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Does It Bring You Joy? We Need to Stop Comparing Audience Reaction vs. Critics


Emily Browning in Sucker Punch (2011)

For me, as a fan, loving something means being critical of it, sometimes even hyper-critical. Often that means people will assume that I either a) hate the thing or b) am working as some sort of fandom deep-state person trying to undermine something by calling myself a fan. When really the truth is actually quite simple: I can like something subjectively while objectively knowing it has flaws.

In a recent article by Cinema Blend, the author looks at ten movies from 2018 that audiences loved and critics didn’t. This includes movies like Bohemian Rhapsody, Crimes of GrindlewaldThe Upside, Rampage, Glass and more.

My problem is that concepts like “so bad it’s good” exist and “cult classics” are absolutely a thing, and that being a critic means being critical, even if you enjoy something on a personal level. We might love Venom here at The Mary Sue for many reasons, but we’re still going to do our job and point out all the places where it’s a laughably bad movie.

Also turning this into critics vs. audience thing leads to people believing that anyone who is critical of DC is a Marvel shill and vice-versa. It removes all nuance from the conversation and just leads to anger.

Plus, I can assure you, if Marvel paid me I would finally watch those Ant movies and Dr. Strange.

I do think that a lot of criticism I have seen about Aquaman are over the top, especially when it comes to Jason Momoa and Amber Heard’s acting. I mean Gal Gadot is not a fantastic actress herself, but she sells the performance based on her charisma and the importance of what she is doing. The fact that similar grace isn’t given to Momoa and Heard is something I personally find annoying. I also think people have forgotten to not see every comic book movie as needing to be something “deeper” than what it actually is. It’s fine to have a blockbuster movie be just that.

Still, at the end of the day, why should you care what critics feel about your favorite movie if you really genuinely like it?

When I wrote about Sucker Punch and many of you said that you think it was trash, it didn’t suddenly make me hate the movie. I know people think it is trash, but it brings me joy. It entertains me and as long as it does so, what does it matter?

Venom isn’t a great movie, but it’s fun and leans into the things that make it silly and is anchored by Tom Hardy’s fantastic performance. I am not going to say, critics were wrong for their statements that Venom is a weak movie in other regards—it is—but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

What is important, and not really touched on in the CinemaBlend piece is the importance of looking at where the criticism is coming from. With movies like Bohemian Rhapsody, Crimes of GrindlewaldThe Upside, and Peppermint, a lot of the criticism was not just about taste, but issues of authenticity, representation, and other outside factors. Those are things a critic should absolutely keep in mind when talking about a movie, and ignoring that wouldn’t just be bad form, but it would lessen their commentary.

Comparing critics and audiences when it comes to issues of representation is important, and there are certainly opportunities where it should happen, but the problem is when we do it over movies that are mostly big-budget hit films that audiences would go see even if they were trash. Remember when the Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer parody movies like Epic Movie and Meet the Spartans ruled the world?

Critics are not inherently the gatekeepers of quality unless you actively enjoy whoever was reviewing. There are some critics where I’ve come to particularly trust (some) of their opinions so if I was going to see a movie, I’d see what they thought of it first. But it doesn’t always mean I agreed with them.

As someone who is frequently confounded by the choices of “critics” (i.e. Green Book) the problem is assuming that the job title is sacrosanct. Our opinions are just that—opinions—and it’s our job to back it up and present an argument in favor of our thesis, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come and say “I disagree” (which I know you all do anyway <3).

Most critics are fans most of the time and have their own guilty pleasures, problematic favs, etc., however, when they put that critic hat on they have to bring different standards.

When not in review mode, what I find myself asking when I watch a movie is how it made me feel? Does it bring me joy? And that’s enough for me.

Also Rampage was great and gave me much joy.

(via Cinema Blend, image: Warner Bros.)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.