This is a spectacular week for review brigading. The remake of “4400” is seeing its online scores tanked by fans of the original who are offended that the new one is centered on – gasp! – actors of color. Clutch those pearls, yo.
It’s also worth mentioning “Colin in Black & White”, based on the early life of Colin Kaepernick. While not included in this article (it’s executive produced by Ava DuVernay, but showrun by Michael Starrbury), it’s seen its scored on sites like IMDB tanked by racists. When I checked on October 28, it held a score of 2.5 out of 10. It’s worth noting that no episode premieres until today, October 29. No one had seen the show yet.
Multiple industry sites have reported that Marvel’s “Eternals”, directed by Chloe Zhao, has been bombarded with 1.0 reviews on IMDB. The site had to remove the film’s reviews for the time being. Of course, that movie doesn’t even come out for a week, on Nov. 5. What spurred the review brigading? There’s a gay character in the film, which also features a gay kiss.
Aggregated reviews and averaged review scores have gone past the point of being useful. They’re too easily manipulated or brigaded. I’ve written before that this even happens with critical aggregates. The poster child for this is “Black Christmas” (which just returned to HBO Max).
Among Metacritic’s aggregation of published critics, Sophia Takal’s feminist 2019 horror remake saw seven out of eight women score it positively, and nine out of 16 men score it negatively. Women scored the film an average of 63, men an average of 44. Yet the critical industry still employs far more men than women, which means there’s more of a weighting for that downward shift.
The point is that it’s still much more productive to find a reviewer you like to read, and who prioritizes what you find important. Find a few of them. They can be a critic, a viewer, whoever it might be. Hopefully I’m one of them, but even if not, please take to heart the idea that aggregates and averages contain a multitude of problems.
Women and people of color are still under-represented in criticism, which means men and white critics will shift scores toward their perspectives, and favor films that reinforce certain biases or fail to challenge others. Much of the time, that’s due to implicit or systematized biases rather than explicit intention, but that doesn’t change the result as much as people like to think.
On sites like IMDB that feature user scores, there isn’t so much of that implicit/explicit divide at hand. It’s a lot more explicit. Most popular feminist films and movies cast in an inclusive manner will have to make up for a deluge of low scores right out of the gate. That hauls average ratings down in a way that can’t be recovered.
Glance at these scores and you might think these films aren’t any good – that’s the purpose of review brigading. It’s also the result of the critical industry still trailing behind on inclusion. Averaged ratings can tell you something about the movie – but only insofar as they tell you who’s forming those ratings. Knowing the nature of those ratings – who’s making them and why – will tell you far more about whether you’ll like a film than whatever number is spit out at the end.
4400 (The CW)
showrunners Anne Fricke, Ariana Jackson
The reboot of the 2004 series puts an additional spin on its premise. Like the original, 4,400 people who disappeared over several decades suddenly reappear. They haven’t aged and they have no memory of where they went. The spin is that everyone who vanished is a marginalized person, often not even noticed in any public way. Obviously, this offers opportunities to contrast with the original.
Once again, ignore user scores – this one’s being brigaded by racist trolls.
Co-showrunner Anna Fricke wrote and produced on “Wayward Pines” and “Being Human”. Co-showrunner Ariana Jackson wrote and produced on “UnREAL” (one of my picks for best shows of the last decade) and “Riverdale”. Together, they showrun the new “4400.”
You can watch “4400” on The CW, with new episodes premiering on Mondays.
An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts (Netflix)
showrunner Bindu De Stoppani
In this Italian series, Alice is fresh off a breakup. She looks to a new friend for romantic guidance: her astrology guru. Naturally in a 12-episode season, she considers a different sign every episode. The series is based on the novel by Silvia Zucca.
Showrunner Bindu De Stoppani has written and directed two features prior to this. “An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts” is her first series.
You can watch “An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts” in its entirety on Netflix.
The Mopes (HBO Max)
showrunner Ipek Zubert
Mat is a singer who is coping with mental illness. His depression is embodied as Monika, who only he can see and hear. Of course, she has a job to do depressing Mat, and her bosses make sure of it. “The Mopes” is a German comedy.
Writer and showrunner Ipek Zubert has directed on a few other German series before this.
You can watch “The Mopes” in its entirety on HBO Max.
Women is Losers (HBO Max)
directed by Lissette Feliciano
Sharing its title with a Janis Joplin song, “Women is Losers” follows a pregnant, single Latina in 1970s San Francisco. She tries to make a living and build her life up in a society that’s squarely stacked against her.
This is the first feature from writer-director Lissette Feliciano.
You can watch “Women is Losers” on HBO Max.
Come Away (Hulu, Paramount+)
directed by Brenda Chapman
Nearly a year after its mid-COVID theatrical premiere, “Come Away” finally makes its way to streaming services. The film combines “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” in a unique way. A sister and brother live out these fantasy worlds as a way of helping their parents cope with the death of their older brother and a debt they owe.
Brenda Chapman was the initial director of “Brave” (before being replaced in a horrendous decision by Pixar), and part of the directing team on “The Prince of Egypt”.
co-directed by Suzanne Coote
A woman begins seeing a hypnotherapist. She’d like to improve her life, but the sessions lead her into increasingly dangerous situations. It becomes clear her therapist is using hypnotism to control her.
Suzanne Coote directs with Matt Angel.
You can watch “Hypnotic” on Netflix.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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