Ghostbusted: Is having the most disliked movie trailer in history something to be scared of?

There’s something strange in the neighbourhood that might make scary viewing for Sony Pictures. Traditionally, a trailer is supposed to be a company putting their best foot forward in promoting their new product, but some You Tube viewers have sought to put a banana peel under Sony’s feet by making the launch trailer for this year’s Ghostbusters reboot the most disliked movie trailer in You Tube history. Is this one remake too far?

Paranormal Activity

At the time of writing, Sony’s Ghostbusters reboot promo has received a staggering 854,423 dislikes. When one considers that the most disliked movie trailer of 2015 was 20th Century Fox’s “Fantastic Four” reboot with just over 20 thousand thumbs down, it becomes clear how freakish the feedback for Sony’s trailer really is. It also suffers the ignominy of being the first and only movie trailer to feature on You Tube’s 100 most disliked videos and currently finds itself within the top ten ranking at 9th.

Some of the most popular videos ever, such as Gangnam Style and music videos by Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, are in the same top ten, but it’s when we examine the Dislikes to Views ratios of these videos we see why the trailer has generated so many headlines.

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Astonishingly, the Ghostbusters trailer is receiving close to one Dislike for every forty views putting it on a par with “Friday” by Rebecca Black. To put that into context: a cheaply made music video that went viral for being “the worst song ever” has gotten less dislikes per view than a high profile piece of movie marketing for a franchise worth millions of dollars in box office and merchandise. So while popularity may breed contempt on You Tube, it would appear there has been a sizeable attempt to ensure the Ghostbusters trailer receives more than its fair share of negative feedback.

Trailergate

The first and biggest conservation spike we see about the Ghostbusters reboot goes all the way back to January 2015 when the project was officially announced.

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It was also announced that the film’s main characters would be played by an all-female cast. This no doubt helped drive some of those numbers at a time when internet fan culture was still engaged in the (in)famous Gamergate scandal, which drew many accusations of sexism and misogyny. That said, the sentiment towards the announcement was relatively equal in terms of positive and negative responses and gives less indication than you’d expect of the fate that awaited the launch trailer.

Moving forward 14 months to March 2016, Sony released the first trailer for the film to a largely poor reception from cultural commentators — as this response from Roger Wiesman of the Huffington Post seemed to typify:

“Basically, it looks like it will be just a bigger, glossier, crasser telling of much the same story, with no evidence of the sly humour of the original film, which so deftly balanced comedy with supernatural horror.”

The trailer’s reception on You Tube was even worse. The Dislikes quickly grew and commenters on the video openly admitted to creating duplicate accounts just to add to the growing number and gleefully greeted each six figure milestone, egging the thumbs down icon to reach a million before the film’s release. There was little room for more moderate opinions here or hopes of the actual film being better than the trailer suggested. No, the disdain for the film and the desire for it to fail among fans was clear with prominent You Tube critic, Angry Video Game Nerd, even refusing to review the film on release.

The story of the trailer’s overwhelmingly negative reception quickly generated headlines across the internet as the trailer garnered half a million Dislikes in just eight weeks. This just added fuel to fire, as the video went on to gain a further three hundred thousand over the next month. Whether this expanded a growing bandwagon of disdain or simply gave further exposure to a badly perceived trailer is debatable, but the act of giving the Ghostbusters promo the thumbs down had definitely gone viral.

Speculate with extreme prejudice

What caused this vast surge of ill feeling towards the film is myriad and is still being argued on comment sections and forums across the web, but by using our social intelligence tools to analyse the conversation surrounding the film a clearer picture can be formed.

One theory that can be immediately dismissed is the idea that audiences are becoming increasingly fatigued and uncomfortable with beloved classics being remade since other notable 2016 remakes: The Magnificent Seven, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon have all received over 90% positive feedback for their respective launch trailers on You Tube, while Ghostbusters has just 22% in the same regard.

It is clear however that viewers expect a comedy to be funny and the trailers have a done a poor job of convincing them of that as the timeline below demonstrates:

Unfunny

When the initial trailer was released in March, there was a visible spike in social posts suggesting it was not funny and that the film wouldn’t be either. This is certainly playing a part in the backlash, but there is another issue which has to be considered.

Looking at how genders are reacting to the film, we start to broach the main point of contention that has engulfed the film since its announcement: an all-female cast replacing the previous male cast. The pie charts below show a gender gap regarding the decision. Using the term “female ghostbusters” to gather sentiment on the subject, it’s clear men are being significantly more negative towards the casting than women are.

Gender

A gap remains when looking at which gender is expressing the opinion of whether they find the trailer to be funny or not — although to be fair, it doesn’t seem like female audiences are impressed by its humour either.

Gender Unfunny

It’s an issue that has lit up culture and fan sites alike with accusations of sexism rife among some commentators and others vehemently defending their reaction as organic to the film’s nature and not the sex of the cast. Further analysis proved that, while there was a share of conversation relating to terms like “sexism” and “misogyny” in regards to the film, it’s not dominating in a manner that would suggest this is the smoking gun as some are making it out to be.

However, infamous “male rights activist” site, Return of the Kings, has run stories celebrating the trailer’s pejorative feedback and accusing the film of having a feminist agenda and anti-male undercurrents. Overall, it would be naïve to think that those with reactionary views and agendas about women aren’t doing their utmost to see those Dislikes rise more and more, but to lay responsibility solely on the issue is ignoring that an unfunny trailer for a comedy film is very likely to draw criticism.

Sony’s decision to release some subsequent video promos exclusively (short-term) to Facebook and Twitter shows a small attempt at damage control by briefly side stepping the world’s most popular video platform, but they certainly haven’t been running scared from the ordeal and nor should they be.

I ain’t afraid of no geek

It seems apt that historians still are unsure of whether a Roman Emperor using a thumb down spelt death for a defeated gladiator or gifted him mercy. As many angry fans are sure they’ve already doomed the upcoming Ghostbusters film with a rapid succession of thumbs down, they may well have instead done it a huge favour by propelling it to over 30 million views and making it the third most viewed movie trailer on You Tube in 2016.

With that kind of engagement flowing in, it’s no surprise that Sony have been bullish in response to the record-breaking negativity. In many subsequent pieces of video promotion for the film, Lesley Jones’ character exclaims “I don’t know if this a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell!” and it’s hard not to see such blatant subtext being used to bait the film’s haters. The film’s director, Paul Feig, has also been defiant in claiming a majority of the negativity is being caused by internet “bullies” and “a**holes”, fanning the flames even higher — and why not? The presence and exposure for the product is more omnipotent throughout the web than Sony could have hoped for at this stage and is requiring only limited efforts on their part.

As the saying goes -“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. Sony seem to know this only too well and you have to wonder who is really trolling who now…

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David Murphy

David Murphy

EntSight Researcher