Saturday, May 9, 2009

RE: Star Trek- The Rotten Tomatobots Come Out in Force to Protect A Major Summer Motion Picture- and, Should That Be Illegal?

The new Star Trek movie has gotten a lot of positive reviews (it's at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes right this minute), so it must be a very good film, right? If 96% of film critics like something, then it's good, end of discussion, and if you disagree with that then you must by definition be a complete moron who should be put to death.

That's right, put to death you moron. Because you don't care for a movie. Because you wrote an essay detailing exactly why you didn't like said movie. Because you dared to share that essay with the hoi polloi. You're now marked for death.

That sounds a bit extreme, I know, but check out the messages posted under an excerpt from one of the very few negative reviews of Star Trek:

Screenshots of the Rotten Tomatobots' measured and sober reaction to a negative Star Trek review. Taken May 8, 2009.

Perhaps what's even more interesting than the death threats is the idea that somehow disagreeing with the majority opinion about a FILM is automatic proof that there's something wrong with your critical thinking skills. The first posting makes obvious reference to this- because this reviewer is part of the "4%" that posted a negative review, he's automatically stupid. Then there's the assertion that posting a negative review is somehow an attempt to "get attention." This is a rather ironic criticism coming as it does from people who post to message boards. And let's not get started on their attempts to criticize the critic's grammar.

I have always thought that a critic's job is challenge the reader's assumptions. A good critic can look at something in a different, interesting way, and provide greater insight into the work. Whether the review is "positive" or "negative" should be beside the point. But we can learn a lot from a dissenting voice.

It's not- or at least it shouldn't be- part of the critic's job to make the reader feel better about himself.

I wonder about the people who have posted to this message board. Do they think they're fighting the good fight? Protecting the injured summer movie blockbuster from the damaging opinions of the "4%"? When they've posted their death threats, do they feel they've helped effect real change? Are they so unsure of their own opinions that a lone dissenting voice can cause them that much psychic harm?

I don't have any real interest in seeing the new Star Trek movie. I've seen five of the previous films and haven't particularly cared for them. Everything I have to say about Star Trek I've said here. The movie might a rousing good time. But I thought the review in question was thoughtful and well-written. You can read it for yourself here. Obviously, the author's a raving lunatic who's got to be stopped. By the Rotten Tomatobots. (By the way, the title of the author's blog is "Antagony & Ecstasy" which implies a certain, well, antagonism, or opposition. And ecstasy. But let's not start on that ampersand. Anyway I think it's a clever title.)

But the Rotten Tomatobots might be doing more than just behaving in an impolite way. If they're in California, they might soon be breaking the law:

(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

This new bill, the "Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act" introduced by someone called Rep. Linda Sanchez, would effectively make the Rotten Tomatoes comments sections and message boards illegal. I'd say that death threats, and vitriol aimed at dissenting voices intended to get the author to join the majority constitute an "intent to coerce." In that case, who would stand up for the maligned big-budget summer blockbusters? Who would defend the "96%"?

Bonus: Turns out, famous critic Roger Ebert's Star Trek review is lukewarm.

UPDATE a couple of hours later: Star Trek made gobs and gobs of money on Friday. I guess it must be good, if it's so popular.

1 comment:

A.Jaye said...

I once saw a TV show where they showed clips of the Chinese peoples reaction to the death of the great leader chairman Mao.

The poor bastards were crying their eyes out trying to outdo each other. I didn't see anyone not crying. They know how to deal with their 4% over there.