Increased negativity towards more recent movies/TV shows

I’ve noticed something when it comes to certain nerd-type genres (I used the term lovingly as I am one) and the increased negativity in reviews and reactions to new and more recent shows/movies. I’m talking about the superhero type, Star Wars, Star Trek, Sci Fi, etc.

Are shows/movies in these areas worse now, or are we more jaded? I feel like many times I’m reading a review or reaction these days it’s almost like the reviewer went into the experience trying to figure out how to tear it down rather than just trying to enjoy it for what it is. Maybe because negative reviews get more attention? Perhaps that is slanting the appearance.

I’ve been a fan of this kind of stuff since I was a kid, I watched my Star Wars trilogy VHS tapes more times than I can count. The Marvel movies were the realization of everything I was hoping for after growing up watching super hero cartoons. New Star Wars, New Star Trek. I feel like we are kind of in a golden age of these genres right now. So much money is being spent to produce content for us grown up kids, I think it’s great.

However, so many things are getting so much fierce negative backlash these days. The Star Wars sequel movies, Captain Marvel, The Eternals, Star Trek Discovery gets a lot of crap, Book of Boba Fett disappointed a lot of people evidently, now Picard season 2 is getting the treatment after only 1 episode.

Obviously this is ultimately all subjective, and everyone’s opinions are valid. Of course quality varies and not everything is a great show/movie. But I can’t help but feel that maybe us grown up kids have gotten kind of jaded. Things don’t resonate with us the way they did when we were younger maybe? Maybe there’s just too much of this kind of content being made? I’m not sure, and I’m certainly not trying to invalidate anyone’s opinions on any particular work. Most of these things have or have had their own threads, so this isn’t meant to rehash that, just wondering if anyone else has noticed this increased negativity these days and has any suggestion as to why. I personally feel that if we subjected much of the stuff we loved as kids to the same rigorous adult critique that we do for current works, they may not stand up as well as we think either. The nostalgia factor/childhood perspective doesn’t exist for anything coming out now.

My take is that these reactions have little to do with the quality of the product and everything to do with the way extreme positions get more eyeballs online.

The trend has existed since the beginning of the internet, first broadly noticed when Amazon reviews tend to peak at 1s and 5s with few 3s. Then social media started rewarding the loudest voices with the most exaggerated opinions, with the cliche being seeking likes.

In a small way, the trend is understandable. If faced with a thousand choices you’d rather get a strong push one way or the other than a thousand “mehs” or “make up your own minds.” But too many of the loud comments appear even before a show or a movie can be seen, so something other than critical commentary must be involved.

Yes, that seems pretty likely to me as well. With the way clicks work online the most extreme reviews will tend to get more attention, so it’s probably artificially negative due to that.

For instance, I have not provided any online reviews for any of the shows/movies I mentioned. I suspect that is true for the vast majority of “I liked it fine and had fun” crowd.

I agree that there’s a LOT of the shoutiest voices getting the attention, but I think a big part of it is how your ‘first’ of something is always at some level, the best. The three easiest examples of genre shows where I’ve seen the issue is Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, and Cowboy Bebop (Netflix Live Action). In all of these shows, they are fine in every technical sense, and in many ways superior to the original in appearance, but the very different TONE sets people off.

Discovery picked a tricky time in it’s close overlap with TOS, and the modifications to the Lore pissed off a lot of people who were (as another example) were already irritated with Enterprise, which went much further back and had more flexibility. Picard takes characters that a generation grew up loving, that were positive, if flawed, and dropped in a much more Grimdark future which was jarring for many. And CB modified existing characters to make (IMHO) a more nuanced story with better developed characters, but those who watched the original felt that ‘their’ characters were too different.

So factor in an additional gloss of rose colored glasses for the past, and yeah, there is increasing negativity.

Now this doesn’t apply to the newer Marvel movies, but there I think it’s the earlier point plus complaints about losing characters that they had become emotionally attached to and don’t want to bond with ‘new’ characters.

Maybe the negative voices are getting more attention, but I submit the actual quality IS bad. How many people are saying Disco is preferred over TNG/TOS? How many are saying The Rise of Skywalker is the equal to A New Hope? Infinity War/Endgame is the best Avengers movie?

Oh, you can like it fine, but I think a lot of “like” is really “it doesn’t suck as much as it could have/I expected it to.”

I’m just one person, but I give all these a fair chance. I’ve been giving them a fair chance sine ST The Motion Picture. And 8 times out of ten ST has let me down. I didn’t go into STV expecting it to be the worst ST film ever: it showed me it was.

My criteria is did I have fun? Did I enjoy the time I spent watching.

There aren’t many things that are so bad that I genuinely did not have fun at least. There’s a place between greatest movie ever and totally horrible. I feel like a lot of reviews that are in the totally horrible category are not fair. I’ve seen really horrible movies. None of these are that IMO.

I don’t think something has to be equal to something else to be enjoyable for what it is.

Not being equal to something great does not equal completely awful and unwatchable. Which is the tone of many reviews these days. I don’t think hyperbole is necessary to say something isn’t as good as something else that you enjoyed more.

I absolutely agree that the endless barrage of sequels, prequels, reboots, reinventions, and re-imaginings has been destructive of quality. Corporate media owners know they can exploit brands and familiar names - but of course that’s only because audiences continue to react pavlovianly to those triggers. Nobody needs a prequel to Tolkien but Amazon is pending half a billion dollars on one.

Will the loudest voices scream if the series doesn’t live up to their ridiculously high expectations? Probably. Nobody seems to be asking why anyone should have high expectations in the first place, though.

Nor does anyone seem to be demanding new fantasy series by writers they’ve never heard of, although dozens, hundreds of them already exist to be filmed, new ideas, new worlds to be explored, new characters to ship and dress us as. Both sides are collaborators in a descent to madness.

Now put them into a culture where only extremes appear to count. What exactly would we expect?

I think a lot of these things are actually pretty bad. Counterpoint: all I heard were rave reviews for the Mandalorian and Rogue One, which are recent and legitimately great Star Wars stories, and many other Marvel movies are well reviewed and beloved.

Is it possible you’re noticing that people complain more about bad movies than they celebrate good ones, and the selection you’ve noticed are actually kind of bad?

I haven’t really heard anything about or watched the new Star Trek stuff so no comment on those.

I’m reminded of something a friend said many years ago: “Being a fan reduces your enjoyment.” He was right. When you’re a fan of something, you become emotionally invested in it, and your expectations go way, way up. You’re never satisfied. You start thinking that the creators owe you something for your loyalty. With each new installment, all you can see are the flaws, and you feel let down—whereas a casual viewer enjoys it and thinks it’s perfectly okay.

It’s also easier, and more fun, to explain why you don’t like something. When you’re ranting on the internet about how the latest Star Wars or Star Trek is unwatchable dreck, you feel bold and edgy, like you’re speaking truth to power. It’s a lot harder, and less fun, to articulate why something is good.

I do think there’s a herd instinct at work. People want to fit in. If everyone in your online community is saying that the latest franchise movie is garbage, you don’t want to be the lone naysayer. Hell, no. In fact, you try to outdo each other in hyperbole—it’s the worst movie in the series, it’s the worst movie of all time, it’s the worst thing in the history of civilization, etc. Negativity is contagious and self-reinforcing.

I agree with the OP that it’s gotten worse. I don’t remember people in the nerd community being so fiercely negative back in the 70s. Maybe it’s because there was less media to consume and we had to be happy with what little we got.

I agree that this phenomenon accounts for a good part of the negativity the OP notes.

It’s also the case that “nerd culture” is largely made up of people who highly value intelligence and who want to be considered by fellow-members of the culture to be intelligent. And it’s a human trait to attribute greater intelligence to those who are more critical (as seen in the admittedly older paper linked in this post).

So by trashing the latest Marvel movie or Star Trek show, the reviewer hopes to obtain respect from fellow-nerds. This process is probably much less present for reviewers who identify with other groups (such as ‘romance-movie’ fans, for example).

[quote=“Airbeck, post:1, topic:960907”]
Most of these things have or have had their own threads, so this isn’t meant to rehash that, just wondering if anyone else has noticed this increased negativity these days and has any suggestion as to why. [/quote]

IMHO this gets to the heart of the issue. Some people want more of the same and get upset if a sequel is substantially different in tone (Picard is a good example). The opposite is also true. If a sequel is too similar to a previous work (Star Wars Episode VII) then the people who wanted something new complain because it was “just a retread.” There’s no way to satisfy both groups. For what it’s worth, I count myself as one of the latter. If you want something new or different, then watch something new or different. What’s wrong with wanting more of the same Star Trek or Star Wars or Marvel or whatever else, with the characters, world, and overall tone that you know and love, just with some new adventures?

Why not both? (insert meme)

To me, the quality of genre movies is so low now that I’ve mostly given up on watching them at all. (A few days ago I tried to think of any SF film that has come out more recently than Dark City that l would consider a classic and couldn’t think of anything.) I haven’t watched any of most new franchise movies in a good 20 years or more (Aliens, Predator, Terminator) or most of the MCU. They seem to be all bang-splodey with idiot plots. And writing by people that grew up as fans of an earlier iteration of a property very often turns out to be what I term “cargo cult writing.” Star Trek Discovery is an epitome of this. Written by (apparently?) fans of Trek, but as far as their writing talent goes, they are strapping together stacks of bamboo with vines and standing back wondering why all the planes aren’t flying in. Not because it fails to be good science fiction, but because it fails to be good writing, period.

When I call writing in specific SF/Fantasy films crap, that isn’t me saying it compared to another SF/F film but compared to other movies in general. Is The Phantom Menace a steaming bowl of crap compared to AFI 100 films, for instance? Yes, it is.

FTB did a great job of bringing up the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’. I wanted to give an example that hits both sides of the equation in a genre film: The Riddick Movies.

The first, Pitch Black, was a solid, if not exceptional action horror movie which was a ton of fun for me and most of my friends. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot of fun.

Chronicles of Riddick, the sequel, went in a slightly different direction, with human enemies and efforts at a more grand arc, and a lot of people didn’t like it, despite being arguably better in all technical specs than the first.

The third, Riddick, went the route brought up by FTB - it was superficially the same plot and setting as # 1, with the most minor differences, and people almost universally hated it because everyone (correctly) said it was a repeat of the firsts formula.


But I still like all three (and the game, and the animated bridge ‘movie’), because I like the character, and they’re still ‘fun’ movies, even if they are not anything I’d call groundbreaking.

Absolutely. Most of the online voices have no memory of a world in which you were scorned for liking science fiction, comic books, superheroes, fantasy, all the things that are billion-dollar properties in today’s culture. Adults were supposed to grow up and go beyond such kids stuff.

The groups which made up fandom at the time were tiny compared to today’s millions. Whenever a piece of fan culture made the mainstream it was celebrated, however objectively good it might be. I didn’t like Star Trek. Lost in Space came first, but it was unspeakably awful. Batman started off as something so bad it was good, then turned to being purely bad. Even so, they all had fierce defenders who would protect them from the criticism of outsiders - and insiders.

(As a historian I can’t help seeing the parallels between nerds celebrating every bit of science fiction on television with the way minority groups celebrated every glimpse of someone who represented their lives, even though some of the portrayals were negative. That’s not saying that nerds suffered the discrimination leveled against gays or blacks, just that seemingly all outsider groups react to mainstream culture in remarkably similar ways.)

Today we have a legacy of nerd culture that not only makes up a disproportionate share of childhood memories, but reached levels of quality that are lauded across society. All - forget the requisite qualifiers - all of the ones that people celebrate to sometimes ludicrous extremes were something brand new that people had not seen earlier or else turned something older into something that caught the modern culture in a way that felt absolutely new.

Many of the retreads that nevertheless make billions worldwide are objectively bad. In a sane world, people who can make that discrimination would just not watch and go off and do something else. I didn’t feel the need to torture myself by watching the ninth Star Wars or whatever the third Matrix movie was called. However, I recognize that’s a decision that removes me from much of today’s culture and the discussion of that culture. I don’t live in social media so I don’t care. I’m not sure whether younger people who are immersed in social media can so easily make the same decision.

I would tend to agree with those who argue that social media really amplifies angry voices. I sometimes wonder if I’ve gotten a bit more negative in my assessments of science fiction movies and television. When I was younger, I could enjoy movies like Hell Comes to Frogtown and Flash Gordon but as I’ve grown older I no longer tolerate those kinds of cheesy movies.

But I can’t entirely blame social media. I was around 19 when Star Trek: Voyager went on the air and by the end of the first season I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a very good show. I was a big fan of TNG and Deep Space Nine but just couldn’t love Voyager. I did enjoy prequel Star Wars trilogy even if I didn’t like it as much as the original. But I think the latest Star Wars trilogy is just awful. In fact, they made the prequel better just by comparison.

I feel the same way. With Voyager and Enterprise, the problem was the characters. It was still Star Trek, the same familiar world I enjoyed in TNG and DS9, it’s just that the characters were less interesting (other than The Doctor and 7 of 9). The new Star Treks got away from Gene Rodenberry’s utopian ideal for our future, and thus turned off fans like me who wanted more of the same, with interesting characters.

Mine too. I can forgive a lot of objectively bad things if I have fun. Similarly, I will actively avoid things that I know tonally will be too grim or dark for my current tastes. There have been a lot of dystopic shows lately and I am not in the mood for that at my age. I want my escapism to have hope.

I just want to say this has been exactly the conversation I was hoping to start. I agree largely with almost everything I’ve read so far. The Dope delivers again.