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SSCA Blog Posts » Senior Capstone Essay: How Rotten Tomatoes Negatively Influences the Role of the Critic: A Two-Star Review

Senior Capstone Essay: How Rotten Tomatoes Negatively Influences the Role of the Critic: A Two-Star Review


Senior Capstone Essay: How Rotten Tomatoes Negatively Influences the Role of the Critic: A Two-Star Review

June 24, 2024


At SSCA, rigorous academic work is meant to develop spiritual growth and Christian character in students, according to our mission.  What does that look like?  What do scholarly endeavors have to do with “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God,” in the words of our school verse, Micah 6:8?


The Senior Capstone is one important answer to these questions.  Students formulate a research question that tackles a tough, timely topic in light of our Micah 6:8 calling.  They conduct deep research, craft an annotated bibliography, draft an eighteen-page paper, and defend their findings before a faculty panel.  In the process, they bring their prior learning to bear on a subject of importance and complexity, honing their critical capacities while discovering how God’s purposes can be advanced in our world.


The following Capstone essay represents one of the top papers submitted this year, with two of the papers receiving a grade of “distinction.” All the essays submitted for the Capstone Thesis track varied quite a bit in focus as is reflected in the titles: “Justice by Death: The Death Penalty and Justice,” “How Rotten Tomatoes Negatively Influences the Role of the Critic: A Two-Star Review,” and “An Evaluation of The Use of Marijuana in Sports.” Each essay had a clear, well- defended position with a strong connection to the Micah 6:8 admonition to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Please stay tuned to see the other two capstone essays published in our SSCA Blog


“Originally, I put Rotten Tomatoes in my initial list of ideas as sort of a throw-away option to fill up space. It wasn't until I presented my ideas to our capstone supervisor, Mr. Vazquez, who seemed really intrigued about the premise of Rotten Tomatoes being used as a capstone subject that I realized the novelty of the idea. My experience has taught me the importance of having someone to bounce ideas off of. Whenever I was lost on improving the length or incorporating topical biblical subject matter in my essay, I always found meaningful advice and wisdom from my capstone advisor, Mr. Hunley. Interestingly enough, I've already found a practical use for my capstone outside of SSCA. I recently appealed my financial aid for college and cited how I achieved "with distinction" on my capstone essay; I received an additional 8,000 dollars per year towards my merit scholarship. If you try your hardest on the thesis essay and really commit to your argument, what you will be left with is a legitimate 15-page research paper, and I can't stress enough how useful that can be to have in your arsenal.” - Nicolas Fasano

Nicolas Fasano

12th Grade

AP Capstone Thesis 

Mr. Vazquez


How Rotten Tomatoes Negatively Influences the Role of the Critic: A Two-Star Review

Introduction, Background, And Position

Criticism, as an occupation, has existed alongside literature since antiquity. Wherever there might be meaning to be gleaned from a story, there must also exist someone to evaluate the efficiency of the story’s portrayal of this meaning as well as the ethical and social effectiveness of the message itself. Starting out with ancient writers like Aristotle to Renaissance-Era playwrights unanimously praising Shakespeare for his expertise, critics have often been seen as qualified individuals who are well-versed and educated in the expression of meaning and the quality of storytelling. (Deakin)

Film, however, completely changed how critics interact with the media that they appraise. The sheer output of Hollywood studios in the twentieth century combined with an increasingly competitive market led to a rise in the relevance of critic’s opinions on film in the public domain. Figures like Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, and Mark Kermode were able to establish themselves as authoritative voices in the scene and became nearly as popular as the celebrities and directors that they were critiquing in their reviews. This elevation of the critic led to a structure of authority forming, with those at the top being looked at with great reverence just for having their reviews published in prominent newspapers and gazettes, often contributing heavily to a movie’s box office success or downfall. Critics were in an era of hierarchy, where those with connections and achievements reaped a surplus of rewards, while those who didn’t aspired to one day achieve that same level of recognition even with their minimal initial influence (Frey).

However, through the development of the internet, certain websites have begun to challenge this standard as they begin to democratize, seemingly offering up the role of the critic to all who have voices to be heard regardless of prestige. 

One of these websites is Rotten Tomatoes, a movie review website that advertises itself as the “world’s most sscatrusted recommendation resource for quality entertainment.” Despite the glowing statement from the website itself, critic circles often diminish the website for the structure and how it is run, while others say that the criticism is hyperbolic and unnecessary. Despite the divisive reputation that Rotten Tomatoes has within these circles, the website still significantly impacts the film criticism landscape because of its prominence throughout the internet, like how its metrics are shown front and center in online searches for movies and TV shows. Christians in the modern day need to be careful and aware of how they interact and understand the media that they consume, something made evident in John 17:14-16 where Jesus prays to God the Father, telling Christians to be part of the world but not of it. God holds His followers to the standard of Micah 6:8, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. Given Rotten Tomatoes’s role as one of the leading intermediaries between the audience and the critic, with Christians being part of that audience, it is imperative that Christians evaluate the information and media they consume to the same standard. Therefore, it must be asked whether or not Rotten Tomatoes is actually exercising humility and justice in the way that it democratizes the role of the critic, conducts its business, and changes the dynamic between the critic, the audience, and the movies they consume. Unfortunately, once scrutinized, the ostensible outer skin of humility and justice that the company’s marketing team attempts to exude is so quickly exposed for being false once you peel it back and observe the “rottenness” within. 

Evaluating To What Extent Rotten Tomatoes Truly Democratizes The Role Of The Critic 

As mentioned before, the democratization of the role of the critic has occurred because of the accessibility offered by the internet. Before, the only sustainable way to get a professional opinion on an upcoming movie was via newspaper, which meant that a critic’s opinion was generally treated as more amateurish the more local the newspaper was, as ultimately that would mean it would reach fewer people, creating a hierarchical structure of importance that made the critics near the top famous in their own right simply out of prestige. Comparing that system to the modern day, a lot more people are turning to independent websites for opinions on movies, with some being blogs and digital newspapers, but most commonly being a website that collects other critic’s reviews, evaluates them, and then inputs them into their own algorithm in order to provide a definitive score for the movie, known as a Movie Review Aggregate (MRA).

Rotten Tomatoes is one of these MRAs, and employs thousands of curators to go out and read reviews for movies in order to evaluate their ratings and implement it into their own scoring meter, called “The Tomatometer.” 

When it comes to art, reviews are transformative and cause not only a deeper appreciation of the medium but also insight into someone else’s perspective, something that is uniquely and inherently invaluable regardless of any sort of ethos the author may carry with them. According to Psalm 139:14, everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made, and therefore everyone deserves a voice. Rotten Tomatoes presents its scoring metric as one that equalizes the playing field, one that allows everyone’s voices to be heard regardless of whether you’re a prominent critic, a small-time reviewer, or an audience member. But is that the truth? Or does it simply speak to the idealism of humility while instead upholding the virtues of pride and hierarchy that were already prevalent within the industry before the internet?

The first thing of note is the very obvious separation of the “Audience” and “Critic” score categories, with the sscatwo shown distinctly separate from each other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as allowing the uncurated content to enmesh within the curated could create security issues, leaving an entire movie’s review open to a bot attack, or perhaps worse, an ideological one. That being said, the audience score is a microcosm of a bigger issue, mainly the much less visible differentiation between the small-time reviewer and a prominent critic. At first glance, one might assume that there is no difference, as the aggregation puts all of their reviews in the same place and calculates them all into the same algorithm, which does indeed promote democratization as there is a diverse ecosystem of critics, ranging from the obscure to borderline famous. The lines begin to get muddled however when certain critics are elevated to a position of distinction within the website, which occurs through Rotten Tomatoes’s “Top Critic” program. Top Critics are nominated for this status through their previous accomplishments, as well as their overall relevance and dominance within the critical intellectual space. These Top Critics are not only given a level of distinction that separates them from other critics recognized on the website but also gives them an elevated authority as well. The way that the Tomatometer operates is that anything under a 60% total approval rating is considered “Rotten”, whereas anything over 60% is considered “Fresh”. However, there exists a third rating, “Certified Fresh”, which is only displayed under a movie once three criteria have been met: They have over a 70% approval rate, at least 80 reviews, and five positive scores from Top Critics. This last requirement is incredibly controversial, as some take it to mean that critics who haven’t been nominated for this distinction aren’t trustworthy enough to provide a truly reliable rating and that it is up to these Top Critics to bestow such a credential upon a film (Frey). All three groups, audience, critic, and top critic, seem to have been distinctified in terms of importance through just name alone. The term “audience” implies a passive role in movie watching that diminishes its value in comparison to the other two roles (Frey). In a way, these distinctifications echo the hierarchical nature of 20th-century criticism rather than the new wave of democratization that the internet was supposed to bring about. Can a website truly be considered humble if it seeks to perpetuate these antiquated beliefs about the superiority of some people’s opinions and perspectives over others? No. Rotten Tomatoes is not humble. It fosters a system that encourages arrogance and undermines these up-and-coming critics, underestimating their ability to competently write healthy, well-rounded reviews. 

That is not to say that there should be no barrier to entry. Although the prospects of full and utter democratization initially seem just, opening up an un-demarcated discussion could prove dangerous to the integrity of the metric being used. Someone who does not have passion for the medium of film or intends to perpetuate harmful ideas through their reviews has no place being aggregated alongside those who share a genuine appreciation for art and only hope for the betterment of media and the betterment of people through it. In 1st Chronicles 15, David is transporting the ark to the newly constructed tent for the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem. He arranged a large procession and assigned nearly the entire nation to assist in one way or the other. People were assigned as doorkeepers, trumpet blowers, and other such roles that do not necessarily contribute much by themselves but ultimately shine through as a collective. One verse that stands out is twenty-two: “Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.” God has assigned people with certain skills that elevate them above others in their respective areas. No one excels at it all, but ultimately there are some people who should be leading and those who should follow. If David had assigned a doorkeeper to lead the music, would it have gone as smoothly? Probably not. But Kenaniah was good at it, and David recognized this and assigned him to lead the other people. Justice is recognizing people who are gifted at reviewing media and allowing them the ability to contribute to the aggregate; humility is not further separating them based not on skill but on external circumstances that may have been entirely out of their control. Although Rotten Tomatoes may succeed at being just, since their team of curators has a benchmark of “Tomatometer-approved” critics that they pull from, they ultimately fail at being humble due to their “Top Critic” system which incentivizes the importance of standing and reputation rather than on the basis of actual skill.  

Examination Of Rotten Tomatoes’s Validity And Ethicality As A Business And A Metric.

When analyzing a metric, one of the most important things to account for is whether it is objective or otherwise adulterated by corruption and bias. With a metric as prevalent as the Tomatometer, one might assume that the rating is heavily reliable, but is this really the case? Proverbs 11:11 states that honest scales and balances belong to the Lord, thus not betraying justice; whether or not the Tomatometer lives up to this verse or betrays the expectation of justice is to be seen. 

Before analyzing the legitimacy of the Tomatometer, it is important to acknowledge the fact that Rotten Tomatoes is a business and that ultimately the main purpose of a business is to make money. One of the ways that Rotten Tomatoes has been used to make money has been through being bought out by other companies. Currently, Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Universal Pictures through Fandango (Brown). An interesting dilemma is presented through this chain of ownership, as Universal Pictures, a company whose main source of revenue is through the production and distribution of movies, owns Rotten Tomatoes, a supposedly unbiased movie review aggregation website, through their company which distributes tickets to see said movies which give them their income. The conflict of interest should be evident here. While not technically “breaking the law” per se, a potentially unfair metric that seeks to divert the purpose of a movie review away from the critique and evaluation of movies to the ulterior motive of accumulating a higher gross income for a company two ladders up the ownership chain is clearly taking away the importance of the craft and directing it towards the profit, which violates any notion of humility put forth by Micah 6:8, especially if they or any other movie distribution company are using critics as pawns to unfairly advertise their movie in competition with others. But besides the disproportionate amount of Warner Bros advertisements that are presented on the website (Frey), are the results really being skewed to promote the viewing of movies rather than to get a fair appraisal of them? Are the ways in which Rotten Tomatoes accumulates reviews securely safeguarded to ensure that it is not leaving the metric vulnerable to potential exploitations from Warner Bros. or any other media company that might try to artificially inflate their Tomatometer scores? By all accounts, the answer appears to not be good for the integrity of the Tomatometer or the role of critics.

For a critic’s score to be counted as positive when inserted into the aggregate, they need to have at least three stars out of five or the equivalent on whatever metric that they operate under. Reviews without a clear scoring system are placed into a five-star system and are ranked accordingly as per the curator’s interpretation of their review. Besides the startling implications of other people deciding what your metric should be, the concept of a “three” being weighted as heavily as a “five” in the Tomatometer makes the qualifications toward what can be considered as “fresh” skewed. A movie could earn solely three stars across all of its reviews and achieve a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes while being thoroughly milquetoast (Conklin). In the same vain, movie reviews can oftentimes have a positive overtone while addressing the many negative aspects of the movie and be interpreted as a negative score when it may not be entirely warranted, which can be seen through examples such as Zack Snyder’s DC movies that had many flaws but were often found to be enjoyable among critics. (Kizu) With a scale that can be tipped in one direction or the other in roundabout ways invisible to the unassuming eye of an average moviegoer casually glancing at the score, it begs the question: Can Rotten Tomatoes be exploited by third-party interests looking to either disparage a movie for malignant reasons or maximize profits by ensuring that their movie has the safety of a high score?

Besides the dawn of democratization, the internet has also been a major pioneer in the proliferation of anonymous trolls usually motivated to incite aggravation through racist, sexist, or extreme political means. Having the rise of democratization coincide with the rise of these trolls has led to them being allowed the free display of their offensive and oftentimes disingenuous tirades in the same forums of discussion as well-meaning people, and Rotten Tomatoes is no exception. Culturally divisive movies such as the all-female Ghostbusters, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther have all been targeted by “review-bombings,” rapid, harsh, and unfounded negative reviews typically submitted in a short period of time by internet trolls (McClintock). As mentioned before, there should be a basic barrier of entry when it comes to participating in a review metric. There is a barrier of entry when it comes to the critic section, but that does not mean that there shouldn’t also be one for the audience section as well. Allowing these bigoted and malicious people to be able to proliferate their evil thoughts on the same forum as professional critics devalues all other participants as a result. Luckily, in this case, Rotten Tomatoes has found a resolution to this problem. By requiring audience metric participators to go through a ticket verification system, the website can effectively curb the onslaught of anonymous trolls whose last interests lie in actually watching the movie they are attempting to slander. An effective technique, sure, but one glaring issue with the revisions is that you can only verify through the Fandango ticket services. Despite saying in 2019 that they are “planning to work with other ticket providers to help verify Rotten Tomatoes reviews” and that they will “add new options for verification in the future,” no additional ticket providers have been added to the verification list. With little transparency, it is unknown whether or not these “additional ticket providers” proved difficult to add, but it does appear at the moment that Fandango has effectively monopolized veracity on their own website.

Other types of audience review-bombing may actually be beneficial for a movie despite sacrificing the integrity of an unbiased metric. When a company like Disney or DC releases a movie that is utilizing one of their already famous intellectual properties (IPs), they are in part doing so monetarily, as they know that there is already an established cult following that is readily anticipating the next entry into their beloved fictional universe. When a well-established IP underperforms in terms of movie quality, strife between the audience and critic scores can often be found due to the polarizing language that Rotten Tomatoes tout in its branding. When critic reviews subcede the 60% threshold required for a “fresh” rating, loyal fans are going to be greeted with critics calling their series or movie “rotten.” This inciting language sparks controversy, establishing an us-versus-them contrarian mentality that causes a surge of positive review bombing out of spite of the critics, which ultimately only leads to the further encouragement of movies that rely more on intellectual property rather than actual quality of cinema and further creates stigmatization and distrust in critic’s opinions on these types of works (Zikias). It doesn’t help that unlike trolls, genuine fans are actually going to watch the movie, essentially curtailing the ticket verification system’s effectiveness.

While in the previous example, the critics were shown to be wrongly persecuted for their objectiveness, it is also worth considering that critics themselves may succumb to bias. However, unlike the audience who may be blinded by their allegiance to an IP, critics are often swayed not by their love for Superman, but rather by monetary incentive. Bunker 15 is a movie PR company, a type of company that helps movies advertise pre- and post-release. The company recently got into hot water after an exposè revealed that they were offering fifty dollars to certain obscure critics to review the movie that they were hired to advertise, titled Ophelia. A whistleblower had distributed emails to journalists displaying how the Bunker 15 member encouraged him to write a positive review or otherwise post a negative review on an under-the-radar blog that wouldn’t get picked up by Rotten Tomatoes’s curators. The employee also told him that if he writes a barely positive review that might initially get flagged as <3/5, he “knows the editors at Rotten Tomatoes and can get it switched” (Brown). Needless to say, the thought of the tomatometer being defiled by what is essentially bribery immediately puts into question the integrity of the method of aggregation itself. Rotten Tomatoes does state that it is against their policy to dole out a monetary incentive to influence critic’s votes, but there is simply no way to consistently check the validity of each review that gets collected by Rotten Tomatoes barring the unlikely scenario that every single person that gets offered a monetary incentive decides to decline and publicly disclose the unjust arrangement. 

Whether it be disingenuous trolls, passionate fans, or coerced critics, the contamination of the Tomatometer with dishonest reviews spells trouble for the integrity of not only MRAs but for critics themselves. Having people who try their best to develop nuanced views and truly understand and dissect the media that they watch being placed and equally weighted in the same forum as those that have ill-intent or ulterior motives devalues the work of the honest critic and decreases reliability. Scales are a symbol of justice, as per Proverbs 11:1, and to see so many malefactors pervert the measurements of the Tomatometer to fit their ideations or clandestine alignments illustrates how the entire algorithm is devoid of justice and does not line up with the brand’s notion of being “the most trusted measurement of quality for Movies & TV.” This unfixable issue is not endemic to Rotten Tomatoes but is instead a problem engrained within the core fundamentals of MRAs themselves. If the aggregate is in no way based on anything internal, but instead an amalgamation of entirely outsourced reviews, any “filter” that regulates what should go in and what shouldn’t can only be so discerning.

Commentary On The Value Of Individualized Review Over Aggregated Metric

So far, Rotten Tomatoes has been shown to be flawed, with fundamental conflicting interests with its owners that create room for the corruption and warping of the job of critics and facilitate the hierarchical nature of pre-internet criticism that seeks to reinforce prestige rather than promote actual skill and merit. With this in mind, should audiences value the words, opinions, and nuances of an individual over the easy accessibility that a site like Rotten Tomatoes offers? Should society allow companies like Universal to essentially monopolize critic reviews through their aggregation websites? The Tomatometer might be good for eyeballing the baseline quality of a movie, but the actual rating itself fails to be transformative in the same way that a traditional long-form movie review does. Comparisons, jokes, and metaphors, long-form reviews allow people to not only gain insight into movies but also into the individual that authored the review and their personal interests. Aggregates, on the other hand, provide a quick and easy way to peer into what they have constructed to be the consensus. Chris Jones, a drama critic, put it best when he said that aggregates “are ultimately more convenient than looking through a newspaper or journal, but sometimes convenience isn’t the best option.” In corporate America’s endeavor to streamline everything and appeal to people’s consumerism through instant gratification, perhaps something has been lost: genuine passion. Instead of taking a look at the Tomatometer itself, perhaps readers should begin completely disregarding the arbitrary scoring system and instead scrolling down and reading one or two of the full reviews present on the website, as it’s practically guaranteed that just through that read, one’s decision on whether or not to see a movie would be more holistically grounded. Better yet, the notion of “scrolling down” to see the actual critic reviews is in and of itself flawed. The Tomatometer isn’t necessarily a bad thing when used for the purpose of providing a novelty rating, but the potential for it to be misused as a key metric on whether or not a significant portion of moviegoers attend a movie is dangerous and leaves itself open for exploitation. In the words of Henry Jenkins, a key scholar in participatory culture, “It matters what tools are available to a culture, but it matters more what that culture chooses to do with those tools.” 

Maybe it is time that Rotten Tomatoes began treating the Tomatometer and its percentages as less of a staple of sscatheir brand and more of an ancillary component to the true contributors of the website: the critics. Critics' actual voices currently appear to be stifled on the Rotten Tomatoes website, their commentary relegated to the bottom of the page, buried underneath layers of sediment comprised of tickets, videos, and cast lists. Being the aggregation of the critics’ voices, the priorities of an MRA website should align with those of the critics, that being the ability to enrich an audience’s moviegoing experience by not only providing them with an evaluation of the movie’s overall quality but also enabling the audience to see and interpret movies in ways that would have otherwise gone unnoticed; to establish a dialogue between the reader and the critic which leads to the birth of new perspectives and a deeper appreciation of the medium. As film critic Roger Ebert put it, “Film criticism should be a conversation, not a lecture.” However, even in its best form, the Tomatometer can only ever provide the audience with a binary appraisal of movies, either being “rotten” or “fresh.” Besides the polarization of the metric contributing to an aforementioned air of hostility, it also provides nothing in the way of constructive substance that a traditional movie review accomplishes. When an ordinary person watches a great movie and exits a theater, some praises that they might give could be about how the “CGI was great!” or that the “ending was touching.” These praises, despite being valid reasons to enjoy a movie, are ultimately very surface-level and do not take into account some of the underlying messages or core themes that may be embedded inside a story. A movie is like an encrypted message, something very hard to decipher if unaware of certain patterns that might not stand out on a first viewing. Film critics, then, are the encryption keys for cinema; they point out these patterns and help unscramble the hidden meaning within. Uncovering the hidden meaning is important, especially for Christians. J.R.R Tolkien touches upon the importance of this aspect of stories in his 1947 essay, “On Fairy-Stories.” In his epilogue, Tolkien describes how nearly every story can in some way be construed back into the physical and a lesson can be learned that relays back, atleast in some part, to reality. Tolkien uses the “Christian Story” as the prime example of this, and how despite all the mythical events that happen within the gospels and the Bible at large, mankind can still construe everything back to the physical and draw the reality of salvation from it. God utilizes pastors to accomplish this; similar to how critics help the audience understand the deeper meaning of movies, pastors guide mankind toward understanding the Bible and what God is trying to say through the subtext. Interestingly enough, however, it is unlikely that most Christians would allow their understanding of the Bible to be swayed by a meter aggregated from pastors of every denomination. Regardless, Tolkien goes on to say that despite other stories not having the benefit of actually being true like the Bible is, there is still something to be said about the joy of uncovering reality within a fictional setting and the value of enrichment and awareness that must bring to the consumer. Unfortunately, with MRAs like Rotten Tomatoes taking precedence in terms of overall traffic in comparison to traditional review outlets, the benefits of deeper understanding have been overshadowed by convenience, and the critics have literally been pushed down. To reduce the various hues of gray that these critics produce into a binary of black and white is one thing, but to then also stuff their nuance to the very bottom of the page signifies the promotion of ignorance. Rotten Tomatoes supports people’s confirmation biases through the Tomatometer, with “rotten” and “fresh” being a one-glance stop for those already convinced that the movie would achieve that rating. The nuance is lost for these people since they do not need to scroll down to the bottom of the page if their suspicions are already proven “correct” through the aggregate. Therefore, reducing the complexity of critics’ voices to elevate a brand/metric is doing an injustice to not only the intricacy of their reviews but also to the relationship dynamic between the critic and the audience. Where there was once an ongoing dialogue between the critic and reader, there are now only brief summaries and a numerical value. When taking into account Rotten Tomatoes’s apparent deprioritization of critics’ voices in exchange for the constant exaltation of their Tomatometer, questions are also raised about humility. Should Rotten Tomatoes be able to advertise itself as a website that gives fans “a comprehensive guide to what’s Fresh – and what’s Rotten – in theaters and at home” if the people who are actually giving the information have been reduced to the dregs at the bottom of the webpage? Humility involves the ability to give adequate recognition to those who throw the tomatoes, not just the business that counts them. Ultimately, allowing Rotten Tomatoes’s unnecessarily exploitative intermediation between the critic and the audience to continue to dominate the critical space on the internet will lead to a deemphasis on the formation of more nuanced thought. After all, what difference does it make if a critic formulates a well-developed argument in comparison to another one who just writes “This movie is bad” if nobody takes the time to actually read either review and just looks at the Tomatometer instead? With MRAs gaining more ground every day and the growth of AI-generated content threatening the careers of millions of creatives, acclaimed director and film critic Quentin Tarantino’s grievances about professional film criticism “going the way of the dodo bird” because of the internet are becoming less unfounded each year. Rotten Tomatoes, possibly the most prominent MRA on the internet, is going to be one of the leading factors in the fate of the professional critic within the coming years. But with the way the site shamelessly elevates their metric over the reviews that provide actual substance, the future prospects of film critics are not looking bright. 


In closing, Rotten Tomatoes is an easily exploitable system that values convenience over intellectual growth. The way that it treats critics’ opinions based on prestige while also relegating them to the bottom of its website signifies the company’s lack of humility, and extends past the website itself; the divisive scoring system encourages the souring of relationships between critic and audience, essentially incentivizing a prideful culture unwilling to have adaptable and open-minded discourse. Where they lack humility, justice is also absent. The decrease in credibility due to extraneous factors influencing critic’s reviews along with curators ultimately deciding the difference between a 3-star and 2-star score deprive both the critic of their agency and the audience of their critical thinking skills, not to mention the conflict of interests present at a corporate level which will inevitably skew the results towards monetary benefit for Universal and Fandango. Even then, without this corruption, the deprioritization of critics’s voices in exchange for a convenient aggregate is not just and actively devalues the days, weeks, and even months of hard work these honest critics do to put out a review they deem will be constructive to the modern zeitgeist of film discourse. Perhaps it is better as a society if we were to cut out the middleman and go back to the days of Aristotle, when constructive criticism meant more than the difference between three stars and two. 



Works Cited

Brown, Lane. “The Decomposition of Rotten Tomatoes.” New York Magazine, 11 Sept. 2023, Accessed 11 Oct. 2023.

Conklin, Philip. “Against Aggregation: The Anti-Criticism of Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.” The Periphery, Sept. 2014,

Deakin, W. G. (2023). A Brief (but Timely) History of Literary Criticism. In Modern Language, Philosophy and Criticism (pp. 11–25). essay, Palgrave Macmillan. 

Frey, Mattias. “The Spectre of ‘Democratization’ in the Digital Age.” The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority, Amsterdam University Press, 2015, pp. 125–40. JSTOR, Accessed 29 Sept. 2023.

Jenkins, Henry. “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Part One) — Pop Junctions.”, Henry Jenkins, 19 Oct. 2006, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Jones, Chris. "Don't Let a 'Fresh' Or 'Rotten' on Rotten Tomatoes Fool You, This Isn't Real Criticism." TCA Regional News, Jul 28, 2017. ProQuest,

Kizu, Kyle. "The Rotten Tomatoes experiment." University Wire, Apr 07, 2016. ProQuest,

McClintock, Pamela. "Rotten Tomatoes Arms Itself Against Trolls." Hollywood Reporter, vol. 425, 2019, pp. 26. ProQuest,

Tarantino, Quentin. “Quentin Tarantino: The ‘Inglourious Basterds’ Interview.” The Skanner, interview by Kam Williams, 12 Aug. 2009, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Tolkien, John. “ILAS 2350 - University of Houston.”, 1947, Accessed 15 Mar. 2024.

Zikias, Tyler. "Rotten Tomatoes is Anything but 'Fresh' | the Fairfield Mirror."University Wire, Nov 30, 2022. ProQuest,