As Criticwire previously reported, some fans of the movie “Zootopia” got awfully steamed at the small handful of critics whose reviews spoiled its perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. Those fans apparently included six-year-old twins who wrote to City Weekly critic Scott Renshaw asking him to change his rating.
As the father of a six-year-old, I’m not sure why these two even know what Rotten Tomatoes is, let alone why they have concerns about whether or not the aggregate score of its reviews is 98 or 100 percent “Fresh.” (Children are self-centered by nature; it’s adults who get caught up in what other people think.) And I’m aghast at the idea of parents who pass on to their children that dissent in any form is something that ought to be quashed or pleaded with. It’s a two-way street, after all: If you stigmatize divergent opinions to the extent that you feel moved to plead with their authors to correct them, won’t you be that much less comfortable expressing divergent opinions of your own? What happens when those children are the ones who don’t like something all of their friends like?
Renshaw’s response to the twins speaks to a larger audience as well, which is why he published it on City Weekly’s website. After pointing out that “Rotten” and “Fresh” reviews are assigned by Rotten Tomatoes itself, he goes on:
“But the more serious question you seem to be asking is whether I would change my review to be more positive. At this time, I have no reason to do so, which isn’t to say that I haven’t changed my mind many times over the years about movies I’ve reviewed. Sometimes I like them more, and sometimes I like them less, but whenever I feel I’ve learned or seen something new, I’ll be honest enough to say so. Right now, what I wrote about Zootopia honestly represents my feelings about it, and that’s the review I’m comfortable defending.”
“What I’d really hope, however, is that you think about reviews differently, including (and maybe especially) those you disagree with. My job as a professional critic isn’t to tell people what to think, or to give them assurance that what they thought about a movie is “right.” All I can do is think honestly about how I reacted, and perhaps help people see something in a movie that they might not have seen otherwise. The fact that I didn’t love Zootopia doesn’t change how much you did love it, and that’s never my intention. But you should become comfortable with the idea that there are opinions about things out in the world that will be different from yours, and you can be confident in your own opinions without feeling that the other opinions out there are a problem that needs to be solved. Rotten Tomatoes’ score for Zootopia just doesn’t matter. If that movie changed you, or made you happy, or made you think, that matters.”
I don’t expect six-year-olds to understand the nature of criticism (I’m not sure mine does), but hopefully the grown-ups who raise them can learn a few lessons from Renshaw’s thoughtful response and pass them on down the line.