The Dark Knight Rises -- This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

A letter from RT's editor in chief.

by | July 16, 2012 | Comments

Matt Atchity here, Editor in Chief of Rotten Tomatoes. I want to set the record straight on some of the things that are happening with the reviews for The Dark Knight Rises right now.

It’s probably safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises is the most anticipated film of the year. More than The Hobbit. More than The Avengers. And my staff and I knew full well that when the first negative review came in, the reviewer would get pasted in the comments. That dubious honor goes to Marshall Fine. He’s a critic we’ve included on our site — he’s got a respectable background in criticism, and we think he should be included on our site.

Since the referral traffic seems to have crashed his server, we’ve temporarily removed the review link at Fine’s request, so his site can go back up. But the score will not be affected. His Rotten review still applies to the score, even if the link isn’t active at the moment.

Update: A second negative review came in, and we’ll be policing those comments, too.

Second Update: We have disabled comments on The Dark Knight Rises reviews for a few days.

As expected, we saw a mountain of comments come in about his review, and we’re policing them to make sure they’re in line with our TOS. Broadly speaking, threats and hate speech will get your commenting privileges revoked.

But Marshall has the right to not like the movie, and people have the right to express their disagreement with him (although if you haven’t seen the movie, your arguments may be on shaky ground). And we have the right to pull your comment down and ban you if we think you’re acting inappropriately.

Which leads me to Eric D. Snider. He thought it would be funny to post a negative review link on Rotten Tomatoes that links to his own site. He misrepresented his review link. (In case you didn’t know, some critics post their own reviews, and my staff posts some — it’s about 50/50). By attributing the link to Film.com, he misrepresented that organization. This is not the first time he’s done this. In our opinion, by knowingly posting a link that isn’t a review (and he hadn’t seen the movie), Snider has abused our trust, and therefore, his reviews will no longer apply to the Tomatometer.




So where does that leave us? It doesn’t change the fact that there are trolls, and that minority opinions will be vehemently refuted. But I would like to leave everyone with a few final thoughts:

– If a critic often goes against the majority, but has well-reasoned arguments, it’s unlikely we’re going to ban them, at least not just for having a different opinion. We’re not looking for groupthink here.

– If a critic abuses our trust by linking to something that’s not a review, we will take action up to and including removing them from the Tomatometer. If a critic doesn’t take their reputation seriously, then neither will we.

– We’ll ban you for threats and hate speech — we’re trying to have fun here, so (to quote Wil Wheaton) don’t be a dick. And don’t try and argue about your right to free speech — this is a business, and we have the right to refuse service to anyone we feel like.

– We’re probably going to move to a Facebook-based commenting system that doesn’t allow for anonymity. You’ll have to stand by your comments, just like a critic does. So you’ll still be able to argue about a movie you haven’t seen, but people will know it was you. (I know that won’t make a difference for some people, but at least there may be some measure of responsibility). Third Update: We’re looking at many other options other than FB, including not allowing comments before a movie opens, moderating all comments before they go live, and a few other things. Facebook isn’t the only thing we’re considering.

I know that a lot of people will think we’re overreacting, and I know my own breeding, sexuality, and intelligence will be called in to question just for daring to ask for some level of respectable debate. That’s fine, I’m used to that (I have a show on YouTube, so come at me, bro).

But if I could ask everyone for one thing, it’s this: don’t be a dick. Even if you think someone else is being a dick. Just take a deep breath, step away from the computer, and maybe go for a walk. Have a smoke if you need one. There are plenty of other things to get angry about, like war, famine, poverty and crime. But not movie reviews.

Sincerely,

Matt Atchity

Editor-in-Chief, Rotten Tomatoes

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