Probably going to get flak for this one, but it’s been so long since I’ve written something that I feel like I’ll go insane if I don’t, hence it being labelled a “rant”. But that shouldn’t invalidate any value you may/may not gain from reading this or by agreeing/disagreeing with it. This preface is getting weirdly presumptuous… You will either like, dislike, or feel indifferent to what I’ve typed below.
Almost everything is subjective, because each person has their own interpretation of the same things. We all have biases that we’ll (probably) never overcome, but should at the very least try to be more aware of them and acknowledge them.
This is something that I’ve been hearing and dwelling on for quite some time now, only to forget about it until the next time it pops up in conversation. So, I feel the need to add my two cents to the mix, since everyone likes to throw around the terms “objective” and “subjective” a lot, and virtually never defining them in any given context. If you don’t agree with my definitions of these terms, feel free to comment your own.
The term “objective review” under the definition: “something everyone agrees is great / terrible / …”… Not possible considering no matter how critically praised any work is (i.e. The Mona Lisa, The Godfather, etc.) there will always be people who don’t share the same viewpoint, appreciation, or understanding of a work, and have opposite or otherwise differing perspectives and feelings about it, with more than likely less knowledge about it – most people aren’t experts when it comes to an understanding of art, literature, etc. and probably don’t have a precise comprehension of their own biases; a lot of the enjoyment that comes from the experience of engaging with a work of art comes from confirmation bias, and many other biases as well.
The term “objective review” under the definition: “something about it that everyone agrees is great / terrible / …”... Again, no matter how much evidence you show, or how much you labor and expand upon your points (i.e. about how fitting the music is in a certain scene or why a certain scene is important) not everyone will agree, and thus not objective.
Now, I’ve seen people preface videos and posts among the lines of “The gang returns, this time as objective critics, looking to make artful critiques on the SAO movie” as if the idea of being fair is the same as being objective. When in reality all being “fair” means is that you’re willing to let yourself belief you’re setting aside your biases (which isn’t possible) and acting like a neutral arbitrator of all that is good/bad (also not possible, since no single person or group can decide what’s best for everyone).
People seem to misinterpret the idea of being “objective” means being fair, which they misconstrue as essentially lying to themselves and others by convincing themselves they’re omitting their strong personal views and that there’s something in a work that everyone can agree on.
Let me make this clear that being fair and being objective are two different things and that objectivity is something that can’t be disproven, debunked and continues to stand trial and error (i.e. the people involved in the making of a work is objective, regardless of your feelings about them having worked on it, or to what degree your knowledge about them working on it extends – the fact remains that they did in fact work on it).
Entertainment, art, and reality as a whole are all inherently subjective as their purposes vary between wanting to evoke feelings, tell a certain story, or exist out of spite, etc. A lot of people take things at face value and don’t care about understanding or appreciating a work. Many get swept up in the emotions of a film (etc.) and others might not enjoy it, but still manage to appreciate the cinematography, performances, or editing, for instance.
But at the same time, while I disagree with the idea of a “completely objective review”, I also dispute the notion of a “completely subjective review”, because once facts like “this is an anime / game (etc.)” and “the creator said [this] during an interview about what [this] in the show (etc.)” are brought up it’s no longer just an opinion piece. It’s now a subjective interpretation in conjunction with objective facts about a work. The ratio / percentage on this is dependent upon whichever is discussed the most (i.e. if the review is focused on how the player felt and their criticisms come from the experience of playing the game, that would be a mostly subjective review.
However, if the focus is on discussing the game and its development over personal reservations, then it’s mostly an objective review). But neither can be entirely one or the other (unless in the case of an entirely subjective review being founded upon entirely false information – which doesn’t seem possible, since merely saying what the medium, genre, and title is already three objective facts I can’t see anyone getting wrong, so partly objective).
Objective here, should mean factual information about a work, such as: who worked on it (artists, studio, writers, directors, etc.), its title, its genre(s), its medium, how it was made (techniques used, a certain person’s style, etc.), why it was made (its meaning, themes, etc.), quotes from interviews with creators, and so on.
What is objective should be either fact or unanimous, and there’s no one way of knowing if a consensus of a subjective opinion is unanimous (even out of the people who have engaged with the work that is considered great, there’s bound to be at least one that doesn’t think so, even if it’s for the sake of going against the wave – hence, confirmation bias). The closest you can probably get to an objective review of something is by stating the facts about it like it’s a textbook.
So, remember that analyses, critiques, and reviews are generally pseudo-objective and mostly filtered through that person’s subjective interpretation in conjunction with their experiences, likes, dislikes, emotional and personal connections, and other preferences and biases. Though, there can be (and often are) objective aspects to reviews (mentioning what / who is in a film, for instance).
In sum, reviews are not entirely objective or subjective, unless treated as textbooks / assignments in an academic way; detached from personal thoughts on the matter, and focused entirely on simply stating what something is, when it was, how it did things, etc., or an absolute replacement of facts about something with personal feelings and misinformation (projection, speculation, lies) about something.
Sidenote: The age ratings system for movies is ridiculously arbitrary under the guise of being objective. When it’s actually inanely pseudo-objective, in the sense that from the perspective of making a film and keeping within the boundaries of a certain rating (i.e. not going past PG-13), you must keep bloodshed to a minimum or not have it all. Then there’s also the amount of swears you can have before the rating changes (as if the repetition is going to anything other than normalize it – remember that South Park episode?). As much as I don’t care for CinemaSins anymore, he made good points in his video on this:
In short. The age ratings system has too many stupid restrictions based on baffling arbitrary rules and conditions, which gets in the way of creativity and filmmakers making what they want (I’ll admit there have been instances where the restrictions were more favorable in making a better product, but there should be more leeway in certain areas).
Here’s a short article on the idea of an “objectively good film” for anyone who’s interested:
But if none of that convinces you, here’s Jim Sterling’s video demonstrating what a 100% objective review would be like (using a video game as an example):
If nothing else, it should entertain you. Enjoy.
Edit: I did not re-read this before posting, because I’m already worn out by the topic and want it to die. So, if you feel I didn’t elaborate well enough on my points, then that is your opinion and… ugh, I already hate myself for doing this.