There is a problem in the film critic community and I think it may be indicative of the problems in Hollywood/the Entertainment industry as a whole.
Last night I went to see The Upside. I knew all the controversy surrounding it was about Kevin Hart. Did he tell a Politically Incorrect Joke ten years ago that cost him his job, a possible Oscar nod, and derision from critics who would have otherwise given this movie a positive rating?
The movie was honest, funny, and brought several serious issues to light that most people ignore: single fathers, the prison pipeline, depression, disability–and many more serious issues we hyper focus on: prejudice, racism, and the wealth gap. It was a simple, funny, entertaining movie that told a story with a happy ending. It wasn’t a preachy movie, and that may have been why critics panned it. Or it could have been because Kevin Hart is now on the naughty list. Or maybe there was no reason to give the film an honest look-over because there was nothing in it for them, no presser to hobnob at, no invite to a party at some Hollywood elite. Or it could have been that critics are just so blind to story telling that they can no longer recognize a good one. Maybe they are as scared of the SJW twitter mob as they are of MAGA hat wearing hicks from the south.
There is a lot of speculation of what the problem between critics and viewers might be–if anyone was bothering to listen to “the little people,” now called “Normies,” or even those now called the “Intellectual Dark Web,” you would see this problem multiplying and metastasizing in the main stream media, especially with the Hollywood Oscar hosting kerfuffle.
The Oscars haven’t had a good year of ratings in a decade, but it goes on blithely ignoring even the need for an audience, mocking, deriding and even calling for action against a sizable chunk of their audience that, today, the Hollywood asskissing circle jerk can’t even fathom have been an essential party to their success.
Though I’m equating critics with Hollywood elitists who bite the hands that feed them in this conundrum, this isn’t actually a new problem.
Twenty years ago when I was writing for science fiction magazines/ezines, this exact problem existed. At that time, scifi was a niche genre still struggling for appreciation and recognition from the mainstream, let alone any respect from critics. Comic books were something only nerds read and Anime was still called Japanamation. The community was online, but it was tightknit and closed–not by desire, in large, but by a decided lack of coolness that having shaken hands with William Shatner and fanboying over Patrick Stewart still couldn’t bring to any Trekie. Disney didn’t mind princesses being rescued by Princes and scifi was still largely a mans world. No one even talked about video games seriously and so a large part of mainstream culture remained hidden to all but Creation, who hosted Star Trek/Xena/Hercules conventions. Everyone (ie Normies) seemed content to be ignored so long as there was a convention to hang out at.
Then the brainchild that Stan Lee brought to life came into it’s own, broke out of the Saturday Morning Cartoon shell, and now everyone knows about comic books, everyone watches scifi, and even pop stars sing about how cool things out of Japan are.
The geeks and nerds grew up, started tech companies, rock bands, youtube channels, and internet platforms. And suddenly the world was connected and commenting on anything and everything. Now anyone can be cool.
And when anyone can be cool–who IS really cool?
That seems to be the contest in Hollywood.
The gap between Hollywood and the people that view their movies is becoming much wider than any wage gap, any wealth disparity or prejudice could produce, and their nepotism, insulation and inside-the-bubble mentality has never been more pronounced than it is now. That disparity becomes larger and larger with each passing year, and can be seen on Rotten Tomatoes scores, Amazon reviews, IMDB, Ratings. This drives a public that is starving for unity and hungry for positive story-telling that, today, they can only get in comic-book hero movies. Those same movies that Hollywood seems determined to kill off in film, comic books and now even video games.
It’s a shame because the market is there. The games are there. The comics are there. Even the movies, like The Upside, are there. The machines to make them are there–but the mortal engines, the ones in the Hollywood Bubble, are so busy destroying the yellow brick road to success in their own community, to their own community, that it may be a long while before anyone wants to visit again.
And that’s a shame. It really is.