In 2016, when the world got a first look at the upcoming Ghostbusters movie, the reaction was immediately clear: it looked terrible. It quickly became one of the most disliked videos on YouTube
There may have been a myriad of reasons for this, but the main one is that it was a pretty terrible movie. Instead of capturing the charm and wit and character of the original film, it basically tried to be a Marvel movie with a few more jokes. But something weird happened.
People started saying the only reason no one liked this bland, unfunny remake of a beloved film was because the main cast was all women. Suddenly anyone who didn’t like it was a misogynist, and not even Richard Roeper, one of the most respected film critics of our day, was allowed to dislike it without being accused of misogyny.
And then people started saying they were going to see it in the theater just to “teach the misogynists a lesson.”
You might say this didn’t help the film because it did pretty poorly at the box office, only bringing in around $200 million, not even close to making a profit. But Holmes and Watson, a similarly bad film that released late last year, only brought in about $40 million. Ghostbusters had a pretty good opening weekend for a comedy, it just didn’t perform well in the following weeks or overseas because by then the cat was out of the bag that it wasn’t a very good movie despite critics being afraid to say this because after all if they came for Richard Roeper you better believe they’re going to come for Jim Hayseed of the Butthole Falls Fair Dealer.
After Ghostbusters, this kept happening. A small number of people would get mad about something stupid in a movie like Black Panther or Captain Marvel, or even just say “Marvel movies are basically all the same and there are 30 of them, maybe we don’t have to pretend this is a work of cinematic genius and instead we can agree it’s just okay,” and suddenly seeing these movies wasn’t just an okay way to spend a few hours, you were fighting to be on the right side of history by giving Disney your money.
Now Disney has announced that Halle Bailey, who is not Halle Berry but is black, will be playing Ariel in the upcoming Little Mermaid live-action remake and right on time, the trolls are there to be racist about it.
Except they kind of weren’t. I mean, someone started #NotMyAriel ‘movement’ on Twitter, but the account it seems to have started with had a fake profile picture and the only tweets on their account were the new Spider-Man trailer and complaints about The Little Mermaid.
This viral tweet complaining about the Little Mermaid casting being racist has a profile pic stolen from an Instagram model. The “half black best friend” pic is taken from god knows where, but shows up in a bunch of Pinterest BFF roundups pic.twitter.com/aYMwKf1XNl
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) July 4, 2019
And while #NotMyAriel was trending on Twitter, it didn’t seem like there were many people there at all who were actually complaining. It was an entire hashtag populated by people saying that the people pushing the hashtag were ignorant and wrong with no one seeming to actually have all that much of a problem with it.
And then a theory started to form. Did Disney set this all up to market their film?
Yeah, no. There was no “fuming”, no “outrage”, no “controversy”, no nothing.#NotMyAriel was never a thing. It was just an example of “outrage marketing”, where a big corp creates a fake controversy out of thin air for publicity. And it worked. Because of dipshits like you.
— Ximenes (@GospelofTrev) July 7, 2019
this is going to sound tinfoil as shit but i swear the #NotMyAriel thing is manufactured as a marketing campaign. so far the most viral tweet being outraged about this, the one that kicked this all off was proven to be a sock account using a random woman's instagram picture.
— 🇺🇸 shoe 🇺🇸 (@shoe0nhead) July 5, 2019
That’s another thing: This all happened in the middle of two pretty bad news stories for Disney; they wouldn’t let the father of a recently deceased kid who loved Spider-Man have Spidey’s logo on his tombstone and the announcement that the upcoming live-action Mulan wouldn’t have Mushu or any musical numbers in it.
Now, there’s no actual proof Disney is behind this. If you think I have the resources here to do investigative journalism then you are sadly mistaken about both the scope of my job and this blog. But the conspiracy here does make a lot of sense. Even if people aren’t seeing movies like Captain Marvel to “stick it to the haters” these stories generate a lot of free press. And if no one is going to get outraged and give you an entire news cycle of free coverage, then it would probably be worth it to invent them.