Disney‘s Little Mermaid remake is the latest movie to be review-bombed by IMDb users, clearly tying into the racist backlash against lead actress Halle Bailey. In response, IMDb editors have stepped in to give the film a weighted score of 7.0/10.
7.0 is fairly typical result for a live-action Disney remake: Respectably well-received, but a few decimal points lower than the original animated film. However, when you click through to the breakdown of ratings for the 2023 Little Mermaid, it’s obvious that the film was targeted by a hate campaign, resulting in a 4.7/10 unweighted score and a notice about “unusual activity” on the page.
The high volume of 10/10 ratings is likely motivated by fans trying to counteract the haters giving it 1/10. When you look at the ratings for other live-action remakes like Aladdin and The Lion King, you see a more typical bell curve where most users leave a rating of around 6-8/10. By comparison, here’s the breakdown for the original 1989 Little Mermaid:
This deluge of 1/10 ratings is pretty extreme by IMDb review-bombing standards, but you’ll see similar issues on the ratings pages for blockbusters like Captain Marvel and The Last Jedi, which were subject to racist and/or sexist hate campaigns online.
Since this kind of backlash is now a depressingly regular occurrance, it raises questions over what purpose IMDb ratings actually serve. IMDb’s owners presumably want to encourage engagement from users, but even under normal circumstances, IMDb ratings are not very helpful to casual viewers.
Most mainstream films fall somewhere between 6.5 and 8/10 on IMDb’s average scores, and a film needs to be pretty awful to fall below a 6. These scores are then prominently displayed on Google search, giving them an air of reliability – a similar situation to the cultural dominance of Rotten Tomatoes, whose metrics don’t actually reflect an accurate breakdown of critical reviews.
Then there’s the matter of IMDb’s user demographics. The site is heavily male-dominated, a fact that’s reflected by the list of top-rated films. Topped by The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, and The Dark Knight, the list is visibly skewed toward male directors and casts, and the top 100 doesn’t include a single film that’s perceived as being aimed at women. (Back to the Future, for example, clocks in at #30, while none of the beloved romcoms of the 1980s and ’90s make an appearance.)
So the unbalanced ratings for films like Captain Marvel and The Little Mermaid are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to IMDb bias.