Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say “BLAARGH!”
The Internet can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how it’s used. Thanks to this wonderful invention, we now have instant access to a vast world of information and entertainment, but we also have been given a nearly unlimited set of ways we can all be dicks to one another. These instances mostly take place in some message board posts and article comment chains, where more trolls dwell than your average Tolkien novel. The past few months have brought a shameful amount of hostile, and in many cases misogynistic comments, pointed at online movie critics who dared to disagree with what the majority about a number of Summer blockbusters. Smartass comments are nothing new to the Internet, but the amount of vitriol found in these words posted toward professional critics who are expressing an honest, if not an unpopular, opinion lead me to believe that a large chunk of the online community sorely needs a time-out.
This ugly trend first entered the consciousness of Internet users in the comment chain of Boxoffice Magazine movie critic Amy Nicholson’s lukewarm review of the Summer’s biggest hit, The Avengers. Her review inspired many readers to level personal attacks on her both on the Boxoffice site and on Rotten Tomatoes, where her review was also featured. These comments called into question her status as a professional critic and accused her of not understanding the movie because “she was a woman”. “She asked her boyfriend what score she should give. Stick to rom-coms, bitch,” one particularly unenlightened commenter wrote. This outburst of hateful and reductive feedback prompted fellow critic Matt Singer to pen an op/ed for Indiewire.com chiding this extreme fringe of the fanboy community for bullying critics such as Nicholson for daring to have a less than enthusiastic opinion about a property that they happen to love.
This shameful practice escalated considerably during the days leading up to the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. As early reviews came in, the film enjoyed an expected high rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ patented “Tomato-meter,” which compiles all reviews of a film and gives it a percentage based on how many were positive. Once a few negative reviews began to pour in, Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down the comment chain over The Dark Knight Rises due to the excessive amount of hostile comments, some of which included death threats. Let’s also bear in mind that these comments came days before the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in the United States, which means that the angry commenters hadn’t even seen the film that these critics were giving their opinion on. This occurrence has led Rotten Tomatoes to consider revamping the way they allow comments on their site to require readers to identify their IP addresses before being permitted to voice their opinions on a given review.
In the words of my esteemed colleague Jason Kerouac: “It’s time to grow the *$#@ up, Internet”. Another person’s opinion on a movie, or any form of entertainment, does not devalue or invalidate your personal opinion on that same property. Personally bashing, or physically threatening the person who happened not to like the thing that you happened to love will not make them reevaluate that work of art, nor will it sway the reader to your point of view. Anyone who reads a comment that is hateful or personally attacking the writer will not sympathize with the person making the comment and will more than likely fall on the side of the writer, regardless of whether or not the reader agrees with his or her opinion. What baffles me more is why sites like Rotten Tomatoes, who is now corporately owned by Warner Brothers, didn’t have a system already in place where they can immediately screen and delete offensive posts before they can be made visible to readers. Our site is not corporately owned, and yet we are able to delete posts that have been flagged as inappropriate (not that we frequently have to do so, because the majority of the people who comment on our articles are intelligent, level-headed individuals who welcome healthy debate). Some of the bigger entertainment news sites should adopt stricter methods in managing their comments in order to prevent harassment and other annoying troll behavior. These changes could go a long way toward making the Internet a more enjoyable place for fans of pop culture.
Please feel free to share your views on this topic in the comment chain below, or, if you are so inclined, contact me via the links listed below. No death threats, please…I don’t need those in my life.