Hey guys! As many of you know who follow my channel or other social media, I’ve had quite the last week! It’s ironic because at the beginning of March I wrote a piece on my other blog chronicling my life experience becoming a film critic. It had always been a dream of mine and it seemed as if I had achieved that dream through lots of hard work and dedication. However, little did I know the final baptism into the church of criticism hadn’t occurred yet. And when it did occur, boy did I need to say my prayers and hold on for dear life…(It’s also ironic I had just days before written a post about how much Wonder Woman meant to me)
Last Saturday I went with my brother to the early release of the new DC Superhero movie Shazam. They have been a hit (Wonder Woman) or miss (Suicide Squad) studio for me but I was pretty excited for Shazam. The trailers had been charming and I love Zachary Levi (Flynn Rider! Plus he spoke at SLC FanX last year and was delightful). The movie has charming elements and many people seem to be enjoying it, critics included, which is fantastic.
Unfortunately I did not enjoy it despite it having some fun moments. I felt the movie didn’t do a good job controlling its tone making the experience kind of jarring. One minute it would be very silly and the next very violent. Neither is a problem but a film to be a success has to move from one scene effortlessly or it is problematic. Since seeing it I’ve wondered if this style just isn’t my taste as I hated Once Upon a Deadpool, which tries similar shifts in tone.
Regardless, tone is important, and I didn’t feel like Shazam did a good job with it, so I gave it a rotten score on rottentomatoes.com. Unfortunately, my review was one of only 3 rotten scores, and the only female critic, bringing its score down from a 95 to a 93. Some fans saw this and listened to my review and responded in a constructive negative fashion and others let’s just say did not…
(forgive some language I don’t normally use on my blog in this next section)
At first this seemed like a fairly routine unpopular opinion post but because of the rottentomatoes element things escalated. I learned quickly the good advice in Ralph Breaks the Internet of NEVER READ THE COMMENTS! I was still working on small channel mode with lots of comment interaction, and I’ve learned with rottentomatoes I need to upgrade to big channel mode even if my numbers dont necessarily justify that.
Later Saturday night things began to escalate when certain youtube channels began telling their listeners to pounce on me. Same thing with certain twitter feeds. I have been writing content for over 10 years and thought I had very thick skin before this experience, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for being 1 out of 3 rotten reviews on a franchise film like this. That night I got my first death threat which was a recording (found out later it was an old recording forwarded to me). It said they were going to ‘find out where I lived and beat the f*** out of me’. I reported all accounts involved to twitter and had my friends do the same (as well as calling the police).
Then my brother came over and tried to help me calm down. He took my phone away from me for a few hours, we watched a Hallmark movie and I finally was able to get some sleep after going 48 hours without any. I thought things were fine, and I’d faced the worst of it (the movie hasn’t even come out yet so I’m expecting a new onslaught when it does). Unfortunately that was just the warm-up.
The next day I saw Disney’s new adaptation of Dumbo. I walked into the theater almost hoping I’d hate it because that might prove to all these guys that I am objective. Sadly (or happily!) I enjoyed it and despite some problems thought it was sweet). But when I came back into my car I saw a group called F*** Marveltards had shared my post asking their readers to attack me so that I would never be able to review another DC movie on rottentomatoes (these groups are such scum):
Not surprisingly about 15 minutes later I received this message to my Rachel’s Reviews messenger:
Obviously I was very upset by this message. Even though I figured it was mostly bark with no bite it was still scary. I called the police again and reported it to facebook (who were very unhelpful btw). My friend critic Alonso Duralde told me the female critics often receive the most toxic of all the toxic fandoms as they are viewed as invading their masculine space (need I remind you of the comment on women participating in nerd behaviors I got over the Ghostbusters remake…)
Some told me to just block and ignore this behavior as it is ‘part of the cost of being a woman on social media’ but that didn’t feel right to me. Plus, I didn’t want to be seen as some kind of weak, whimpering woman. So I posted the remark on twitter and said “if anyone is excusing this behavior STOP” This brought a wave of support from all over the twittersphere and beyond I am truly grateful for. Every single tweet/message/comment of encouragement I have received was read and meant a great deal.
I am also grateful for the folks on youtube (got a death threat there as well but we think it might be from the same guy) who became my warriors in the comments section, doing my dirty work for me at a very difficult time. It also meant a lot to me that rottentomatoes was completely supportive during the entire experience. The people tried to cherry pick tweets out of context from years ago claiming I was racist, homophobic or sexist. They were trying to make rottentomatoes change their mind and be rid of me as a critic. Far from it, they could not have been more supportive (I’m also thankful to all of my gay friends who didn’t pay any attention to that smear campaign).
The men who run the screenings here in Utah have also been wonderful. They have agreed to make sure I have a +1 at all screenings or they will provide an escort to my car if that isn’t possible. One has even been on the phone with Warner Bros explaining the situation that me and other critics go through. I am hopeful I can use this experience to speak out against cyberbullying and help champion my fellow critics to be strong in these type of horrible experiences.
Facebook I can’t give such a strong endorsement. To begin with their reporting system was flawed because the name listed on the message was not the name listed on the account. I couldn’t see the actual account so when I went to report it the form didn’t work because I didn’t know the name. Once I found the name they tried to claim there was no direct threat of personal harm. I’m thinking, he threatened to gun me down at my next screening. How is that not a direct threat?’ Then once I had chewed their ear out about that they said that messenger is only for chatting with close friends and family. This really ticked me off because it was to my Rachel’s Reviews messenger not my personal messenger!
Anyway, facebook was pretty worthless but they did give him a talking too and that inspired this ‘apology’ from this person. Of course, I didn’t respond to any of his messages but he seems to forget that forgiveness does not prevent consequences from occurring. I just wish facebook would do something against groups that inspired him to act so foolishly.
Some might be quick to brush off such behavior as ‘signs of the times’ or whatever but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I shared with the world what I was experiencing. It not only gave me an opportunity to be built up by so many wonderful humans but it also hopefully will lead to a discussion about the way we treat people who feel differently than we do. Is our first response to lash out and hide behind the anonymity of computer screens to say horrible things? Or do we try to listen to what others are saying to see their point of view? Even if we disagree strongly, death threats and violence are never the answer!
Coming out of this experience I feel stronger than ever and ready to keep pursuing my dream. I am sure this won’t be the first death threat I will get but if it isn’t I’m prepared. I’m safe and have implemented steps to keep me safe in the future. I’ve learned what kind of engagement is helpful for this level of my career, and I’ve seen that the vast majority of souls support and love me.
To moving forward and speaking out against cyberbullying and its attempt to stop us from sharing our viewpoint with the world!
I talk about the experience here in my Dumbo review:
20 thoughts on “The Experience of Being Hated (‘Shazam’, ‘Dumbo’ and More)”
Hey. It’s been too long since I said, “Hi.” First, I am so glad to officially have you in the critical community. That is exciting, and your addition is well deserved.
Second, I am shocked and disgusted that you would have to deal with death threats. I’ve been a critic for a long time and — somehow — have avoided that. I’ve always felt that — as a critic — I’m fair game for legitimate complaints. If someone wants to call me an idiot, deconstruct my argument, poke a little fun at me, so be it. One shouldn’t critique another person’s work unless open to turnabout. It can even be fun to save the really good complaints … and wear them as a badge of honor. But personal attacks are never OK.
It’s sad that so many in the online community and on social media have decided that it is somehow alright to digitally bully people and say things they never would face to face. I read an interesting Time magazine article where a writer actually sought out — and talked to — his trolls, and they were actually nice in person. In at least one case, the troll admitted that her hateful attacks were more about her than the person being attacked.
Keep your chin up. I am excited to have you the critical community. Maybe one of these days we’ll meet in person at a film event.
You and I have followed each other since practically the beginning of my blogging days. Crazy! If you ever come down to Salt Lake let’s do dinner.
You make a good point about treating some mean comments as badges of honor. That’s a good way to handle that level of complaint/disagreement. As most sane people would agree the death threats are on a different level. From what I’ve heard women get attacked more than the male critics but it’s all nuts. At least I’ve made it through and will be ready for next time.
And hey at least nobody can say I’m afraid to give an unpopular opinion LOL
I always teach students that a critic who loves “everything” is no more useful than one who hates “everything.” The best we can do is explain ourselves honestly and transparently. When one is an outlier on a film, it shows independent thought, which is always laudable.
I am so sorry for you having to experience it.
I am not sure if you are aware of that, but the Anti-SJW crowd has decided that they have to support Shazam in order to “proof” that it is the better Captain Marvel. They are frankly getting batshit crazy over it. I suspect that is what triggered this disgusting attack.
I am currently writing on an article about the issue…would you mind if I link back to this post? Just as additional proof how toxic the Anti-SJW movement is and how it hits not just celebrities but also normal people.
Please do. You’ve been a supporter of mine from the beginning and even though we frequently strongly disagree we do so respectfully. Proof it can be done. Anything I can do to help! These pages and channels that stir up people to get views are the most disgusting part
I am not sure if it will help. My blog doesn’t have THAT much of traffic, and I suspect most of my readers are likeminded anyway. But I still feel the need to address the issue.
I appreciate anyone speaking out on whatever platform they have
Ughh…I am so sorry you had such a horrid experience. I am all for free speech, but seriously, trolls suck. And ironically, they stifle free speech by exercising theirs. I hope this doesn’t put you off from sharing your honest reviews, even the unpopular ones. You’d be amazed by how many of us find such lone voice reviews helpful and even validating! Thank you for your voice. 🙏🏾
This still shocks and amazes me. Just remember this, the flaw here isn’t with you. Be strong, be confident, and enjoy the blessing of being able to do something you truly love to do.
Again, it’s horrible what you’ve been through! It’s time like these I wish there was something I could do to help.
What the hell is wrong with people?? I’m absolutely floored reading this. I’ve followed your reviews for a few years now and while I don’t always comment, I really enjoy your perspective and honesty. You’ve work hard and I think it’s awesome how you’ve stayed strong throughout this whole thing.
It always amazes me how horrid a small segment of people are once they get on-line. It’s like they forget there are real people on the other side.
I’m glad you are getting support and hopefully this will be as bad as it gets.
You are such a strong woman, totally crazy the way this all escalated and kicked off just because you didn’t love a film.
I’m always here supporting you Rachel!
I’m so sorry you had to go through this, but I admire your strength and honesty on the subject. Fortunately, you have a lot of support behind you, and as vocal as the trolls are, they never seem to achieve whatever they’re trying to do. Keep going- I look forward to continue to follow your work!
I’m so sorry you had to deal with this, Rachel! I’ve never understood how people can get so worked up over a movie. Extreme loyalty to nations, leaders, and religions has been around for centuries, but how can loyalty to a franchise take people so far? It’s fiction, people!
Please stay strong, stay safe, and don’t let the haters weigh you down. Keep doing what you do. God bless!