What do The Sound of Music and Joker have in common? Both these movies were ruthlessly slammed by critics but are beloved by audiences. This article explores why film critics are disconnected from what the general public prefers.
This year’s Oscars saw its ratings plunging to a new record low. It seems the public just doesn’t really care about the Academy Awards anymore. And if we’re being honest, most of us have pretty much lost interest in Hollywood as a whole. Not only did we stop respecting Hollywood – scandals like Harvey Weinstein’s sleaziness turned us off - but we’re finding it harder to relate to most of the ideas touted by the entertainment industry today.
One of the most glaring disconnects between the entertainment industry and mainstream America is how the class of professional critics rate and review movies. Often, you read how critics blast movies and TV shows audiences love (like Joker and The Witcher) and instead celebrate the ones audiences dislike (like Captain Marvel and the 2016 Ghostbusters).
Why Are Critics Like This?
In truth, the professional critics whose job is to influence audience reception and attendance to the movies are just one part of a group of supremely powerful media acolytes. This is a group of highly educated, highly privileged people whose day job is to watch movies and then give the public their opinions on them.
Naturally, with this much privilege comes a lack of perspective on what is normal in reality. It's not normal for someone who works a stressful job for 40+ hours a week to want to go to the movies and watch characters battle societal or internal psychological problems. What the stressed-out average person wants to do is go to the theater to be entertained (or at least distracted) with well-produced, positive, feel-good movies.
Naturally, with this much privilege comes a lack of perspective on what is normal in reality.
But in the elitist world of the movie critic, if a movie is good, simple, and fun, it’s “formulaic” and “lacking in depth”. Hence, because of how “pedestrian” these movies are, it deserves a terrible review. The irony of this is how their criticism of movies generally comes from a formulaic source itself - i.e. the world of academia.
Corrupted by Academia
Research confirms that the world of academia slants left. The overwhelming majority of professors and faculty members in higher education holds a strong leftist bias. Consequently, a highly educated graduate going into the entertainment business is likely to have their instructor’s left-leaning bias influencing their judgment of movies.
The training they receive in academia corrupts how they view the art of filmmaking. It explains why these critics tend to view entertainment in the framework of identity politics (like how they’re more focused on the “lack of female representation” or “diversity”) or through the lens of Marxist ideas (like the celebration of movies depicting the injustice of the working class’ struggles in a free market).
The training they receive in academia corrupts how they view the art of filmmaking.
Critics generally defend their disagreement with mainstream audiences by stating how the average critic had seen many more movies than the average fan. And because of their education, they are trained to watch movies through a critical perspective that transcends just mere entertainment.
It would be impossible for them to see art as being free of propaganda, and therefore, they believe where film theory is concerned, it has to be evaluated through the prism of their politics. This social justice narrative requires them to be cognizant of all the oppressive unfairness of cis-white male-centric domination in art. It would be too precious for them to have the simple, unenlightened, pedestrian taste of the public-at-large.
The Radical Chic’s Disconnect with the Public
But should we – the pedestrian public-at-large – be reviled for our incapacity to shed our simple, straightforward pleasures in our formulaic taste in film? After all, we watch considerably fewer movies than the critics do, and we consume them for their entertainment factor. Should we be ashamed for not having “better taste”?
Let’s suppose we accept their premise that, yes, we the little people are indeed inferior in our taste. Shouldn’t we at least be graced with entertainment that would make us happy? The typical person has to wake up at 6am every weekday to go to work, then come home at 7pm. In our free time, we want to wind down and relax.
Imagine it’s dinnertime after work – you’re exhausted from dealing with a battalion of Karens trying to get you fired all day long, and you just want to pop into McDonald’s for some Happy Meal chicken nuggets. It won’t even matter to you if the McNuggets are made with pink slime when you’re starving and craving some comfort.
And honestly, I personally don’t care if the person handling the fryer or the drive-thru window is male or female, gay or straight, or any racial group for that matter. All I care about is that they please don’t forget the dipping sauce for my Happy Meal. This is how normal people judge a movie. It’s why those so-called “dumb” movies that critics hate go on to become big blockbuster successes (think Venom).
The public just wants to be entertained at the movies, not lectured.
So what would possess these elitist critics to think that, on the few special occasions we have to take time away from our busy lives, we would want fork over an average of $50 at the theater only to be lectured in a movie about our failures as a person and as a society?
It would be great if critics would look at movies through the eyes of non-political objectivity and filmmaking artistry again, like how Roger Ebert used to do. And also, maybe approach a normal person to figure out why we enjoy the movies we like. If we wanted soul-searching enlightenment, we’d prefer to get it from reading a book or watching a documentary. Otherwise, the public just wants to be entertained at the movies, not lectured.