If you’ve been keeping up with “Captain Marvel” news the past couple of days, you might’ve read some headlines claiming trolls are already “bombing” the Brie Larson movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score and “flooding” the film’s page with sexist comments.
Since the news hit, it appears several (around 15 or so) of those trolling comments have been removed, according to screenshots HuffPost took on Tuesday. But there might be an entirely new onslaught of people now downvoting the film.
It’s dizzying. It’s exhausting. And, yes, it’s all happening pre-release. So with time on our hands before the movie debuts on March 8, we decided to take a look at what’s really going on.
HuffPost first noticed the troll attacks on “Captain Marvel” earlier this week thanks to stories from a few fandom blogs and Screen Rant, which pointed out, “Most of the trolls’ comments are about Larson being a vocal feminist and how this movie pushes feminism to the forefront of the [Marvel Cinematic Universe].”
Rotten Tomatoes allows audience members to express online whether they want to see a movie before it’s released, amounting to a “want to see” rating that is eventually replaced by an audience score once the movie hits theaters.
Before a movie is released:
After a movie is released:
Users can add comments about their opinion before the movie comes out, too, so the mere existence of pre-viewing commentary isn’t out of the ordinary.
But the latest comments for “Captain Marvel” seem to follow a disturbing theme: One person said they couldn’t be paid to see the “SJW laden, white male hating worthless POS movie.” Others claimed, without much context, that Larson had “sexist and racist attitudes.”
These commenters appeared to reference an interview that Larson had with Marie Claire earlier this month where she talked about wanting to speak to a more inclusive pool of journalists, ones that weren’t “overwhelmingly white male.” Larson’s words reiterate what she said while accepting an award for excellence in film at the Crystal + Lucy Awards in 2018.
Pointing out the disparity between the number of white male movie reviewers and the number of women reviewers and reviewers of color, Larson said, “I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what that film meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial. And for the third time, I don’t hate white dudes. These are just facts. These are not my feelings.”
These comments were revisited in a Hollywood Reporter piece about Larson on Feb. 13.
Around this time, there was also a call on 4chan to boycott “Captain Marvel,” though it didn’t appear to gain much traction in the message board where many alt-right posters congregate. On Tuesday, another 4chan thread prompted users to call the movie “propaganda” and critique Larson’s appearance, labeling her “sexist and racist against white man [sic],” similar to the comments that appeared on Rotten Tomatoes.
Rotten Tomatoes has taken a stand against commenters’ inflammatory rhetoric in the past. Following news that some users were staging an organized effort to lower the rating for “Black Panther,” Rotten Tomatoes released a statement in 2018 explaining that the site doesn’t condone hate speech and has a team in place that closely monitors the platform to remove such comments:
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 closely monitor our platforms and any users who engage in such activities will be blocked from our site and their comments removed as quickly as possible.
We reached out to Rotten Tomatoes on Tuesday to inquire about the language used in posts about “Captain Marvel,” and the company declined to comment. But since that time, some of the harmful or explicit comments that news outlets had been reporting on have been removed.
On Tuesday, there were six pages of audience reviews. But as of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, there were five. Comparing the screenshots we took on Tuesday with the reviews on the page Wednesday, it’s immediately evident that a number of the reviews attacking Larson are gone. All signs point to Rotten Tomatoes following up on its promise from last year to monitor hateful behavior on its site.
However, while a decrease in Rotten Tomatoes comments attacking Larson (note: not all negative comments had been deleted as of press time) is a good sign, the film is facing another obstacle on the site: Its “want to see” rating is in a tailspin.
As of Feb. 19., “Captain Marvel” had around 5,000 user ratings, with 78 percent expressing that they want to see the movie.
On the morning of Feb. 20, the user ratings had increased to more than 9,000, and the “want to see” percent had dropped to 60. By Thursday, that number had climbed to more than 14,000 ratings and the percentage had dropped to 55. As of Friday, it was 15,000 ratings and the percentage was down to 53.
Is this how audiences actually feel about the first female-led Marvel film? Or is it some sort of organized effort to try to affect the reception of “Captain Marvel”?
When “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” earned an abysmal audience score in 2017, rumors circulated claiming bots had carried out an attack on the film’s Rotten Tomatoes page. Rotten Tomatoes refuted those claims, telling HuffPost that year, “There’s nothing unusual in the behavior.”
When HuffPost reached out to Rotten Tomatoes again for comment on the declining “want to see” rating of “Captain Marvel,” the company did not respond.
And while, yes, this is a Marvel movie, which seems like a golden ticket for box office success, Rotten Tomatoes ratings can affect films. Just look at Matthew McConaughey’s sexy, steamy box office bomb “Serenity.” Film distributors opted not to publicize the movie as much after it received a bad Rotten Tomatoes score.
It’d be troubling if trolls seeking publicity got even more vocal moving forward, but, encouragingly, since Wednesday a number of more positive comments denouncing trolls have shown up on the page.
On Thursday, Larson was asked to elaborate on her comments about inclusivity by FOX 5 DC. “What I’m looking for is to bring more seats up to the table,” the actress said. “No one is getting their chair taken away. There’s not less seats at the table, there’s just more seats at the table.”