I’ve been a huge fan of the Apple+ series Ted Lasso. Despite the coarse language, the actual story and the way the characters treat each other make it one of the most wholesome TV shows currently airing. Well, it’s actually the second most wholesome. Bluey takes the top spot, followed by Ted Lasso.
Recently, Ted Lasso concluded its third season. After binge-watching the first two seasons, I decided to savor the third season, watching it one week at a time. Each week, I was left satisfied. As the conclusion approached, I anxiously awaited to see if it would stick the landing. There is always the fear that a finale won’t live up to expectations and a show will end on a sour note.
When it finally arrived, I found myself laughing and crying throughout. I was left devastated, but content. It was a wonderful conclusion to a fantastic story that resonated with me more than any other show in a long time. Over the course of three seasons, it showcased the possibility of personal growth and redemption, the importance of making amends and forgiveness, and the need to prioritize mental health—a topic that is often overlooked, especially in Christian culture.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
However, upon entering social media, I came across article after article criticizing the finale or even the entire last season. These reviews weren’t just expressing opinions like “it wasn’t for me”; they presented their viewpoints as objective facts, stating that Season 3 of Ted Lasso was objectively bad. In fact, I haven’t come across any articles that had much positive to say about the show’s conclusion. Even the comment sections were split far more than I would like.
So, what’s really going on here?
Some of us who belong to Generation X and the Millennial generation remember a time when movie reviews mostly came from two guys on our TV screens: Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. They hosted three different shows together, all of which revolved around reviewing movies over a span of 24 years.
What made their partnership brilliant was the fact that they often had differing opinions. Around 30% of the time, these two professional film critics would watch the same movie, and one of them would love it while the other would hate it. That’s why it was such a big deal when they both enjoyed a film. In the 80s and 90s, having “Two Thumbs Up!” from Siskel & Ebert on your movie poster was highly coveted—it meant that both critics loved the film.
This may have been when the problem started. Here are just a few movies that Siskel & Ebert gave “Two Thumbs Down” to: Angels in the Outfield, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Clue: The Movie, Cool Runnings, Ghostbusters II, Grumpy Old Men, Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Hook, Jumanji, The Mighty Ducks, Muppet Treasure Island, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Sister Act, Short Circuit, Stargate, Twister, The Wedding Singer, and Willow.
There are many more on the list, but these are the ones that stood out to me—movies I loved when they were released and still love today. I’m sure some of them are favorites for many people.
However, the rest of the “Two Thumbs Down” list consists of movies that I haven’t seen. Out of over 700 remaining movies on the list, I can only recall watching a handful (and not liking them). The rest remain a complete mystery to me. My new favorite movie could be on the list, but I will likely never know because why would I watch movies that the critics hated?
There was a massive flaw with the way Siskel & Ebert reviewed movies: It was binary. It was “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” with no room for a middle ground. They picked their own arbitrary level of satisfaction, and if that level wasn’t reached, it was a bad movie.
In recent years, the most popular review site has been Rotten Tomatoes, which, on the surface, seems to be trying to fix this problem. It gathers reviews from sometimes hundreds of voices, each offering solid opinions and ratings that usually translate to a star-rating, allowing for more nuance in the final review.
However, even with the added steps and voices, it still boils down to “Red = Thumbs Up” and “Green = Thumbs Down.” This oversimplified approach to movie ratings can be misleading. Moreover, the separation of professional critics from general audience reviews still results in two scores. While these scores are presented as percentages ranging from 1 to 100, there are simplistic graphics that indicate whether the movie is liked or disliked. A red tomato indicates that critics mostly liked the movie, while a green splat suggests that they mostly disliked it. The same goes for general audience reviews—a red box full of popcorn denotes that they mostly enjoyed it, whereas an empty green box of popcorn, tipped on its side, suggests that they mostly disliked it.
Even with the additional voices, the scores from review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes can be less trustworthy than ever. Critics are often accused of being out of touch (see the dichotomy between critics and the general audience for The Super Mario Bros Movie for example), while general audiences sometimes engage in review-bombing campaigns against movies they disagree with morally or politically (such as the famous campaign against Star Wars: The Last Jedi).
Finding the Audience
Here at Love Thy Nerd, in our early days, we reviewed some games on a scale of 1 to 5. However, we quickly realized that we didn’t want to be known for throwing shade on a game that might not resonate with one particular reviewer. It didn’t mean the game wouldn’t have value for someone else.
We also have an LTN Radio “short” that has provided nearly a hundred audio reviews of movies, shows, games, books, and more. But when you listen to these reviews, you’ll notice one thing: We love everything we review.
This is because we have a handful of reviewers, all who are asked to only review things they genuinely like. It doesn’t mean that every reviewer likes each and every thing showcased, but our reviews focus more on finding the audience for what we’re reviewing rather than proclaiming something objectively good or bad.
For instance, when I reviewed Season 3 of Picard, I ended by telling the listeners that this season of the show was perfect for people who loved Star Trek: The Next Generation. It felt less like a bunch of cameos and more like one final, heartfelt movie with the Enterprise-D crew—a fitting ending to their story as well as the Picard series.
However, if the review had been done by “Richard B” from Rotten Tomatoes, you would have heard him say, “Maybe if you’ve never seen Star Trek: The Next Generation, you might enjoy seeing a bunch of supposed Starfleet veterans make mistakes like they’re fresh out of the academy. I don’t enjoy it; it’s not a fitting tribute to the best Star Trek series ever made, it’s not true to the characters, and it makes a mockery of Gene Roddenberry’s legacy. The comedy falls flat most of the time, and the emotional scenes feel hollow.”
Richard B and I had two very different experiences. And that’s okay.
In the end, my review and Richard’s review are pretty meaningless to you. You may like it, you may not. However, letting other people decide for you before you even give it a chance is a disservice to yourself.
A Tale of Two Superhero Movies
I loved the Green Lantern movie. I saw it twice in theaters. And there is a good chance that your blood is already boiling, unable to understand how that could even be possible, and you are fighting the urge to leap right to the comment section to tell me all about it.
Was it all it could have been? No. Did they try to cram too much lore into it, fast-forwarding to where they were in the comics? Yes. But was it a bad movie? I don’t think so. I enjoyed it, I thought it was well-acted, the CGI wasn’t a big deal to me, and I believed that if a sequel had been greenlit, we would have witnessed one of the greatest stories ever told in DC Comics—the “Sinestro Corps War.” A third installment could have been “Blackest Night”—the zombie horror movie of the DC Universe… ZOMBIES WITH SUPERPOWERS, YOU GUYS.
However, it is clear that most people who saw it early on did not agree with me. They thought it was thin, overproduced, and that it squandered years of comic book lore. The Rotten Tomatoes scores were terrible.
Did Green Lantern deserve this level of shaming? Or did a few bad reviews start a snowball effect? How many people who might have loved this movie ended up never watching it because of the early reviews? And more importantly, how much impact did the bandwagon of negativity have on “Green Lantern” across every medium?
The movie effectively killed Green Lantern’s popularity, which had been revived since Geoff Johns resurrected Hal Jordan in the comics. Not long after the movie’s release, Johns stepped down as the head writer for the comic book and it decreased in popularity. Green Lantern didn’t even make it into the most recent Justice League movie, despite being a staple of the team in almost every era.
On the other hand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was rated almost just as poorly, but people at large didn’t write off the character because of one bad solo movie. And what happened? We got an amazing second attempt with The Wolverine and even the absolutely phenomenal Logan.
The character of Hal Jordan was damaged, possibly beyond repair. However, Logan is about to make his 11th movie appearance in Deadpool 3.
There are just some things that need a little time – a little room to work out the kinks. The Office had a horrible first season. Seinfeld didn’t have an audience until its third season. But both of these shows defined the decade they were broadcast in as the greatest sit-coms of their generation. I’m willing to bet that if either had their first seasons in 2022, the reviews would have them canceled already.
End Negative Reviews?
What’s the solution here? Should we stop reviewing things we don’t like?
Not necessarily. Legitimate criticisms can help many people make informed choices, especially when it comes to certain content they might want to avoid. For instance, if you have a genuine issue with explicit language in media, I wouldn’t recommend Ted Lasso to you. But if explicit language isn’t a dealbreaker and you’re in the mood for a show that largely avoids uncomfortable conflict in favor of a surprising amount of wholesome understanding and grace, then Ted Lasso might be the show for you.
Overall, I propose that we give people a chance to enjoy things.
Here are some simple ways to achieve that:
- Avoid sharing negative review articles on social media. If people are genuinely interested, they know how to search for reviews online. When scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, seeing headlines for negative reviews can immediately taint one’s perception of the subject being reviewed.
- If you dislike something and someone asks for your opinion, either say, “It wasn’t really for me,” and leave it at that, or provide specific problems you had with it in a straightforward and unemotional manner. Don’t go off on a vague rant about how it’s the worst thing you’ve ever experienced and a massive waste of money. Just because it wasn’t for you doesn’t mean a friend won’t love it. Don’t rob them of the experience of forming their own opinion.
- If you must share your negative opinion online, take the time to explain why it didn’t work for you rather than just saying, “It’s terrible.” Give people enough information to decide whether the flaws you point out are dealbreakers for them or not. Also, make it a point to share things you did like about the movie, show, etc. If you aren’t going to give a full, honest review, don’t write one.
- Encourage people to form their own opinions. Instead of telling them they will hate something, say, “You might love it,” or, “I know a lot of people who enjoyed it.” Give them the freedom to make their own judgment.
Let’s move away from binary reviews that try to proclaim something objectively good or bad. Let’s allow for more nuance and personal preferences. Let’s celebrate the diversity of opinions and experiences. And most importantly, let’s give people the opportunity to enjoy things and decide for themselves what they like or dislike.
So, go ahead and watch that movie, read that book, or play that game that you’ve been curious about. Don’t let negative reviews dictate your choices. Embrace the joy of discovering something new and forming your own opinion.