Marvel’s “Eternals” and the problem with review bombing

By Jeremy Hester

Marvel’s “Eternals” boasts the most diverse cast of any Marvel Studios film so far, and some people are upset about it.

The film features actors from many different ethnic backgrounds, a same-sex couple with a child and a deaf superhero — several firsts for a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However, in what appeared to be an effort to protest some of these choices, the “Eternals” IMDb page was met with more than 400 one-star reviews over a week before the movie was even released to the public. Many of the reviews complained about the inclusion of a gay kiss, with one user saying the film’s only purpose is to “tick all the Hollywood Woke boxes.”

Kumail Nanjiani, who portrays the character Kingo in the film, tweeted in response to the flood of negative reviews, saying “Looks like we’re upsetting the right people.” 

Although the tweet has since been deleted, Nanjiani was correct. These reviews are likely the work of a whining, entitled minority, and their intense disapproval at the mere existence of this film serves as evidence that Hollywood is on the right track to including better diversity. 

IMDb temporarily removed the “Eternals” review section until the film was officially released, but review bombing — a phenomenon in which several people leave negative reviews of a product online — is far from a new idea. 

Several high-budget films in the past few years have been victims of such efforts. For example, “Captain Marvel” actress Brie Larson mentioned in a 2019 interview that she was working to make her press days “more inclusive” after being interviewed by “overwhelmingly white male” journalists for previous films. 

Not long after this interview was published, film review website Rotten Tomatoes was bombarded with negative reviews for “Captain Marvel” several weeks before the film’s release to the general public. The majority of the reviews didn’t even critique the movie and instead accused Larson of sexism and racism for her comments.

Films such as 2016’s “Ghostbusters,” 2017’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and 2018’s “Black Panther” were also review bombed on Rotten Tomatoes before being released in theaters, due to having female main protagonists and a primarily Black cast, respectively. In February 2019, the repeated bombings led to Rotten Tomatoes banning users from submitting film reviews before the official release date. 

And yet, people are still finding ways to review bomb media through different internet platforms.

This most recent instance of review bombing poses an important question: What do review-bombers hope to gain from this? Analyzing and critiquing negative aspects of media can be extremely valuable. All films have faults, and it’s fine to judge the quality of a film based on its plot and characters. 

That’s not what’s happening here. 

“Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys” is a now-defunct Facebook group that claimed responsibility for the review bombing of “The Last Jedi.” The owner of the group was interviewed anonymously by the Huffington Post in 2017. 

When asked for his specific complaints against the “Star Wars” film, he said, “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.”

It seems that many who engage in review bombing are much more concerned with squashing characters that portray heroic women, queer people or people of color than having a genuine debate about the quality of these films. Hollywood has only recently started producing more diverse films, and these stories deserve to be judged based on their own merits, not condemned simply for daring to be inclusive. 

Straight white men should not be the only ones who get to be superheroes — everyone deserves a chance to see themselves represented on the big screen.

Jeremy Hester, 

Senior English major and copy editor for The Rider News

Originally printed in the 11/10/21 issue.

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