Regarding Numerical Ratings

Part of the fun that comes toward the end of critically evaluating a piece of media is deciding exactly what number on the vaunted one to 10 scale best fits my opinion of said creation. I’ve always secretly enjoyed the process of tagging a movie or album or TV show or whatever with a digit that I feel best suits its place in my heart and/or brain, as it almost feels like the stamp of completion on each review. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with it, you know? After doing this off and on for several years, however, I just don’t feel right about continuing to assign these numbers, and I have a few reasons for it.

The first point associated with this change is one that has always presented a problem, and that’s oversimplification. Anyone who, say, sees a movie has far too many complicated thoughts about it to shove everything into a wood chipper and see a number come out the other side. There are many elements that make up everything I see or hear, and I don’t like the idea of trying to assign weight to each of them in order to get an appropriate number. I also don’t like having to account for how much I liked something versus its technical prowess when coming up with a score. That seems potentially misleading and dishonest. I’d rather just do the best job I can to get my words to speak for themselves.

I also think assigning a number is always going to slight certain kinds of media no matter how hard I try. A dumb action movie that succeeds for what it is will never have a chance to reach the same heights as a twisty drama with an impeccable pedigree done well. While both movies may be wholly worth watching, one might receive a substantially higher score and thus appear to be a) significantly preferred by the reviewer, and b) um, way better. That certainly isn’t always the case. The same can be said of great comedies or well-constructed power-pop albums; why should they be penalized when they aren’t reaching for the same fruit as something heavier?

Numerical ratings also do a personal disservice to me and anyone who happens to read what I write. I do this because I really enjoy writing about things I’m passionate about. I don’t want to spend an hour or two working on something only to essentially have it pared down to a number. I don’t want to write 100-word blurbs and then slap a rating on them–there are plenty of other lazy people doing that very thing in every corner of the beautiful Internet. I’m not saying any of this from any sort of high horse, I’m saying it because I want to pursue this hobby in a manner that allows me to feel good about what I’m doing. If someone stumbles over to The Slow Descent, I want that person to read a thoughtful review that wasn’t chucked out into the stratosphere in a matter of seconds. Such a review would be much more entertaining and informative than one based around a score that screams “SEE THIS!” or “EWWW!”

I still intend to create year-end lists ranking my favorite albums and films, as it is extremely fun to do and serves as a means of highlighting creations I really enjoy and appreciate. But from here on out, my review posts will feature a title and the actual text only. It’s probably not important for me to explain or even mention this change, but I wanted to be on the record concerning this topic. I’m just like everyone else in that I check out Metacritic and Rotten Tomato scores with great frequency, but ultimately I gain a lot more perspective from reading the actual work of good critics. I want to take away the cherry on top and leave only the dessert. After all, how much does the garnish do for you that the meal itself didn’t already do tenfold?


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