Popular Appeal versus Expert Judgments of Motion Pictures
Cultural commentators addressing the differences between high art and mere entertainment have suggested that the standards of popular appeal governing the tastes of ordinary consumers differ from the criteria for excellence employed by professional critics in rendering expert judgments. These concerns appear in discussions of the cultural hierarchy (distinguishing among levels of tastes) and in claims that commercialism tends to degrade cultural objects (by catering to tastes that represent the lowest common denominator). However, such attacks make assumptions that are generally left untested and that raise at least two key research questions: (RQ1) Do the determinants of popular appeal versus expert judgments suggest differing or common standards of evaluation for consumers versus critics? (RQ2) Do discrepant (shared) tastes produce a negative (positive) correlation between popular appeal and expert judgments? The present study addresses these research questions for the case of motion pictures. The findings suggest that, at least in the case of films, ordinary consumers and professional critics do emphasize different criteria in the formation of their tastes but that we have reason to question critiques based on the implicit assumption of a negative correlation between popular appeal and expert judgments. Copyright 1999 by the University of Chicago.
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