Essays

How film lovers are using Letterboxd to diversify film criticism

Being a film fan in this day and age, you likely have your Letterboxd URL linked to your social media bios or exchanging usernames instead of phone numbers with fellow film enthusiasts. This is thanks to a social network site that has successfully positioned itself at the epicenter of contemporary film discourse in the most revolutionary of ways: by mastering the art of not taking itself too seriously.

The industry’s critic pool has been dominated by white men even in this age of growing diversity. With this specific qualification to wade in such a pool in place, it is no wonder how Letterboxd rose to the occasion by simply allowing anyone to be a critic—background, race, or orientation aside.

Common folk like you and I are empowered and given a voice in a widespread platform. Tools like list-making and out-of-5 review standards are utilized to even out the once monochromatic playing field of film criticism. The doors have been opened to multiple opinions to and for a more vibrant roster of viewers.

Of course, we choose to do so with memes as we see in this brilliant example.

Hence, all the hate by those who find the one-liner reviews damaging to the industry itself. These purists insist that serious is the only way to go, thus their disdain toward Letterboxd’s more light-hearted approach. With the site being ‘“infested” with “regurgitated, lame jokes and non-criticism,” it is oftentimes deemed as an inferior source for any substantial opinions on film.

Well, boohoo, film bros. Like it or not, Letterboxd—in its shallow, watered down way of expression—presents a rich, diverse social commentary from the people that actually fill the seats in local cinemas. It is a place where fans can be fans, reflecting the industry in the most candid of ways. Despite variations in taste and specific film knowledge, like-minded individuals can mingle ideas on the site through an outlet best understood by this generation. To that effect, is it not in itself an enriching way to digest the medium just as criticism is?

The “reviews” found on the site may not be as in-depth as Roger Ebert pieces, but they do give a glimpse of what it may be like once critics’ reins are given to a wider spectrum of people; along with it, the seemingly controversial fact that not everyone will process a movie the same way or like it for the same reasons. With great diversity comes even greater viewpoints; Letterboxd simply does so in the easy-to-chew kind of way.

Published critics such as Matt Singer of ScreenCrush and David Sims of The Atlantic have both crossed from the formal world of film criticism to the Letterboxd meme territory. Even then, their more satirical logs are insightful as they are enjoyable, proving that opinions on movies can come in all lengths and styles.

Am I saying to abandon formal film criticism forever? Absolutely not. It is an integral tool to process and understand film. In fact, I highly recommend reading them from time to time, especially ones you may not necessarily agree with to broaden your film viewing experience and evaluation; but, until the day comes that the industry opens its doors to a more widespread demographic of critics that can reflect people and cultures that have been thus far neglected, Letterboxd is not a bad alternative.

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