Popular movie website Rotten Tomatoes took the unprecedented step of shutting down comments about early reviews of one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the year --"The Dark Knight Rises"-- after remarks directed toward a negative review grew especially angry and even threatening.
Sounds like things were getting heated in lots of mothers' basements all over America.
"Death threats, rape threats are not OK, and that's what was happening," Matt Atchity, the site's editor in chief, told the Los Angeles Times. "At one point, we had seven people dedicated to moderating comments," he said, adding that he eventually had to disable all comments.
Atchity said the decision was made completely in-house, without any pressure from Warner Bros., the studio behind the "Batman" franchise (Rotten Tomatoes is owned by social networking site Flixster.com, a Warner Bros. company).
"No, there was no pressure" from outside the office, Atchity said. And although some media representatives suspect a publicity stunt -- either for the movie or for Rotten Tomatoes, or both -- Atchity insisted that was not the case.
Right. We would never fall for a publicity stunt. Unless, of course, we thought lots of people would read about it.
The pressure, apparently, was from those who were anticipating a 100 percent favorable rating on the site. But when a one or two negative reviews emerged, the anger
Atchity said he made the decision to shut down comments after remarks directed to authors of negative reviews went far beyond the routine banter that takes place between a movie's fans and its inevitable haters. "Whatever small role we play in the culture, I don't want to be known as a site for hate speech," Atchity said.
In an article titled in part, "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," the Rotten Tomatoes editor used an open letter to readers to explain both the controversy and his effort to quell such hate speech.
The uproar centers on a movie that hasn't even opened in theaters -- and won't do so until Friday.
The vast majority of the commenters spoke about their desire to see the film, heaping lavish praise on the latest and final film in director Christopher Nolan's trilogy about the conflicted comic hero played by Christian Bale.
The conversation quickly went downhill from there, Atchity said, to foul comments threatening to rape or kill those who criticized the movie. The comments were coming in faster than Atchity and his team could handle them. Eventually, he said, he chose the "nuclear option" of disallowing any more comments.