who HATES Pixar's `Inside Out` enough to organize against it?
February 22, 2016 5:06 AM   Subscribe

I was tremendously moved by Pixar's Inside Out and went online to read reviews. While not taken as a pillar of the film community, I noticed on IMDB when you clicked on user reviews, you were greeted by a full page of 1-star reviews. This seemed... suspicious. Are there any groups that would perhaps see the film Inside Out as worthy of a targeted campaign to deter people via imdb?

Because it sure as hell seems something is afoot. The film received mostly ratings of 8, 9 or 10 (76.8% of all reviews,) but all of the best recommendations are 1-star? (0.9% of reviews were 1-star, but they are all deemed "Best")
When you click on user reviews, they are default sorted by "Best", that is the percentage of "X out of Y people found the following review useful:"


Filter Chronologically though...
10 rating, 0/4 found useful
6 rating, 0/6 found useful
2 rating, 8/9 found useful!
10, 2/10 useful
9, 2/9 useful
8, 1/8 useful
etc

Jump to page 5 in chronology...
1 rating, 57/112 useful
6 rating, 3/22 useful
9 rating, 4/24 useful
8 rating, 4/24 useful
7 rating, 3/22 useful
10 rating, 8/32 useful

etc
These are WILDY divergent from any other Pixar film I browsed.

Any review with a positive rating is buried quickly by a flurry of dislikes.
Any review with a poor rating is recommended repeatedly, but this puts it on the front page seen when "user reviews" are clicked, due to it's high recommendation score.
Normal users stridently disagree, say the review is NOT useful, but then those votes are heavily counterbalanced by a swarm of accounts saying the negative review is indeed useful.



Jump to any user review who "Loved It" (via the dropdown) and you'll find most of them buried under a rather small (10-40) dislikes of the review.
Jump to any user review who "Hated It" and most have 100-400 recommendation responses, suggesting fake accounts (or coordinated accounts) are being used to fight against the review being not recommended.
posted by Theta States to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Scientologists?
Dreamworks employees?
Jungians?
Defenders of Silicon Valley startups?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:09 AM on February 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


You know how there are a bunch of dudes loudly complaining about the Ghostbusters remake solely because the new Ghostbusters are women? I would not be surprised in the least if this is a coordinated effort by some people who get easily pissed about anything with a female protagonist.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:28 AM on February 22, 2016 [29 favorites]


If someone dislikes a thing and they feel like they're in the minority for doing so--especially if the loving-the-thing majority is vocal--sometimes they will double down on their dislike.

I have only ever written negative reviews on the internet, never positive, because I feel this beseiged-like way when everyone around me is "Thing is great! Thing is great! OMG THING IS SO GREAT!" and I thought it was really not great, but also like "Am I taking crazy pills? Is this the Twilight Zone?"

The most recent example of this, Serafina and the Black Cloak (worst book in recent memory, truly) garnered negative reviews from myself and precious few others on Goodreads etc., but we all felt so strongly we liked/promoted the other bad reviews. Amid a sea of glowing positive 4- and 5-star reviews full of vapidity like "a very creative book!" and etc., and it's making me salty just thinking about it now.

TL;DR I am a hater and I understand the hater mentality. It's probably not an organized effort per se, just a group of embittered haters.
posted by witchen at 5:59 AM on February 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


I've never considered IMDB to be a review site and it's clearly an add-on and hardly even tertiary interest by whoever currently owns the site (probably amazon), thus not surprising that it would be pretty easy to game the system. I've never seen IMDB ratings referenced as anything important, usually rotten tomatoes.
posted by sammyo at 6:02 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mod note: A couple of comments deleted; please focus on explanations of the pattern pointed out by OP rather than general discussion of the film. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:08 AM on February 22, 2016


Response by poster: TL;DR I am a hater and I understand the hater mentality. It's probably not an organized effort per se, just a group of embittered haters.

The anomalous numbers really jump out at me, though. Typically a positive rating tops out with 20 dislikes to bury it.
But a negative review gets the Likes, it sits on that front page, and a large number of Likes are needed to counterbalance the flood of disagreement votes.

So there ends up being this obvious massive disparity to enforce that flood of 1-star reviews on the lead page.
So either someone has a huge stash of IMDB accounts to vote in this manner, or reinforcements are called in to help subdue a negative review that typical users disagree with.
posted by Theta States at 6:15 AM on February 22, 2016


My first thought was Scientologists too.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:13 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's an I-don't-know-how-largely-supported-but-existing theory that the movie is pro-transgender since Riley's emotions have both male and female avatars (as opposed to her parents who are all lady and all dude avatars). Unfortunately, hating on trans-folks is certainly something large swathes of people are happy to participate in.
posted by phunniemee at 7:17 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think it's just that the haters cared more, and took the time to mark each others' reviews as "useful". There is then a kind of snowball effect since the most "useful" reviews get seen the most and then have even more opportunity to be marked as "useful" again and again.
posted by w0mbat at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think it's just that the haters cared more, and took the time to mark each others' reviews as "useful". There is then a kind of snowball effect since the most "useful" reviews get seen the most and then have even more opportunity to be marked as "useful" again and again.

This 100% happens on Amazon, for example. I remember when I had to buy a license for Windows 8.1 it was clear that people were going through and systematically downvoting anyone who wrote a positive review of it as "not useful". Probably not coordinated, just extremely salty people with too much free time.
posted by selfnoise at 8:04 AM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've found that when there's astroturfing going on, you can often get a clue to the culprit by looking for common threads in the astroturfed reviews.

Here are some excerpts from the reviews you linked to:
So,please ,put the fun and laughs back in these movies and stop with putting adult subjects in to kids movies. That might have worked once but at this point you're overdoing it.

It was just so depressing and sadness was possibly the most annoying character ever conceived...why why why did she have to keep touching things after she was told over and over not to, just irritating. It got to the point where I was dreading the character coming on the telly. Animated Disney/pixar films should stick to what they are good at and that's making children (and adults) happy.

For example, Riley has an "imaginary boyfriend" at the age of 12. I don't know about you people, but I find this extremely concerning. 12 year old girls should NOT be thinking that they should have boyfriends at their age--while it may start out innocent, it can unconsciously encourage premature sexual thoughts and activity, which is EXTREMELY unhealthy and dangerous at their age.

This is what the huge corporations have decided was worth spending millions of dollars to pound into the impressionable minds of youngsters around the world? "Guess what kids, you are mostly really awful stuff- disgust, anger, fear and sadness. Yes, there's joy, we can't deny we needed some protagonist in this absurd script, but you and everyone you know is, well, 80% misery. Whee!"
...and so forth. All the negative reviews seem to be a variation on "This is too depressing and/or adult for children."

So, it seems pretty clearly that the reviews are being written and upvoted by people who have a very specific notion of what makes for suitable children's entertainment. They certainly could be part of an organized mob. On the other hand, their point of view ("Kid's stories should be happy and innocent") is not an uncommon one. It's plausible that this particular page has become a haven for people who have this point of view, and are frustrated that it's not being represented elsewhere.
posted by yankeefog at 8:05 AM on February 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


Response by poster: ...and so forth. All the negative reviews seem to be a variation on "This is too depressing and/or adult for children."

I like how some of the negative reviews have language coded around "HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME FEEL SOMETHING!" :)

I had originally thought about patterns in the negative reviews, but the distribution over the year seemed to be that it was focused waves of people quickly downvoting positive reviews.
posted by Theta States at 8:14 AM on February 22, 2016


Fascinating. My intuition is that these are mostly inflamed individuals, because they cite a variety of Pixar & Disney moments they like. I concur with yankeefog, the negative reviews I skimmed boil down to the complaint, "This is too depressing and/or adult for children." Given the huge territory the movie covered, I'd expect more variation of negatives, like "oversimplified view of the self", "overcomplicated view of the self", "teaches that all emotions have value", "omits the role of Prudence/Love/Greed/...", "had plot hole X", "had continuity fault Y", etc.

I'd like to manually categorize these, perhaps fire up an authorship analysis program for word frequency count, grammatical construction count, etc. But I don't have as much time on my hands as these rascals.
posted by gregoreo at 8:27 AM on February 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


It can easily be both. One-star brigading is a huge pastime among offended groups these days - ask any woman who writes books right now - and then there are also a bunch of individuals out there who do it for all the reasons individuals do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ooh, gregoreo makes a very good point. The reviewers seem to not merely have strong opinions about children's entertainment in general -- they seem to have strong opinions about animation in particular.

Examples:
It has not been a good animation year, only the penguins worked and Minions and now this one really failed miserable.

this movie is super lame for a studio that has never released a bad movie (edit: i have forgotten about brave and cars 2 i guess pixar has lost their touch and that's why they made finding dory)

here are a few reasons why I consider this movie terrible and why I find it so horrifying that it's current rating is 8.5 when Spirited Away--one of the best animated movies ever created--is sitting at 8.6

What happened to the enlightening Circle of Life in the Lion King? You know, this type of rapid downward spiral in quality is not all that surprising. For me, Disney became synonymous with dubious-at-best/maybe-garbage with its release of Frozen, an overrated jumble of sappy songwriting, and "Inside Out" simply reinforces that view-

All I can say is that every other Pixar movie I have rated a 10. I love animations, and the artwork for this one is top notch. Pixar has been terrific at delivering great stories until this one. I even love CARS, which many others found fault with.
Again, I could see this as evidence for either theory: it might suggest that there's a specific animation forum out there with a grudge against "Inside Out"... or it could simply suggest that individuals who care enough about "Inside Out" to write a negative review probably care about animation in general.
posted by yankeefog at 8:37 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: Again, I could see this as evidence for either theory: it might suggest that there's a specific animation forum out there with a grudge against "Inside Out"... or it could simply suggest that individuals who care enough about "Inside Out" to write a negative review probably care about animation in general.

I am thinking the negative reviews are just random animation fans, but I don't think they're up to much. Although I do like seeing some of the odd responses.
It is the STEADY VIGILANCE that is required to vote reviews as useful or not that is fascinating to me. The work to come back and ensure that the front page is dominated by the 1 star reviews is fascinating and to me, most likely coordinated or done via sockpuppets.
Because it is not statistically possible with typical distributions.
posted by Theta States at 8:43 AM on February 22, 2016


There has been some criticism of the film by feminists based on body image issues (Sadness is fat and dresses badly - Joy is thin and cute). There was a Huffington Post article about this. But it doesn't seem like the critiques in the negative reviews you cite reflect that particular issue.
posted by FencingGal at 8:48 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mod note: One comment removed; this isn't a place for running commentary on the reviews and such.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2016


One more thought. (This is really obsessing me more than it ought to.)

I've been looking at the dates negative reviews were posted, and I don't see any particular pattern. If it was a concentrated effort, I'd expect them to come over a short period, or at least in specific bursts.

Also, I notice that the number of people upvoting the negative reviews seems to vary widely. It's not like there's the same 172 people consistently upvoting. Furthermore, older reviews have more upvotes than more recent reviews, which suggests people are simply straggling in and upvoting negative reviews over time, rather than flooding in and upvoting in an organized burst.

Nothing conclusive, but I'm leaning more towards thinking it is NOT some kind of organized effort.
posted by yankeefog at 9:34 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry, one more thing: if you click through to the profiles of the people who have posted these reviews, there doesn't seem to be any common link. A few of them seem just to have joined to review Inside Out -- but many of them have been IMDB members for a while, and have reviewed and/or rated a number of other movies of an extended period of time.

If it was just astroturfing, I'd expect a lot of people who signed up, reviewed this one movie, and then never posted again.
posted by yankeefog at 9:38 AM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


It is the STEADY VIGILANCE that is required to vote reviews as useful or not that is fascinating to me. The work to come back and ensure that the front page is dominated by the 1 star reviews is fascinating

In the example of that book I really hate, Serafina, I will regularly go back and check for one-star reviews so I can promote them. It is unhealthy, but it is part of my regular circuit of things I check on the internet. Steady vigilance is necessary in the face of overrated media that you hate.
posted by witchen at 9:43 AM on February 22, 2016


Response by poster: Sorry, one more thing: if you click through to the profiles of the people who have posted these reviews, there doesn't seem to be any common link. A few of them seem just to have joined to review Inside Out -- but many of them have been IMDB members for a while, and have reviewed and/or rated a number of other movies of an extended period of time.

If only there was a way to see who was clicking if a review was useful or not.
posted by Theta States at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2016


What an interesting find and question. I will say that when I asked my father whether he liked the movie, he said, "It was NOT a comedy." I think people are upset when they expect a movie to be one thing and it's something else, especially when they expect something to be light and cheerful and it's not. But that makes me wonder if Toy Story 3 inspired similar vehemence and if not, why. And for the record, I adored Inside Out. I was just thinking I want to see it again.
posted by kat518 at 10:11 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


A quick glance at Amazon shows 9% negative reviews and only 2% one-stars. Surfing through the one-stars suggests much the same tone and content as the IMDB negatives. It should be possible to more conclusively determine if essentially the same content is posted both places. In related spots to observe, neither negatives nor positives have taken significant notice of November's Blu-Ray DVD 5-minute follow-on, "Riley's First Date?"
posted by gregoreo at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2016


Response by poster: A quick glance at Amazon shows 9% negative reviews and only 2% one-stars.

Good idea to check Amazon, and yeah the behaviour, while rather somewhat easier to repeat on Amazon if you have a mass of people, is not found there.
Which is why I lean towards the theory of a single or small group of actors with lots of dummy accounts on imdb.
AFAIK, you can't just make an amazon account to rate stuff without buying anything. Or at least it is my assumption that there is some kind of barrier.
posted by Theta States at 11:17 AM on February 22, 2016


Response by poster: What an interesting find and question. I will say that when I asked my father whether he liked the movie, he said, "It was NOT a comedy." I think people are upset when they expect a movie to be one thing and it's something else, especially when they expect something to be light and cheerful and it's not. But that makes me wonder if Toy Story 3 inspired similar vehemence and if not, why.

Thanks, glad I am not the only one fascinated by this.

And I checked with those who HATED Toy Story 3 and all of their reviews have very low Useful scores.
posted by Theta States at 11:25 AM on February 22, 2016


In my experience, "too adult for children" is often used as a way to say "trans stuff should never be exposed to children!"

Everybody I talked about the movie to came away with the possibility of trans themes, so I'd totally see that as a possible motivation here. I am finding a lot of articles about the movie being trans online, and wouldn't be surprised if there's a private Facebook group or whole comment threads dedicated to telling people to go out and review it poorly, probably along with other movies that don't fit their "decency" meter.
posted by beware the frog person at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2016


interesting question. i guess others have done this too, but i've been searching around with google trying to find evidence that anyone has organised this. quite a few people have noticed the same issue (eg a commenter on quora, another on a game board), but no-one seems to have proof it's organised.

i did find this plot of the ranking over time. when comparing it to other top films from 2015 like star wars vii or room the change in ranking doesn't seem extreme in size of timing. so i guess that supports the general consensus above - that people are weird.

also, i found this review that was rejected (apparently) from imdb (warning: gratuitously offensive). that gives the impression that it was at least cool to hate on the film amongst a certain demographic....
posted by andrewcooke at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: i did find this plot of the ranking over time. when comparing it to other top films from 2015 like star wars vii or room the change in ranking doesn't seem extreme in size of timing. so i guess that supports the general consensus above - that people are weird.

Again I want to stress that I don't think this has anything to do with the reviews or the ratings. That all seems natural.
The only odd thing is that people are gaming the "I found this review useful" flags to ensure that only the 1-star ratings appear when user reviews pop up, because they have been deemed "Best", and all of the positive reviews were buried by "did not find this useful".
posted by Theta States at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2016


ah, ok, sorry for not getting that.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2016


This is my toddler's favorite movie and we watch it several times a week. I went to check out the IMDB message boards recently and was surprised to see the same thing. The top review as of last Friday was one that was complaining about the setting in SF and the inclusion of a gay "bear" joke. I suspect some sort of conservative group who is assuming a sort of gay agenda.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2016


So one thing that may be of note - whether people mark a review helpful or not had to do with what they mean by it. I almost always find myself marking negative reviews most helpful - because I'm like "thank you for saving me." Whereas if I like it, I don't leave feedback and just buy the thing or see the movie.

My bet is actually on a mom group, though.
posted by corb at 12:46 AM on February 23, 2016


Best answer: Here's my theory: I watched the movie recently, and to be frank, I was surprised to find out that I did not get blown away like every other Pixar movie I had seen earlier. I had definitely heard about Inside Out when it came out, wanted to go watch it at the movies, but didn't have the chance the do it at the time. I kept hearing about how awesome the movie was from friends and media, so I had built up this huge mountain of expectation for the movie.

Long story short, I went to IMDB after I watched the movie to check on the reviews as I couldn't believe I was the only one who was disappointed. I was relieved to see reviews from others who were also disappointed, so I marked one as "useful". Then, I read more and marked several more low star reviews as useful because I felt validated even more.

I think this is what is happening. After the initial buzz of the movie has died down, it is only stragglers like me with huge expectations going in - who feel disappointed after watching the movie that visit IMDB to get validation of their disappointment - these are the people clicking the "useful" votes for the low-star reviews.

Case in point, "The Dark Knight Rises". 87% on RT, 8.5 on IMDB. Even though only 1% of total users have rated it as 1-star, on page one of user reviews, 4 out of the 10 "Best" rated reviews are 1-star.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1345836/reviews?ref_=tt_ov_rt
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1345836/ratings

I don't think this necessarily means there are people with fake IMDB accounts clicking the 1-star reviews. Rather it is the effect of a minority of people who seek validation of their minority opinion who end up seeking out and clicking multiple low-star reviews as useful. On the flip side, people who love this movie would not feel the need to find others with similar views as themselves or the validation that comes from it because the overall rating validates their view quite easily.

P.S. I don't agree with many of the quoted 1-star reviews up-thread such as sadness or trans themes; in fact, those are quite well done and not the reason for my disappointment. The reason I was disappointed was because I thought Disney/Pixar wasted an opportunity to do more with this great concept, and instead told us a rather flat, oversimplified, unengaging story.
posted by thewildgreen at 1:39 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Best answer: Theta States, I too missed your point and thought you were implying there was something suspicious about the negative reviews themselves, not just the usefulness score they were receiving. Re-reading the thread, I now see you stated your premise very clearly in the question, and I was so caught up in my own assumptions about what might be going on, I projected those assumptions onto you. My apologies for missing the point so thoroughly.

For what it's worth, it does seem likely to me that if a large organized group was going to vote brigade on IMDB, at least some of them would then write their own reviews, and that those reviews would end up being highly voted. So, the fact that the "most useful" negative reviews do not, in themselves, seem suspicious, makes me think an organizing brigading effort is less likely.

Anyway, as penance for my not-very-useful earlier posts, I checked out the reviews for The Good Dinosaur, and noticed a similar phenomenon. If you order it chronologically, you seem to get a mix of positive, negative, and middling reviews. If you order it by "Best," you get almost entirely negative reviews. So whatever is happening with Inside Out is happening with The Good Dinosaur as well.
posted by yankeefog at 7:24 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


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