Over the past month, there’s been an avalanche of exciting new and returning shows landing on streaming platforms, but there has been a particular buzz surrounding Ms. Marvel, the latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The Disney + series stars newcomer Iman Vellani in the role of Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan, Marvel’s first Muslim superhero. Khan is your classic high schooler, bored with school and keen to rebel against her parents, but she has a few fascinating points of difference, namely, she writes fan fiction about Captain Marvel and can harness cosmic energy from a magical bangle.
Despite being critically accalimed, Ms Marve, starring Iman Vellani has been met with a flood of negative reviews on IMDB.Credit:Disney+
Ms. Marvel slots into phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and acts as a precursor to upcoming film The Marvels (due 2023), which will see Brie Larson returning as Captain Marvel.
For all the reasons listed above and the reality that any new Marvel project attracts hype, there was considerable excitement surrounding Ms Marvel. The series premiered on Wednesday and pretty quickly it became clear that critics were impressed with the originality, style and tone of the show.
The Guardian gave the series five stars, calling it “glorious’ while Empire hailed the show’s “well-rounded, warmly funny, instantly likeable characters,” in its four-star review.
Currently, Ms. Marvel is sitting on a 95 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, pitching it higher than its Marvel TVt counterparts, including Moon Knight (86), Hawkeye (92), WandaVision (91), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (83), and Loki (92).
Which makes it all the more bizarre that the series has been flooded with one-star reviews on industry website IMDB. At the time of writing, Ms. Marvel has more than 2,300 ten star ratings on the site and 1400 one-star ratings. The one-star ratings make up nearly 25 per cent of all reviews filed on the show.
The IMDB ratings for Ms. Marvel paint an interesting picture. Credit:Screenshot
Considering the show has been praised by critics, the discrepancy between positive and negative reviews looks a lot like ‘review bombing.’ Review bombing is an internet practice where large, often coordinated groups leave negative reviews online in an attempt to kill off something before it can gain traction.
In the pop culture space, review bombing is typically carried out by fandom groups who feel protective over how ‘their’ franchise evolves.
So, why might people on the internet feel compelled to review bomb, Ms. Marvel?
Well, for one thing, it’s perhaps the most progressive Marvel project ever released, focusing on a female Pakistani-American teenager who also happens to be a Muslim.
While not always the case review bombing often seems targeted at projects that champion minorities, be it women, people of colour or the LGBTQIA community. In 2019, the review bombing of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel was so intense that Rotten Tomatoes deleted 50,000 reviews of the film that it deemed to be part of a coordinated attack.
The review bombing prompted Rotten Tomatoes to change its policy which previously allowed user comments on a film or TV series before it had been released. “Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership,” read the blog post from Rotten Tomatoes.
Undoubtedly, some people may not like Ms. Marvel because they did not like it, but some of the one-star reviews seem particularly pointed. Among the more scathing comments: “Super woke and beyond foolish,” “I don’t understand why Marvel can’t just make a show that is not a complete attempt at forced diversity,” and “Pakistanis may be overjoyed by seeing their nationality as a superhero but face reality, the first episode was bogus.”
The issue of Khan’s nationality was a constant source of criticism, with some users admitting they are boycotting the series because “they didn’t even talk about the India-Pak situation,” referring to the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan.
The backlash against Ms. Marvel is reminiscent of the recent fan campaign targeting Obi-Wan Kenobi actress Moses Ingram, who stars as the dark side’s Force-using Inquisitor Reva. The 29-year-old Black actress received so much backlash that Ewan McGregor, and the official Star Wars social media accounts posted online condemning the attacks.
The fact that this kind of fan-led criticism is becoming more regular suggests that Disney’s properties, including the MCU and Star Wars, have a mismatch between their traditional fan base expectations and the direction creators want to take them in.
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