Fandoms can be a positive and nurturing experience for multiple mediums of entertainment. It can be a place to meet new people who share the same passions and for these people to communicate in a healthy way about why they love what they do. Fandoms can be powerful due to a large body of people all fighting for the same cause. On the other hand, toxic groups of people from certain fandoms can also lead to disaster for major film releases. The extremely harsh and negative backlash from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in 2017 drove members of the cast off Twitter and even caused a decrease in box office sales after the film’s debut weekend. Fandoms can be petty and brutal online, doing anything they can to spread an agenda, mainly on top film review aggregator sites. This unnecessary practice has become known as “review bombing.”
Review bombing is the process of leaving negative reviews for a piece of media in order to try and harm its popularity or sales. Some notable instances include the negative reviews and hate comments about the all female cast for 2016’s “Ghostbusters,” and for the all African American cast of 2018’s “Black Panther.” Most recently, Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel,” which was released on Mar. 8, 2019, experienced review bombing. A few weeks before the film’s release, the star of the film, Brie Larson, spoke out about her experience with press tours to promote her movies. The Daily Beast quoted Larson during a sit down with Keah Brown, a disabled journalist, stating, “I started paying attention to what my press days looked like and the critics reviewing movies, and noticed it appeared to be overwhelmingly white male.”
It was this realization that caused Brie Larson to make strides in making her press pool more diverse. Her quote, like most news today, was taken completely out of context and spread across the internet for ravenous fans to dig into. Most interpreted this as Larson having a problem with white males, and many began boycotting the film. The review bombing began shortly after Larson’s comment, with the film reaching as low as a 31 percent Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes before the film was even released.
This is easily the harshest review bombing seen in recent memory, with 2016’s “Ghostbusters” Audience Score only dropping to 58 percent on the day of release and “Black Panther” obtaining a still positive 75 percent Audience Score next to its 97 percent Tomatometer score from critics. That being said, it seems that the editors at Rotten Tomatoes took notice. They stripped users’ ability to post reviews about the film before it was officially released. This rule makes sense, but I still ask, “Why did a rule like this just get implemented?” I am not the biggest fan of Rotten Tomatoes because their system is often misread by most users, seeing the score on how good a movie is, rather than what it actually is. Rotten Tomatoes compiles reviews from verified critics all over the internet and deems their review either “fresh” or “rotten.” The fresh scores are divided by the total number of reviews which will provide the “Tomatometer” score. So, if a film has five reviews and four of them are “fresh,” the film receives an 80 percent score. The audience score works a lot differently. Rotten Tomatoes provides users with a star rating system, allowing the user to grade a film anywhere from zero to five stars. However, the score works the same as the Tomatometer. Reviews of a film with a score of three point five stars or higher are considered a “fresh” review. Many users fail to see how the system actually works which is why I will never acknowledge the Audience Score. This is mainly because of the potency of fandoms on the internet today.
Three years ago, two major DC Comics films, “Batman v. Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” saw their release in theaters. Both were among the most anticipated movies of the year and the DC fandom were gearing up to love these movies regardless of their actual quality. I know this because even before the films were widely released, critics began posting their reviews online, and the Tomatometer score swayed in the favor of both films being “rotten.” Before fans could even see the film, they were already sending death threats to critics and review bombing the films with positive reviews to show that critics don’t know what they are talking about. Again, this was before the movies were even released to the public, so the Audience Score is deemed useless because almost 99 percent of the audience members reviewing it had yet to see it. Even today, both of these DC Comics films post a 27 percent score on the Tomatometer, but hold positive scores from the audience.
My point about the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score boils down to the site being used as a target for the agendas of fandoms. Rotten Tomatoes is arguably the biggest review aggregate site for films on the internet, and the site makes it easy for any person to post a review about anything. Some of the reviews included in that score may be from users who haven’t even seen the movie. The Audience Score system is a bitterly-used and unreliable form of deciding whether to see a movie or not. I would recommend using IMDb, which is a site that features user scores that are often reflective of a film’s actual quality due to the site not allowing reviews before a movie is screened. I would also recommend Metacritic which is a site that most people think Rotten Tomatoes is. Metacritic takes the actual score from critics and averages them all together, coming to a score that is more reflective of the film itself and not a percentage based on how many people thought it was “fresh.” Hopefully, Rotten Tomatoes will learn from the past three years of poor fandom experiences and deeply think about reworking their system.