Whenever a new movie release garners at least a semblance of anticipation, the first place that the populace turns to is not the theater anymore, it is the reviews. As more and more media platforms allow us access to instantaneous information on any given topic, forming one’s own opinion outside of the pre-formed biases of society has become increasingly difficult.
The irony that exists within this conflict stems from the idea that individuals who don’t want their opinions challenged by society are the ones that band together and make up a “societal opinion.” In turn, society disregards the opinions of other individuals who do not share this specific opinion. People that fear neglect or isolation for sharing an unpopular opinion adopt the opinion that society supports, allowing it to strengthen. This conflict is known as the Spiral of Silence theory, proposed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.
The overruling influence of society’s opinions within the cinema industry reached a critical point following the release of the highly-controversial blockbuster Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. While critics immediately took to touting the movie as one of the worst in recent times, average moviegoers were decidedly less critical of the movie and some even praised it as a cinematic achievement.
A difference of opinion in this respect would be okay if not for the considerable amount of sway critics have over their target audience. A study done by José Ignacio Azuela-Flores of the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas, Víctor Fernández-Blanco and María José Sanzo-Pérez of the University of Oviedo, explored the effects of critics’ reviews on movie demand and found that reading critical reviews of films in newspapers increases the probability of an individual going to the cinema to watch the film by 10 percent.
The reason this influence is so detrimental to media is that it undermines the industry’s place as an art form. Film as a medium is meant to give individuals an opportunity to create their own opinion about something abstract. There is not meant to be one single, unified mindset on every aspect of a movie. In the modern world, however, those with the unpopular opinion that goes against society are criticized or even ostracized.
The disparity between popular societal opinions and those of the minority should not be condemned, rather the opposite. The main issue lies within cultivating an environment where every single one of those varying opinions can be respected. Instead of a knee-jerk defensive reaction to anything that contradicts their opinions on something abstract, the populace should welcome differing viewpoints as it validates the original purpose of the medium: to inspire new ideas.