Don’t Let the Audience Ratings for One of Disney+’s Top Shows Fool You

While we know that you can’t necessarily trust the Rotten Tomatoes ratings on any given property, it is jarring when you see critics widely praising something or at least giving it pretty good reviews, matched with an audience score that is abysmal. Disney+’s current #6 show, with an 84% rating from critics and a 26% score from the audience, is Willow, and when you look at the audience reviews driving that score disparity, it just seems like a lot of the one-star reviews (mainly by male users) are criticizing the show in a way that feels disingenuous.

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It’s called “review bombing,” when user reviews for a show or movie (or anything else, really) are bombarded with low scores from people who often haven’t even seen it and have other motives than actually rating its quality—frequently for being any kind of progressive, in their eyes. And with a show like Willow, it has a lesbian couple who are featured front and center, a plethora of women and actors of colors as lead characters, and lets its female characters be strong and powerful. So yeah, of course this bigoted review-bombing is the response to some “fans” of the original movie online.

For someone like me who remembers how people bashed the 1988 Willow movie growing up (which is one of the reasons it took me so long to watch the movie in the first place), I was shocked by how much I loved the new Disney+ series. I gave it a great review because I had such a fun time watching the screeners I did get, which is what leads me to believe that this is all just review bombing because of the diversity that the show does champion.

Willow lets you live with its characters in an exciting way

I don’t for one second think that actual fans of the movie are review bombing this show, because there’s no way someone watched Willow and came out of that movie with the idea that women shouldn’t be focused on and that actors of color aren’t important. If you did, you learned nothing from the movie and, now, the television series.

The complaints on Rotten Tomatoes all sound the same and, to be honest, most of them came from 6 hours ago and are filled with comments about the “ideology” of the original movie and how Disney is ruining it so … you know that it isn’t someone who genuinely cares whether or not the show is any good.

But what the series does better for me than the movie did is let us live with these characters for a while. We know Madmartigan because he’s loud and abrasive, and we know Willow because it is his movie, but there are plenty of characters we meet along the way that are barely thought of, and they just go on about their lives and we never go back to them.

In the series, we get to see a bit of Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), and we get to revisit the characters we know and love while meeting new characters who are all so different from each other and yet completely make sense within the show. Kit’s relationship with Jade is one we’re instantly invested in throughout the season, and that’s in part due to how Ruby Cruz and Erin Kellyman are bringing these characters to life. We get to watch as Prince Graydon (Tony Revolori) comes into his own and isn’t hiding behind this façade anymore, and it’s been a great journey to go on with these characters.

The reality is that, sure, this show isn’t going to be for everyone, but it is not a 26% rated show. That audience rating is only because people are angry that women are leading the charge and that men and women of color are part of the story. They’re mad that we have a couple in love with each other and figuring out their feelings for one another that isn’t a cis-straight couple. They’re just mad that a show that doesn’t focus solely on what has been “acceptable” in their eyes for years can be this good.

So go into Willow with an open heart, and it is a good show that gives us enough of the movie to keep us going while still being completely fresh and new, and it’s great for it.

(featured image: Lucasfilm)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.