Rotten Tomatoes, the internet’s most influential review aggregator, has updated its critics policy, broadening the scope of whose views can be counted toward its make-or-break Tomatometer score. The Tomatometer score is the percentage of the reviews that have been positive, supposedly reflecting the “collective opinion” of critics, but critics have so far been limited to those who write for established publications, a group that, according to numerous studies, is heavily slanted toward critics who are white and male.
Reviews from established publications will still be included automatically, regardless of who wrote them, but the new rules allow for the inclusion of individual critics, regardless of where they publish. The difference between reviews from respected publications and respected critics will be more or less tomato, tomahto. Individual critics will need to apply to be “Tomatometer-approved” and will have to meet set criteria: namely that they have written consistently for at least two years about film or TV at a non-self-published site. However exceptions can be made for self-published writers if they reflect Rotten Tomatoes’ “key values” of insight (not just a plot summary), audience (those who reach one), quality (those who can use grammar), and dedication (some kind of demonstration of commitment). Your tweets probably still won’t count.
Rotten Tomatoes is also expanding the criteria to include nonwritten reviews: those delivered on TV and radio or in podcasts and digital video series. These too must meet certain eligibility requirements. Approved podcasts/video series must have had consistent output for at least two years and demonstrated engagement, while critics who like to wax lyrical about film and TV must appear regularly and consistently on engaging platforms. Your Facebook live reviews nobody asked for probably won’t count either.
In a statement released Tuesday, Rotten Tomatoes said that the changes were about improving diversity and inclusion:
Rotten Tomatoes’ revamped criteria have an increased focus on the critic’s individual qualifications and body of work, rather than basing Tomatometer approval primarily on their publication or employer. This strategy will allow for a wider and more diverse pool of critics’ perspectives to be included in the Tomatometer.
While the new rules lay out strict boundaries for consideration—a minimum of 30,000 subscribers per video channel, for example—they also state that critics “reaching underrepresented groups” will be given case-by-case consideration even if they don’t meet all the criteria.
Rotten Tomatoes has also announced a $100,000 grant program, to assist independent critics with the high costs associated with attending film festivals. The first $25,000 will go to the American Friends of TIFF fund for the Toronto International Film Festival in September.