I was excited to see that Netflix’s Castlevania: Nocturne was reviewing extremely well, a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, living up to the high scores of the previous show, one of the best game adaptations of all time.
But I was perplexed by the 52% audience score, literally half of the 100% and “rotten,” as it were. I wondered what was going on here and ah, it’s another one of the these.
Have watched nearly all of the series now, I cannot agree with the “bad writing, bad characters” complaints at all that you see in the user reviews, but instead, a lot of focus is put on what else, its prevalence of black characters and other characters of color, altering a few origin stories to make that work. There’s a throughline of oppression and the horrors of slavery in the plot, and outside of that, a focus on gay characters as well.
Multiple reviews call the franchise “ruined” and are upset (freed slave) Annette has the most screen time. My favorite is multiple reviews that call it “Wokelevania,” the most contorted inclusion of the word “woke” I’ve ever seen. The show “constantly beats you over the head with current day talking points” another review says.
It’s a good show, I don’t know what else to say. The worst thing you can say about it is that it may not be quite as good as the original series, but that is an incredibly high bar, so it’s no real surprise. I cannot tell you how exhausted I am of user reviews for projects like this. This keeps happening over and over where some established IP includes some characters of color or different orientations and the knives come out.
Rotten Tomatoes has a particular problem with this. They cracked down on user reviews when it comes to movies, given that there’s a system in place to prove you watched a film before reviewing it. This was instituted after mass review bombing of Captain Marvel due to offhand comments Brie Larson made about the male-dominated critic industry (which is absolutely true). And that same crowd has been hounding her ever since.
The problem is that TV reviews have no such barrier in place. People can not watch the show, watch two episodes or just hear about it from others and start spamming those one stars. While many people actually just say the quiet part out loud, it’s too “woke,” others code it with the “bad writing, bad characters” claim. The writing of course being the “woke” parts, mainly, the characters being those of color, usually.
I’m just tired of this. I think user reviews can be interesting when we see splits from critics that are not rooted in racism or sexism. I think they can be useful in say, gaming, somewhere like Steam where you must own a game, and users can push back against meaningful problems with the game (though it’s still a flawed system). But Rotten Tomatoes (and Metacritic) have got to get a handle on this. I know there’s a side that says its critic reviews that are useless, but user reviews? These systems have never been worse.
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