Scott Renshaw of Salt Lake City Weekly recently wrote one of the three Zootopia reviews counted as negative in Zootopia‘s 99 percent RottenTomatoes-recommended rating. Every critic who’s ever written a negative review of a previously-100 percent recommended film (like, say, I did with Inside Out, which I still think is nowhere near as good as Zootopia) knows how many angry comments, emails, and tweets this can elicit, from people who I guess are just really concerned with arbitrary math. In Renshaw’s case, one of those responses came, according to Renshaw, from a pair of 6-year-old twins. It’s a story that exists at the nexus of multiple awful internet trends – people “defending” a film’s RottenTomatoes score, and people hiding opinions behind their children.
First, the story, according to Renshaw, who wrote about it on City Weekly:
…over the weekend, I received an email from a pair of 6-year-old twins, as dictated to their mother. Because they’re minors, and because the mother has not as yet granted permission, I’m choosing not to identify the writers, but they said they “super-duper love the movie Zootopia,” and “want Zootopia to have 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.” And they asked that I “change the tomato to Fresh.”
Depending how deep you’ve traveled into the bowels of the internet, you may have already noted that this is a fine example of the “out of the mouths of babes” phenomenon. That’s when a person ascribes their own hot take to their children, either to avoid having to shape their own initial reaction into something resembling adult nuance, or to deflect criticism of it. “Hey, don’t blame me, I’m just telling you what Jaedynn said when he read Ted Cruz’s tax plan. It was the darndest thing, I swear.”
Here’s a mildly famous example of said trend from a few weeks ago (the responses, in particular, are gold):
Renshaw must be at least somewhat aware of this trend, because he goes on to write that it would’ve been easy “to assume that the ‘6-year-old twins’ thing was just a front for a particularly sad adult (who attached a picture of 6-year-old twins just so I could see whose hearts I was breaking).”
That’s what I choose to believe, if only because it’s easier to live in that world than in the one where 6-year-olds care about RottenTomatoes scores. In either reality, those poor 6-year-olds are being influenced by someone especially sh*tty, and someone should probably call CPS. Maybe someone just found a picture of twins? Also a possibility.
Renshaw goes on to post his response to these alleged 6-year-olds.
“Thank you for taking the time to write. People are passionate about movies—and about all the art that they love—which is why I have devoted my career to writing about them. And I’m thrilled that Zootopia was a special movie for you.” […]
“But the more serious question you seem to be asking is whether I would change my review to be more positive. At this time, I have no reason to do so, which isn’t to say that I haven’t changed my mind many times over the years about movies I’ve reviewed. Sometimes I like them more, and sometimes I like them less, but whenever I feel I’ve learned or seen something new, I’ll be honest enough to say so. Right now, what I wrote about Zootopia honestly represents my feelings about it, and that’s the review I’m comfortable defending.”
“What I’d really hope, however, is that you think about reviews differently, including (and maybe especially) those you disagree with. My job as a professional critic isn’t to tell people what to think, or to give them assurance that what they thought about a movie is ‘right.’ All I can do is think honestly about how I reacted, and perhaps help people see something in a movie that they might not have seen otherwise.”
The way I see this, there are three possible realities:
1. Two 6-year-olds, presumably influenced by the sh*tty dickhead adults in their life, wrote a letter to Utah film critic, so upset were they about the non-100 percent rating of their favorite Disney movie.
2. Sh*tty dickhead somewhere in the world used picture of his/her presumably adorable twins as a smokescreen for their own asinine email campaign.
3. Utah film critic, after a bad experience as a RottenTomatoes spoiler, had some thoughts about the nature of film criticism, and decided to frame them as a response to a pair of imaginary 6-year-olds.
This isn’t to say I disagree with anything Renshaw wrote about the critic’s function; I don’t, I agree with all of that. Nor do I necessarily believe my own conspiracy theory about him inventing the letter. I just really, really love this visual I had, of a film critic somewhere, standing naked in front of a mirror with his dick and balls tucked back between his legs, swishing a glass of Bourdeaux in one hand, expounding on the nature criticism to an empty room. “So you see, Brexlee, one mustn’t think of the review as a simple buyer‘s guide for the consumer — one doesn’t appreciate a piece of art the same way one does a lawnmower, say — but rather as a companion piece, that advances one’s understanding of the work and parses the intention of the artist…”
Childsplaining. Does it exist? I have no evidence that it does. But it could. Be careful out there.
Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.