If the term 'overrated' is completely or largely subjective, then it loses its purpose. I'm not saying all literature should be examined and held to some common standard, on the contrary, I think different literature holds different meaning to different people in different times and places. But if the term becomes so watered down, it is no more right to say something is overrated (because the term's implies some sort of common denominator) than you find it wrong to say "you shouldn't say X is overrated". I'm not trying to tell you what you can or cannot say, but I find the use of the term by your own standards ludicrous.
If you think Tolkien's writing has gotten more academic attention and credit than you reckon it warrants, I would disagree (unless you think it warrants more or less none at all, in which case it has gotten more). Tolkien's fiction has not been given much attention in academia at all (aside from a handful of recent scholars). Tolkien was an expert linguist with a vast knowledge of old and middle English literature, and while you are free to not enjoy his style (I had trouble with it in the beginning as well), there is much to discover in his writings in terms of crafty usage of language, usage and reference of medieval literature, interconnectedness of his works and literary theory and warrants as much study as any other author.
If you think Tolkien has gotten too much love outside of academia, well, I don't really have anything to say about that.
You can think of Tolkien what you like, but first going on about the subjectivity of opinions and then using the term overrated which by implication devalues the opinion of others is - for lack of a better word - odd.
On a side note, I find the reasoning that Tolkien has no female characters/no character development and such makes for a subject of literary examination hilarioius (not because it is or isn't true, though I find the argument reveals an only superficial understanding of Tolkien's writing), but because it is such a bad reason in general.
1. Overrated is a word that is/has been used by all sorts of entertainment critics and other artist/musician/filmmaker types that grew up in Los Angeles around me where there is usually a majority opinion and the term "overrated" is often used to just signify that to one individual's opinion, the majority is rating something too highly. I honestly have never, ever heard people criticize the use of the phrase "overrated" or talk about how it loses value. I am not sure when you guys think the term is even appropriate to use based on what you've written.
2. I was never actually criticizing Tolkien in general but was specific discussing the LotR 3 books so its a bit of a strawman for you to misstate my specific criticisms. I actually enjoyed The Silmarillion more than his novels. Also I never once said Tolkien has gotten too much attention in academia. What I was referring to was the combination of popular Top 100 book lists that LotR is on and the opinions of fan-boys that I have known in real life who I believe rate Tolkien too highly.
3. You have declared that my criticism of lack of any female character depth or development is a "bad reason" but you have not provided a reason why. I also did not say Tolkien has "no character development", I said he has very shallow character development relative to other books I have read.
Your whole post is a bit of a strawman and could be said to be only a superficial understanding of my criticism.
I understand what you are trying to say now I think. However around the film industry here in Hollywood the term "overrated" gets used all the time and no one really thinks people who use it are saying anyone else is "vastly wrong" or anything like calling them "tasteless or stupid". That is drawing way more inferences into the term than is ever done around here.
Around here, its simply a common way of saying that one person does not rate a work of art/music/film as highly as some official ratings or majority ratings. Very likely you live around a different culture with different connotations of words and that is why you perceive the term overrated quite differently than I do.