Hollywood just had its worst summer in decades. Box office takings are dramatically down and studio execs are pissed.
If you haven’t seen, their complaint is that bad Rotten Tomatoes reviews are keeping people away.
As someone who goes to the cinema most weeks with a film club I was instantly suspicious.
Not their terrible films? Not their endless remakes? Not their insistence that men (straight white men at that) dominate the vast majority of characters, writers, directors etc and stories about women and minorities don’t get told?
No. It’s the review site itself.
Their argument is that the definition of ‘critic’ is too wide so that too many people can call themselves critics and give poor reviews. Well wouldn’t they also be able to give good reviews just as easily?
They’re also angry that films made for mass audience appeal are getting poor reviews from artsy fartsy critics who are holding it to too high a standard.
So they’re hitting back. Trying to hack Rotten Tomatoes with things like targeted early screenings to people they are sure will like the film. Or offering no advanced screenings at all to try to get pre-bookings first.
During the fall-out a few counter theories have been posed.
Tickets cost the earth
With tickets costing around £12 these days of course people are going to be careful with their money. And that’s before you’ve thought about popcorn and drink prices.
Who’s going to drop £12 on the gamble that a film will be worth it?
Too many remakes
It seems the golden age for film was 20-30 years ago and studios want to recreate that. Can we have some new stories please? Something fresh, something new and exciting? Something that doesn’t lean so heavily on tried and tested themes we’ve seen a hundred times.
I’m sick of seeing films about straight white men
Of the 20 films I’ve seen at the cinema so far this year only 5 have had female protagonists. And only 8 have passed the Bechdel test.
Don’t say I should just choose different films. There aren’t more films with women we can choose from.
Why should I spend my hard-earned money watching something that doesn’t even bother to have two named women speak to each other about anything in the world other than a man? They don’t respect me enough to represent me.
I’m sick of seeing films about men. Over and over I see men’s stories told by men.
When was the last time you saw a film where no men spoke to each other? I can think of only a couple. When was the last time you saw men on TV outnumbered 4 to 1. Or even 10 to 1. Yet we see this Every. Single. Day. for women.
The insistence on religiously sticking to the historical time period or source text is often at the expense of women. Why, when every filmmaking and storytelling tool is at your disposal, is the invisibility of women the thing that is non negotiable?
See Valerian for a prime example of this. Hundreds of years in the future and women are outnumbered by men by about 20:1.
Hollywood is blaming everything but themselves
The conversation about diversity often ends in excuses. ‘Women choose lower paying jobs by themselves’ or ‘black people commit more crime though’. No! Stop pointing the finger at everything else and refusing to see what needs to change.
It’s about time studios commissioned a serious number of films about women, non-white people, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
It’s about time they trusted more women and minority directors, scriptwriters and producers.
You can’t point the finger at a review site while doing nothing to make better quality, more diverse stories on film.
I ain’t buying it.