A self-described "fanboy" group is getting attention — and censure — this week after threatening to sabotage the Rotten Tomatoes score for Black Panther, the Marvel/Disney film which opens Feb. 16.
The threat came from the Facebook group "Down with Disney's Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys." Rotten Tomatoes released a statement denouncing the group and Facebook has removed its page, as well as deleting the group's event titled, "Give Black Panther a Rotten Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes."
According to various reports, members of the group have posted complaints ranging from Marvel's "anti-mansplaining" message in Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the claim that Disney unfairly influenced reviewers against DC cinematic releases.
Previously, a member of the group claimed his "bot accounts" were responsible for the low Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Members were also already discussing a similar attack on Avengers: Infinity War.
But the group was only eliminated this week from Facebook after its plan to attack Black Panther, a film with a predominately black cast that has generated significant interest from critics and fans, according to pre-sale ticket numbers.
Also this week, the group's existence was brought to the attention of Black Panther's director, Ryan Coogler. When The Huffington Post asked him about the threat from what the publication called an "alt-right" group, Coogler said: "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."
Revelations about the group's activities have called into question the reliability of audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. If the claims of a bot-influenced score are true, it would explain why Star Wars: The Last Jedi currently has a 91 percent score from critics, but only a 48 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Coogler also addressed concerns about Rotten Tomatoes scoring, saying, 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.”
For comic book fans, the mainstream exposure of the anti-Marvel cinema group also reflects similar movements in the online comic book community. A search on Youtube for "SJW Marvel" immediately reveals fan groups who complain about "hamfisted politics" from the publisher, and a Marvel vice president even appeared to acknowledge in 2017 that sales were affected by fans' belief that the company was neglecting core characters in favor of a more diverse line-up.
The "Give Black Panther a Rotten Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes" event reportedly had more than 3,500 members and featured the following description:
"Given the massive success of the audience review rigging on the Rotten Tomatoes site for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and due to the sudden rise in those disgruntled with Disney business practices among other factors especially due to the corporate manipulations which created falsified bad press for the DCEU, I feel that it’s time to strike back at all those under Disney and bring down the house of mouse’s actions for paying off the critics that hurt DC Comics on film and for other parties affected by them.
“I’ll be making events like this for Infinity War and the Netflix shows etc so we can rally together to truly make a difference…If you want to spread spoilers to Marvel fanboys, use this event as a platform to inform us of targets!”
According to The Wrap, Rotten Tomatoes released the following statement Thursday regarding the situation:
“We at Rotten Tomatoes are proud to have become a platform for passionate fans to debate and discuss entertainment and we take that responsibility seriously. While we respect our fans’ diverse opinions, we do not condone hate speech. Our team of security, network and social experts continue to closely monitor our platforms and any users who engage in such activities will be blocked from our site and their comments removed as quickly as possible.”