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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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For some reason, I’ve been having the same conversation with different people lately, so I figured I’d just try to clear things up in public.

When was the last time you saw a $5.95 bottle of wine with a 100-point rating? You never will. If it could be sold as a 100-point $5.95, it could be sold as a 95-point $20.99, and it would sell well. Or, maybe an 89-point $39.99. It’s all about pricing at that point, but 100-point $5.95 makes no economic sense. These precise figures are for illustrative purposes, and not representative of any real market conditions, but hopefully you get the idea.

This is the same reason I’ll never eat a 10/10 meal at a McDonald’s. If the fries were perfectly selected, sorted, salted, and fresh as hell, and my burger was carefully prepared, warm, fresh, and all that, the soda mix was perfect, etc., we’d be thinking in terms of a 10/10 McDonald’s meal. But, it’s not cost effective for McDonald’s to deliver a 10/10 meal. They can make a lot more money out of doing a mediocre job and moving a lot of product that’s been engineered to be as consistent as possible. In fact, they’ve engineered it such that low-skill high-turnover workers can easily do the work at their restaurants, and will make people more or less happy.

Then, of course, McDonald’s also realizes it’s better to be in the real estate and licensing business than in the food business. But that’s another rant for another day.

Wine ratings have an effect where a $5 90 is inferior to a $20 90. Quickly one comes to realize that the general curve for wine ratings, of rating versus price, is one with a diminishing margin, though there are outliers. But, in general terms, hitting the top few points means spending a lot of money.

So, some people assume I don’t enjoy a $4 meal. There are certainly cases of this. Chances are I will get very little out of the average American Chinese cuisine. But, I like eating at Wendy’s. Or Arby’s.

The same thing goes for movies. I’m not going to walk to into an action film and ever walk out with a 10/10 rating. But, to a certain extent there’s a weighting of expectations. It’s easier for the average action film to make it higher in the scale than it is for a “clever drama.” Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about romantic comedies. Again, there are rules. This doesn’t tie in nicely with the idea of “quality versus price” and any sort of proportional scale, but I’m trying to get across that there is a certain aspect of any rating system that depends on expectations. Is a genius filmmaker’s second film going to be judged using the same standards as their first? Realistically, no.

So, there’s no real point to this. I hope to one day eat at the French Laundry, but this does not preclude me from enjoying fast food. I just want that 10/10 meal someday. I similarly enjoyed watching Die Hard for the first time a few weekends ago. One could argue the company mattered more than the film, but it was still fun to watch. A great film? No, but rating systems aren’t about whether or not the experience is enjoyable.

Edit: Cleaned up a lot of stuff. Must have written first cut drunk.