Hey, have you heard that there's a Batman movie coming out this Friday? That Christopher Nolan made? And it's the last one he's going to make, and everyone is all psyched about it? Well, some people have seen it and have written reviews for The Internet, and some "members" of The Internet are not happy about some of these reviews being less than 100 percent stellar. A barrage of angry, angry comments (which would be a really interesting spin-off game for Hungry, Hungry Hippos) has caused the review site Rotten Tomatoes to shut down its comments section completely. Outage due to outrage. By a bunch of bratty, bratty babies. (Yet another excellent spin-off idea.)
Come inside, hear more about the insanity that took place at Rotten Tomatoes and see why its editor-in-chief Matt Atchity made the call to shut it all down.
Rotten Tomatoes posted the tweet above as part of a series announcing that beginning on July 16, comments on the review page for The Dark Knight Rises were to be "temporarily disabled." Because an 87 percent "fresh rating" — meaning that the reviews for the movie were 87 percent glowingly, extravagantly positive — was simply not satisfactory enough for the most die-hard (and trigger-happy) fans of Nolan's Batman trilogy. Not happy with a B+, I guess.
You might be wondering how many reviews for The Dark Knight Rises were negative at the time of this uproar. The answer is two. Two reviews. Two people thought The Dark Knight Rises was not as entertaining as they'd hoped. And so they received death threats.
"Death threats" was the term used by Furious Fanboys in their coverage, made against Fine — whose review was the first negative one posted on Rotten Tomatoes, and whose site was crashed by all the people who "took issue" with his opinion (as of this writing, it's still experiencing some issues) — and Lemire, who also got the misogynistic treatment, lucky girl! In an open letter posted to the site, Atchity said that the site expected that a heavily anticipated superhero movie with a "passionate" fan base would attract a lot of attention. A bad review for such a movie might just send someone off the deep end. And with the glorious anonymity of the internet, plenty of people are going to type some really nasty things and then feel like their penis grew three sizes that day. But this situation was clearly an exceptional one.
It also didn't help that someone posted a fake negative review (pretending to be from a legit organization) seemingly just to poke the hornet's nest. So, there was that, too.
I reached out to Atchity to get a better look at why this situation was worse than most:
I saw one site use the phrase "death threats" to describe some of the comments, but did it really get that far?
Yes, it did get that far. Threats were made against both Marshall Fine and Christy Lemire. [Ed. note: OVER A BATMAN MOVIE.] Whether or not they were meant seriously isn't the issue; we simply won't tolerate threats or harassment in comments.
Was this the largest amount of negative comments you saw, or just the largest amount of horribly negative comments you saw?
It may not be the largest, but it's pretty high up there.
When was the last time you saw this kind of response to negative reviews, and was this the first time you considered turning off the comments?
We saw a lot of negativity as recently as May, when The Avengers was released. But Monday was a one-two punch of two negative reviews coming on that would be affecting a previously perfect score, and the user response escalated really quickly. We'd talked about removing the comment system on reviews as part of our discussions about managing the site in general, but this is the first time I felt we needed to turn them off because they became unmanageable.
Many have supported ending comments on reviews completely. Is there a strong possibility of this happening? If not, do you expect to bring them back today or tomorrow (as the movie opens in theaters)?
A lot of options are on the table, and there is a strong possibility we eliminate individual threads assigned to each review link. We could end up (for instance) making one comment thread for each film, as opposed to breaking them down per review. I think the dogpile might be less likely that way. But we haven't made up our minds yet.
Can you recall the worst or one of the worst comments you saw that didn't veer into horrifically dangerous territory?
I don't want to repeat the invective I've seen about critics I respect, but the ones that amuse me are the ones where people do a line-by-line analysis for a review when that commenter clearly hasn't seen the movie.
Actually, that might make for a really funny parody review blog: "No viewing needed! Reviews of movies we have never seen!" What would also be really funny are all the panic attacks had by all the trolls who would take it seriously. (And all the smart, fun, and witty commenters who can go ahead and make fun of them.)