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Critical Dissonance

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"Well, I liked it."

"If film critics could destroy a movie, Michael Bay and Adam Sandler would be working at Starbucks. If film critics could make a movie a hit, the Dardenne brothers would be courted by every studio in town."

Critical Dissonance is polar opposition of public to critical opinion. Critics might love a certain work while general audiences shun it, or vice versa.

Critics may look down on a popular work on principle, denouncing it as Lowest Common Denominator garbage that’s all flash and no substance. Conversely, the public may see a work beloved by the critics as boring, angsty and pretentious drivel engineered solely to win awards from equally boring, angsty and pretentious Academy members. Other divides have been forming involving some critics putting greater emphasis on the politics some media are perceived to be pushing rather than the merits of the media itself.

Sometimes later opinions can match, and then we have Vindicated by History (or Deader Than Disco, as the case may be), but not always.

Some media are less affected by this than others. Since comedy relies on what an individual finds funny, this is the genre of movie most likely to spur on Critical Dissonance. One critic may find a movie hilarious while another finds it tacky. Switch out comedy for the horror genre and you get the same polarizing results. Art — all kinds, not just abstract — is notoriously subject to this. And architects get hit with it all the time.


In general, this trope has historically been uncommon with video games, partly due to the far greater reliance on reviews among gamers, and partly because the technical side (gameplay, graphics, etc.) tends to carry more weight with games than with books or TV. Additionally, good gameplay (at least in terms of, say, lacking glitches) is much more black-and-white than a good story, writing, or acting. However, video-game journalism is infamous for its frightening degree of corruption, to the point where reviewers who don’t sufficiently praise games that buy enough advertising space on their stomping grounds tend to get fired pretty quickly. When Critical Dissonance does occur with games, it is more often than not because gamers thought that the critics had been overly kind (like the Four Point Scale), or had even been paid upfront by the publishers as part of an advertising and/or first-look article special.


Niche media may particularly suffer this because some or all of the critics assigned to review it aren’t members of its target demographic, or don’t even have a basic knowledge of the genre. To look at it another way, if the business model involves an audience who will actively seek it out, those people will be predisposed to enjoy it, whereas critics who see it out of professional necessity will not have that selection bias.

Telltale signs of Critical Dissonance include disagreement between a work’s revenue and its reviews, simultaneous nominations for both ‘best X’ and ‘worst Y’ awards (bonus points if X=Y), and angry comments on those review sites that have them. Note that both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic user scores should never be used to evaluate whether something falls under this trope since its voting system is extremely susceptible to manipulation.

That the main differences between the average audience viewer and the average critic are vocabulary, sometimes ego, and employment in the field of journalism, that is what makes the large contrast between viewpoints either fascinating or predictable, depending on your degree of cynicism.

See also Critical Backlash, Critic-Proof, Bias Steamroller, It's Popular, Now It Sucks!, Opinion Myopia, 8.8, and Oscar Bait. Could overlap with Pop-Culture Isolation and Acclaimed Flop. Critical Dissonance is often a driving factor behind shows and works being consigned to the Comedy Ghetto. Contrast with Cult Classic where a work tends to have neither critical acclaim nor general popularity, but is enjoyed by a few die-hard fans. Possibly the cause of Mainstream Obscurity.

Example subpages

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Black Bird is one of the bestselling shoujo manga in years, yet most mainstream anime/manga reviewers have given it lukewarm to negative reviews (with some even being openly disgusted by it).
  • Judging for several critics's reviews, one could think that Digimon Xros Wars was a sound success in general. While critics liked the show and it did had a relatively strong merchandising presence, Xros Wars ultimately failed to endear the fans and harvested the lowest ratings in the entire Digimon franchise. Even today, the most popular opinion in the internet is that it was a So Okay, It's Average with few really memorable elements.
  • Hot Gimmick has received mixed/poor reviews. Despite this, it has sold well as it had a twelve-volume run. In some circles, however, saying you’re a fan of Hot Gimmick will get you very dirty looks.
  • Among casual manga/anime fans and the general public, Naruto is a merchandising juggernaut with a massive and rabid fanbase. On the critical side of things and amongst more core and hardcore circles, it’s generally treated as a fairly average and generic Shounen action series at best, and overrated and over-exposed at worst. Though late into the series, said fans have started to agree more with critics and the serious circles, particularly when filler comes into play.
  • Pokémon:
  • All incarnations of Yu-Gi-Oh! have been huge financial successes and run for years, but many people outside the demographic consider them to be little more than either glorified card game commercials or watered down garbage. Complaints include overreliance on gimmicks and Aesops.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has been almost unanimously positively reviewed by professional anime/manga critics, yet it's a very divisive series within the world of anime fandom, with some finding the tone way too dark, the cast having so many issues that they're under-developed or unlikable, and an ending that was hard for many to understand, among others.
  • The original anime adaptation of Sailor Moon is one of the most iconic anime series of the '90s and among the most popular and recognized anime of all time, but if you asked some critics what they thought about it, they'd likely call it nothing more than formulaic Magical Girl fare, likely because the series suffers a big case of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny.
  • Super Sonico get mixed to negative reviews from Anime reviewers on the web, but the few Anime fans that have given the series a chance has been much kinder.
  • Black Clover performs very well in popularity polls in Weekly Shonen Jump, both the Japanese and English versions, but gets mediocre to negative reviews overall (even going as far to be deemed the worst manga of 2016 at a panel at San Diego Comic-Con). Most likely, the reason for this is because Black Clover is highly formulaic and derivative, resulting in a boring read for those who have already read a lot of manga but an exciting story for beginners who aren't familiar with the other Shonen series Black Clover is imitating. It also doesn't help matters that it's commonly compared unfavorably to its more critically and popularly acclaimed contemporaries like its arch-rival My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Dr. Stone.
  • Sonic X generally received mixed to positive reviews. Fans generally consider the show's first two seasons to be mediocre at best, with Season 3 being considered either the best season or the worst.
  • Love Hina was adored by critics, but many audiences, especially over time, dislike it for using or inventing some of the most hated cliches in harem manga and anime, most of the characters being Jerk Asses, or for constantly playing what looks like domestic abuse for laughs. To say nothing of the quality of the English, Latin American Spanish, and German dubs. This was Lampshaded by Bennett the Sage in one of his reviews for the series, whenever there was a scene he found really absurd, he made quotes from positive reviews appear on the screen.
    Sage: "Depressed yet?"

  • Scottish painter Jack Vettriano's work is criticized as softcore porn. Vettriano makes more money from prints of his paintings than selling the works himself. They are popular in coffee shops and Italian restaurants. Scottish sculptor David Mach has called this attitude to Vettriano’s paintings “art world snobbery”.
  • The works of the late Thomas Kinkade, “Painter of Light,”note  are so enormously successful that his distributor claims that his works can be found in one American home in twenty. Art critics lambast his Sugar Bowl themes and subjects while dishing out backhanded praise for his marketing savvy.
  • Twentieth-century Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck is very popular for painting and drawing romantic scenes of 19th-century life and fairy tales, which have been printed on countless calendars, postcards and other merchandising. But, you guessed it, average art critics regard it as petty kitsch.
  • Margaret Keane’s paintings of vulnerable angels and waifs with enormous doe-like eyes are widely reproduced and appear in a lot of households. You’ll never see her work being exhibited in a serious museum, though. In Sleeper, by intellectual darling Woody Allen, it's even joked that in the future Keane will be considered one of the greatest artists in history.
  • Hummel figurines are collectors’ items for many people who see them as adorable little statues. Among people who fancy actual art, these statues are dismissed as nauseatingly bad taste.
  • Garden gnomes are things you will never see in the gardens of people who claim to have an artistic taste. All other people in the world just see it as nice.
  • The artwork of Jeff Koons has tried to bridge the gap between art and kitsch, by making statues of everyday kitsch objects and exposing them in a museum. This polarized many art critics who feel it is either a postmodern subversion of kitsch, while others say it’s just the same thing.

    Asian Animation 

  • Among automotive journalists and enthusiasts, especially in North America, it's a joke and a cliche to bring up the fact that their tastes in motor vehicles almost never line up with those of the average person buying a car.
    • Wagons and hatchbacks are the modern darlings of car buffs, many of whom bemoan the fact that so few are sold in the US and that the market for such has been cannibalized by crossover utility vehicles (or CUVs), a vehicle segment that can drive them into a frothing rage for being bloated, soulless "everycars" that don't excel at anything and have zero personality. For the average Joe or Jane who only regularly drives one car, however, a crossover is the ultimate Boring, but Practical Jack-of-All-Stats choice: nimble enough to escape an accident even if it can't compete with a sedan or a wagon at the track, roomy enough to hold gear for a weekend trip even if it can't also comfortably fit a family of eight on top like a minivan, rugged enough for large puddles, dirt, grass, and poorly-maintained roads even if it will never take on the Rubicon Trail like a truck or a Jeep, and with fuel efficiency that, while slightly less than a sedan or wagon, often far outstrips that of a truck.
    • Before the crossover, it was the "econobox", a slang term for compact cars made either by the Japanese or in a style imitative of how they built cars. Cars like the Honda Civic and Accord, the Ford Fiesta and Escort, and above all else the Toyota Camry (in beige) were seen by enthusiasts and journalists in the late 20th century as symbols of how the oil crises and regulations of The '70s had emasculated the auto industry. And yet the Camry has been the best-selling car in the US (excluding trucks and SUVs) for nearly two decades straight, building a reputation as a Nigh Invulnerable machine that will keep going long after cooler cars have broken down.

    Comic Books 
  • Avengers Arena and its sequel Avengers Undercover. Professional reviewers loved them and praised their social satire and Anyone Can Die tone. Readers were divided at best on the former and almost entirely despised the latter, which ended up getting axed at only ten issues.
  • Daniel Way’s run on Deadpool was disliked by most professional critics and derided as dreck aimed at the Lowest Common Denominator, but managed to sell very well and is currently one of the longest runs anyone has had on the character. Over time, however, this trope seems to be subverted; some fans have started to agree more with critics and consider Way’s run with Deadpool the absolute worst. They attribute its success to a counter-reaction on Deadpool's In Name Only adaptation in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Others feel that, while not bad, per se, and playing a major role in bringing Deadpool back into the mainstream, it has negatively impacted how many people perceive the character Explanation 
  • Gail Simone’s The Movement was critically beloved, but readers couldn’t have cared less about it, leading to it being Cut Short just as its plot was kicking into high gear. Nowadays, it's more or less forgotten outside of the tiny, niche fanbase it formed during its brief run.
  • The comics of Mœbius are praised as high art among comic-book aficionados, yet average comic-strip readers don’t understand them.
  • Krazy Kat is widely praised as one of the best comic strips of the 20th century, yet average readers find it way too eccentric and don’t get what all the fuss is about.
  • Pogo has always been more popular with fans of good satire than regular comic fans, who would find it too pretentious.
  • Jommeke: In Flanders, it’s among the most popular, best-known and top-selling comic strips, widely read among children and remembered fondly by many adults who grew up with them. Yet serious readers have always looked down upon them because it is extremely bland, formulaic, naïve and conventional. Only in the final years leading to his death did creator Jef Nys finally get some kind of serious attention and praise for his work, though the taboo still remains.
  • Underground Comics: Hugely influential on the graphic arts and fellow comic-strip artists, loved by some hippies, but apart from that most of the general audience have always looked down upon them as pure pornography or sick, twisted, female-unfriendly filth.
  • Corto Maltese is praised as one of the most important and impressive comic strips of the 20th century, yet the general public has usually not even heard of it.
  • Gary Panter is one of the most influential comic artists to have emerged since the late 1970s, but his comics don’t sell at all among regular comic book fans.
  • One big example is the comic strip adaptation of the M.A.S.K comic released by IDW in 2016. Critics love it for its strong racial diversity and more Fast and Furious-style of storytelling. Fans of the original cartoon dislike it for the Race Lift of Matt Trakker and having a more serious storyline. The IDW Hasbro Wiki even calls it "The biggest example of Critical Dissonance ever", with a link to this page.
  • Many comic strips based on the popularity of a TV/movie franchise will be dismissed as utter money-grabbing garbage for children. It doesn’t help that many companies just give the job to a few amateurs and tell them to stick as closely to the general plot or spirit of the original, while they know that it will sell well regardless of its quality or lack thereof.
    • Many Disney comics are usually seen as pure children’s entertainment despite tight quality control of the company. The only one to get some praise by critics and audience alike is Carl Barks, whose Donald Duck adaptations not only expanded the universe but also enriched it with clever satire, engaging storylines, memorable characters, and well-told moral life lessons.
    • Urbanus: In its early run it was a cult among the general audience in Flanders, mostly because of the fame of the comedian on which it was based, but critics absolutely despised its art which may go down as some of the ugliest art in a comic book ever this side of Pitch. As time changed and the art style got better critics started to like it as well, especially because the comedian has a good grasp of what the author is doing, but is still dismissed by hipsters. Seeing as they are Acceptable Targets it’s very understandable.
    • FC De Kampioenen: This comic strip is based on the popularity of the Flemish sitcom of the same name and the last comic strip launched in Flanders to still sell in enormous quantities. It has even survived the original sitcom which has now been cancelled in 2011. Despite being a huge bestseller, critics who consider the creator’s other works to be much better loathe it.
  • America Chavez's solo is the best example of this in the already contentious All-New Marvel lineup. Critics adore the series for its use of a female homosexual person-of-color for a main character; readers instead considered it one of the worst series in the lineup, criticizing it as poorly written with an Unintentionally Unsympathetic main character, narmy dialoguenote , nonsensical plot decisionsnote  and hamfisted political viewpoint pushingnote . On Comic Book Roundup, its lowest Critics rating from the first 10 issues is a 6.9; in contrast, its highest User rating from that same period is only 3.7. The most telling aspect of dissonance? Entertainment Weekly named America Superhero of the Year because of her solo; the next day, her book was revealed to have been cancelled, likely due to its abysmal sales.
  • The "Female Thor series" re-direction for The Mighty Thor is another hugely contentious Marvel work. Critics absolutely adored the idea of relaunching one of Marvel's most iconic heroes as a woman, whilst fans were torn between those who agreed and a very vocal alignment of those who hated the idea, citing a vast list of problems with the series' execution ranging from the handling of "the Thor identity"note , to the reduction of many characters to straw misogynists in order to make Female Thor look better.

  • Dan Brown’s books tend to get this, but none as much as The Da Vinci Code. Absolutely despised by critics, but some of the most successful books out there. That being said, a study found that, in the UK, The Da Vinci Code is the book most frequently donated to charity shops. The public certainly bought many copies of it; that’s not to say they enjoyed it.
  • Barbara Cartland was at one point among the most widely read authors in the world. Yet she only wrote romance novels that literary critics dismissed as shallow and formulaic.
  • The Clique, at least when the books first came out. Critics hated them, but they were bestsellers and beloved by their demographic. By now, however, that demographic has grown up, realized all the Fridge Horror and Dude, Not Funny! moments in the series, and now they’re nigh-universally despised.
  • Discworld for a while — at the time when Terry Pratchett was being claimed as "the most shoplifted author in Britain", most critics seemed mildly baffled by him. Eventually, it went meta; by the 2000s the majority of reviews were hailing him as a genius while claiming that all other critics were blinded by genre snobbery.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey sold remarkably well. Quite a few literature/English majors, participants in the actual world of BDSM, and critics as a whole despise it.
  • Jonathan Franzen was actually the subject of a controversy around this when his 2010 novel Freedom won rave reviews, but received backlash from a number of younger, mostly female writers, with a tweet by Jennifer Weiner serving as the spark. For many of them, it was The Last Straw in what had become a perception that literary criticism was dominated by a small clique of mostly white, mostly male, and uniformly well-to-do writers who gave undue weight to books from people who shared their backgrounds and Bourgeois Bohemian worldview, while mostly ignoring books written by women and people of color (save for a few tokens) unless they sold so many copies as to make themselves impossible to dismiss. The affair has since been regarded in hindsight as the beginning of a sea change in literary criticism in The New '10s, marking the breakdown of the Girl-Show Ghetto in literature (especially Young Adult Literature).
  • The Left Behind series of Christian apocalyptic fiction fits into this, as the critical response to the books tended to accuse them of starring dull, unlikable characters and having an Idiot Plot only made possible by an ostensibly Like Reality Unless Noted Earth populated with Flat Earth Atheists.note  However, it sold amazingly well, constantly enjoying New York Times bestseller status, and is regarded as one of the most influential pieces of contemporary “Christian” fiction.
  • Zig Zagged Trope with Stephen King, who consistently gets good sales and good reviews, but with a significant number of literary elites considering him sub-literate Gorn. This attitude peaked when King won the National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution, with Harold Bloom declaring the award (and American literature itself) Ruined Forever.
  • Les Misérables is listed under theatre, but the novel was also received very negatively when first published, described as “infantile” and “tasteless and inept.” However, it was a commercial success and is now considered a classic of French literature.
  • The Mike Hammer books by Mickey Spillane were hated by critics back in the day, and to a degree they still are. On the other hand, in 1980 Spillane was responsible for seven of the top 15 bestselling books in America, and his books have been adapted into successful movies, TV shows, and radio dramas. Spillane himself mocked this trope, stating that he didn’t care what critics thought so much as what his fans thought.
    “Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar … If the public likes you, you’re good.”
  • Karl May’s novels have always been bestsellers, but mostly among young boys who like adventure stories set in The Wild West. It’s not considered worthy of the name literature among other people.
  • A fan of the cult-classic book (and movie) Mommie Dearest would probably be shocked to find how much critics hated it, as well as other stars of The Golden Age of Hollywood who actually had known Joan Crawford and her adopted children and wrote in their own autobiographies how off-base the book was. Faye Dunaway said she wished she hadn’t acted in that movie after it hurt her career.
  • The Twilight Saga gets a mention here too. Successful as it was (in its target market, at least), many readers still avoid it like the plague years after the fad ended. What’s funny is that Twilight’s original target demographic has by now outgrown the books themselves.
  • Danielle Steel is currently the best selling author alive and the fourth bestselling author of all time. She has been a near-permanent fixture on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestsellers lists—in 1989, she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on the New York Times Bestseller List for the most consecutive weeks of any author—381 consecutive weeks at that time. Since her first book was published, every one of her novels has hit bestseller lists in paperback, and each one released in hardback has also been a hardback bestseller—novels that have been consistently dismissed by critics as "formulaic" and "fluff."
  • Upon publication, T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was derided by critics who felt he was wasting his talent writing whimsy for children. Fair to say it's been Vindicated by History, and often acts as a gateway into Eliot's more serious work.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • There can often be a huge dissonance between what the wrestling Smart Mark fans and critics are praising and what the fans are cheering for in the arenas. Some examples:
    • John Cena is despised by smarks, so his matches tend to get voted down, or at least they did during the PG era when his Hatedom was at its strongest. Since Cena became a part-timer and was dropped down to the midcard in early 2015, most critics rate his matches fairly enough and find him to be a solid wrestler and smarks have warmed up to him a lot since he gained a Replacement Scrappy in Roman Reigns.
    • Reigns was hugely popular when he was introduced as the "silent but deadly" warrior of The Shield. Once the stable broke up and began being pushed as the second coming of Cena, fans' opinions of him quickly soured. Reigns is widely seen as-as a mediocre wrestler with poor mic skills who is only being put in the spot he's in because of his family background note . He still gets good reactions from more casual audiences (although not as much as Cena) and is one of WWE's top merchandise sellers, despite being vehemently loathed by smarks.
    • Too Cool were especially loathed by critics during the Attitude Era but got great reactions. Fans who aren't Smart Marks tend to remember them as a good tag team with a fun gimmick.
    • Santino Marella was pretty over in his time, but critics never rated his matches very high. Smarks consider him an embarrassment.
    • Paige gets good reactions from fans in the arenas but is an extreme Base-Breaking Character with critics and internet fans.
    • Kelly Kelly was insanely over in the PG Era, and even Diva Dirt writers warmed up to her. Anyone outside the Diva-fan demographic utterly hated her guts.
    • Natalya Neidhart is one of the favourites on Diva Dirt but smarks tend to be indifferent to her. Likewise with Alicia Fox.
    • Molly Holly is praised by smarks as one of the greatest female wrestlers ever, someone who never botched and could carry lesser opponents to a decent match. However, casual fans didn't care anything about her, partly because she was a devout Christian and refused to have the blatant sex appeal her colleagues did, partly because she was too willing to let others shine at her expense, and partly because she was too gung-ho to make herself the butt of comedy spots.
    • The Bella Twins, especially Nikki (mainly due to having John Cena as her partner rather than Daniel Bryan), have a very vocal internet Hatedom. However, critics began praising them for their improvement by the end of 2015 and they get decent reactions from most casual audiences.
    • Kevin Nash is one of the most hated wrestlers among critics and internet fans, but was insanely over in the 1990s and nearly always gets good reactions when he appears on TV these days.
    • Melina became massively over in 2008 after a Heel–Face Turn and was praised for being one of the better workers of that era. However, she's a Base-Breaking Character within the wrestling community, mostly stemming from her reputation for being obnoxious and a slut in the locker room during her early years in the company.
    • Summer Rae. The casual audiences couldn't give less of a fuck about her, as she's little more than a heel Jobber who occasionally gets fluke wins, and that's not even getting into the near-universally panned love quadrilateral storyline with Rusev, Lana and Dolph Ziggler during 2015. However, smarks, particularly those who saw her work in NXT consider her an underrated talent with much potential being dealt a bad hand on the main roster.
    • Jacqueline. Audiences outside the South Eastern US never cared for her (WWE crowds would often be dead when she'd enter the arena), but she's one of the more well-respected competitors among Smart Marks.
    • Maria Kanellis (at least during her first WWE tenure). Diva Dirt writers didn't like her at all and expressed shock at the great reactions she got from fans in the arenas.
    • Randy Orton. Casual fans like him, but he's a Base-Breaking Character among critics and smarks.
    • Ashley Massaro got decent reactions from WWE audiences, but virtually every wrestling critic and journalist despised and mocked her to no end, especially Diva Dirt.
    • The most despised wrestler among the smart mark crowd is bound to be Hulk Hogan. But he still has legions of Hulkamaniacs and gets standing ovations whenever he appears on TV.
  • Not a wrestler, but a storyline. In October of 2009 Mickie James (who is almost universally liked by both casual fans and smart marks) had been moved from Raw to SmackDown. LayCool (the Heel duo of Michelle McCool and Layla, both of whom were stick-thin) began making fun of her and calling her "Piggy James" for supposedly being overweight, which initially drove Mickie to tears before she started fighting back. Despite winning her fifth and final Women's Championship from McCool, Mickie ultimately lost the feud and was subsequently released from WWE. Numerous critics and smart marks hated it (though Diva Dirt were more sympathetic to it) claiming that the opinions of LayCool reflected those of WWE's management (since they used to focus on Hollywood Thin supermodel-type women) and LayCool received a fair amount of X-Pac Heat because of it. Mickie listed it as one of the better feuds she had done during her time in WWE. Other fans pointed out that the commentators and other women made it perfectly clear that they didn't think Mickie was fat at all, that it was the first real storyline the Divas had in a while, and that many who criticized the angle were being hypocritical, since numerous smarks had been calling Mickie fat for ages.
  • WWE NXT is a Sacred Cow among critics and smarks. Casual fans are mixed about it and many don't even watch it.
  • Maria Kanellis mentioned above claims she would frequently check the ratings of the different segments. The WWE Diva Search was reviled by smarks, yet according to Maria, the segments were some of the highest rated on the show. That only applies to the 2004 and 2005 versions though, since, by 2006, the live audiences booed the shit out of those segments.
  • The Attitude Era is considered by most fans to be WWE's apex (considering that it's WWE's most profited period, had the highest ratings ever and unquestionably saved them from WCW's wrath, this opinion isn't unfounded). Smarks, however, are divisive to it, and there's a growing Hype Backlash towards the Nostalgia Filter of that era in favor of the Ruthless Aggression Era.

  • One review of Romeo and Juliet's premiere described it as “a mawkish melodrama which, God willing, will see no second performance.”
  • Les Misérables, which has been running nonstop for thirty-plus years in London and played to over 60 million people worldwide, was derided when it first opened, being accused of being glum and mawkish. The 2012 movie adaptation received a similar reception but was a box-office smash to the point that USA Today did a feature story about the dissonance.
  • Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was seen as little more than a glorified theme park show when it opened on Broadway in 1994 (Entertainment Weekly: “It belongs On Ice, not on Broadway”), but managed a decade-plus run and tons of professional and amateur productions. Since then many other grandiose family-friendly musicals have come down the pike — all adapted from well-known stories, and many outright Screen to Stage Adaptations as Beauty was. Most see only a few raves among seas of notices that are So Okay, It's Average at best and Beauty-level pans at worst (only The Lion King and Matilda are truly embraced by critics) but some soldier on to win the hearts of audiences anyway: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Christmas Story, and Mary Poppins are all success stories. Part of this dissonance owes to the fact that while critics and many ‘serious’ musical-theatre fans prefer more sophisticated fare like Stephen Sondheim shows, The Book of Mormon or Next to Normal, those shows aren’t exactly suitable for families.
  • Mamma Mia! — this fluffy Jukebox Musical is a symbol of the Lowest Common Denominator to hardcore musical-theatre lovers, and its 2008 movie adaptation didn’t wow film critics, but it’s sort of the Lighter and Softer Les Miserables when one looks at its global popularity.
  • The Phantom of the Opera received a lot of pans in its initial stagings in London, New York, and Toronto, but to say it rode those reviews out is an understatement — it celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in London in 2016 and reached that same milestone in New York in January 2018. Not to mention the myriad of foreign and touring productions as well.
  • We Will Rock You was panned when it opened in London, but word of mouth kept it alive, turning it into a sellout show that ran for over a decade and launched several sister productions elsewhere.
  • Wicked fared poorly in reviews from critics when it initially opened. The show became wildly popular and beloved among theatregoers. Subsequent productions elsewhere have received similar lukewarm critical responses, but the New York production is currently the eleventh-longest-running show in Broadway history (having celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2013) and the foreign and touring productions have seen comparable success.
  • Reviews for the original New York production of Almost, Maine were mixed, and it closed after only a month. Within five years it had become the most frequently produced play in American high schools, beating out perennial staples like Our Town, Noises Off, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

    Web Original 
  • Internet Reviewers, like The Nostalgia Critic, try their best to avert this. If they don't do their research on movies that are based on TV shows, comics, or any other media the work is based on before reviewing them, they get torn apart by the viewers. He later discussed this very trope in When Are Critics Wrong?
  • The Cinema Snob was made as a response to this trope. Brad Jones created his snob-persona to make fun of Exploitation Films because he felt it was weird that film critics panned those films for lacking qualities they weren’t supposed to have.
  • Bob Chipman:
    • He addressed this trope in his reviews of The Eagle (2011) and Knight and Day. He feels that the reason for the disconnect between critics and the ‘average’ moviegoer is because critics watch and pick apart hundreds of movies per year as part of their job and have learned how to spot every trope and plot twist from a mile away, making them much more receptive to original, offbeat movies that go against their expectations. Meanwhile, people who don’t see more than one movie a week (i.e. most non-critics) can better appreciate films that are cliched but well-made on the technical side, and find arthouse films that challenge "traditional" genre boundaries to be off-putting.
    • Chipman returned to the subject after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out to negative reviews but massive box-office, discussing how the idea of critics being out-of-touch with what the people want is a perennial concept that is as old as creative expression itself. He notes that, sometimes, time can vindicate the masses, using the Fast & the Furious films as an example; while critics previously dismissed them as dumb car chase flicks, they're now generally praised as one of the most progressive franchises in Hollywood and damn good action movies on top of it. In the case of superhero films, however, he feels that the idea of Critical Dissonance applying to the genre as a whole is mostly a fanboy myth, noting that critics' and fans' opinions have tended to line up more often than not — critics have long been friendly to superhero movies that were actually good (like Superman: The Movie, The Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool), while the ones they tend to dislike (such as Batman & Robin, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Green Lantern, and The Amazing Spider Man 2) were generally hated by fans and moviegoers as well.
  • A recurring theme in House To Astonish is comics that are praised to the skies, but nobody actually reads, and which are therefore doomed to be cancelled after six issues, no matter how good they might be. However, rather than suggest there's a dichotomy between what comics critics like and what the public like, Al and Paul reckon that comics readers have been trained to believe that anything outside the norm (which is what critics tend to like) isn't worth picking up because it won't affect the DC/Marvel Meta Plot and will probably be cancelled after six issues anyway.
  • Discussed in this article by Shamus Young on The Escapist, which asks why critics are so frequently enamored of ‘art games’ like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home that are usually Cult Classics at best and polarizing at worst. Much like Bob Chipman above, he argues that merely being a professional critic changes a person’s outlook on, and taste in, games or movies away from that of their audience. While mainstream moviegoers or gamers won’t complain about an overused trope or cliché if it’s done well, critics will roll their eyes at the mere sight of it.

    Western Animation 
  • Almost Naked Animals really hasn’t gone over well with fans (ratings from and IMDb have hovered in the 2.0 to 3.0 range), but the few mainstream reviewers who did pay any attention to the show found it decent. It was also nominated for a Gemini Award, sold lots of merchandise, and been green-lit for a third season — things that do not usually happen to shows ranking that low with viewers.
  • Avengers, Assemble! is generally seen in a mixed reception kind of light. However, that didn't stop it from getting 5 seasons and 127 episodes, making it the longest-running Marvel cartoon.
  • Breadwinners, despite being popular with its target audience, was universally panned by the rather infamous "cartoon community".
  • Sanjay and Craig is another example of being popular with children but hated by critics and adults. Unlike the aforementioned Breadwinners, though, people warmed up to it somewhat from its second season onward instead of hating it even more.
  • Hanna-Barbera has a library running on this trope. On critical pieces, they are the leaders of The Dark Age of Animation. Most classic animation critics only like the original Tom and Jerry cartoons (1940–58) and feel that as soon as the studio made the move to TV animation their work became awful. These people must be flustered year after year when Warner Bros. throws so many bones to home video releases and promoting them than the more critically hailed parts of the library. Then again, it's odd that after 40 years of popularity, there are still some critics who have nothing but disdain for Scooby-Doo.
  • Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain is typically seen as an unneeded retool of a series that was already doing fine, not to mention the entire concept was simply lit by Executive Meddling, to the point that it went unmentioned when the original Pinky and the Brain series was released on DVD. Critics loved it, though, and it won several awards (including an Emmy) during its really short run.
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey was generally seen as a solid series by the few mainstream critics who noticed it at the time. On the other hand, general audiences were pretty divided on it, with some deeming it one of Cartoon Network's worst animated series and many others calling it So Okay, It's Average at best. However, the series did prove fairly successful with target audiences.
  • The My Little Pony G3 specials are not well-liked by the general public (outside of its target demographic), but several specials score around six or seven on IMDb.
  • The animated pilot The Groovenians was panned by both audiences and reviewers, yet was nominated for an Annie Award.
  • Drawn Together was despised by critics (to the point where the show made an episode about it after Entertainment Weekly gave the show an F), yet it managed to gain a cult following during its relatively short run.
  • The first half of season 1 of BoJack Horseman had a critical response that could be summed up as So Okay, It's Average. It’s currently rated by Metacritic users at an 8.3. It’s subverted as critics eventually came around once the show grew the beard in the season's second half, with Season 2 earning a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Duckman received great reviews from TV critics, intellectuals and people who liked its satirical bite. But the general public didn’t catch on to it and after four seasons it was cancelled.
  • Family Guy: Extraordinarily popular with regular viewers and some critics, but other critics feel it’s very lowbrow, formulaic and just rips off other franchises under the moniker ‘parody’ while much of it just feels more like ‘plagiarism’. More viewers are starting to agree with the critics, however, especially with regards to later seasons.
  • Brickleberry was disparaged as a wannabe Family Guy clone in a time where Family Guy isn't seen a much better in hindsight, yet the Internet Movie Database gives the show a 6.2 score, meaning it’s So Okay, It's Average.
  • The Legend of Korra has been well-received by critics with positive reviews all around. Fans, on the other hand, had a more mixed reception, viewing it as a Contested Sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, with the arrival of Book 3, the series has become universally acclaimed by both critics and fans as well, with the remaining detractors mainly being The Last Airbender purists.
  • Season 6 of Adventure Time received praise for its newfound cosmic, Contemplate Our Navels nature, citing it as an example of the show's growing maturation. However, Season 6 is considered to be the most divisive season by fans for the same reasons. Many were put off by the show's newfound philosophizing and considered the new direction pretentious and ridiculous, thought the season finale was anti-climactic, and believed that the writers were getting more than a little self-indulgent.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: The show has a notably loathed final season. Despite this, the critics praised it and gave it a 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is 80% more than the audience gave.
  • Bless the Harts. It is positively received by professional critics with an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes from them, but general audiences tend to dislike the show, with a paltry 4.8/10 on IMDb, accusing it of copying other Fox animated sitcoms.

  • Nearly all design enthusiasts loathe the fonts Comic Sans and Papyrus, yet lots of ordinary people love them. They even turn up on signs for local businesses.
  • Mosin-Nagant rifles. You’d be hard-pressed to find a professional reviewer who would have much nice to say about them while complaining about the sights, the straight bolt handle, the action, and the rimmed cartridge. People who shoot Mosins, however, tend to say that all the flaws found within the rifles are what give them character. Both sides can agree on two things though: Mosin-Nagant rifles have literally more than a century of history in them (designed before the turn of the 20th century, and some still in service to this very day!), and they are absolutely indestructible.
  • The Zagat’s Guides are a series of books rating numerous venues (restaurants, shops, etc.) in over 70 cities. Following the alphabetical index, places are grouped into categories, one of which is ‘Critic-Proof’ — places that consistently do good business despite mediocre food/service/merchandise, even when the patrons themselves attest to the mediocrity.
  • There's a dissonance between pet breeders and pet owners, especially when it comes to dogs and cats. This has been discussed in various documentaries and articles such as Pedigree Dogs Exposed and Adam Ruins Everything. How professional breeders think dogs should look are not exactly what fans of the breed believe. For example, in America most Chihuahua are of the larger "deer-headed" type, and its the one seen in most media (such as the Taco Bell dog or the dog from the Legally Blonde films), but American Kennel Club only allows "apple-headed" Chihuahua and rejects the other variation. When it comes to cats, most Persian breeders around the world breed them to be very flat-faced but most people prefer the traditional, longer-muzzled face.


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