Honest Trailers has a solid voice and it’s consistent and it’s regular and you know what you’re going to get, but I would argue that it wasn’t always like that.... Go back and watch Phantom Menace in 3D or watch The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. It’s not just the voice that’s different, it’s the feel, the tone. They’re a little angrier; they’re a little snarkier. But now that program has had time to find a consistent voice and a balance. ~ Joe Starr
The tone and voice of Honest Trailers has evolved since the series' inception in 2012. Though the series has always taken an irreverent, mocking attitude towards movies, in its early days it used to be much harsher with its criticisms. The tone of Honest Trailers softened over time, at least partially in response to criticism of the series, but also as a result of changes to the writing staff and wider cultural shifts. Since 2014, the series has been known for calling out a film's flaws in a good-humored way.
Early years (2012 - early 2013)EditThe tone and voice of Honest Trailers has evolved dramatically over the years. When the series was first created, the series was designed to appeal primarily to young men and the first season of Honest Trailers is markedly different from the rest of the series. Early Honest Trailers used a more brutal tone, harsher criticisms and more provocative "dude bro" humor.
Some of the earliest Honest Trailers were praised for their negative tone, but many were criticized for it. For example, in response to the Skyfall Honest Trailer (episode 18), MTV wrote an extensive article rebutting every point made in the Honest Trailer and called the series a "declaration of war against fun." They wrote that the Honest Trailers series was "originally intended to live up to its title and present previews in a way that more accurately represented the actual films. Somewhere along the way, 'Honest Trailers' has devolved into a series of nit-picky video essays that seemingly hates every aspect of the movies." (Kevin P. Sullivan, February 6, 2013, MTV).
Similarly, in 2013, Cameron Cook of Culture Mass argued that the early Honest Trailers were glaring examples of rising negativity culture. Cook wrote, "Youtube channel ScreenJunkies has been posting a series of Honest Trailers for everything from Harry Potter to Les Miserables, with one goal in mind–to say as many negative things about the movie as possible in a very short amount of time. They’re hugely popular. Sometimes the insults are warranted, but they’re often undeserved (or misinformed) jabs at pieces of popular culture that are easy targets to begin with.... Some movies are better than others, but when we can’t tell the difference anymore because of our need to make a snarky comment, we lose the love of that thing we had to begin with." (C. Cook, Mary 30, 2013, Nicolas Cage, Honest Trailers, and The Culture of Negativity, Culture Mass via the Wayback Machine).
In various Honest Trailers Commentaries, the writers have said they agree the early Honest Trailers were too mean. In a May 2017 interview with Polygon, Honest Trailers co-creator Andy Signore suggested, "there have been some cruel and mean-spirited jokes in their earlier videos that, in hindsight, the team probably didn’t need."
Middle years (late-2013 to late-2015) EditThe tone of Honest Trailers evolved during Season 2 and beyond. The series began to focus more on calling out a film's flaws in a good-natured way. The critical perception of the series' tone changed significantly after the release of the incredibly positive Season 3 episode Captain America: The Winter Soldier Honest Trailer. Directors Anthony and Joseph Russo said they were fans of Honest Trailers and used the series as inspiration to make Captain America: The Winter Soldier a better film. In response, CinemaBlend wrote:
While commenters have often decried Honest Trailers for accused cynicism or buzz-killing, it's clear the videos have proved a true source of inspiration for one of the summer's best films. And really, isn't that the point of this kind of dedicated nitpicking? To demand movies that allow us to suspend disbelief and experience an incredible ride? I used to think that at their best Honest Trailers provide some catharsis for movie fans who've been heartbroken over a film that didn't dare live up to their expectations. But it seems that at their best, Honest Trailers can actually make for better movies. Even Marvel movies. (Captain America: The Winter Soldier Honest Trailer (episode 70) - Kristy Puchko, 20 August, 2014, CinemaBlend)
Fast Company wrote that the decision to be overwhelmingly positive in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier Honest Trailer was "a major creative leap for a series that has made a name for itself by doing the opposite of sucking up... the departure also shows how, as a brand, Honest Trailers is not just about slinging snark for the sake of driving traffic...every criticism that’s lobbed is laboriously debated for its credibility and fairness, so that stings never feel gratuitous; they simply feel true."
Soon after, the surprisingly positive The Fault in Our Stars Honest Trailer (also from Season 3) cemented Screen Junkies' reputation as being playful and fair in their criticisms. At the time, Bustle wrote:
It's their job to poke fun, and so they do, but there's a distinct lack of venom. In fact, there's something almost akin to respect? And there's definitely a lot of enjoyment. Since when do Honest Trailers lead into their roasting with the caveat that they're talking about "well-rounded characters?" (The Fault in Our Stars Honest Trailer (episode 73) - Alanna Bennett, September 25, 2014, Bustle)
Later years (2015 and on) Edit
Season 6 featured a subtle but palpable shift in the tone and voice of Honest Trailers. It is when the running joke "bewbs" was phased out. Additionally, Epic Voice Guy began to be written with a slightly different voice. For example, the character no longer continually clarified that he "wasn't gay." Furthermore, the writers took a different approach to films aimed at female audience members, evidenced by the Honest Trailer for Insurgent. Although that video was highly critical of the movie, it didn't disparage its young, female target market. Rather, the video took the audience's side and said they deserved better. This is in total contrast to the way Honest Trailers for female-skewing YA films were handled in Season 1 when the series called female fans "stupid."
In all likelihood, several factors contributed to this change in tone and voice. For the first time in the series' history, there was a stable group of writers who had become confident in their own views. In contrast, during earlier seasons, the writers often made comments they personally didn't agree with purely because they felt fans expected them to. Moreover, Season 6 is when Honest Trailers first began to attract major awards attention, including being nominated for an Emmy. Likewise, Season 6 is when Honest Trailers featured its first major celebrity cameo: Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. It is probable that the increased participation of Hollywood players encouraged the team to take a fairer approach. Lastly, there was a major cultural shift happening in the media industry during this time, exemplified by the growing traction of the #MeToo movement.
In 2018, Joe Starr described the motto of the writing team as "Honest first, then funny." He said when he first joined the team as a staff writer in 2015, his initial drafts were rejected for being far too harsh on good films. By 2018, Honest Trailers was well-known for its good-humored approach to film criticism and was often contrasted with the different, harsher, and much nit-pickier approach taken by YouTube channel CinemaSins, creators of the "Everything Wrong With" series. In a review of a Season 11 episode, Slash Film wrote:
While we’re supremely against all the nonsense that CinemaSins puts forth in their recurring video series, we appreciate what the folks at Screen Junkies put forth every week with their Honest Trailers. At the very least, they’re clever in their humorous observations about critiques, plot holes and we love the new title they give to all their targets.(Ethan Anderton, Slash Film, May 2nd, 2018)In a similar vein, in 2019 Matt Conway of Screen Geek wrote:
Honest Trailers are amusing videos because they typically approach their subject matter in a less-cynical manner than other channels like CinemaSins. Whether you liked the movie or not, the channel typically points out fair points that both audiences can agree upon. (Matt Conway, Screen Geek, June 13, 2019)For more information on the similarities and differences between Honest Trailers and CinemaSins' "Everything Wrong With" series, please see main article: Comparison of Honest Trailers and CinemaSins.
- ↑ Napzok K. (Producer). (2017, February 2) From God To Improv - Joe Starr, The Napzok Files [Audio podcast]