by Bryce Morris
Since the summer of 2017, I have been writing my own social media reviews on Instagram based on pop culture topics such as film, television, comic books, and video games. Before I write my Instagram reviews, I avoid any other reviews or comments that may influence my opinion before I view the product myself. It can be difficult to prevent others from influencing my opinion. In favor of collective opinions expressed on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook becoming the determinant, the sacred days of everyone having their own distinct opinion seem to be fading into the background.
Social media sites have opened the floodgates for users to produce reviews and begin discussions of their own. Most social media users are so keen to have followers and an artificial sense of community that they will not hesitate to share misguided content. This can range widely, including news footage, articles, celebrity gossip, political prospects, and even reviews directed at several forms of media. Quite literally anyone, myself included, can go out and create a review with their smartphones or computers now, which is a scary ability that is already harming the world of entertainment. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but when that single opinion actually stands in as the opinion of several others, then it becomes an issue within the world of creative expression.
From the early 70s to late 90s, film critics were few and far between with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel leading the way as professionals. Siskel and Ebert may have had their own rating system that dictated what audiences should see at the cinema, but they were still open-minded enough that people could see the movie themselves and make their own opinion after the initial viewing. Reviewers who take advantage or lack the skills to share their opinion responsibly only hurt the people who may otherwise be interested in the particular form of entertainment but have been turned away from the negative or mixed responses, and social media has made it far too easy for anyone to share their uninformed review.
While binge-watching and binge-reading have allowed individuals the convenience of finishing an entire series in one sitting to avoid spoilers, it has the adverse effect of allowing individuals to negatively and swiftly represent the work of a project that deserves to be honored or at least observed. That means any average person has the power to influence just about anyone who is a fan of a particular genre of entertainment, and it is a scary prospect when one has a moment to sit back and ponder all the adverse repercussions.
I admit that my own views on certain brands of media have been influenced by others on social media in the past. One of the more recent films to come from the Disney money-making machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe is last fall’s Eternals. Helmed by Oscar-winning indie director Chloe Zhao, Eternals deviates from the conventional MCU film style, ditching the colorful costumes and comedic nature of past movies in favor of a more adult and thought-provoking sci-fi adventure that stands alone. While Eternals has its fair share of fans and made its money back in spades, the movie itself failed to win over several audiences and critics. I saw the movie opening weekend and immediately understood what would polarize certain fans, but did not agree with the negative reception that found itself attached to the film. Even though the movie does not make my top 5 Marvel films list, there are plenty of worthy actors involved and a compelling narrative that kept me invested throughout. It’s unfortunate that because of the negative word of mouth, Eternals and the characters associated with the movie will have a more difficult time leading future stories compared to the likes of The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. In general, I have a difficult time believing that any major film release has a chance of standing on its own if the consensus becomes tied to a single set of opinions.
My preferred genres of reading are fiction, crime noir, fantasy, and sci-fi, which automatically establishes a certain limitation for me in contrast to other readers. During the summer, I tried my hand at reading Tom Clancy’s “classic” espionage thriller The Hunt for Red October and quickly found that the book was just not my preferred choice for a novel. While I finished the book, I decided to post on Instagram that it felt dated and may only appeal to a certain demographic of readers. I imagine that I would have a more difficult time reading other Tom Clancy novels than my uncle, who generally finds himself interested in spy thrillers, drama, and historical fiction. While my criticisms were personalized, I may have deprived someone else of a book that they may have enjoyed reading. If a movie or book just does not meet expectations and people are not satisfied, then criticism is indeed warranted, but this might be best left to the experts who can express those opinions with clarity and specificity. What people need to understand is that in this day and age, there is no better critic of a product than the one who watches (or reads) themselves.
The more I continue to witness new styles of storytelling, the more I realize that it’s nearly impossible to have a shared opinion. The art of creativity is meant to be a subjective experience for individuals who undergo this journey. Don’t be afraid to have your own opinion that stands alone from the rest, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to go see that movie or read that book in spite of what the court of public opinion says about it. You just might find yourself surprised to enjoy it.