It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars
"A film that aims low should not be praised for hitting that target."
Complaining about People Not Liking the Show
comes in many different flavors
. Most of the time, criticisms for reviews can be overwhelmingly vicious, with statements ranging from death threats to accusations that the reviewer is just being stuck up
. However, some defensive notations can be a bit ...farfetched. Somewhere along the line, you will be accused of not getting it
. You see, whatever you criticized was supposed to suck
"The context of why the movie was made justifies what you consider to be poor quality and bad execution of the work. As such, you didn't understand what was going on to appreciate the work enough to realize that. If you were expecting something glorious and spectacular, you came to the wrong movie.
This is one of the more recent lines that fans have started using to deter negative criticisms of their favorite works
(a common alternative seems to be "Just turn your brain off and enjoy it"). In most cases, these defenses are justified if the reviewer/critic lacks familiarity with the work
. In general, it's true that critics can be far too harsh with various movies and films (especially comedies or parodies) when writing their reviews, citing that they are incredibly lacking in all categories of substance. However, fans can get carried away with this regard as it is mostly used to defend their favorite works in general to any and all forms of criticism, even if a reviewer/critic happens to like said work and even (or especially) if the criticism is not without merit.
The first problem with this defense is that it is on the surface quite paradoxical; a bad movie does not cease to be bad just because it was apparently supposed
to be bad. Quite the opposite, in fact. Another is that regardless of the intentions of its producers, ultimately the final product has to be judged on its own end merits. The producers of a film might not be trying to make True Art
and may only be trying to 'just' make an entertaining movie, but that doesn't mean they can't fail at being entertaining. Furthermore, there's a suggestion here that producers of creative works that aren't intended to be True Art
should only be held to the lowest possible standards. The problem here is that quality and entertainment aren't mutually exclusive, and just because something isn't supposed to be High Art doesn't mean you've got a license to be lazy or sloppy with it. Of course, there's the obvious question of why you would want to deliberately make something terrible
to begin with.
This is not to say that there's anything wrong
with purely escapist entertainment or that all works should
aspire towards the loftiest heights of 'worthy' True Art
, just that making escapist entertainment isn't itself an automatic 'Get Out Of Criticism Free
' card for producers and fans of said entertainment. Fans who take this view can be deliberately invoking any or all of the Animation
, and Comedy Ghetto
tropes. This might seem contradictory of the usual purpose of these tropes (i.e. trying to get these films out
of said Ghettos), but the point is that different genres should be held to different standards.
While not exactly aimed at this phenomenon, 'Ebert's Law' as coined by noted film critic Roger Ebert
— "It's not what a movie's about, but how it's about it" —has some relevance here. The idea is that he can rate a supposedly 'no-brainer' action movie higher than a supposedly 'worthy' Oscar Bait
drama not because the action movie is artistically more complex or inherently superior to the drama (although it could be), but because the action movie is better at being an action movie, and thus is a more satisfying cinematic experience, than the drama is at being a drama. By this logic, the inverse is also true; just because an action movie isn't necessarily aiming to provide its audience with the same things as a drama does not exempt it from criticism entirely. What it does
do is exempt it from criticism on the grounds of not being enough like a drama.
When creators invoke this trope, it often betrays a belief that Viewers Are Morons
Compare with Springtime for Hitler
, Moff’s Law
, Deliberate Flaw Retcon
. Contrast Intended Audience Reaction
, in which the creator of a work is deliberately doing something audiences normally don't like, for what they think is a good reason. Hopefully they're right. Knowing the differences between Fact Opinion Argument
will also help.
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Anime And Manga
- Common for ecchi and fanservice shows where the plot exists to give The Protagonist an excuse to trip and grope girls or accidentally see their panties, forming an odd inversion of It's Not Porn, It's Art ("It's not art, it's (sorta) porn!")
- A common defence of poorly-written yaoi and yuri. Fans will say that it isn't intended to accurately represent a homosexual relationship or provide moving drama, it's just there for the fanboys and fangirls to enjoy.
- Bob Budiansky uses this to dismiss fan criticism that his stories on The Transformers were more juvenile than those of his successor, noting that he was targeting his stories for prepubescent boys.
- Kevin Smith himself said that Jersey Girl wasn't for critics.
- Maryann Johanson on the film adaptation of Marmaduke:
: This is one of those movies that we're not supposed to complain about because it's "for kids," as if kids aren't smart enough to recognize shit. Or as if we wouldn't mind serving our kids shit. I wouldn't want my kids, if I had any, anywhere near this, unless I actually wanted to inculcate in them scream-inducing 1950s gender stereotypes. Which I wouldn't.
- Roger Ebert often made a point of condemning a Viewers Are Morons line of thinking with regards to children's movies — i.e. just because a movie is intended for children/families doesn't mean it can get away with lower production values, script quality, etc. than "adult" fare, and that believing kids don't care about quality insults their intelligence. Reviews that bring up this topic include Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Beauty and the Beast, both of which he felt defied the "kids don't care" mindset beautifully, and The Jungle Book 2, which he saw as a product of said mindset.
- When someone wrote in to Roger Ebert that he should've given The Mummy Returns a pass because it was just summer fluff, he responded that there's still a difference between good summer fluff and bad summer fluff, using the first film (which he adored) as an example of the former, and Returns an example of the latter.
- Shawn Levy, director of Real Steel, used this argument in defense of his movies. He claimed he didn't really care about what critics and snobby award shows thought of his movies, and was glad that audiences had a great time watching his work.
- Movie Bob expressed his disapproval of the notion that just because a movie "isn't trying", that makes it immune to criticism. He gave the example of The Expendables, saying that its problem wasn't that it was a big dumb action movie, but that it was a bad big dumb action movie.
- Seltzer and Friedberg defenders often use this excuse. "I know they're stupid lame jokes, they're supposed to be stupid lame jokes." Ignoring that there can be a right and a wrong way to do even lame humor and that if the audience can't tell you're doing it on purpose, it can still be judged as having failed.
- A very common defense of Sucker Punch.
- Rotten Tomatoes's "critics' consensus" system does this sometimes. Chances are, if a movie turns out bad (but not below 10% bad), but is catered toward a specific demographic (children, fans of the source material, etc.), the consensus will be written along the lines of, "This movie is bad, but at least its target demographic will enjoy it." For example, the consensus for Thunderbirds is, "Live-action cartoon for kids." Which, in cases where the target demographic actually hated it this comes across as quite insulting.
- The Michael Bay Transformers movies get this a lot, with complaints about their humor, characters, plot, and so on met with, "Look we're just here to see giant robots beat each other up, what do you expect?". Granted, "We're just here to see giant robots beat each other up!" is also a major complaint against the humor, characters and plot.
- The production crew have in fact outright admitted that their goal is not to rival other movies that may be released around the same time as the Transformers flicks, but to provide an alternative for fun free-time activities such as theme-park rides.
- Every film that Adam Sandler has ever made save for Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and Funny People
- Despite being reviewed extremely positively by the vast majority of critics, apparently, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was not made for anyone under 20 or over 30, and any negative criticism from outside this age range "just didn't get it".
- When promoting Return to The Blue Lagoon, Milla Jovovich told reporters that the film was meant for teenagers, not critics.
- Extreme example: When Freddy Got Fingered was nominated for five "awards" at the 2001 Golden Raspberry Awards, Tom Green actually showed up to accept them (the first performer to do so in the show's history, but the second recipient to do so, following director Paul Verhoeven for Showgirls in 1995) saying when he did, "When we set out to make this film we wanted to win a Razzie, so this is a dream come true for me".
- A Swedish movie reviewer rated the fourth The Fast and the Furious movie four out of five. While he didn't think the movie's plot was anything to write home about, he felt that this was unimportant since the plot's not why people go to see this kind of movie anyway.
- Print ads for David Spade's Joe Dirt touted "0 Golden Globe Nominations!"
- Many Christian filmmakers tend to use the notion that critics don't get the heart of their faith based movies, especially taking into account that their audiences responded much more favorably to them.
Live Action TV
- Glee fans can fall back on this when encountering any criticism of the show's unlikely plot points or character interaction. "It's supposed to be unrealistic and silly. It's a parody of musicals!" TIME reviewer James Poniewozik explicitly rejected this in one review, not because he dislikes the show, but because he thought so highly of the first season that he expects greatness from the rest of it: if a show is trying for genuinely emotional moments or Aesops and fail to deliver them effectively, a Parody Retcon is an insult to both the viewers and the creators.
- iCarly had an in universe Author Tract that was Leaning on the Fourth Wall to say that the webshow (and by extension, the actual real life show), was just a 'stupid pointless comedy' and looking for deeper moments or any kind of continuity or emotional moments was pointless and against the intention of the authors. An interesting example as it wasn't directed at outside critics, but at fandom and its desire to turn the show into a Shipping drama.
- Now its spin-off, Sam & Cat is receiving the exact same criticism - and ironically enough being compared as a pale imitation of iCarly.
- An interesting variation happened as True Blood encountered accusations of Seasonal Rot in its third and fourth seasons. When critics who liked the show's first two seasons complained of Aborted Arcs etc. they were told that not only were they wrong to apply such standards to Supernatural Soap Opera, but that the show had always been like this - retroactively undermining critical praise for True Blood's early run.
- In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Jed Whedon, producer of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., said the show's disappointed viewership shouldn't be expecting so much, because it's a TV show being compared to movies. It doesn't have the same budget and it works in a different medium.
- Several reviewers have criticized Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame for his reliance on a double standard: he frequently and with great gusto rips into conservative politicians and religious figures, giving what is clearly his honest opinion, as he backs up his statements in off-show interviews and tweets, etc. Stewart has many times been taken seriously by both sides, and is frequently named by younger voters as their primary source of news, and it's clear that he knows this and is willing to use it. However, numerous times he gets facts wrong or is accused of going after Republicans/Conservatives with both barrels for doing the same thing Democrats/Liberals do frequently, and in those circumstances, he replies that he's "just a comedian" and cannot be taken seriously.
- Let's just say that pro wrestling gets this argument lobbied at it so often that to list all the examples would take up way too much space on the page. To be fair, it is at least partially justified, given the over-the-top nature of the "sport."
- The Muppets fansite Tough Pigs received criticism for its negative review of Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories, with the point being that the Tough Pigs crew were adults looking at a show aimed at young children. They replied that no-one ever used that defence for Sesame Street or Fraggle Rock, because they didn't have to; those shows were good.
- Many of the criticisms heaped on No More Heroes, notably the rather empty overworld, bad driving physics, and generally low-scale environment assets, were deflected by the fanbase by saying that the creator meant to lampoon games like Grand Theft Auto by deliberately making a clunky overworld. It's not certain how true this explanation actually is, since in the Playstation3 port part of the overworld is actually blocked off because absolutely nothing happens in that particular section.
- Inverted: This is a complaint about Saints Row: The Third: While it's only meant to be a mindless, over the top affair of action and violence, many, especially fans of Saints Row 2, criticised the plot as a case of They Just Didn't Care since it doesn't seem to have been written all too well.
- Runic has often had to trot out a similar response to players demanding that Torchlight II have X successful feature or that it be released on time to crush Y competing game in sales (X is usually a Diablo 2 or MMORPG feature and Y was commonly Diablo III but now tends to be Guild Wars 2). The oft-repeated Word of God is that TL2 is simply meant to be an all-round improvement over TL 1 and a testbed for some MMO concepts that interest the developers.
- Fans of Duke Nukem Forever often use this defense against the game's many critics. Enough that several critics wrote special editorials addressing it.
- Goat Simulator is a prominent example that's deliberately So Bad, It's Good, which some critics were fine with.
- Defenders of Enchanted Arms justly referenced this trope when it got attacked by critics complaining that it had a linear storyline, and strategic combat, both of which are perfectly standard for a jRPG. So their complaints boiled down to that it was a jRPG that played like a jRPG, instead of playing like a western RPG. Penny Arcade, of course, was on scene.
- The Spoony One acknowledges this in his New Moon Vlog, saying that he has to judge it on whether it does what it sets out to do well. He says that, insofar as it seeks to show the audience shirtless Native Americans, it sort of does, but it fails at everything else it attempts to do. And with that, couldn't they just find it on the net?
- He revisits this idea in his review of DOA: Dead or Alive, following twenty minutes of mockery with an admission that it's actually a pretty good adaptation. After all, the DoA games are best known for being about sexy women in martial arts fights, and the movie is mostly about sexy women in martial arts fights. It's a dumb movie, but it knows exactly what its audience wants and delivers on its premise (and after the other fighting game movies he did that month, one can see how important that is).
- He also touches upon this point in his Saints Row IV and The World's End vlog, stating his dislike of this trope's use as an excuse in the case of the two subjects of the vlog.
- The Nostalgia Critic passes the low quality of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and The Legend of Zelda cartoon off on the fact that they were intended for children; however he does comment that just because something is for kids doesn't really give its makers an excuse to be lazy with it.
- Also, in his review of Independence Day, he says that people tell him that it's a "Popcorn movie", but he insists on criticizing the movie anyway.
- Despite his seething hatred for The Care Bears Movie, he still recommended it for children from the age of one to... one. In the commentary for that review, he and his brother admitted that five-year-olds and younger generally would like it (as they did at that age), and that it at least had the merit that it didn't resort to violence in defeating the villain (which in his opinion would've broken its own Aesop).
- In his review of A Troll in Central Park, he claimed that one of the reasons he makes the videos is to try and convince studios that they shouldn't just resort to padding and pandering when making kids movies, when great and memorable films could be made instead.
- The Nostalgia Chick went on a similar rant at the end of her "Worst Disney Sequels" review, saying that it was negligent parenting to not care how idiotic your child's entertainment is.
- Mike and Jay sarcastically invoked this trope when reviewing Movie 43 for Half in the Bag.
- SF Debris brings up this trope in his review of the Doctor Who episode "Fear Her". He parodies this, by stating that those who will be offended that he tears this episode a new one are not the intended audience (which was similar to Matthew Graham shrugging off the criticism of the episode itself), points out the flaws of this attempted deflection of criticism, and points out that his own children didn't like the episode, finding it boring.
- Used to counter complaints about Family Guy, as it's a show that "doesn't have to try and have morals or life lessons to be learned. It's supposed to be funny above all else."
- This argument is not altogether unfamiliar in comedy but it doesn't work too well with, for instance, episodes that are message heavy at the expense of humor like "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven"
- At the same time, much criticism comes from people inherently against the use of Overly Long Gags used as Padding.
- In-Universe on South Park with Chinpokomon, a Show Within a Show that the boys like. After watching an episode Randy notes that it's not horribly violent or vulgar, but Sharon objects that it's incredibly stupid, which could do just as much damage to a child's psyche. It's also brainwashing them to bomb Pearl Harbor, but that's a whole different can of worms.
- Later, we have The Tale of Scrotie Mc Boogerballs, which directly addresses this, using the offensive book as a stand-in for South Park itself, saying that it uses Vulgar Humor just because it's funny, and that there aren't any hidden morals or messages in it.
- The typical argument used by Ultimate Spider-Man's creators, especially, Man of Action Studios, to defend the show against the many complains about its lack of quality, is that it's intended to be a kid's show. Usually, this kind of argument only results in the fans being even more pissed off. As Brian Michael Bendis pointed out, the show does quite well with younger demographics, who are Disney's target audience to begin with. The adult fans complaining on the message boards aren't the ones Disney and the toy companies are after, which is sadly one of the reasons The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (which did well with adults but not as well with kids) was not renewed.
- Zero Punctuation: In his review of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Yahtzee, while generally favourable to the game, criticised the writing. He acknowledged that one could argue that you shouldn't expect much from a game based on a comic book, but then immediately countered that with the argument that just because it's a comic book, it doesn't mean that it has to have bad writing.