Rotten Tomatoes is making some changes with regards to which critics are approved to appear on and influence the all-important Tomatometer. In the past, Rotten Tomatoes has approved or declined a critics’ status based on the publication they write for. Now, in an effort to boost the diversity of voices weighing in on the Tomatometer, Rotten Tomatoes will make changes to consider individual critics regardless of the reach and perceived importance of their outlet, instead increasing focus on the critics’ individual qualifications and body of work. Key values include insight, quality, audience (including serving underrepresented groups), and dedication.
This strategy aims to provide a more diverse range of perspectives to be included on the Tomatometer:
“Over the past few years, our team has added hundreds of new voices to the Tomatometer on top of the thousands we currently have, with the goal of creating a critics pool that closely reflects the global entertainment audience,” said Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes critics relations manager. “We took another key step today by revamping our critics criteria that both shifts our focus to approving critics individually rather than through publications, and introduces updated guidelines for newer media platforms to be a part of the Tomatometer.”
Indeed, in addition to written reviews, Rotten Tomatoes is now going to be accepting applications for individuals and outlets that produce reviews for podcasts and digital video series with a strong social media presence and audience engagement.
Expanding criteria to consider individual reviewers regardless of outlet is a positive move for Rotten Tomatoes, in my mind. There are plenty of smart critics and writers out there who work as freelancers without a major outlet to call home, but that doesn’t mean their voice is automatically less important or less insightful.
I still think all film critics, regardless of race, gender, or background, have a valid right to review any movie. I’m not a Korean-American teenage high school girl, but I identified with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before strongly—as Roger Ebert once said, movies are like empathy machines, and the magic of filmmaking is the ability to let the audience step into a characters’ shoes and see the world from his or her point of view.
That said, I also think it’s important to have voices with diverse backgrounds writing regularly about film. I really liked To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Crazy Rich Asians, and BlacKkKlansman, but a critic with a background similar to the characters seen onscreen is better able to appreciate the nuances of what those films get right about specific life experiences. For instance, I never could have written this beautiful piece on Crazy Rich Asians and representation by Mashable’s Angie Han, and I’m tremendously happy it exists. It’s not only great writing, but it allowed me to appreciate the nuances of the film even more.
So yes, any critic is able to review any film, but adding more diverse voices from more diverse backgrounds can only make the breadth of film criticism that much more engaging and more thoughtful.
Not only is Rotten Tomatoes changing its criteria, it’s also establishing a $100,000 grant program to help critics gain access to key film festivals, where the first reviews of some of the year’s biggest films are released. The first grant is $25,000 which will go to the American Friends of TIFF fund to help send critics to the Toronto International Film Festival next month, where high-profile films like The Hate U Give and A Star Is Born will launch.
It’ll be interesting to see how and if this has an effect on the overall Tomatometer score of certain films. Personally, I think the Tomatometer should be used simply as a bare-bones guide, not a be-all end-all regarding whether a film is worth your time. Find critics you enjoy reading—not necessarily ones you agree with all the time, but ones who provide interesting insight and who make unique or engaging points.
Hopefully by expanding its criteria, Rotten Tomatoes will make even more talented critics visible by showcasing their blurbs on the RT site, thereby allowing readers and film fans to track down an even more diverse range of opinions.