Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Tea Party, The Movie: Panned by Critics, Loved by Audiences

Bookmark and Share

Elite-public gap in evaluation of Tea Party movement as seen through the lens of Hollywood

Despite frequently being cast by the media and the 'political class' as extremists and advocating policies from the political fringe, Tea Party endorsed candidates turned heads in Republican primaries across the country this year, beginning with Rand Paul in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race and ending with Christine O'Donnell for Delaware's U.S. Senate seat and Carl Paladino in New York's gubernatorial contest.

The transformation in a matter of months from a skewered subclass of supposed ragtag political misfits to an electoral force with increasing clout is unfolding like a script written for the movies.

It will be interesting to see if any documentaries tracing the success of the Tea Party movement begin to roll out in the coming months - though the third act has not yet unfolded, with the general election to be held in a little more than a month.

This disconnect in the evaluation of Tea Party candidates between the political class and electorate thus far in 2010 is not unlike the division often seen in the evaluation of motion pictures by elite (critics) and populist (the movie-going audience) forces.

Just as the political class has been slow to embrace many successful Tea Party candidacies, film critics are also almost universally less supportive of the blockbusters that come out of Hollywood than the public at large.

And the evidence?

Smart Politics analyzed the Rotten Tomatoes scores by critics and by the general public for the top-grossing films released in 2010 - all 37 pictures that have grossed more than $60 million domestically through September 26th.

These 37 films have grossed more than $5 billion collectively to date.

One of the metrics presented by Rotten Tomatoes is the percentage both of critics and the public who liked the movie (in short, those who 'recommend' the film). That average yields a percent score between 0 and 100 for both subsets, critics and audiences.

A Smart Politics analysis of Rotten Tomatoes data finds that movie critics have given lower scores to 31 of 37 of the top grossing films of 2010 than the general public, as calculated by the 6,444 reviews by critics and the more than 4.8 million reviews given by audience members for these movies.

The critic-public differential was frequently substantial, tallying a per-film average of 17.1 points overall: critics gave positive reviews just 46.7 percent of the time, compared to 63.8 percent for the public.

Film critics collectively gave positive reviews to just 11 of these 37 top grossing films: Toy Story 3 (99%), How to Train Your Dragon (98%), Inception (87%), Despicable Me (80%), The Other Guys (78%), Iron Man 2 (74%), Get Him to the Greek (73%), The Karate Kid (67%), Shutter Island (67%), Date Night (67%), and Salt (61%).

By contrast, the public gave positive ratings to more than twice the number of films - 23 of 37 - including critically panned films such as The Last Song (19 percent critics, 67 percent public), Dear John (28 percent; 66 percent), Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? (28 percent, 69 percent), and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (36 percent, 71 percent).

But some of the most stark examples of the elite-public disconnect in Hollywood over the past decade are Adam Sandler films.

His latest effort in 2010, Grown Ups, notched the largest differential among the year's top grossing films between critics who recommended the movie (9 percent) versus the public (63 percent), or 54 points.

In other words, the public was 7 times more likely to enjoy and recommend the film than movie 'experts.'

Despite these extremely negative reviews, Grown Ups went on to gross $161 million in North America.

Large elite-public gaps have also defined recent Sandler films such as Bedtime Stories (24 percent critics, 63 percent public), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (14 percent, 73 percent), and The Longest Yard (31 percent, 67 percent). These films went on to gross $110, $120, and $158 million respectively in North America.

The point here isn't whether or not Grown Ups is an objectively good film, as those who have been empowered (or have empowered themselves) to levy such an evaluation have clearly made that decision.

The point is that it is a successful film, and very popular with the American public.

In the same spirit, despite enduring a slew of criticism from the media and political class following her upset of Delaware GOP establishment candidate Mike Castle, Christine O'Donnell has netted more than $2.3 million in fundraising in less than a fortnight since her victory.

However, not every Tea Party endorsed candidate has proven to be a winner in 2010, with candidates such as Karen Deal (losing a run-off election for Georgia's GOP gubernatorial slot), Chuck DeVore (losing in the GOP California U.S. Senate primary), and Ovide Lamontagne (losing in the GOP New Hampshire U.S. Senate primary) failed to engender enough public support to overcome the establishment forces in their respective races.

There were also similarly a few high profile movies released in 2010 that were panned both by the critics and audiences by approximately the same proportion, such as horror classic remake The Wolf Man (33 percent rating by critics, 39 percent by the public) and the Tom Cruise misstep Knight and Day (53 percent critics, 56 percent public).

Of course, these Rotten Tomatoes evaluations of movies do not fully reflect the views of the entire public, but only that portion of the public who has seen the film (and chooses to rate it on-line at Rotten Tomatoes).

Likewise, public evaluations of candidates - as measured by voter turnout in primaries - can be extremely low, sometimes less than 10 percent of a state's voting age population.

But the lesson for the political class is that while some candidates may be reviled by elites, such as Paladino in New York, if that candidate can provide a message, particularly if delivered in a unique or charismatic way, they may strike a chord with a significant portion of the electorate.

And that is why films that are viewed with near universal contempt by film critics, such as The Last Airbender (6 percent recommended), The Bounty Hunter (7 percent), or A Nightmare on Elm Street (13 percent), were still recommended by nearly 1 in 2 adults who viewed them (43, 42, and 45 percent respectively).

As such, even if the base of support in the public for bawdy comedies or horror films does not overlap more than a sliver with film critics, that support is nonetheless real.

And even if the base of support in the public for Tea Party candidates does not find much more than a sliver of support among the political class, that support is nonetheless real.

At the risk of downgrading a flailing analogy to a failing one, this report must also acknowledge the fact that many primaries in which Tea Party candidates succeeded were closed contests, permitting only GOPers to vote (e.g. Kentucky, Nevada, Alaska, Delaware).

As such, the true measure of popularity for candidates such as Rand Paul, Sharon Angle, Joe Miller, and Christine O'Donnell will be determined when they are evaluated by the entire voting public - in a general election contest with Democratic, Republican, Independent, and third party voters.

If they win, perhaps Adam Sandler will buy the Tea Party movie rights.

Evaluation Gap of Top Grossing Films of 2010 by Critics and Public

Film
Gross
Critics
Public
Diff.
Grown Ups
$161
9
63
54
The Last Song
$62
19
67
48
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?
$60
28
69
41
Dear John
$80
28
66
38
Sex and the City 2
$95
15
53
38
Valentine's Day
$110
17
54
37
The Last Airbender
$131
6
43
37
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
$90
36
71
35
The Bounty Hunter
$67
7
42
35
A Nightmare on Elm Street
$63
13
45
32
The Tooth Fairy
$60
17
47
30
The A-Team
$77
47
74
27
The Expendables
$102
40
64
24
Twilight Saga: Eclipse
$300
52
74
22
Alice in Wonderland
$334
51
72
21
The Book of Eli
$94
47
68
21
Clash of the Titans
$163
28
48
20
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
$62
43
62
19
Eat Pray Love
$79
38
56
18
Robin Hood
$105
43
60
17
Dinner for Schmucks
$72
45
57
12
The Karate Kid
$176
67
75
8
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
$88
50
57
7
Inception
$287
87
93
6
Iron Man 2
$312
74
80
6
Shutter Island
$128
67
73
6
Shrek Forever After
$238
58
64
6
The Wolfman
$61
33
39
6
Salt
$116
61
64
3
Knight and Day
$76
53
56
3
Despicable Me
$245
80
82
2
Get Him to the Greek
$60
73
69
-4
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
$64
55
51
-4
Toy Story 3
$411
99
91
-8
How to Train Your Dragon
$217
98
90
-8
Date Night
$98
67
59
-8
The Other Guys
$116
78
63
-15
Total
$5,060
46.7
63.8
17.1
Film grosses (in millions) through September 26, 2010. Source: Rotten Tomatoes data. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: History Predicts Republicans Will Gain 19 Seats in Minnesota House in 2010
Next post: Will Minnesotans Turn out to Vote in Record Numbers this Midterm Election?

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

Political Crumbs

No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting