This week, the “Down With Disney” Facebook group attempted to organize a campaign in which thousands of so-called fans would give Black Panther a “Rotten” audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The same group claimed to have successfully tanked the audience scores for Star Wars: The Last Jedi back in December. The group has since been banned by Facebook.
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler is rising above the hate (the leader of the group is a self-professed member of the alt-right). When asked by The Huffington Post about the organized attempt to harm his movie, Coogler responded with pure class.
“For me, I’m looking forward to everybody seeing the film. I’m really looking forward to sharing the film with audiences regardless of what their political views are … that’s kind of where I [stand on that].”
Coogler went on to express his views on Rotten Tomatoes in general.
“It … can be an oversimplification of what critics are saying about a movie. It’s quicker to look at the consensus than it is to read the articles. But I’m a person who definitely respects film criticism and draws on it in the filmmaking process.”
Coogler is right. The problem is less about Rotten Tomatoes than how people misunderstand or misuse it. Regardless, the main score that people look at is the Tomatometer. That percentage of positive consensus is determined by the reviews of professional critics. Online trolls can’t touch it.
The audience score is separate, but the organized attempt to sink that score is still worthy of attention as it can be used to create a false narrative of a wider gap between critics and audiences than what actually exists. That happened with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which has a 91% positive rating from critics on the Tomatometer, but only 48% positive ratings on the audience score (The Last Jedi received an “A” Cinemascore, which is an industry standard exit poll of general moviegoers that actually makes sure they’ve seen the film).
Despite the Facebook ban, the same could still happen with Black Panther, but hopefully greater awareness of what’s happened before and what might happen again will prevent most from buying into a false narrative spun out of invalid data.