star ratings systems suck.

I don’t normally write about things I don’t like, but I just need to share my hatred of star rating systems, today. Everyone has those little things that bother them more than they should, and this is one of my things.

The reason why things connect with you, and why they don’t, is vastly complex. There is often no way to know if you didn’t like a movie, book, etc., because it was poorly and unimaginatively made, or if it was because it just didn’t happen to connect with you. It’s even possible it just didn’t connect with you on that particular day, and that if you watched it on some other day you would have loved it. Even if we truly did hate something, the arrogance it takes to believe that we are the sole arbiter of whether or not something is worthwhile is amazing to me.

The idea that with a few seconds of thought, we can sum up someone else’s passion, sweat, and work with a number stars, and that this is somehow adequate, pisses me off. It’s the height of arrogance to presume that we can judge someone else’s work that flippantly anyway, especially because the vast majority of us have never created anything, much less submitted it to the world for appraisal. It’s stupid, plain and simple.

More and more, I think that at the center of a well-lived life works curiosity. Yet, more and more, we live in a world that shuts off that curiosity, that tells us that we should be pure consumers who judge everything on a spectrum ranging from Boo! to Meh. to Yay! Really? That’s the best we can do as we engage with art and beauty, or at least the attempt at the creation of art and beauty? I think we can do much better than that. I mean to.

You’re not merely a consumer, programmed to respond to things purely through a lens which helps others sell you things you might like. Your experience of art shouldn’t be belittled to the over-simplicity of how many stars you’d rate something on a scale of 1-5. It should be nuanced, complex, and should teach you as much, or more, about yourself as it does about whatever art you are engaging with. Even terrible work, when interacted with well, can teach you something wonderful in spite of itself. Yet, a consumeristic world can’t work that way, there is no room for genuine awe, wonder, and the ability to learn how to appreciate something you normally wouldn’t. Instead, it requires that you move from shiny object to shiny object, endlessly entertained but never truly engaged, quickly growing bored with your newest obsession so that you can move on to the next one.

You deserve more than that from life. More than summing up the beauty of life’s experiences based on how many stars you’d give it. And heaven forbid, maybe how much you enjoyed something isn’t the most important issue anyway, but that’s better saved for another post.

Ask better questions! You’ll be glad you did.


4 Responses to “ star ratings systems suck. ”

  1. This is why I hate pitchfork’s album reviews. Sure, I post random emotional responses to music, but I’m not about to think my opinion of fill-in-the-blank is the concrete, absolute way of thinking.

    I do like stars in iTunes though. I get a feeling of satasfiction ticking the stars based off how my mood is with the current song. (And, the stars change every time I hear the track as well… As you said.)


  2. Josué Blanco

    This post gets: ★★★★½