Christian readers aren’t the only ones guilty of biased reviews. But boy are we guilty! In rendering indiscriminate praise, however, we often ignore the possible backlash… biased one-star reviews.
Yes, we are partly responsible for the dreaded one-star monster.
I was reminded of this recently while reading a one-star review of a fellow Christian author’s novel in which the reviewer flatly said something to this effect:
“I’m giving this book one star to balance out all the undeserving five-star reviews. The book’s really more like a three-star, but someone has to compensate for all the blind prejudice.”
That was refreshing to hear.
Reading Christian filmmaker Kyle Prohaska’s take on the subject was even more refreshing. Prohaska directed the newly released Standing Firm, a film with a decidedly “Christian” aim. Nevertheless, this did not keep the director from an objective assessment of his own work and Christian art in general. At his blog, in a post entitled Christian Movies… just how good are they?, he talked about the backlash that biased Christian reviewers have on the genre as a whole by using IMDB.com’s built-in algorithm, which is meant to help offset voting abuse.
October Baby made by two friends of mine, The Erwin Brothers, has a 4.4 currently on IMDB with 47.7% voting 10/10 and 26.8% voting 1/10. Had the Christian folks who gave it a 10/10 given it something more honest in the 6-9 range, IMDB wouldn’t have had to bias the score to account for both abuses…in fact it probably would’ve given the film a much higher score then 4.4 if the abuse was heavily on the low end and well balanced on the top end.
Lets face it, very few movies deserve a 10/10 because that means PERFECT. You might have that perfect movie in your mind, and if you’re being honest then by all means, click away. 1/10 is reserved for the very worst of movies, and I think there’s actually place for movies to have a rating that low. But on the top-end, 10/10 should be nearly impossible, so why do so many Christian movie fans enthusiastically pad our scores in an attempt to legitimize the movies we love? If you didn’t know already, voting that way on IMDB actually HURTS the score of a film. At one point because of the score my film was getting on IMDB, and because of all the 10?s the film had received, I asked friends who I knew had done it to change the vote to something honest. Whether that meant it went from a 10 to a 5 or a 10 to a 3 doesn’t matter. Don’t judge a film high just because it affirms things you do, but weigh things out, logically and carefully. It’s not that hard to do really. Afterwards my score balanced out a bit more into territory that felt more fair to me. To those who would say “well we gotta vote 10/10 or 5 stars because of all the liberal wackjobs who are giving it 1/10 and 1 star!” you’re not helping you’re hurting. Extreme kickback and reaction is never surprising but always annoying. What you’re doing is just as harmful as what they’re doing. You’re mad at them because they’re bias, but aren’t you doing the same? They think it’s the biggest piece of trash ever, and you think it’s the greatest thing to ever grace the silver screen. Anybody seeing a pattern here? (emphasis mine)
This is five-star honesty! Okay, maybe it’s just three-star. Either way, Prohaska’s take is like a breath of fresh air inside the Christian echo chamber. (And if you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the director’s original article in its entirety, follow him on Facebook, and his other networks.)
Sure, some will interpret this as another slam on Christian fiction, Christian films, and Christian artists. It’s anything but. Frankly, if we had more folks like Kyle who a.) Are active Christian artists, and b.) Willing to be honest and objective about their craft, our industry would be far better off. Instead, we pucker up at every one-star review and cry foul.
The hard truth is that indiscriminate one-star reviews are often just a reaction to so many indiscriminate five-star reviews. We have, partly, made this monster. So perhaps if we did less gushing, we’d do our industry a favor.
The only other question I’m left with is: When will Amazon adopt IMDB.com’s system to offset voting abuse?