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From Black Panther to Rishi Kapoor’s Mulk, 5 films whose IMDb scores were attacked by trolls

Earlier this week, Anubhav Sinha, director of the new film Mulk, alleged that his film’s rating was being attacked on IMDb. Here are five other movies whose ratings were messed around with.

weekend binge Updated: Aug 11, 2018 10:36 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Black Panther,Mulk,Anubhav Sinha
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Rishi Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor.

Earlier this week, Anubhav Sinha, director of the new film Mulk, posted an angry rant on Twitter. He was complaining about an alleged concentrated attack on the film’s IMDb score. Mulk, a courtroom drama that tackles thorny themes such as communalism and patriotism, was languishing with a poor 3.5 rating on the website. The score has since improved to a round 4, but doesn’t reflect popular opinion around the film, which has received mostly positive reviews.

Sinha wrote that he doesn’t give a ‘flying f**k’ about the attack, which he implied came from right-wing trolls.

Rishi Kapoor and Taapsee Pannu in a still from Mulk.

An almost identical situation transpired a few months ago when certain cast members of the all-female buddy comedy Veere Di Wedding made a similar allegation. The film, about a group of young women, starring Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Swara Bhasker and Shikha Talsania, currently has a 2.9 score on IMDb. A few days after its release, Sonam said in an interview to journalist Rajeev Masand that the venomous ratings (and user ‘reviews’) were brought upon the film because of her and her co-star Swara Bhasker’s outspoken politics. Bhasker is a vocal critic of the right-wing, and is frequently attacked on Twitter, her favourite hunting ground.

But why does this matter, you might ask. Why can’t we just settle into a blissful state of ignorance and just enjoy the damn films? It’s because whether you like it or not, ratings matter - not just to a film’s legacy, but also to how a movie is perceived by the public. To the average moviegoer, a 2.9 rating could be a turn-off.

Kareena Kapoor Khan in a still from Veere Di Wedding.

IMDb scores, like Rotten Tomatoes’ user ratings, are just that: user ratings. And despite the precautions taken by both websites, they’re easily manipulated. For example, IMDb has set a safeguard that excludes rating posted by new members, or those with suspiciously few contributions to their name.

Conversely, it was discovered that hundreds of brand new accounts had contributed to the mob drama Gotti’s positive user score (the film has a rare 0% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes). The film, partially distributed by MoviePass, a company whose shadiness only the Mafia could eclipse, even used this discrepancy in its marketing, hinting at a larger conspiracy concocted by the media.

And speaking of conspiracies, the biggest one in recent memory happened at the end of last year, when a veritable surgical strike was launched on the Rotten Tomatoes score of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And the group behind it - yes, there was a group and everything - didn’t even bother to cover its tracks. Like the ISIS of nerd culture, a group that called itself ‘Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys’ took responsibility for The Last Jedi’s dismal audience score on RT (46% as compared to its stellar 90% critics score). Such was the intensity of the backlash that it trickled over onto the latest film in the series, Solo.

Daisy Ridley in a still from Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

These attacks can stem from a variety of factors - disagreement in ideologies, a dislike of the cast or director, or, as was the case with the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, simply because some people are misogynist. In itself, this isn’t an extraordinary scenario, but when average viewers’ reactions are commodified as vital marketing tools, the narrative changes.

The same group continued its crusade a few months later, when another Disney film, Black Panther was released. This time, they stepped up the subtlety and created a Facebook event called, ‘Give Black Panther a Rotten Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes’. Not the brightest title, but then again, some of the dumbest minds in the world were behind it. To get an idea of the sort of people who run these operations, sample this quote by an alt-righter on Huffington Post: “I’m sick and tired of men being portrayed as idiots. There was a time we ruled society and I want to see that again. That is why I voted for Donald Trump.”

Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) with the Dora Milaje in a still from Black Panther.

Also, this time, it didn’t work, although there is a visible discrepancy between Black Panther’s 97% and 79% scores. Curiously though, in both Indian and foreign cases, it’s a certain section of the right wing that is to blame.

And Disney is perhaps the most frequently targeted of all movie studios, perhaps because it has turned into a monolith like one of those corporations from dystopian movies. Even Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time suffered a similar fate, simply for having a multicultural cast. In fact, the first batch of negative audience ‘reviews’ for the film arrived online a full month before it was shown publicly.

But the earliest example of ratings being tampered that I can remember is probably the Justin Bieber documentary Never Say Never, which to this day has been unable to recover from the wave of Bieber hatred that was sweeping the world in 2011. It has a 1.6 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which, believe it or not, isn’t an accurate representation of its quality. Never thought this piece would end with a Bieber recommendation, but there you go.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 10:35 IST