Internet film forum discussions are largely dominated by comic book movie fanboys, many of whom don’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about liking stories in which men dress up in big rubber or spandex suits and punch people (see: death threats following pans of “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012). Rotten Tomatoes has had so much trouble on this front that a handful of forum uses have banded together to form a group called the Trollfighters, who try to keep the forums in check, lest the boards for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” devolve into an endless stream of cursing and empty threats.
The history of the Trollfighters is chronicled on the RottenTomatoes Wiki, and it points to a year’s worth of squabbles between the regulating users and the site’s actual admins stemming back to the deletion of forums that have culminated in The “Guardians of the Galaxy” Wars, where head administrator Ryan Fujitani banned a number of Trollfighters from posting, leading to admin-spamming and mass bannings across the website, with any attempts to quell the disputes mucked up by trolling by another party. Here’s a sample:
In one final act of defiance and rage, the admins shut down all commenting capabilities for users on the forums. Chris Conley was then banned, and all his posts deleted. With the forums shut down, the Trollfighters were forced to wander the website of Rotten Tomatoes, without purpose or hope. However, Treet Johnson just so happened to find a settlement known as the General Discussion forums (or GDs), a colony of users that had thus far been unknown to the Trollfighters. Here, thousands of neckbeards dwelled, and the King in the Forums was Quite-Gone Genie, an admin who was far easier to get along with than Fujitani. The Trollfighters made their debut on these forums immediately, and took them by storm. They had lost the battle. But they had not lost the war.
Part of this is another case of comic book and tentpole movie fans and internet trolls acting up again, which is hard to bat an eye at anymore. But throughout the debates on RottenTomatoes and the records kept by the Trollfighters, there’s a smug tone that suggests that every online forum has to be a battle between drooling fanboys (a lazy characterization even if the worst cases are irritating) and the “serious movie lovers” that the group wants to represent themselves as. Never mind that it’s hard to take a group seriously when they refer to themselves as “The Trollfighters,” start a Wiki page lionizing themselves as internet heroes, and refer to the head administrator alternatively as “The Great Satan” or “Fuckitani.”
It’s also a case of anti-fanboyism going to the kind of absurd degrees associated with fanboyism in the first place. There’s the same “us vs. them” mentality, the same feeling of victimization over the most trivial of matters (a damn internet forum), the same devotion to attacking anyone who might disagree with them. The number of times on the Wiki page speaking of wars against either trolls or administrators makes it seem like it’s little more than another group of bullying internet commenters with a really bizarre sense of power.
What’s most irritating about the decidedly minor brouhaha is that it turns a site that’s ostensibly made for movie lovers into little more than another arena for needless bickering. RottenTomatoes might have inherent flaws — most notably in the Tomatoscore, in which any negative reviews for highly-anticipated projects are taken like declarations of war — but at the very least it aggregates reviews from critics and publications of wildly varying taste, which for more curious users could lead to a broadened sense of criticism rather than a myopic one. Turning a bunch of stupid arguments into a faux-epic internet war doesn’t just do a disservice to movies, it does a disservice to movie lovers. Don’t feed the trolls, as they say, and don’t pretend seeking them out isn’t being one.