According to howstuffworks.com, the first reference to an audience throwing rotten tomatoes at the stage came in 1883, in New York City. However, produce-throwing is known to have happened as far back as 63 A.D. “when Vespasianus Caesar Augustus was hit with turnips in the midst of a riot.”
Nowadays, we don’t throw em, we post em. RottenTomatoes.com is one of the leading sites for movie reviews. Critics, paid and unpaid, can rate a movie as certified fresh or rotten. Now isn’t that more civilized? People can be savage with what they write, but no actual produce is injured in the process.
Be glad we’re as evolved as we are, because back before we cast turnips, we cast stones.
If you were to open your bible to John 7:53-8:11, you’d notice a peculiar thing. The passage is bracketed, because it’s clearly not part of the original Gospel. In fact, nobody knows exactly where this story of the woman caught in adultery comes from, but it’s such an amazing story, and tells us so much about who Jesus is, they chose to put it here.
You know this story. The religious leaders, trying to get Jesus to stumble over his words, present this woman who has been caught in adultery. They ask Jesus what he thinks they should do. After all, ancient texts talked about executing such a criminal. (Notice the man is nowhere to be found!) The crowd has gathered around, critics one and all, and what they have in their hand is not rotten and squishy. They carry stones, ready to kill her.
Jesus invites whoever is sinless to begin the stoning, and one by one the crowd disperses. He tells the woman not to sin and sends her on her way. It’s an amazing story, and it makes me wonder — Are critics dangerous, even today? Are rotten tomatoes deadly weapons capable of ruining lives?
Tomatoes are less harmful than stones, to be sure, but nobody likes to be judged. Not even Hollywood directors. That’s the thing about being a critic, pro or amateur. It involves being critical of someone else’s hard work, or hard life. Harsh, critical words really can do as much damage as sticks and stones.
Maybe if we all stopped paying attention to critics, would one by one they would drop their rotten tomatoes and think of something more constructive to do. But that would still leave you and I. Let’s face it, we can judge lots of things harshly, and can do the same kind of damage in the process. Maybe it’s true: Everyone’s a critic.
Honestly? I know there’s a place in this world for critics. I’ll still take a peep now and then and see what they’re saying about the next blockbuster. After all, Jesus never said we shouldn’t have opinions–just that we shouldn’t use them as weapons. We have more constructive things to do with our lives.
So may I make a suggestion?
Make salsa, not war.
Have a great week,