The names Gene Skiskel and Roger Ebert are familiar to many, especially those who lived in the 1980s and 1990s. Starting in 1975, these two film critics would go on television and review whatever movies were in the theaters at the time. Teamed up because they were both critics for two different Chicago newspapers — Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times and Gene Siskle for the Chicago Tribune — these two would not always agree on what movies were good, but were passionate about their opinions and always willing to defend them from the other when a disagreement came up.
However, what I want to focus on here is the rating system they used on the show: Every movie would get either a “thumbs up” (meaning the movie is good) or a “thumbs down” (meaning the movie is bad). This was a very simple system, and because of how simple it was, it did not leave much room for nuance. A movie they just didn’t care for but didn’t have any major issues with like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would get the same rating as a movie they hated (or, in Ebert’s case, a movie he “Hated hated hated hated hated.”) like North. To put it another way, this highly restrictive binary did not actually do a good job relaying information to an outside viewer.
Most reviewers do not use “thumbs up” and “thumbs down.” Typically, a reviewer who wants to attach a number to their opinion will use either a five-star system or a numerical system. Internet Gaming News, also known as IGN, uses a scale of numbers ranging from one to ten with one decimal place allowed, for example. This is also the scale Internet Movie Database, also known as IMDB, allows users to use. Meanwhile, Metacritic as two different rating systems, one for professional reviewers — where a product gets a score ranging from one to one hundred — and one for regular users — where a game gets a score ranging from one to ten with one decimal place allowed. Still others — mostly individual reviewers you can find on YouTube — do not use scores, instead allowing their words to speak for themselves.
I mention this because this situation reminds me of how we’ve been discussing gender over the past couple of years. A large amount of people now feel that the simple binary of “boy/man” and “girl/woman” does not accurately portray their experiences, so they’ve created a much more nuanced system where…