Rotten Tomatoes Is Expanding Their Critic Base In A Major Way

If you think Rotten Tomatoes is chock-a-block only with stuffy old white men who write for newspapers in the big cities, well, you're already off on the wrong foot. That said, the site is aware that far too many people think this way whether it's actually true or not, and have taken steps to expand their ranks by over 200, in the process expanding eligibility standards to promote greater diversity.

The plan put into place will allow for those with podcasts, Youtube channels, and "digital video series" to join the Rotten Tomatoes-approved ranks. While they don't outright come out and say it, I also think this is an attempt to stave off attacks against the aggretating site's credibility by including critics who may not be part of the "establishment", for lack of a better term. 

“Over the past few years, our team has added hundreds of new voices to the Tomatometer on top of the thousands we currently have, with the goal of creating a critics pool that closely reflects the global entertainment audience,” Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes’ critics relations manager told Deadline. “We took another key step today by revamping our critics criteria that both shifts our focus to approving critics individually rather than through publications, and introduces updated guidelines for newer media platforms to be a part of the Tomatometer.”

“Rotten Tomatoes plays an important role in connecting fans with trusted information and recommendations on what to watch in theaters and at home,” said Paul Yanover, president of parent company Fandango. “Advancing inclusion in criticism continues to be a priority for Rotten Tomatoes and we plan to expand our work with media outlets that hire critics, film festivals and other groups, so as an industry we can better serve consumers.”

To me this looks like a carefully orchestrated PR move to combat a recent wave of bad news the site has faced. While Rotten Tomatoes has always been a target by those who claim its percentage-based metrics hold too much sway with audiences (It literally just tells you what percentage of critics think a movie is merely alright.), it has also been the victim of outside manipulation as studios have tried to artifically inflate a film's Tomato-meter score. One of the culprits was MoviePass, who created a bunch of fake RT accounts to inflate the score for the atrocious Gotti (which they produced and distributed), a plan that was discovered and led to even more embarrassment for the subscription service.

As someone who is already a Tomato-approved critic, I'm the prime example of how inclusive Rotten Tomatoes already is. You don't have to read the reviews of the stuffy white dude at the Washington Post if you don't want to. I'm a guy who started a blog in his house a decade ago and it took me years and hundreds of reviews to earn the credibility to be approved. I take pride in the fact that I probably do more reviews each week than the vast majority of bigger critics, but it also pisses me off when I see hacks on there who got in because they know the right people rather than the quality of their work. So I'm kinda torn on this, too. Individually approving critics SHOULD mean that fewer get in and only the best will, but at the same time they just let in 200 out of the clear blue sky, and are welcoming in more with open arms. Something tells me this initiative won't change much, overall, and the same complaints from the same people will continue.