By Andrés Muñoz
I used to have a friend in graduate school who was very passionate about fandoms. One of her dream jobs was managing the online presence of fan-based communities, which I always saw as a very hands-on and daunting task. She now lives on a farm, away from the hustle and bustle of the screen-based Entertainment Industry.
Fans are often both purists and highly invested in their passion. It is this combination of traits that makes them inherently opposed to any type of change and/or innovation. So whenever a new television/film adaptation of a previous work pops up, fans will always be vocal, and not always positively.
Since voices in large numbers are so powerful in our social media-driven reality, fans have more power than ever when writing reviews. While some might offer constructive criticism, others will express their animosity towards change in more aggressive and political ways. Let me show you what I mean with a few cases where the fans have “review bombed” films, television series and video games.
The Lord Of The Casting Controversy
The most recent example of review bombing is Amazon Prime’s television adaptation of the Tolkien universe, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Launched on September 1st, 2022, on the streaming giant’s platform, the series shows elements taking place during Middle Earth’s Second Age.
The show takes place thousands of years before the film series of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that we are all familiar with. It received backlash from internet users, with some outraged that people of colour had been cast in races that J.R.R. Tolkien had not mentioned as having dark skin, notably Elves.
The reviews on IMDB and RottenTomatoes were severe. RottenTomatoes gives the series a Critics Rating of 85%; however, the User Ratings leave it at a lowly 39%. IMDB is not far away, with a score of 6.2/10 and a quarter of the reviews giving it 1 star. I cannot help but notice that many of these reviews have a highly political element behind them, making it fair to say that right-wing groups must have rallied against the show’s diversity.
To counteract this, members of the original film cast have taken a stand, and the show’s executive producer, Lindsey Weber, said in an interview for Vanity Fair: “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together“.
After checking The Silmarillion myself (I’ve been reading it in anticipation of the show) and going over some comments posted by other Tolkien enthusiasts online, I can say that we either cannot confirm or deny the existence of dark-skinned elves in Tolkien’s legendarium.
Dark-skinned hobbits are there (they’re known as Harfoots), and the region’s men, known as Harad, were continuously mentioned as having dark skin by Professor Tolkien himself.
Last but not least, we’re in 2022, people. Come on.
The Last Of Us: Post-Apocalyptic Reviews
A video game that was heavily review-bombed was the second instalment of the highly successful post-apocalyptic video game franchise, The Last Of Us.
Despite selling over 4 million copies and breaking several “Game of the Year” records for a Playstation 4 exclusive game, many users reviewed the game negatively. Many were claiming that the story was “pushing an LGBTQ agenda”.
Other reviewers criticised the story heavily, demanding that it disrespected the original characters from the first instalment. It ended up being so bad that Laura Bailey, one of the game’s voice actors, received death threats. The game’s developers had to release a statement condemning the act. Shocking!
Marvel Cinematic Universe Under Attack
Review bombing has been present in several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s female-led narratives, specifically Captain Marvel and, most recently, She-Hulk: Attorney At Law.
Captain Marvel received tens of thousands of negative reviews on the morning of its theatrical release, more than the total number of reviews that Avengers: Infinity War had during its cinema run.
She-Hulk also suffered from bad reviews. While many were aimed towards poor CGI (which might be linked to the visual effects crisis currently present in Hollywood), the all-female-created and led show received a record number of 1-star reviews after launching its first episode. The movie put the differences between the male and female experience front and centre, most likely sparking another debate on how women are represented in TV and film.
Personally, I believe that review bombing is another effect of the ubiquitous ideological tug-of-war between progressives and conservatives. In a world of constant echo chambers, many screen-based projects that have been made after a lot of hard work and dedication are being slammed online, all to fit a particular political agenda.
My advice? Ignore the bad reviews and rants, watch whatever you wanna watch, and then draw your own conclusions!
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