“Objective Reviews”

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:

http://www.firstshowing.net/2011/discuss-art-is-subjective-but-does-an-objectively-good-film-exist/

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.

~ Ace

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.

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13 thoughts on ““Objective Reviews””

  1. (You use a lot of parentheses in this post. God damn.)

    As someone who constantly abides by the law of objectivism, I concede that my view of objectivism is my own set of standards upon classic standards of critique. I focus on judging things based on the norms for things of a specific type, such as romantic value for romances, scariness in horror, and so on. I have a system of things that are commonly used in basic criticism, such as “Is story believable? Are characters developed? Is the whole simplistic?” The way people get to these points is subjective, but I feel the foundation of this is more leaning towards objective, which is why I call it such. Not to mention, “subjective” has a stigma attached that implies one is basing it entirely off of emotional impact or entertainment value, which is certainly not the way I wish to judge things.

    I guess you could say the way I look at things “Feels” objective to me, despite the quoted word being heavily subjective. I simply do what I can to factor in what should (also highly subjective) be factored into a movie and what it’s trying to do along with the common standards. It’s a fluctuation that makes critiquing entertaining and interesting to ponder, which may be half the reason I adore doing so. It never really leaves me bored… In any case, I’d still rather refer to myself as an objective critic, despite how “farcical” it is at its core.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (I know! It’s a problem! I inner-monologue too much!)

      An odd, yet common, and understandable quandary to have. Being aware that not everyone will feel the same way, but being hopeful they come to the same conclusion (whether consciously or not), while understanding experiences they had in their life may (greatly) affect how they view and feel about something (i.e. someone with arachnophobia seeing a film that involves spiders negatively affecting their review of it – a weak example, but you get the idea).

      I take it you don’t define something being “objectively good” as unanimously perceived as such? Is majority consensus adequate enough for you to consider something “objectively good”, I mean? I see what you mean, and sort of feel similarly (nowhere near as strongly about it, though), but still, I’m thinking of this in terms of the broad concepts of “objectivity” and “subjectivity” as a whole (accompanied by the occasional thoughts of existential dread) using art and entertainment as the focal point (because that’s where these terms get used most often) as objectively as I can (albeit, through my own subjective lens of reality).

      Mostly felt like writing this, because I’m sick of hearing these terms being casually used again and again, and argued to the point of absurdity. Just wanted to get if off my chest is all. And I respect your view as well.

      Always appreciate another perspective on things.
      ~ Ace

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I take it you don’t define something being ‘objectively good’ as unanimously perceived as such? Is majority consensus adequate enough for you to consider something ‘objectively good’, I mean?”

        No. Popularity =/= quality to me. Popularity and constant approval/disapproval only sway me to become more or less expectant of a particular thing. I expect something like Citizen Kane to be good, while The Room to be atrocious. Doesn’t mean they are, but it builds upon expectations (which I find to be faulty, so I try to break expectations unless I KNOW a film will be bad). I see “objectively good” as meeting and exceeding said standards of critique. With something like the Godfather, I expect it to be praised and acclaimed due to having strong characters, riveting narrative, and all other things that help make it engrossing or impactful. It’s pretty subjective when putting it that way, but there’s a gut feeling involved that I think is better left unexplained. At the end of the day, I trust my own opinion to know what is and isn’t good about a particular thing, with the perspectives of others to provide me with extra insight that may or may not persuade me in another direction.

        I have no idea if this makes sense. Sorry.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree in the sense that I feel similarly about what I want out of something is strong characters, etc. But I try not to mix it up with being “objective” when talking about it. I do get what you mean, but I’m too stuck-up with semantics to fully give into it, if that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, just thought of another thing, too: It helps when one can explain why something is good or bad. If someone can make the case that a character or story is good or bad through means of turning the film against itself, I find that pretty objective. It’s almost like a puzzle.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s what I try to do, but I as much as I want it to be considered “objective”, I know it’s not. A lot of people could feel the same way when I call John Wick 2 the action movie equivalent of a dance routine as a useful analogy for its tight choreography and (almost) constant movement and momentum throughout. But I know people who thought it was “meh” and didn’t think anything else of it, or were baffled and thought I read too much into it when I described it similarly to how I did there. It’s a tricky concept to explain, but I think there’s something in-between subjective and objective that needs a word we can use in these sort of scenarios (for film and such, etc.).

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hey, man. I really liked your John Wick 2 review. And a lot of what you said about how sleek and controlled the action scenes were and how it emphasized their characters was a very convincing argument. It almost made me want to go see it. This is coming from the guy who gave the original a 5/10, mostly because I found the characters and story simplistic and the constant emphasis of Wick’s mythos to be borderline cringey. Still, your analysis on the action scenes gave me a newfound appreciation for the films, so it’s not totally out of the question that I watch it again and maybe enjoy it more for what it does right.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. And that’s something I totally get behind – the idea that you can make a convincing argument for something through analysis and bringing certain aspects not many would think of into light and describing / explaining them in a way that makes sense within the context of the film. That’s generally why I follow so many media analysts – they give me different ways of looking at stuff I already like or previously didn’t like and may or may not change / strengthen my opinion on them because of it.

        Thanks, I really appreciate that. I hope you get something more out of it the next time you watch it 😉

        ~ Ace

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Movie and TV show ratings need their very own rant because they are completely insane (sorry, recently found out Snow White with the Red Hair got an M in Australia which is recommended over 15 – that’s a higher rating than season 1 Sword Art Online which is PG and only recommened parental guidance for kids).
    I agree that reviews just aren’t going to be objective given reviewers are expressing an opinion. They may back that opinion up with ‘evidence’ but really it is just their interpretation and views on that which they are discussing.
    Thanks afor a thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Feel free to rant about it. I’d be interested in reading what you have to say on the matter, seeing how you’re passionate about the subject.

      I don’t know if I can say anymore on the matter of age ratings for film and tv, but if I do, I might someday do a full-blown rant on it…Don’t hold me to that.

      Glad you got something out of it.
      ~ Ace

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I made a similar post to this back in my early days of blogging, and more or less agree with you that objectively good isn’t really a thing.

    I’m a firm believer in the subjective experience, as reality did not decide if something was good, people did.

    Fun read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there needs to be a new word / term for what it is people mean when they say something is “objectively good / bad” – otherwise, this will be a topical discussion for years to come and undermine a lot of the value of art appreciation / enjoyment.

      Thanks 🙂
      ~ Ace

      Liked by 1 person

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