7 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Creativity and the Power of Critique

It doesn’t take any special qualifications to be rated one of the top one percent of TripAdvisor raters. The only thing you really have to do is write a lot of reviews about places you’ve been. You don’t need to have any expertise in what you’re writing about, you don’t have to take into account anything but your own opinion. There are no other qualifications for being a reviewer.

As a writer, I can appreciate when someone writes a lot of reviews because it isn’t always easy to write. However, to use a TripAdvisor status as a way to justify your opinion is duplicitous. TripAdvisor doesn’t endorse your opinion; it just says you have had a lot of them.

Just going places doesn’t make you educated in anything. It doesn’t tell you how to run a hotel. It doesn’t tell you about the history of the area, and it doesn’t create automatic information by osmosis. It simply says you have money to go places. In order to know about what is behind a good critique, you have to know something more than what you’ve done or what you think you’ve seen online. So, in the second half of “Instant Hotel,” I can only roll my eyes and scream out in frustration when Serena continuously talks about her discerning eye as evidenced by her TripAdvisor rating.

Critics of an idea or product are often seen as smarter than the people who created the product. It’s easy to destroy, degrade and denigrate something. It’s much more difficult to come up with something new. While some critics may inspire passion because they treat things fairly and can be happy for what they are criticizing as well as angry or sad about what they are criticizing (like Roger Ebert), critics who only find fault with what they criticize are working to aggrandize themselves. In a competition like “Instant Hotel” where people are judging other people’s dreams, the judgments should be fair and driven with a genuine concern for lifting people up, instead of finding a way to tear people down so you can award them fewer points. Awarding fewer points is a strategy to win a game, but this isn’t just a game; it’s people’s livelihoods.

There’s no doubt that Serena is playing a game. Her and her buddy, Sturt, discussed their divide and conquer strategy. We can only hope that it backfires spectacularly on them. Then Serena can take her TripAdvisor rating and flush it in her next television engagement – Lifetime’s “True Love Story.”

In the interest of fairness, I did a small amount of additional research because ultimately, this is Serena’s livelihood, too. It isn’t fair to believe that reality TV reflects reality. In an interview published on “Decider,” Serena said it was the editing that made her look like the villain. She wanted to please the producers and wanted to get more air time. She also wanted to compete and win, so she says that the whole Houseboat episode didn’t go down like it was edited. She doesn’t care about her TripAdvisor rating, but again, the producers told her it would be good for the show.

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