The Future. Influencing has taken over film criticism, with the “MovieTok” community turning up awareness of new releases (on pause during the actor’s strike). While youth-oriented movements usurping the old guard is a tale as old as time in film criticism, the current iteration’s focus on positivity (and sponsorship) may be more effective at simple promotion than actual critical appreciation. But considering how they’ve already helped recent titles go viral online and at the box office, they may still be embraced by filmmakers hoping to reach a new generation.
Gatekeepers of hype
For young audiences, film criticism is being remade on TikTok.
- MovieTok influencers like Straw Hat Goofy, Cinema.Joe, and Maddi Moo have amassed millions of followers reviewing movies typically in 30-to-90-second videos, focusing on a specific genre.
- The “movie reviewers” (they avoid the label “critic”) put an emphasis on positivity, acting as a recommendation resource rather than aspiring to join the critical community of professional publications, which they view as having “unearned authority.”
A major reason for the focus on positivity is because they’re often paid by studios to promote movies, earning anywhere between $1,000 to $30,000 for a sponsored post. And even if they’re not paid (which is required to be disclosed on TikTok), they may be gifted swag boxes or tickets to red carpet events (which don’t need to be disclosed).
While that conflict of interest would be a major ethics violation for professional critics (just look at the controversy surrounding Rotten Tomatoes), MovieTok influencers don’t have the same limitations… or standards, depending on your viewpoint. But some have drafted their own code of ethics, only taking payment for trailer announcements or more general marketing.
Authenticity is a fine line.