The Toxic Fandom Wars: ‘Black Panther’ Edition

Rotten Tomatoes, Facebook, and Twitter find themselves at the center of this unwinnable scenario. 
By  · Published on February 7th, 2018

Rotten Tomatoes, Facebook, and Twitter, find themselves at the center of this unwinnable scenario.

As movies attempt to forge a new path with diverse casts and directors, there continues to be opposition from a loud minority of film goers. Whether this audience is for DC Comics movies or against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this minority believes they are adversely influencing the film industry. That has changed ahead of the launch of Marvel’s next superhero feature, Black Panther. Social media and review aggregate websites are fighting back.

Do not underestimate the power of Twitter and Facebook. As we’ve learned over the past few years, social media has a massive influence over how people digest their news. According to The Guardian, groups such as “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys” created a Facebook event to leave low ratings and effect perception of Disney’s Black Panther. This group also claims to have sabotaged the score of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. They had plans to sabotage many of the future Disney/Marvel productions. The group says they are a pro-DC Expanded Universe fan page that challenges Disney and Marvel productions. They complained about Star Wars: The Last Jedi featuring “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior) concepts by promoting female characters ahead of male ones. The group also believes that the press are paid by Disney to give Marvel / Star Wars films positive reviews. “Down With Disney” has hidden behind the fact they are pro-DC, when they have alternate goals of sexism and racism. Planning to drop negative reviews on a film before it is seen can’t be seen as a valid criticism. Considering the significant complaints are from including heroic women and diverse casts.

“Down With Disney” believed they had made progress when they unleashed bots on Rotten Tomatoes. The bots could leave countless negative reviews against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, thus manipulating the Audience Score metric to a significant adverse score. This would make general audiences wanting to check out Star Wars: The Last Jedi hesitate even when the Critic Score was in the 90s. Rotten Tomatoes heard ‘Down With Disney’ was planning to strike again for Black Panther. They have since denounced the Facebook group and released a statement regarding what they deem hate speech.

“We at Rotten Tomatoes are proud to have become a platform for passionate fans to debate and discuss entertainment, and we take that responsibility seriously. While we respect our fans’ diverse opinions, we do not condone hate speech. Our team of security, network and social experts continue to monitor our platforms closely, and any users who engage in such activities will be blocked from our site and their comments removed as quickly as possible.”

Plans to hurt Disney’s Black Panther have become more difficult as Facebook has also taken measures of their own. According to Hollywood Reporter, Facebook has deactivated the group for violation the social networking site’s community standards. “Down With Disney” had 3,700 members that were planning to manipulate audiences reception of Black Panther. A spokesperson for Facebook provided a statement which adds, “… We’re opposed to hate speech and bullying, and don’t allow either on our platform. We want Facebook to be a space where both expression and personal safety are protected and respected.”

Disliking a film is okay. Our critic Rob Hunter wrote an entire guide providing critical reasons to dislike Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Plenty of reasons exist to criticize the film that doesn’t have anything to do with strong female characters. There has been a war between fandom and critics since the beginning of time. Box Office rarely coincides with quality and films that don’t do well critically, sometimes strike big with audiences. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a film that scored big with critics and audiences gave its critical appraisal and box office totals. Despite attempts to hurt the box office with bots manipulating audience score, audiences still showed up in droves. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a worldwide box office of $1.3 billion. Disney will not give up their Star Wars plans soon. Does Rotten Tomatoes matter for blockbusters? Not so much, but for independent films, the aggregate can influence business. That being the case, it isn’t often that Disney needs to rely on critic scores to sell a movie. Now they are set to release another film predicted to do gangbusters.

Black Panther is ready to shatter box office expectations. According to MarketWatch, Box Office Media editorial director Daniel Loria has increased initial opening weekend projections. “Developments in recent weeks — social media engagement, pre-sales reported by Fandango, and a strong reception from critics — have contributed to what we believe will be a stellar opening weekend in the $130-$135 million range,” he said. It is also outpacing all superhero movies ever released, including other Marvel titles Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. The film has a 100% critical approval rating with 58 critics having already given scores to Black Panther.  Black Panther is poised to make a huge cultural impact, and people have expressed what the film means to them.

The importance of Black Panther cannot be underestimated. For many, seeing representation in a huge Hollywood movie is a game changer that has been a long time coming. The wars between Disney/Marvel and DC or critics and fanboys will continue. Social Media is a powerful tool that can be used for positive results but is often wielded to influence and silence those with adverse opinions. Change is difficult, but with quality films like Black Panther rising above the fray, there is hope that diversity wins out.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.