The world is divided. There is no denying that. Evidenced by the rise of populist parties controlling the narrative with extreme views, social media has contributed to creating starkly split groups, through algorithms keeping users in their ‘bubble’. From climate change to Brexit, polarization seems to span a variety of issues, while often retaining one concerning characteristic: the demonization of people perceived to be on ‘the other side’.
Lack of empathy towards the goal of empowerment, driven largely by sexism.
It is therefore inevitable for these circumstances to not have an impact on cinema: movies like ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ have displayed how many different factors outside of the film’s quality can impact its reception. The narrative around the release of widely anticipated movies is more often than not entrenched in toxicity. The case of ‘Captain Marvel’ is a perfect example of this: with the movie not having been released yet, trolls have targeted the Marvel movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Several factors can be pinpointed as the reason for the trolling. Firstly, ‘Captain Marvel’ is a highly anticipated Marvel property. With an increasing volume of blockbuster hits being based on recognizable IP, a lot of reactions seem to be driven by nostalgia: a movie will be based not on its own merits, but rather on the resemblance it bears to the original creation. This can often be an unfair comparison, due to it relying on personal feelings rarely replicable. Factoring into this already complicated issue is people not being capable of accepting social progress being somehow affecting their beloved childhood properties. This is reflected in vicious comments being made about Brie Larson. In fact, the Oscar winning actress has been an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion not only on the screen, but in the entertainment industry as a whole. More specifically, she acknowledged the fact of journalist being mostly white male, and subsequentially decided to actively include people like Keah Brown, a disabled woman of colour, to cover the release of the movie. These actions, paired with Kevin Feige’s remarks about Captain Marvel being the most powerful hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have caused a section of the audience, who is used to be catered to, to feel somewhat left behind. Similar sentiments were thrown at movies like ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Mad Max’, for displaying women in power over the beloved male hero type.
This worrisome lack of empathy towards the goal of empowerment, driven largely by sexism, can be identified as the main cause of the nasty comments left on Rotten Tomatoes. With the movie not being released yet, many have targeted it using the now removed ‘Want to see’ feature with, according to Rotten Tomatoes, ‘non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling’. Considering the widespread influence the site has gained, the decision to remove this feature is commendable. While some have criticized the action labelling it as a ‘silencing’ of people’s opinions, the legitimacy of the comments is called into question: knowing that the people had not seen the movie yet, Rotten Tomatoes ultimately decided that the harm of this tool being used for political purposes was too significant, and decided to remove it.