I’m fascinated by how quickly news spreads in this current social media age. Nowadays you’re going to be late on every breaking news story unless you’re on Twitter or Reddit. Late is subjective, because nothing is really late in a 24-hour news cycle, but that’s besides the point. What seemingly spreads the fastest, and with the most consensus in terms of positive or negative reactions, is entertainment reviews.
I’ve spoken before about groupthink, confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance, but I think it’s important to quickly recap those now. When it comes to human beings, and particularly users on the Internet, people want to fit in and be a part of whatever the collective opinion is on any number of topics. People actively seek out others who have the same opinion as them because it makes them feel better internally, and any conflicting opinions cause internal heartbreak and strife. All of this combines to become an echo chamber of consensus opinions and beliefs spreading like wildfire.
How this works in relation to entertainment is as follows. Let’s say that a movie is scheduled to be released two months from now. In the days and weeks leading up to release, the movie will be shown at private screenings for critics. Those film critics are paid very well by various publications to view these early showings and provide their opinions for public consumption. There are places such as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes that aggregate all of these reviews, but there also are certain influencer-type social media accounts that amplify these reviews as factual and objective, rather than the subjective opinion of a movie critic. Once certain media channels have validated those opinions, it becomes an arms race in terms of how quickly Internet users can fall in line with the consensus opinion of a particular movie, album or show.
An example of this is the new movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” The new film, starring LeBron James and Don Cheadle, was released this past Friday but the early reviews and opinions have been out regarding the movie for weeks now. And all of the shared and released opinions have been overwhelmingly negative. 35 critic reviews have an average Metacritic score of 36 out of 100, which is pretty terrible in all honesty. I wonder how many of these critics also reviewed the original and if they remember how they felt about the movie then. Let’s be clear here: both Space Jam movies are about NBA superstars and the Looney Tunes animated cartoon characters joining together to play a game of basketball against evil forces. We’re not talking about a Martin Scorsese classic here. Apparently the critics were expecting more from the Tune Squad and LeBron’s acting, and were not impressed or entertained by this movie. Unfortunately, these critics’ opinions are now the de facto opinion regarding the movie and its leading to lots of people that should be enjoying this movie refusing to watch it because of what they “heard” via social media.
However, the fan ratings on Rotten Tomatoes list the movie as being 81% favorable. It seems that there’s a disconnect between the film critics, who are watching movies that are literally made to be enjoyed by families together, and the average person that is watching the movie for themselves and drawing their own conclusion. As someone that has watched the movie, without any spoilers, I will state that the movie is highly entertaining and I highly recommend it. It’s unique enough to exist in its own right, but it has enough callbacks to the original to tie the two together. It’s very similar to the recent Eddie Murphy sequel “Coming 2 America” and I’m glad that people are shaking out of the hypnosis that groupthink can cause. However, I worry that it’s too late and unless we’re actively aware of what’s going on we’re simply going to follow what we’re told to like and dislike.
But hey, as long as movie stars and reality show personalities don’t start running for political office I guess we really don’t have much to fear here.
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