It has happened again: an audiovisual product with women in the lead role has fallen victim to a so-called “review bombing”, that is, a mobilization in networks that agrees to leave a flood of negative reviews about an audiovisual product in the main review aggregators that the Allow viewer opinion. Their motivation is always to oppose the inclusion of female characters, LGBT characters, or races other than white. That is, if there is a suspicion that what a certain reactionary sector calls “woke culture” is seizing its claws on a product that was fine as it was: white, male and heterosexual.
The victim this time was the fourth season of True Detective (True Detective: Polar Night, available on HBO Max), released worldwide last Sunday. The attack was so violent that its director, the Mexican Issa López, posted a message on Leave a review?” The brothers and the season one fan base have decided to lower the rating and considering all the 5 star reviews we have, that's a little sad.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the website founded by Senh Duong in 1998 and now owned by Warner Bros. and NBC Universal, professional critics' ratings match those of users, and while the former gave the series 93% positive reviews, audience ratings were barely there over 50 %. At the moment it is around 70%. It is not surprising that both groups have antagonistic ideas about the same product (the audience tends to choose lighter products), but some common elements in the comments suggest a less spontaneous movement: the emphasis that it is in the Series Too Many Girls gives bosses, i.e. women with power.
“Too many female bosses,” one user wrote, “I wish they had focused on telling a good story instead of getting distracted by girl leadership,” another commented. The list is endless and always points in the same direction: “This woke up and you can see this problem in the sixty minutes of the first episode”, “Stop throwing your message in our faces”, “Another franchise, that leaves people evil.” !”, “I don't know whose idea it was to have Hannah Gadsby write this season” (Hannah Gadsby is a lesbian comedian) or “Almost everyone is a lesbian!”
In reality there is only one lesbian, a teenage girl who only appears on screen for a few minutes. But for those brothers López is addressing, the term “lesbian” could apply to any fictional female character who does not conform to traditional femininity and does not remain in the background compared to men.
In the end, López deleted the comment and replaced it with a friendlier one. He celebrated that ratings had increased since his initial message was posted and pointed out that he had generalized incorrectly: that there were a lot of straight guys and fans of the first season who loved it in this fourth season and had positive reviews left behind, for which he apologized. He later deleted that comment too.
But who is a brother?
In any case, the complaint was filed and the debate was open. What exactly are the brothers you meant? Journalist Ann Friedman defined her in 2013: “Bro has become synonymous with the kind of privileged ignorance that thrives in groups dominated by rich, white, straight men,” she wrote in an article in New York Magazine. Bro reminds us of a special type of man who acts socially by excluding those who are different.” Eleven years later, this definition still holds true.
And what is the problem with the fandom (i.e. the most loyal and loyal followers) of the first season that López also points out? Let's put it in context: True Detective is an anthology series that features a new case with different characters in each of its four seasons and is now in its fourth season. While the second and especially the third series went largely unnoticed, the first, written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga, became an instant cult series. Here the first key appears: While that film starred two men (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson), the investigation in the current one is led by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, an Oscar-winning actress and professional boxer. Two strong, stubborn and not very accommodating female characters.
Woody Harrelson and Matthew McCounaghey in the first season of True Detective (2014). HBO
In the first chapter, the only one seen so far, Foster is a boss who has no problem censoring the behavior of a subordinate who has just bought a Russian woman from a catalog, and we can see Rice up front an abused woman supports her abuser and decides to have a sexual relationship with a man who seems to want more than just sex with her. They are tough in their personal lives and brilliant in their work. Two qualities that would probably be universally welcomed if they were male characters. Another key: in the idolized first season, female roles were reduced to suffering wives, prostitutes, or corpses, and in almost all cases their common denominator was that they were scantily clad.
“It reeks of sexist garbage,” New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum wrote in 2014. “Every living woman they meet is insignificant. None of them have an inner life.” He also had words for his protagonist, the idolized Rust , played by McConaughey, which he described as “a macho fantasy straight out of a Carlos Castaneda book.”
Although it already caused quite a stir in 2014, through the eyes of 2024 and after the #MeToo revolution, in which the representation of women in audiovisual media has been reflected and their presence in the scripts has increased, it is the first season of The True Detective seems to be a parody of masculinity. Watching it again in 2024, the complete lack of relevant female characters is astounding. In a police station with at least a dozen officers, there is not a single woman except the secretary who answers the phone. In the entire season, not a single woman appears with a modicum of authority; everything is concocted by the brothers. Needless to say, there are no LGBT characters either and they are all predominantly white despite living in Louisiana! The only African-American characters are a few annoying agents who try to judge Rust's attitude.
A long career
The fourth season of True Detective is just another in the long list of products being boycotted by disgruntled viewers, and the reasons that worry them are varied. A year ago, the victim was another HBO Max series, The Last of Us. The third chapter, “Long, Long Time”, which reflected a homosexual relationship between two men, saw a one hundred percent increase in negative reviews compared to the previous installment, receiving a score of 4.8 out of 10 on Metacritic, while in received from the first two chapters touched on what stood out. “It literally has nothing to do with the plot of the show,” complained a right-wing critic named Ben Shapiro, although he admitted that he had never played the video game. If I had done that, I would know that this plot actually existed before, in the original video game. One of the humiliating comments on Twitter provoked a celebrated reaction from Nick Offerman, one of its protagonists. “Dude, your brand of ignorance and hatred is exactly why we do stories like this.”
The inclusion of female and non-white characters in The Last Jedi caused a real shock in the Star Wars universe. Users protested the inclusion of Asian-American actress Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico in the film with negative reviews. The personal attacks were so verbally violent that the actress closed her social networks. The Ghostbusters case was also heard. There were some who accused the 2016 version of “stealing their childhood” just because it starred women. The 2021 version, a rough copy of Stranger Things with no resemblance to the original, stayed under the radar, bro: there weren't enough authority figures to make it hateful in their eyes. Mrs Marvel (2022), where the protagonist was also Pakistani, and Hulka (2022) were destroyed before their release.
A phenomenon from which Captain Marvel (2019) suffered so severely at the time that Rotten Tomatoes changed its way of rating and resorted to verified reviews: Aware that they have a problem with this type of hate mobilization, they are forced to provide a “justification to present. ” that you have seen the film before criticizing it, but it only works with tickets purchased online and is not required for TV series.
These measures have not been able to stop the phenomenon for the time being. Last year, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power bombed. And not because of its weak script, but because of the portrayal of Galadriel, which was considered too warlike and unspiritual, and the presence of black elves. Racism is the other mainstay of the review bombing: The live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” (2023) was also attacked before its release, prompting IMDB, the main film database, to implement a weighted system to balance one-star reviews to use .
Beyond the screens
This is not an exclusively audiovisual phenomenon, but also in literature. Last summer, five hundred users of Goodreads, a website for cataloging and critiquing readings, organized a single star review for Elizabeth Gilbert's novel The Snow Forest, which hadn't even been published yet. They accused her of romanticizing Russia. Although the fiction is set in the 19th century, publication was postponed due to hostility sparked by the invasion of Ukraine.
The writer and journalist Noelia Ramírez asked in an article about it: “Is the cult of evaluating, evaluating and encoding everything we consume culturally out of control?” Of course. And not just what we consume culturally. We have already gotten used to clicking on the smiling faces that encourage us to mark some malls to rate their sellers, to the dull desperation we feel in the teleoperators who warn us that we are receiving a survey to rate their service misleading reviews on restoration portals, often motivated by personal revenge or reviews purchased or generated by artificial intelligence. There is a pack of toilet paper rolls from a well-known brand on Amazon with 10,437 reviews. Some star and devastating. Maybe we scored too many points.
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