The Experience of Being Hated (‘Shazam’, ‘Dumbo’ and More)

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):

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Not surprisingly about 15 minutes later I received this message to my Rachel’s Reviews messenger:

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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!

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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:

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Rotoscopers, Little Mermaid Tag, and Dumbo

So today ended up being a crazy day content-wise for me.  I had 3 articles published on Rotoscopers.com you should check out!

Rocks in My Pockes Review for Rotoscopers.com

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/review-rocks-in-my-pockets/

My interview with creators of independent animated film Snowtime I did for Sundance Film Festival.

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/interview-with-snowtime-filmmakers-francois-brisson-and-marie-claude-beauchamp/

My review of Snowtime for Rotoscopers.com

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/review-snowtime/

I will be reviewing Snowtime in the next couple of days on this blog, as I didn’t want to take anything away from the Rotoscopers review.  I have previously reviewed Rocks in My Pockets on this blog (but I would still love it if you checked out the Rotoscopers review).

But I also posted 2 new videos on my youtube channel.  I created a tag called The Little Mermaid tag and my fellow youtuber Aly did it with me.  It ended up being really fun and if any of you want to do it I would love to hear your answers. (My cannon review of Little Mermaid is here)

Here are the questions if you want to do the tag.

Little Mermaid Tag
Favorite Ginger actress?
Have you ever had ginger hair?
What world from movie or book would you like to be a part of?
What teenage movie or book is your favorite?
If you could be a mermaid would you want to?
Best name- Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella, Alana or Ariel?
What would you wish for from Ursula?
What human device could you picture using in a new way?
Favorite Disney song?
Favorite Disney couple?
Favorite fish recipe?
Could you convince someone to love you without speaking?
What is your ideal date/proposal/kiss?
Best father/daughter combo in a movie?
Belle vs Ariel? Lumiere vs Sebastian?
Is Little Mermaid feminist or not?
Who should play Ariel in live action Little Mermaid?
Why do you love Little Mermaid?

I also posted my review of Dumbo in my Disney Canon Project on my channel this morning.  I worked really hard on it and would love if you gave it a look.

So a bit of a jumbled post today but I hope you enjoy all the content.  I had a blast making it!

This weekend should be very busy coming up as well with Kung fu Panda 3 and The Finest Hours,  which I will review.  Will look forward to your feedback.

The Disney Era Tag: Golden Era

Hi friends so I have been tagged by Natalie over at her Disney Freak blog.  The Golden Era of Disney films is considered 1937-1942 or basically 5 films- Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi.  They are all true masterpieces and such bold artistic visions and I think they all hold up very well both animation and otherwise.  As I love this era it was a pretty easy tag for me to do so here are my answers:

1.Are there films you haven’t seen from this era? Nope seen them all! You can read my reviews of all of the films here: (These were the first reviews I ever wrote for the blog!)

Snow White

Pinocchio

Fantasia

Dumbo

Bambi

2.What is your favorite film from the era? My favorite is Fantasia because it has the most variety and I love seeing the artists interpret the beautiful music. I honestly don’t get it when people think it is boring- a new world, characters, story, music happens every 10 minutes or so! fantasia poster

3.What is your least favorite film of the era? Pinocchio. I didn’t like it as a girl and while I appreciate it now it still isn’t a favorite of mine.  The animation is beautiful but as a morality tale it can be a little heavy handed and scary.

pinocchio4.What is your favorite main character? I love Timothy Q Mouse.  He sticks up for Dumbo and doesn’t allow him to be bullied or made fun of by the elephants.

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5.Who is your favorite villain? Night on Bald Mountain aside there really is only 1 villain in these films- the Evil Queen.  She is great because she is queen.  She has all the power and money but her vanity wants more.  She must be fairest in the land and when she isn’t she wants Snow White killed.  That’s pretty wicked! I also love the vocal performance and her design both as old lady and evil queen.

evil queen6.Who is your favorite sidekick? Well I already said Timothy Q Mouse so I will go with Dopey.  He’s so funny and sweet.

dopey7.What is your favorite song of the era?  When You Wish Upon a Star is about as good as it gets. It’s a song about hope and daring to dream for greater things in life.  That’s what Disney does at its best is inspire hope and imagination.  I would put Baby Mine as a close second.

8.What do you consider to be the most underrated film of the era? Dumbo because it gets a bum rap for being racist.  I think the crows are a caricature but I personally don’t find them that offensive.  I think it is especially forgivable when the entire message of the movie is about accepting people (or elephants) that are different.

crows29.What is your favorite thing about this era?  I’m just blown away by the artistry and how bold Walt was.  It would have been so easy for him to pump out 5 more Snow Whites but he went for Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi which are all artistic masterpieces and bold storytelling.  Dumbo is the simpleton of the group and that’s saying something because it is also bold in kind of a simple way.  They are challenging in tone and themes and take multiple viewings to absorb.  I love all 5 more each time I see them.

10.What is your least favorite thing about this era? My least favorite scene is when the boys get turned into donkeys; although, as an adult I find it more enjoyable.  As a kid I was petrified of it!  The scene where Dumbo and Timothy Q Mouse get drunk isn’t my favorite either.

donkeysI haven’t mentioned Bambi at all in this tag, which is a shame because I really do love it.  It’s so textured and beautiful to watch.  I love how it doesn’t have much plot but is just a baby deer growing up.  It’s sweet and simple and then sad when it needs to be.  The scenes with the fire are stunningly animated and the way it uses music as a sound effect was groundbreaking.  I was probably a little too tough on Bambi when I reviewed it.  I definitely should have given it an A.

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Movie 4: Dumbo

Now we have come to a movie I really love, Dumbo.  It’s one I don’t recall seeing as a child and always dismissed as ‘the sad Disney movie’.  Boy was I missing out.

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Production

Dumbo is not only lovely but has an interesting backstory.  Released in 1941 the Disney studios needed a hit after flops of Pinocchio and Fantasia.  War and high production costs had made the budget on both pictures balloon.  Walt told his animators they need a film that would be cheap to produce and box office friendly.

A merchandise director showed him a storyline for a toy called The Roll-a-Book about an elephant who could fly.  Walt Disney loved the idea and they went right to work with budget being the priority.

What’s amazing about that is even with so many restrictions they still managed to produce art and take risks that make Dumbo very special.

At it’s core Dumbo is about overcoming differences and finding true friends.  (and never discounting someone as a friend because of those differences).  Of all the Disney ‘messages’ it is one of my favorites.

Each character is vividly portrayed because the backgrounds and other visuals were simple allowing the eyes and other body parts to be especially expressive.  Outside of Timothy Q Mouse and the crows there is remarkably little dialogue in Dumbo, but we don’t notice it because meanings and emotions are very clear.

There was a strike while Dumbo was in production which was very demoralizing for Walt and Roy Disney.  He had felt like a family to the animators and as a subtle jab in the clown scenes several of the strikers are depicted.

The war also affected Dumbo.  Time magazine was going to name Dumbo ‘mammal of the year’ and have him on the cover but the bombing of Pearl Harbor superseeded it although the article was still listed.  No doubt the new war made a sentimental tale about friendship extra appealing.  Dumbo cost half the price of Snow White and a third of Pinocchio so they succeeded in their budgeting for once.

The Story

The story is pretty simple.

Dumbo is delivered by the stork and he has huge ears! The lady elephants are horrified and call him Dumbo instead of Jumbo Jr as his Mother wants.

female elephants

The matriarch of the elephants is voiced by Verna Felton who is in many Disney films including Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and The Queen of Hearts in Alice and Wonderland.  They are actually quite harsh and say Dumbo is an ‘elephant only a mother could love’

Timothy Q. Mouse hears them making fun of Dumbo and asks the question ‘I don’t see nothing wrong with them (ears).  I think they are cute”

The other elephants are scared of Timothy (elephants really are scared of mice.  Check out the Mythbusters episode if you don’t believe me!)

Little boys make fun of Dumbo which makes his mother angry and she storms them and is locked up.

The circus owner decides to create a pyramid of elephants with Dumbo at the top as the smallest elephant.  Unfortunately  Dumbo slips and everything comes crashing down.

Dumbo gets sent to work with the clowns as punishment and the elephants decide he is ‘no longer an elephant’.

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Dumbo cries and takes him to see his mother where she sings to him ‘Baby of Mine’ .

Here’s where things get strange.  After the song Dumbo gets the hiccups and they drink some water not realizing it is actually champagne from the clowns.  This starts a surrealist dream sequence called ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’.

I love that in Disney’s low budget, safe movie they have something that out there as the pink elephants on parade.  It’s like they couldn’t help themselves but be artistic and take risks.

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They will channel a similar surrealism in 1968 in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh when Pooh dreams of Heffalumps and Woozles.

When the 2 wake up they find themselves amazingly on top of a tree high in the air.  How did they get there?  Timothy figures they must have flown.

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They meet a band of crows who tease them at first but after Timothy’s intervention they become friends and sing the song- When I see an elephant fly

There are some who claim the crows are racist.  I actually find the song at the beginning called Song of Roustabouts to be more questionable with black men with no facial expressions doing physical labor.

The crows are friendly, happy, characters who in the end help Dumbo.  I don’t see them as any different than the vultures in Jungle Book and nobody complains they are racist?

They do speak in a stereotypical way and use some halting language, but I don’t think it is demeaning or cruel.

Perhaps I am wrong on that but it seems a bit of a nit-pick.

Eventually Dumbo realizes he can fly and he returns to the circus becoming a star along with his true friend Timothy.

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As we can see in the picture above most of the backgrounds in Dumbo are solid colors or painted in watercolor.  This is only done in 2 other Disney movies- Snow White and 2002’s Lilo and Stitch.    It is only 64 minutes long so Disney’s shortest theatrical release and it has relatively few characters.  None of the voice talent was even credited at the end of the movie.

Movie Review

I love stories that have a real heart to them and Dumbo certainly has that in spades.  Amazing to have a lead character who doesn’t have one line of dialogue can be that appealing and sweet.  Timothy Q Mouse is the real hero of the movie who doesn’t let the discrimination and hate of other people influence his thoughts and actions.  It probably has more tears than in any other Disney movie but I feel the tears are earned because we see what is happening to a character that is a baby.

I like to think that every person has someone in their life who is their unabashed cheerleader.  We all get tough talk in spades but the people I treasure most are those that love me and think I am a one of a kind.  My Grandfather was that person for me and Timothy Q Mouse is that person for Dumbo.  I love that.

It’s also an interesting depiction of both the joy of maternal love and the pettiness of a sorority mentality.

I love stories about friendship and Dumbo certainly gives us a great one and reminds us friendship can come from the most unexpected sources.  It also teaches what is seen as a drawback to others, is actually what makes us special and unique.  When Dumbo embraces his ears instead of hiding them he is embracing his nature and is happy.  The world recognizes him for that.  If he had stayed in a corner in fear that would have never happened.

And of course I love the fact that in the middle of all this sentiment we get something as jarring and nuts as Pink Elephants on Parade.  These early films from Disney are art that happens to have an audience.  It’s like they couldn’t help themselves but explore new genres and push boundaries.  It’s awesome.

Some are bothered by the crows and I respect that but it is honestly a short segment an could be fast forwarded if you prefer.  I think most kids are likely to just laugh at the crows cheerful goofy antics.  If not, perhaps it can be used a teaching opportunity about the type of stereotypes and caricatures in all eras of art, music and  storytelling.  It seems a shame to throw away a wonderful film about accepting differences and loving all people because of a positive happy song by crows.

Nevertheless, I think Dumbo is great for kids of all ages with perhaps the pink elephants scene skipped for very young children.  Also, talking about Dumbo and Timothy getting drunk may need to take place after the scene is over.

If I were to dock it a little it would be the songs aside from Baby Mine aren’t especially memorable although the score by Oliver Wallace and Frank Churchill is lovely (Oscar winning).  Still, music-wise it would rate fairly low in the Disney cannon.

Other than that,  I really do love Dumbo.  It is a weird, sweet, sad, tender-hearted tale of an elephant with really big ears!

Overall Grade- A