IMDb is an important resource for improving our understanding of spectator response—which is why it is so odd that my colleagues raise their eyebrows when I praise it. It attracts actual—not hypothetical or ideal—viewers. Moreover, their responses are direct and open-ended; dialogue and debate emerge unshaped by interviewers, and they grow and change chronologically. Then, too, where else can one find such a large and inclusive gathering of diverse people? While all posters need sufficient English as well as Internet access to communicate, and while many also fall into certain categories of cinephile (for example, film students and fanboys), most posters appear to be “ordinary” viewers who anticipate new releases, rewatch old favorites, and primarily see films on television or DVD without significant viewing agenda. Whichever the case, IMDb allows us to see what they focus on, get a sense of where they come from, who they are, and how they think. It is for these reasons that I love IMDb, and often use its posters’ comments in my seminars and essays—not just to enliven class discussion and ground my scholarly arguments in real-life experience but also to bridge a gap that need not (and, indeed, should not) exist between academic film studies and (to quote Norma Desmond) “all those wonderful people out there in the dark.” Those wonderful people have a lot to say—and a good many things to teach us scholars not only about the films we see but also about the ways we see them.

Vivian Sobchack’s defense of IMDb, in the March/April 2013 issue of Film Comment
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