
Not a nice feeling and despite being quite opinionated – I tend to use the experience of other, often like-minded, people who are empathic enough to warn their fellow primates not to step into the same shit they did. And YES – it is shit. Even though I haven’t seen it.