I don’t like them personally, but I do get the idea behind writing a negative review, letting all and sundry know that you really, really didn’t like a book, movie, TV show, consumer product or service. I’d like to believe someone writing a negative review feels an obligation to potential purchasers, informing them of deficiencies in their own personal experience with the product at hand.
But … mousing over to just that one star and then clicking it — man, that’s like salting the wound, kicking someone who’s already been knocked down. That sole star makes it personal, like saying: Not only was what you did worse than lousy, but your dog is ugly, too.
I don’t understand the need for that.
Recently, I’ve been on a run of reading non-fiction war memoirs and in that vein I re-watched my DVD of HBO’s mini-series The Pacific. I think it’s a great production, filled with interesting performances and some compelling stories about a fascinating theater of war that is too often overshadowed by World War II’s European Theater of Operations.
Curious, the last time I visited Amazon I clicked on The Pacific and checked out the reviews. I was surprised — although by this point I really shouldn’t be — by the number of (you guessed it) one-star reviews. The “top” one-star review, the one most people found “helpful” was titled “There’s no historical context: Who said Hollywood was dead” and proceeded to say “everything” was wrong with the series.
The reviewer went on to list his issues, which really boiled down (to me) to being overly disappointed that it was, after all, a movie and not an exact depiction of life in the Pacific Theater from 1941-1945; instead, it was a “soap opera” centered on the personal lives of three soldiers. He added some quibble about the series being too lenient on the Japanese, who after all perpetuated far worse atrocities than American soldiers, using the Rape of Nanking as his example.
Certainly the reviewer is entitled to his opinion. I won’t dwell too much on my opinion here, which is that he missed the point of the series entirely.
Movies, TV and books have a long, long history of taking liberties with the facts, as have serious non-fiction books; the cliché is true: history is written by the winners. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy and necessary. Although there is clear and welcome attention to small details, The Pacific was intended to be … wait for it … a study of Americans fighting a very different war from their peers in Europe, not a history lesson.
I read and greatly enjoyed With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge, one of the two books that served as the basis for the screenplay (I started but did not finish Robert Leckie’s Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific; the author’s style of writing didn’t “work” for me). The writers and producers of the mini-series definitely captured the essence of the war Sledge wrote about, even while merging or omitting important events and characters.
Back to the topic.
I get that the reviewer was unhappy The Pacific did not meet his personal expectations. He also wasn’t wrong to say it was historically inaccurate, although in my mind he really should have expected that to begin with. As for not making the Japanese look more evil, well I’m sure he realized the Rape of Nanking was in 1938, three years before the events of the mini-series (my counter-opinion is the extreme actions of both sides were well represented. Anyway, his opinion/my opinion — neither right, neither wrong, both valid).
But then the reviewer goes on to praise the excitement of the battlefield scenes, even calling them “riveting,” which would appear to refute the earlier assessment that “everything” was wrong with the series. Isn’t “riveting” worth another star? I know, I know. I’m asking for consistency and where humans are involved, well that’s kind of a pipe dream now, isn’t it?
Here’s my point. Go ahead and write a review to let others know about your experience with the product. But remember it is your experience, and others will — inevitably, because again we’re all humans and all different — not necessarily have the same experience. You’re not, regardless of what your mother told you, the smartest person in the world (I’m reminded daily that I am not).
And remember, too, that the item you’re reviewing was created by a person, or a group of people, and some or all involved are proud of what they’ve done which likely involved great effort and dedication. I’ve written two novels which some said were good and others said were mediocre; regardless, I love them both and am proud of my accomplishment.
Do your review and be as honest as you want, make your points. But don’t tell someone their dog is ugly. There is no need for that.