Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Anti-Critic Manifesto: The Flaw of Rating Systems

In a late night bout on Twitter I laid out over 21 posts the reasoning of why I call myself an Anti-Critic. I'm still looking for how best to cleanly put everything in words. Consider this a work in progress.

I take as self-evident that the viewing experience of any film is subjective.

Anything from mood to filmic knowledge effects how a movie is perceived. Expectation plays perhaps the biggest role. The woman suing the maker's of critically acclaimed 'Drive' is a perfect example.

Any rating system is a representation of a person's experience of a film. A rating effectively represents a person's emotional viewing experience as concrete mathematical data. This is fine if there is an accompanying context supplied, but these numbers are effectively meaningless on their own. What a 7/10 means to one person is entire different to another because in a very real way everyone is judging on a different scale and in the context of their own unique live experience. As such data collected and represented without context is fundamentally untrustworthy. Worse, rather than simply reflecting the mass trends of opinion and experience this can actually shape it. "You actually LIKED 'Transformer 2'?! What kind of idiot are you?" "What do you mean you hated 'Citizen Kane'? That's the greatest movie ever made!"

If objectivity can't be found through the collected opinions of the masses it must be found on the individual level, but in order to do that it must be acknowledged that all opinions are weighted equally. That a trained eye is judging a film on different criteria than that of an untrained eye, but that both are equally validity.

By extension the weighing of opinion is weighted with every person's opinion being exactly '1'; that is that the opinion of one person is valid exclusively to that person. Those opinions may resonate with many others, but they will never be exactly the same.

The furthest extension of the equal weight concept is that the later opinions of someone don't invalidate an earlier opinion.

The downside of this is a limitation of the reach and validity of a rating. That rating effectively only applies to the person giving the rating as it's a representation only of their own emotional viewing experience and will never translate perfectly to someone else's. So to reach a sort of universally valid 'truth', a new kind of approach needs to be employed. An approach that is unaffected by the personal opinion of the person using said approach. And it certainly is possible; to say "This movie sucks!" is very different than to say "I didn't like this movie!"*. Finding that approach was the goal of the TCAC undertaking.

And that, my friends, is why I'm called the Anti-Critic.

*For those curious, "This movie sucks!" ties in opinion into a judgement of quality where "I didn't like this movie!" is an acknowledgement of the person's subjective view point; it still allows for the seeming contradiction that said movie may well be the most finely crafted in history.

No comments:

Post a Comment