A few years ago I started seeing a nasty trend on social media, which yes to be fair is the haven for “nasty trends” for so many reasons.
I saw people giving their opinions on movies and TV shows, but calling them “fact” and “objectively right.”
For awhile I ignored it and just argued the other side of their position if I disagreed with them, and then I realized exactly what it was that they were claiming. The idea that their opinions, completely emotional and full of subjective reasoning, were somehow “right” while others were “wrong.”
Ludicrous. In more ways than one.
Armed with this revelation, I fought back at people that claimed they could objectively prove their opinions right and others wrong. They would cite everything from Rotten Tomatoes scores, to critics reviews, to box office numbers, to techniques that I learned in film studies, using all of it to claim that it supported their opinion being at least “objective” and at most “factual.”
Then I told them how faulty and opinion-based Rotten Tomatoes and critics reviews are because there is no objective way to measure how good or bad a movie is, that box office only measures popularity and not quality of a film, and that there’s no such thing as an objective opinion, no matter what Google or any random “expert” tells you.
And that is how “It’s All Subjective” was officially born as my “mantra” if you will.
It’s hardly an original idea, just to be clear. I didn’t invent it and it’s not something that I exclusively say. It’s really just a statement of the truth of the situation based on the definitions of the words. Here they are:
Now here’s the definition of opinion:
Reading all of those, you see the contradiction in calling an opinion objective, right? How can it be when it involves things that are not objective, like emotions or bias?
Being objective means that you have no bias whatsoever and you are only presenting the facts, not emotions. That’s impossible to do with movies and TV because we are ALL biased about it in some way for some reason, even if that bias is “I don’t care about this movie or show at all.” A lot of people think that not having a stake in the game is the same thing as being unbiased. It’s not. It just means your bias goes the other way.
Too many people treat the word bias as though it’s a bad thing to have, when really it’s an impossible thing not to have if your emotions are involved, which entertainment media is inherently designed to trigger. The problem isn’t having bias, it’s not admitting that you have it and trying to act like you don’t. That’s not a noble pursuit, that’s denial of the situation. If you have bias or favoritism toward or against something, OWN IT. ADMIT IT. Make it CLEAR. That’s far more noble and honest than trying to act like you don’t have it when you’re actually using it to suit your position.
So emotional connection, for or against the movie or TV show in question, eliminates objectivity from the equation when it comes to your opinion, because emotions are not objective. They are wholly subjective and based on your perception of things in the world, which isn’t a bad thing. Subjectivity doesn’t eliminate the validity of your argument, even though a lot of people act like it does. Calling your opinion on a movie or show subjective is not cutting it down, it’s just identifying that it’s an opinion and NOT a fact.
But what if that opinion is based on fact and a lot of people agree with it? It’s still just an opinion. It doesn’t matter if thousands upon thousands of people agree with you that Avengers: Endgame is the greatest movie ever made, it’s still just your opinion that thousands upon thousands of people happen to agree with, perhaps. Nothing will ever make it factual because there’s no objective measurement for “great,” “good,” “bad” or any other adjective people use to describe movies and TV.
Then why are there film schools and techniques that people study for years to master the craft? Are you saying that what they are teaching people is not an objective subject?
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Everything you and I learned in film class with respect to how to make a movie or TV show is largely subjective. I say “largely” because when it comes to structure and systems of how scripts are written and how Hollywood works, there are things that have been established, like “three-act structure” or “spec scripts” for example, that are not subjective and are industry paradigms, but those things have nothing to do with judging a movie good, bad or otherwise. They are things that structure the design of the film or TV show in question.
So when you are taught something in film class that has anything to do with the quality of a project, that’s subjective quality you are talking about. How good or bad a writer, director, producer, Director of Photography, editor, composer or actors are is a matter of opinion, not fact. The money their films make and the awards and praise that they receive from anyone is at most a measure of popularity and that’s it, and while that measurement itself might be objective, the popularity being measured is not objective at all, because it’s based on subjective opinion.
In summary, when I say “It’s All Subjective,” that’s another way of saying “That’s your opinion,” but it’s a stronger term because it identifies opinion across the board for everyone, including ME, and allows for disagreement instead of inaccurately calling it factual. It’s not a cop out, at least not when I use it, because I don’t do it out of convenience. People have said before that “It’s All Subjective” can and is used as a convenient way of dismissing someone else’s opinion or denying what they really know about a particular movie’s perception.
All I can say about that is that anyone who is doing that is distorting the inherent meaning of the phrase. Again, it’s based on the definitions of the words. That’s our rule book and guide for this. If you don’t like it, then use other words that fit what you’re actually doing instead. There’s plenty of words in the dictionary to use appropriately, like “fairness” for example, which is what a lot of people mistake for “objectivity.” When they say they are being objective, they really mean they are being fair. Here’s that definition:
See how that definition has nothing to do with “representing facts?” You might think that’s a semantical issue but it really isn’t, not in this case. Being fair and being objective, while many may consider them colloquially identical, are not identical and all it takes is one person claiming an opinion to be objective fact to cause a major problem in the conversation, all because the wrong word was used.
That concludes my written Ted Talk on the subject. Thank you for reading and remember that just because it’s all subjective doesn’t mean that people who know that can’t have their own opinions. If anything, it means the exact opposite of that, even if and probably especially because you disagree with them.