How rotten is Rotten Tomatoes?


I live in a house with four other girls, invariably one night in a week is a dedicated movie night where questionable amounts of junk food is bought and the search for the perfect movie elapses the time taken to watch the actual movie. Coming to a consensus about which movie to watch is a far more difficult ordeal that you’d think so we end up putting our fate into the hands of the internet-Rotten Tomatoes. Similar to the ‘Magic 8 ball’, heavy decisions are made with Rotten Tomatoes.

The platform basically combines critic’s reviews and user rating across various websites and presents the final rating of a movie as a percentile. If the movie is higher than a 60% percentile, it is considered ‘fresh’, if not then it’s ‘rotten’. As much as my housemates and a million other people swear by it, I have a bone to pick with the website. The platform compiles reviews and is considered an aggregator yet movies that completely suck, in the real sense, Captain America 2011 for instance are giving a whopping 79% rating. The movie did miserably at the box office and was not well received by audiences at large. So where does this compilation come from? Who are their audiences? Despite high ratings, comments say completely different things. And this movie isn’t the only example!

rotten-tomatoes-screenshotOf course, word of mouth has proved to be a favorite marketing technique for large businesses as well as the smallest ones. Whether it is an international consulting firm or a hotdog stands it helps when you’re spoken of positively. Reputation is a moneymaker irrespective of the industry. Movies are no exception. There are several speculations about how movies buy themselves into the platform for a little bit of glory to sell more tickets and for good reason. When you watch a movie with above a 90% percentile and you fall asleep midway (Wall E did this to me, no joke!), speculations will undoubtedly rise. How trustworthy is word of mouth really? There is literature that argues that online user ratings predict a more accurate trajectory for a movies success than the professional critic reviews but is word of mouth something we can bank on? Enjoyment of things like movies and books are subjective and differ from one person to another, how can we trust a complete stranger to have the same tastes, as us-we can’t.

I guess it’s always nice to see other people’s opinions but at the end of the day human behavior is unpredictable and movies aren’t like other products or services that ratings and recommendations can assess their worth. Blog posts where descriptions of the movies are shared are far more trustworthy for me at least where a random number by a random stranger doesn’t decide your movienight.

-Aishani

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