In the case of the accused Venom saboteurs, the methodology was simply quantity over quality. A hundred copied and pasted tweets could count for more than a single article published by a journalist. Word of mouth on a potentially global scale. You know that phrase, "everybody's a critic?" In the digital age, everybody literally can be.
How have things escalated to this level? When it comes to the ongoing DC vs Marvel battle, the foundation is a historic one -- a friendly rivalry between two publishing giants in the comic book industry that, for a subsection of fans, has grown exponentially in significance and bitterness to match the scale that the Big Two's fictional worlds have been blown up to on the big screen. Poor reception for a superhero film from either company is no longer viewed as an isolated case, but as one integral rotten apple that could sink a whole shared universe. "Are you Marvel or DC?" is sportsmanly banter for some, but for those who take it a little more seriously, a loss for DC is considered to be a win for Marvel, and vice versa. That's how fandom becomes a battlefield.
The Last Jedi carved out a similar divide in Star Wars fandom. Whilst the community as a whole is in general agreement on the quality of the prequel series and original trilogy, it didn't take long for gripes about Rian Johnson's controversial contribution to the saga to become politicized. Even if their efforts were minimal, the fact that certain parties in Russia felt the debate was a viable inroad to fan the flames of unrest in the West speaks to its ferocity and scale.
The domination of cinematic universes, reboots and adaptations in current pop culture invites the added baggage of pre-existing emotional attachment that viewers bring with them to the cinema. If The Last Jedi was a standalone film, its detractors would've shrugged it off a long time ago. As a piece of holy Star Wars mythology, however, voicing distaste for it has become part of some fans' identities, as well as a mobilizing force to "rescue" the franchise. Franchises like Star Wars are also demanding audiences have longer attention spans than ever before, with parent companies bankrolling a never-ending production line of content to sustain active and ever-growing fanbases.
Our current state of intense political and social division is reflected in our increasingly tribal behaviour as fans; loyalty and passion twist into narrow-mindedness and anger, which intermingles with a collective sense of entitlement -- entitlement to a property we've been encouraged to keep investing in and entitlement to let those with the keys to the kingdom know exactly how good or bad a job they're doing.
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The Internet is a democratizing force, neutral in nature but worryingly easy to be used for nefarious means. It's not just about whether a film a is a success or failure any more, it's about whether a film deserves to be a success or a failure, and audiences are more acutely aware than ever before of their power as consumers to be the judge, jury and -- if necessary -- executioner.