You’re Dumb and Wrong: 5 out of 10 should not be a mediocre review score

By Jeremy Brown, Arts & Entertainment Editor

When I got a 59.6% in Trigonometry, I failed the class and nearly got kicked out of my high school’s production of Shrek the Musical.

59.6% of all the material answered correctly wasn’t sufficient, it wasn’t adequate, it wasn’t mediocre – it was a failure. So why is it considered mediocre when it’s for reviews?

Before we move on, it’s important to make a distinction between mathematics and English. Yes, the literal mean, or average between 0 and 10 is a 5. Calling something “average” in the English language usually means it’s typical or commonplace.


Many review scales adhere to the logic which these are essentially one in the same. Some reviewers say 7 out of 10 make more sense as average and there’s a discrepancy between these scales.

I think something average, in a reviewer’s scale, shouldn’t be half of everything right. Only half right isn’t okay, it’s just bad.

Imagine if the first half of a movie was fantastic, with interesting plot threads and questions to be answered, but the second half was a miserable slog where nothing even makes sense with the first half. Those who watched The Cloverfield Paradox don’t have to imagine this.

Does that make the movie a 5 out of 10? I would argue that makes sense as the score. But is the movie mediocre, or an average movie to me? Again, if you’ve seen The Cloverfield Paradox, you’re probably in the same boat as me in saying it’s terrible, and 5 out of 10 is not any form of recommendation.

Or, let’s say we were to take the mathematic route, and an average movie would fit in the middle of the rankings for all movies ever made. Even here, I think we can agree the vast majority of movies in existence range from worthless up to inoffensively bad.

In this case, I could totally understand 5 out of 10 being the mean. But 5 out of 10 still would never be close to a recommendation, it’d be an insulting score.

Where everyone lands on the definition of the 5 out of 10 score gets more fuzzy by way of star systems, like most traditional film critics use, or Netflix before they butchered a perfectly fine system for only a “yes or no” system. I’d stop picking on them each week if they stopped making it worse.


With the five-star system, Netflix said three stars was “I liked it” while two stars was “I didn’t like it.” This meant there was no option for indifference. Yet if two stars translates to 4/10 and three translates to 6/10, then the missing option would be two and a half stars, or 5 out of 10, and it would mean average or indifferent.

However, there was never a time when Netflix recommended me something was two and a half stars, because again, that’s not an endorsement. It’s still a warning that whatever the movie or show is, it’s not worth your time.

The reason I think this way is because another review scale has also been ingrained into me — letter grades from education. Throughout all of public schooling, C’s were average, yet meant a 70% to 79%.

Why even care about this at all?

The most important part is establishing, as people who watch, play, listen to or read entertainment, a higher standard of what’s considered the average. The more you critically you view your entertainment not only helps you find better media out there for yourself, it means creators can’t half-bake ideas and serve them cold.

Or, I wrote this whole column to say C’s get degrees because they’re acceptable, I promise mom.

You’re Dumb and Wrong is a weekly column about video games, movies and popular entertainment from Arts & Entertainment editor Jeremy Brown. He can be reached at [email protected]

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