The biggest film website in the world has said that the live action remake of The Little Mermaid has been the subject of “review bombing”, with mass negative reactions posted by bots to bring down the average review score.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) said on Wednesday that the “unusual voting activity” it had detected on the reviews page for the film had led it to make changes to its rating system to mitigate unfair trolling.
Since its release last week, The Little Mermaid has attracted about 43,000 user ratings on the site, with an average rating of seven out of 10. This broadly aligns with general tone of reviews on the site, which tend to skew slightly more positive than those on sites such as Metacritic, which aggregate professional critics’ verdicts.
Yet on IMDb, The Little Mermaid has also been awarded 39% 1-star ratings – the lowest possible score, and more negative than most professional reviewers, who were largely lukewarm towards the Disney film.
IMDb wrote that the site’s “rating mechanism has detected unusual voting activity on this title. To preserve the reliability of our rating system, an alternate weighting calculation has been applied.” A similar message has previously been employed when a large number of atypical scores were observed.
Last year, Amazon – which owns IMDb – introduced 72-hour pre-moderation for user reviews of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which had attracted a backlash for casting people of colour as residents of Middle-earth.
The Little Mermaid has been the target of racism since it was announced that a Black actor, Halle Bailey, would take on the lead role of Ariel, the red-haired mermaid, in the film.
When footage from the film was first released, a #NotMyAriel hashtag picked up online momentum. Speaking to the Guardian last month, Bailey spoke of her pride in taking the role and her hope that such representation would be helpful to young Black women.
“If I would have had a Black mermaid [as a girl], that would have been insane, that would have changed my whole perspective, my whole life, my confidence, my self-worth. You’re able to see a person who looks like you, when you’re young? Some people are just like, ‘oh, it’s whatever’, because they’ve had it their whole life. It’s nothing to them. But it’s so important.”
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