The last few years have seen a lot of dumb sustained arguments about popular movies, nearly all of them driven by a small but vocal cabal of hostile, digitally native male nerds. You know, the guys who really, really hate the idea of “social justice warrior” thinking invading their sacred movies and franchises.
Invading, in this case, often means nothing more than that women and people of color are actually being cast in those films – and in some cases, it’s the ones who are somewhat vocal about political matters. These arguments often spread into the ugly realms of conspiracy theories, as well as the ugliest of online harassment.
The goons who have spent the last few years claiming that film critics are bribed by Disney have now taken to claiming a new conspiracy theory: That the box office results themselves are rigged.
The reaction to the all-female Ghostbusters film in 2016 was bad, while the freakout over Rian Johnson’s 2017 Star Wars: The Last Jediwas even worse, and for some reason continues to this day. But perhaps the most ridiculous of these flareups has arrived in reaction to Captain Marvel, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry and the first ever to have a female superhero character in the lead.
The usual man-babies have launched their usual tantrum, although this time, they’ve taken it further. The goons who have spent the last few years claiming that film critics are bribed by Disney have now taken to claiming a new conspiracy theory: That the box office results themselves are rigged.
The War on Brie
The Captain Marvel Wars began nearly a year before the film’s release. The fanboy cohort seized upon some comments made by the actress playing the lead role, Brie Larson, about representation among those who write about film.
In July of 2018, speaking at an awards show, Larson said that “[Audiences] are not allowed enough chances to read public discourse on these films by the people that the films were made for. I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what it meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial.”
In February, Larson made further comments, about wanting to ensure further inclusiveness and diversity on the press tour for the film. This was on top of various messaging from Larson and others associated with Captain Marvel about how they saw the idea of giving little girls a hero to look up to as a key mission of the film, which was also the case with DCEU’s hit Wonder Woman film in 2017.
…Larson was a rare on-camera talent to not only address the issue, but to put pressure on her film’s publicists to make meaningful change…
Whatever the merits of Larson’s thoughts on Ava DuVernay’s 2018 A Wrinkle In Time movie – the teen biracial character, if you ask me, was one of the few aspects of that film that worked even a little bit – she unquestionably has a point.
If you go to press screenings for movies, or film festivals, or press junkets, the vast majority of the critics and film journalists are white and male. If it’s a comic book movie? Even more white and even more male. The film and media industries have been working the last few years to address these disparities, with some success, but Larson was a rare on-camera talent to not only address the issue, but to put pressure on her film’s publicists to make meaningful change in that regard.
For her trouble, Larson has had her words twisted to imply that she had somehow barred male journalists from participating in press junkets for Captain Marvel (not true), or that she didn’t want men to see the film at all (also not true).
The Review Bomb
Then, in February, a group of the aforementioned digital jackasses launched an effort to “review bomb” the audience score section of Rotten Tomatoes for Captain Marvel, even though the film hadn’t premiered yet and no one had seen it.
This led that site, a couple of weeks later, to announce that it would no longer allow audience reviews for films that had not yet opened, which raised the question of why such a thing had been allowed in the first place.
That led to this:
Alt-right honcho and Pizzagate believer Jack Posobiec went on to tweet, “imagine if Stan Lee saw what they’ve turned the MCU into,” seemingly forgetting that Lee was a lifelong proponent of inclusion, was actually in the movie, and had only died a few months previously.
Deprived of that Rotten Tomatoes outlet, preemptive haters of Captain Marvel took to Twitter and YouTube, posting a lot of stupid stuff, the stupidest of all was this, perhaps a new low in the entire history of online discourse:
Once actual reviews from actual people who had seen the actual movie began appearing, and most of them were positive, there was the usual repeating of the totally false canard that Disney bribes film critics and/or that Rotten Tomatoes was manipulating critics’ scores to get a better number than the actual review submitted.
There was even a strange corollary from the other direction, with the feminist film website The Mary Sue complaining that all of the negative reviews of Captain Marvel had been written by men. This was both not true, and somewhat besides the point, as female critics are as free to like or dislike movies as male ones, even Captain Marvel.
In early March, Captain Marvel opened, to mostly positive reviews and a massive box office – it’s coming up on $800 million worldwide, per Box Office Mojo – and you’d think that would be the end of it.
But oh, it wasn’t. Because in an era when any and all bad facts can be explained away as “fake news,” the anti-SJWers took to arguing that… the box office numbers had in fact been rigged in Captain Marvel‘s favor, in order to push a nefarious feminist and social justice agenda not backed up by any popular support. There are dozens of YouTube videos, many of them quite long, claiming to back up this theory.
This is, alas, not a thing. Box office figures are reported by independent authority, far beyond the ability of Disney to “rig” them. The alternative explanation, that Disney is “buying up” tickets to Captain Marvel in order to make it look like a hit, would only make sense if Disney were willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on such a conspiracy, which not only wouldn’t make any sense from a business standpoint, but also isn’t the sort of thing that a publicly traded company could ever do in secret. Do these dinguses not realize that Disney releases itemized financial results, every quarter?
A Real Review
As for the movie itself, Captain Marvel is… okay, as I wrote in my review. It lands about in the middle of the pack as far as Marvel films go, but there’s nothing about it nearly as transcendent as Black Panther, the Marvel film that arrived just over a year earlier. While the film gets off to a weak start and is structured less-than-brilliantly, Larson is winning in the lead role, it gets all of the ’90s stuff right, and there’s some decent action.
Aside from some allegorical elements about a group of space aliens who are meant to represent refugees…there’s nothing in the film that’s overtly political.
But Captain Marvel is not a film that has any sort of hidden or nefarious agenda. Aside from some allegorical elements about a group of space aliens who are meant to represent refugees – and some Air Force boosterism that’s right out of Top Gun – there’s nothing in the film that’s overtly political.
That is, unless you consider the presence of a woman at the center of a comic book tentpole film to be controversial and beyond the pale, in and of itself. To a lot of these YouTube cretins, it’s clear that that’s the case.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.