Sunday, 7 February 2016

Do Arts Polls Bias Consumers?

The other week I saw a movie that I absolutely loved. It seemed to me obvious how well acted, directed, and produced the whole thing was. Which is why I was surprised when I went home, searched for some information on it, and saw that it had very low ratings in some arts polls. The next week I noticed that it had been performing poorly in the box office. I began to wonder if the two were correlated.

Now, obviously, everyone has their own opinion. And that's the way things should be. So a movie I love may not do well in arts polls and vice versa. I can accept that. In fact, I encourage it. Everyone's opinion is valuable, even if we disagree.

However, it seems to me that with something reasonably expensive, like a movie, a negative rating in arts polls could really convince people not to go to it. As a result, someone might not even read the attached movie review--they'll simply see the poll results and move on.

To me this seems unfair. A movie can do poorly because of negative reviews, and while unfair, at least I can be sure those come from professionals. Arts polls are open to anyone--while this form of democratization is beneficial in other areas of life, I think it's dangerous here. It encourages people to game the system, all while pretending to be fair.

For example, what is someone doesn't particularly like an actor or actress in the movie? They might give the movie a negative vote in arts polls--sight unseen! They might encourage other friends to vote the same way, pushing the movie into negative territory, even if that's because of sock puppet accounts.

One way around this could be making an answer to the poll contingent on answering a question about the movie. It could be completing a memorable line of dialogue or simply knowing the characters full name. Nothing major, just something to check to make sure that people are voting out of knowledge.

Lastly, I wonder about the utility of even including arts polls in movie reviews. Sure those are better left to other areas of the website? Even if the arts polls are done with the utmost responsibility, the fact of the matter is that having that information there will sway the user one way or the other. Not only could it bias them against the film--it could bias them against the review!