Rotten Tomatoes

A lot of people see Rotten Tomatoes as a kind of purveyor of truth — at least when it comes to how good (or bad) a movie is.

It’s not unusual for me to tell a friend about a movie and have them ask me, “what did it get on Rotten?”

It’s effectively the same as asking, “how good did this small group of people — critics — decide this movie was?” Which is actually kind of ludicrous the more you think about it.

Nevertheless, I admittedly ask this question of movies all the time too. It’s a good shortcut for making a quick decision on what films may or may not be worth my time.

There is one pretty substantial caveat, however, that is good to be mindful of when you’re deferring to the average opinion of a group of people, which is that you implicitly trust that your taste won’t be the outlier.

When you decide to not watch a movie because it received a poor rating, you’ve already decided that you probably won't like the movie either.

When you decide to watch a movie because it received a good rating, you’ve bet 90-or-so minutes of your life that you’ll find the movie enjoyable as well.

And if there isn’t an opinion available — if there isn’t a rating on Rotten Tomatoes— maybe you’ll just ignore the film altogether.

Again, all reasonably safe bets. But at least in the case of choosing to ignore a film with no opinions or a small sample of poor opinions, you’ve effectively given up on the possibility that you might actually like it.

In the context of films, this is probably not a big deal. But the same phenomenon applies to our morals, values, and concepts about what a meaningful life is.

Would you not consider an idea that is dismissed by most people or that is not brought up by anyone?

To do so is would be to give up on the chance of having any original thought.


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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (