Thursday, July 19, 2012

How bad do the comments have to get for Rotten Tomatoes to shut them down?

It's a lot of fun to watch certain high-strung, sensitive fanboys go on the offensive when they think that their favored films aren't being shown enough critical adulation. I've done two comics about it, featuring that great superhero, RottenTomatoBot, which incorporates actual user comments into dialogue spoken by the character.

But now, the fun has turned deadly.

Apparently, reaction to certain critics of the new film "The Dark Knight Rises" has been so vitriolic that Rotten Tomatoes has decided they have to silence the RottenTomatobots.
Matt Atchity, the site's editor-in-chief, said Tuesday it was the first time has suspended user comments, adding postings about "Dark Knight" reviews would likely be restored by the end of the week. The final film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy opens Friday.  
 "The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," said Atchity. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."
My question is, "What else is new?" That question is meant to be ironic, since Rotten Tomatoes users have been doing this kind of thing for a long, long time.

And what in the hell is all this about "policing the comments?"  They've had people policing these comments? I mean, there have been death threats and childish name calling and vitriol and racial and homophobic slurs hurled at anyone who dares to jeopardize a fanboy-favorite's chance at a "100% fresh" rating. Just ask Armond White.

So, anyway, what is Rotten Tomatoes planning on doing about it?
Atchity said the site is considering a move to a Facebook commenting system, which might cut down on the glut of anonymous posts. Other film review aggregating sites, such as and, either don't allow user comments or don't permit comments to be posted before a film opens.  
"There are a lot of options on the table," said Atchity, who is worried about a similar backlash when director Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is released later this year. "We may do away with comments completely or get to a place where comments are only activated after a movie opens."
So they know what's coming -- when and if there's a negative review of The Hobbit, the fanboys are going on the attack, because they are so damned predictable, they do it every time, and in exactly the same way, using the same tired, pathetic tactics.

Here's one comment thread. It actually doesn't look too bad right now, but maybe that's because it's already been "policed." (Please note that a number of commenters are actually attacking other commenters for their assaholism.)

The most vitriolic comments are the most amusing of course, but what's even more interesting and sad are the comments like those of "Steve G," (when you click on his moniker you get a 404 error messagecommenting on Marshall Fine's "Dark Knight Rises" review:
I knew there'd be a contrarian troll or hipster somewhere to taint the film's perfect 100% fresh rating.
This criticism, or some variation on it, is a favorite of the fanboys. They're so far into their own heads that they can only process criticism of their favored art as an act of willful defiance. This film, which many of them haven't even seen, simply must be good, they know it must be good, it's an indisputable, self-evident fact, and anyone who says anything different is just being obstinate.

And, looking for attention on the internet. Clearly, the only reason someone would write a negative review of a film that everyone knows is amazing is so that they can get page views. They're just trolls. Or, as commenter Chris B so eloquently put it:
Another favorite tactic is to reference a past review, and use that to somehow undermine the current one, a tactic employed by redsoxin2009, who points out that Mr. Fine liked Men In Black 3:
MIB III is fresh but this has to much action??
How could he give a positive review to one film, and then give a negative review to another, different film? It's almost like he's judging each film on its own merits, which obviously makes no sense -- therefore, his opinion is pathetic, he's a hack, and just a troll.

Then there's the "you just don't like these kinds of movies anyway" argument, a variation of which is represented by Joe L:
Giving this movie a rotten review because of loud noises is what makes this absurd. Whether or not it was too much action for his taste, he has to critique the film for what other 99.9% of critics are praising it as...the best superhero movie of all time. According to this guy, Amazing Spiderman has a leg up (pun intended) on TDKR. Ridiculousness!
He is criticizing the things that other reviewers liked about it -- and if other reviewers liked those elements which are important to the film then those elements are good and therefore the film is good. It's an action movie, and he didn't like the action in it. Absurd!

And then there are those who say something like, "It's not that he didn't like the film, it's the way that he didn't like it that bothers me," represented here by Dictator F:
It's not that he didn't like it as much as that he compared it to Transformers. There's nothing wrong with liking and disliking different movies (that's the point of Rotten Tomatoes!) but there is something wrong with comparing brilliance to garbage.
Again, it's self-evident: Transformers is of course "garbage," and everybody knows that. So comparing Transformers to Dark Knight Rises completely undermines everything in his review.

Enough, you get the idea. All of these comments are pathetic attempts to intimidate people into groupthink -- they're right, they know they're right, and any disagreement is just screaming for attention by someone who is too stupid to get it and they don't like these kinds of movies anyway and by the way did you see the positive review he gave to Transformers?

If you disagree, you're at best an idiot. Or maybe you're retarded.

The irony, of course, is that it's the so-called "contrarian" reviews that should be celebrated. The big entertainment conglomerates have totally co-opted the film critics, who now serve as one arm of their advertising and promotion departments. They're certainly not independent "journalists."

Most of the magazines and newspapers that publish "reviews", along with interviews articles about upcoming movies/tv shows/cds are owned by the big entertainment corporations. They all buy each other's magazines when they run articles about their products. They buy these magazines in bulk, and distribute them around the world, as part of their promotional packages. One must keep that in mind when reading something like, for instance, this mewling bit of embarrassment from Entertainment Weekly's "critic," Owen Gleiberman, in which he says he cried at the end of that paean to corporate entertainment, Toy Story 3:
I’m not just talking about shedding a tear or two, or having that Brian’s Song lump in the throat. I’m talking about that soppy, awkward thing where you make sounds. Even in our huggy-sensitive post-New Age it’s-okay-for-men-to-cry culture, I was, quite frankly, a little bit embarrassed. So now, with the hope and cause of transcending my shame, I would like to own up to my inner sap and ask my fellow weepie male moviegoers to join me in saying: I cried at Toy Story 3, and it’s okay!
I do not mean to undermine Mr. Gleiberman's emotional involvement in a film about corporate entertainment products. What I do mean is to at least make you question his sincerity as a film critic. Entertainment Weekly is part of the Time Warner megaconglomerate. It is a magazine that is designed specifically to promote corporate entertainment.

Why in the hell would you care what a staff member of a promotional pamphlet thinks of a film that you haven't even seen yet?

These people are happy promoters of the corporate line. "Critics" willingly play along with the entertainment corporations in exchange for getting to go to free screenings and press junkets, and for access to the celebrities who appear in films. They feel like they are part of the studio's publicity machine -- they are not journalists. Remember back in December, when the New Yorker's David Denby broke Sony's "embargo" and published an early review of David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? He admitted that he wouldn't have broken Sony's review embargo for a negative review:
Denby’s excuse that he would never have published an early negative review proved that many reviewers feel complicit in helping to promote movies rather than critiquing them. Denby’s weak apology didn’t wash with Rudin who threatened to bar him from future screenings of his productions; Rudin complained that by reneging on an agreement not to review the movie Denby had derailed its planned media launch. Most accounts of this conflict disingenuously overlooked how today’s media culture prioritizes commercial practices rather an interest in art. Denby gave preference to a big-budget Hollywood movie merely to score a scoop for The New Yorker. “We had to get something serious in the magazine,” was the worst part of Denby’s alibi.
The people that we call "critics" have been totally co-opted. It's gotten to the point that filmmakers expect critics to toe the line in this regard. Back when Kevin Smith made and released the film Cop Out (remember that one?), he lashed out at critics for not doing their job and, you know, promoting his film:
In a series of posts on his page, he writes, "I gotta say that every day I hate film theory & film students & critics more & more. Film fandom's become a nasty bloodsport where cartoonishly rooting for failure gets the hit count up. Watching them beat the s**t out of it was sad. Like, it's called 'Cop Out'; that sound like a very ambitious title to you? You REALLY wanna s**t in the mouth of a flick that so OBVIOUSLY strived for nothing more than laughs. Was it called 'Schindler's Cop Out'?   
"Writing a nasty review for 'Cop Out' is akin to bullying a retarded kid. All you've done is make fun of something that wasn't doing you any harm and wanted only to give some cats some fun laughs."  
And the experience has convinced Smith the system is "backwards" -- he'd prefer to turn the job of reviewing movies over to members of the public.
That last line is pretty amusing, considering that the "members of the public," i.e., the Rotten Tomatobots, are making death threats and using slurs against those who disagree with their opinions.

And of course the final punchline to this story is that Warner Bros -- the studio behind The Dark Knight Rises -- also owns Rotten Tomatoes. That's right, Rotten Tomatobots: The website where you so passionately post about your favorite corporate entertainment is in fact owned by the very corporation whose intellectual property you're protecting.

You are living the dream, fanboys!

UPDATE: Friday July 20 @ 7:30 AM PST: Really terrible news this morning that a gunman murdered 12 people during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora Colorado.
Eyewitnesses said the gunman entered the movie theater through the emergency exit door near the front of the screen in theater No. 9 at the Century 16 in Aurora. A witness, who declined to be identified, told The Times that the gunman then "threw a canister across the theater," unleashing gas, "then started shooting."
I wonder what the Rotten Tomatobots, the ones who make death threats against those who disagree with them, think about this? How long before they start making jokes about it?

No comments: