Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Why co-chief of film critique at New York Times is stepping down

Aggressive fanbases, propagandized algorithms, declining audiences tarnish industry
Abby Cima

“And now — more than 23 years later, the middle-aged father of two grown children and the author of 2,293 published film reviews — I’m done.”

These are the words of A.O. Scott, a top film critic at the New York Times, in his self-conducted exit interview from his post as co-chief of film critique.

Scott will stay at the New York Times as a literary critic, but he’s done with movies.


Scott has always been infatuated with movies. They have a certain power over people’s emotions — the ability to make a viewer laugh or cry when they don’t even know why. The movies invent new worlds and reveal hidden ideas in our own world.

But Scott hasn’t been satisfied with movies lately. He enjoyed the original Spiderman movies, but isn’t pleased with the fan base of Marvel.

“Fan culture is rooted in conformity, obedience, group identity and mob behavior, and its rise mirrors and models the spread of intolerant, authoritarian, aggressive tendencies in our politics and our communal life,” Scott said.

According to Scott, the climate around the fanbase of Marvel does not allow for open discussion. Instead, whenever someone tries to criticize popular movies, they are shut down as “haters.” This has happened to Scott on his Twitter many times.

He noticed whenever he criticized the Marvel movies, people raged against him. Scott understands it is obviously good for people to have different opinions than him, but the problem comes when there is no room for disagreement based on fandom.

Scott said the point of a film critic is to open movies up for discussion and debate. He appreciates healthy disagreement, but not one-sided criticism.

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Another change Scott noticed in the past 20 years is the availability of streaming services. When he started, people got DVDs in the mail from Netflix, and you could still rent VHS tapes.

People back then thought cinema was dying because of the early days of streaming, but now, Scott said cinema is dying in a different way.

He quoted German critic Rudolf Arnheim who predicted it in 1935. Arnheim said film would no longer be an art form, but rather a form of televised propaganda and entertainment.

Instead of going to the theater for creative and original new films, people sit at home binge-watching reruns, reality, dystopia and repetitive content.

“Am I worried?” Scott said. “Of course I’m worried. The cultural space in which the movies I care most about have flourished seems to be shrinking. The audience necessary to sustain original and ambitious work is narcotized by algorithms or distracted by doomscrolling. The state of the movies is very bad.”

But, just because he is concerned doesn’t mean Scott doesn’t still enjoy movies. In the height of his career, he would watch about 300 movies a year, which means he was watching movies almost every day and reviewing at least two movies a week.

If he could go back, Scott said he wouldn’t unsee any of the movies, even if he didn’t enjoy them.

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Scott also clarified that, though he doesn’t love the Marvel fanbase, he didn’t hate the Avengers. He had mixed opinions and actually praised the creativity of the Marvel universe.

Scott started at the New York Times on January 1, 2000. He wrote his first review on “My Dog Skip.” His review was titled “Fetch Boy! Fetch the Wisdom of the Ages! Good boy!” He gave a mixed review of the film, appreciating the nostalgia, but also warning viewers of potential concerns with the movie.

Scott is not leaving the New York Times altogether — he will stay on as a book reviewer. This is a full circle decision for him because he focused on literature during his time at Harvard. His first journalism job was at The New York Review of Books.

Scott is ready to write critical reviews of literature and “grapple” with the more intellectual pieces. But he still loves the movies.

“But the movies themselves — enough of them, as always — are pretty good. It’s been a pleasure to see them in your company,” Scott said.

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