Suicide Squad Fans Lash Out At Rotten Tomatoes With A Petition

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Full disclosure: I’m a DC fan, and I loved both Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice – while recognizing that they are flawed endeavours. I am also very much looking forward to seeing Suicide Squad, despite the enormous wave of negative reviews the movie has received in the past 48 hours. It seems this objective and optimistic stance may be surprising to some though – particularly those who have taken it upon themselves to launch a petition to demand the closure of the website Rotten Tomatoes, based on the suggestion that it promotes some kind of bias against DC movies.

This ridiculous turn of events is absurd for several reasons. Firstly – and as the petition itself states – such a document will not lead to the closure of Rotten Tomatoes, so it is, by its own admission, pointless. Secondly, when did disagreeing with a film review become something so enraging that it warrants the attempted creation of a social movement? Thirdly, to claim to be distressed by what are perceived as overly negative reviews, based on the results from a review aggregator website, is quite nonsensical.

Rotten Tomatoes (owned, in part, by Warner Bros.) was launched in August 1998, and focuses on film reviews and news. It has come to be regarded largely as a review aggregator because its main function is to collect reviews, and declare a movie to be either “fresh” or “rotten,” depending on the percentage of reviewers that draw positive or negative conclusions about the movie. There is a process to this, and to be fair, it is one that leaves the website open to accusations of bias by those that do not actually go to the trouble of reading whole reviews.

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Film critics become certified members after meeting certain criteria. Their reviews are collected by Rotten Tomatoes staff, who make a determination as to whether that review is positive or negative. This final data is used to calculate the Rotten Tomatoes rating for the film. Now, some reviews will be easy to categorize as positive or negative. If they are entirely scathing, or award just one star out of a possible five – that’s fairly easy to interpret. Similarly, a five star review, or glowing report, is categorically positive.

It is those reviews that are in the centre of the spectrum that require some judgement, however. A three-star review, or a write-up that doesn’t use a visual ranking system, but instead renders the reviewers thoughts and responses in full sentences and paragraphs may not be so easy to label. This is where Rotten Tomatoes is vulnerable.

However, surely if the reviews of a film are so important to your overall viewing decision, wouldn’t you be reading the actual reviews? Is there any point in railing against an aggregation of the opinion of others, when you have not actually read all of those opinions, and are instead choosing to see them as they are filtered through the lens of someone else? The petition to close Rotten Tomatoes states:

“We need this site to be shut down because It’s Critics always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust Bad Reviews, Like

1- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016
2- Suicide Squad 2016

and that Affects people’s opinion even if it’s a really great movies”

Taking those points in turn, firstly, Rotten Tomatoes aggregates the opinions of reviewers that write for websites and publications all over the world – they are not “its critics.” Secondly, the negative reviews of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Suicide Squad are not “unjust” – they simply do not align with all opinions of all audience members (or indeed, all critics). But that’s fine, because Rotten Tomatoes also aggregates audience scores – so if you truly think critics are engaged in a nefarious anti-DC conspiracy, either look at audience scores, or just go see the movie.

The last point is key, and does carry some weight. It is a fact that the Rotten Tomatoes certification will hold some sway with audiences trying to decide which film to buy tickets for. But, just as nobody should be forcing critics to positively review films they have a clear dislike for just because those films have a vocal fanbase, nobody is forcing audiences to restrict their research into new releases to Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation.

By that same token, the entire thrust of this petition seems to centre around the impact negative reviews might have on box office totals. Obviously, the film industry is a business, and studios make these films to generate profit. Profit means they will likely make more movies, which is good for audiences. But, the long-term effect of this emphasis on the bottom line is a creativity-killing trend toward homogenization. The ultimate goal has become the creation of a mythical movie that is universally liked, rather than individual achievements in great art. Lest we forget, cinema is an art, after all.

Ultimately, while ridiculous, turns of events such as this Suicide Squad-related Rotten Tomatoes petition highlight the very issues that exist in this age of the intersection of internet, money and art. These are comic book films, made by people who love the source material. Watch them, enjoy them – or not. Websites that function as review aggregators only have power over opinion if you bestow that power upon them.

Source: CBM