A Quote Whore Exposed – The Shawn Edwards Incident

shawnedwardsShawn Edwards is a “film critic” for a FOX TV affiliate in Kansas City. His segment, entitled The Screening Room, runs three days a week on FOX 4 News. Edwards is also part of a group of people derogatorily known in the business as “quote whores.” For those of you who may not know, quote whores are people who provide glowing reviews of (usually bad) movies to the major motion picture studios. (They’re the ones responsible for saying things like “Getaway is Taken meets Drive.”) Those quotes are then used in TV and print ads to make it appear that a particular film has been well-reviewed. It is widely believed that they do this for money and/or ego. Edwards’ bio on the FOX 4 website boasts that he “has been quoted on more than 300 movies” since beginning employment there thirteen years ago. This gives you an idea of the mindset. Forget writing well or having an interesting opinion; it’s all about how often you get quoted.


Every Tuesday, Shawn tweets mini-reviews of the week’s new DVD releases to his 2,600+ Twitter followers. Yesterday, something unusual happened. He tweeted this:


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Ouch! Harsh words, huh? I agree with him. The Hangover Part III is really bad. But when I read that tweet, a memory was triggered in the back of my mind. I went to YouTube and searched for TV ads for the movie, where I found this:


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Say what?! Shawn Edwards has been caught in a lie before. During the press tour for the movie Alex Cross, star Tyler Perry asked Edwards on-camera if he liked the film. Edwards said that he did. His actual review, however, was negative. That was bad, but this incident with The Hangover Part III is worse. It constitutes the most substantial evidence yet that quote whores are selling words. There’s not a minor difference between what Edwards said in the ads back in May and what he tweeted this week; it’s a complete 180. In fact, his tweet goes directly against everything he was quoted saying in that TV spot. He is, in short, a bald-faced liar.


This leads to a few questions. First, how does this happen? Not surprisingly, the quote whores – including Maria Salas, Mark S. Allen, and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers – are notoriously tight-lipped about their practices. What we do know is this: the whores often receive all-expenses-paid trips to press junkets, where they get to see the movie early and interview the stars. These junkets also put them in direct contact with studio PR folks. There have been reports that the publicity department will supply whores with pre-written quotes they want put into the ads; a willing whore can pick the one they want attributed to them. Bingo! You get to brag to your friends that your name is on TV! You have influence! While no one knows for certain, it stands to reason that some sort of business transaction takes place so that the whores are paid for their willingness to supply their “thoughts.” I’ve heard through the grapevine that Travers’ deal was orchestrated by Rolling Stone, which gets the free advertising that comes with having its logo plastered all over TV and print advertisements. I have no idea whether or not that’s true, although it sounds logical.


Of course, the problem with all of this, as Shawn Edwards so ineloquently proved this week, is that the quote whores don’t even believe the shit they’re saying. Edwards clearly hated The Hangover Part III – and yet he was willing to completely sell out that opinion for an easy buck and/or an ego massage. It’s shameless.





Next question: Why should we care? Legitimate film critics care because it makes us look bad. When people see a quote calling Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters “the magical thrill ride of the summer” or saying that Beautiful Creatures is “superbly acted” and “spellbinding,” they’re likely to think, “Ugh, critics are so stupid!” Our livelihood depends on people coming to our websites or other outlets and reading our reviews. When moviegoers think they’re just going to get a shovel full of garbage, they aren’t likely to bother seeking out film writing.


But forget about us. There’s a reason why you should care, as well. You’re actively being lied to. Sure, all products are presented in their best light for advertisements. That’s not what’s happening here, though. You’re being marketed to via fabrications, inaccuracies, and untruths. The people telling you how wonderful the product is don’t believe what they’re trying to make you believe. If any other product was pitched to you in such a knowingly deceitful manner, you’d likely be joining a class-action lawsuit, or at least refusing to buy the product anymore.


Perhaps blaming the quote whores isn’t enough. The studios shoulder much of the blame. Warner Brothers could have gone to Rotten Tomatoes and found positive reviews of The Hangover Part III to quote in their ads. There weren’t many, but there were some, and they were written by real, established, professional critics, including the Wall Street Journal’s John Anderson, Film Racket’s Bill Gibron, and former Associated Press critic Christy Lemire. WB didn’t need to bring Shawn Edwards into the mix.





This leads to the third question: If there are real critics out there, why use the whores? Simple: the fake quotes are part of a carefully planned marketing strategy. The studio PR departments don’t want a good review, they want a specific message. In the case of The Hangover Part III, they knew they were in trouble. The original Hangover was a hit. So was the sequel, although it was almost universally seen as a vastly inferior Xerox copy. Given that the series’ trio of stars, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, had received extraordinary pay raises for the third installment, WB had a vested interest in making sure this one was a hit, too. Enter Shawn Edwards, fully willing to tell the lie that The Hangover Part III brought the series to “a glorious end.”


Another egregious example of this came in 2010. A full month before the highly-anticipated David Fincher film The Social Network was shown to any critics, Peter Travers was quoted in ads saying it “brilliantly defines the decade” and dubbing it “an American landmark.” Believe me, all of us in the film criticism business were scratching our heads and saying, How the hell did Travers get to see it already? Who knows if he even saw it early or not? The point is, Sony had a hot title, and they wanted to position it as a movie that defined an online generation. Travers was right there, ready to be the marketing department’s lapdog and give them exactly what they ordered.


Quote whoredom has gotten out of hand. People like Travers and Shawn Edwards are hurting the reputations of respectable film critics with their unprofessional antics, and they’re also harming the cultural discussion of cinema. By proclaiming crap to be gold, or by happily lying so as to avoid losing their ability to suck up to movie stars, they make the audience mistrustful. The dirty, duplicitous, repellant quote whores ought to be ashamed of themselves.


And I’m talking to you, Shawn Edwards.


Note: If you want to learn more about quote whores, or keep tabs on them, Erik Childress does an awesome Criticwatch piece over at eFilmCritic.com. His ongoing work is well worth checking out.


UPDATE 10/11: Apparently, word of this article got back to Shawn Edwards, who tweeted this in the early morning hours:


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This doesn’t appear to be a very truthful statement, either. A “Screening Room” video posted on the FOX 4 website finds Edwards saying, “the second time around made me hate this movie even more.” His original review from May (when the ads aired) finds him calling the film “not funny” and giving it “2 popcorn bags.” Not exactly a “glorious” end.


If any further response comes from Edwards, I’ll update again.

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3 Responses to “A Quote Whore Exposed – The Shawn Edwards Incident”

  1. Shawn Edwards is a twat. He never has anything of substance to say about anything. He just wants to get attention for his stupid quotes. He’s in that league of idiotic critics like Peter Travers and Pete Hammond who say idiotic things yet are never able to back up their critiques. The worst of them all is Ben Lyons who took quote-whoring to a new low as it was later proven that he is a total moron.

  2. “I just changed my mind..” from thinking that it was “glorious” to telling people to “avoid it like the plague”. Yeah, I change my mind sometimes, too. But so dramatically over a few months? Absolutely ridiculous, and sadly shameless.

    Great job on this, Mike. Critics like Edwards and Travers make a mockery of those with actual opinions that are not bought and paid for.

  3. Jesse Coffey

    Shawn Edwards is a pure idiot. That’s only because he wants to see his name in the paper/on the telly/on the box. He says that “the funniest trilogy ever [in an alternate universe] comes to a glorious end” and then says consumers should avoid the DVD and Blu-Ray “like the plague?” “Opinions change” periodically but they can never wipe your quote from the public eye, white or black. I doubt very seriously he ever changed his mind on “2012″ (yes, that one movie banned in North Korea), “Hey Arnold: The Movie” (which gave one of the show’s fans a chance to react negatively to the film), or…an entire threesome that is starting to get overrated in the first place?