The movie industry seems to leap from one controversy to the next these days, and at this point, it’s getting hard to keep up with who is offended by what. Boycotting used to be a show of an audience’s power and solidarity, but the practice has been somewhat devalued through overuse, and now it’s mostly just another way for people to express their displeasure over something. Furthermore, threatening a public boycott seems to be the first weapon people reach for without taking the time to ascertain all the necessary context and facts. Sometimes, these boycotts and petitions are over something so minor and unimportant that they make the news based purely on their sensationalist qualities.
Now obviously, beliefs are subjective, and just because some people believe one thing doesn’t make it wrong or right. With all that in mind, strap on your controversy goggles as we dive face-first into the 15 Movies People Boycotted For Stupid Reasons.
15. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – MJ might not be white
With the recent trailer giving us our first proper look at the web-slinger’s MCU solo debut, the hype train for Spider-Man: Homecoming has officially left the station. While praise for the new direction the Spider-Man franchise is taking has been widespread, one tidbit of information about the movie left some feeling less-than-enthused.
A few months back, it was reported that Disney star Zendaya would be playing Mary Jane Watson in the new film. This has since been denied by Zendaya herself, but it’s still tempting to think otherwise, thanks to the repeated denials of actors like Christoph Waltz and Benedict Cumberbatch, who both swore blind that they weren’t playing the roles of Blofeld and Khan in pre-release interviews for Spectre and Star Trek: Into Darkness, respectively. Of course, once release day came and went, the deceptive rascals’ misdirections were revealed. Denials such as these have become pretty commonplace in Hollywood these days.
Whilst most fan reactions to the possibility of Zendaya playing MJ ranged from lukewarm to positive, some disagreed, wanting to see a more comic-faithful, porcelain-skinned redhead (read: a white actress) in the role. Several declared their intention to skip seeing the movie altogether with the usual anti-diversity complaints. Whether Zendaya is or isn’t Mary Jane Watson doesn’t matter, the point is that as long as the important aspects are kept, the character will still work. MJ’s personality isn’t tied to her racial background in any way, and so it shouldn’t matter one bit whether or not the actress playing her is white. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Marvel guru and character co-creator Stan Lee endorsed the choice, saying “If she is as good an actress as I hear she is, I think it’ll be absolutely wonderful. … The color of their skin doesn’t matter, their religion doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this the right person for the role.”
Whatever the truth behind the MJ situation is, we’ll all know for sure when Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters next year. For now, though, only one thing is certain: the Spidey film franchise has made far more egregious changes to the source material than this.
14. Jackass: The Movie (2002) – Impressionable Youth
Back in the ancient year of 2002, Johnny Knoxville and the rest of the Jackass crew made a movie to capitalize on the huge success of their anarchic, dumb, dangerous, and hilarious MTV show. The series had already garnered criticism from parental groups, concerned about the dangerously imitable pranks and stunts featured, but as the movie hit theaters, more angry voices of dissent were raised.
A boycott was called for after a 12-year-old kid ended up badly burned after attempting a Jackass-inspired stunt. That’s obviously a horrible thing, but Jackass: The Movie had an R rating, which should have helped make screenings into impressionable youth-free zones. Yeah, you could argue that kids could find ways of seeing it, but the rating’s there for a reason. Both the show and the movie featured huge disclaimers warning people that the Jackass team were professional idiots, and that people shouldn’t attempt the stunts showcased. Jackass was just another one of those hot topic targets that draws criticism and ire for a while and then fades away, replaced by the next scapegoat. TV, movies, music, comic books and video games have all been blamed for warping the younger generation’s minds at some point, and the cycle always continues. Kids don’t need excuses to act dumb, but stronger parental input and supervision could stop them from seriously hurting themselves.
13. Beasts of No Nation (2015) – Netflix must be stopped
Netflix has had an extraordinary rise for a company that started out as just another rental service. Streaming became more and more popular, and soon, Netflix became a major player in the entertainment industry itself, creating its own original shows and movies. One such project was Beasts of No Nation, a 2015 drama about the horrors of war that starred Idris Elba. When the movie was released, four of the largest cinema chains in the U.S. decided to boycott the film purely because it was made available on the streaming service at the same time.
That’s the world of business, but surely this is a counter-productive measure, no? Cinemas have hated Netflix’s rise to prominence because many people prefer to stay at home and watch a movie. By boycotting the movie, weren’t theaters just ensuring that people would stay in and watch Netflix rather than visiting and buying a huge bucket of overpriced popcorn? Not everyone has the option to stream, with broadband speeds varying wildly across the country. It’s a doubly a shame because the movie has an impressive 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a theater ban simply means that more people missed out on Elba’s particularly awesome performance as Commandant.
12. Ghostbusters (2016) – Rebooting a classic
The 2016 reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise drew massive heat from the internet. The first trailer for it fast became the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history. Redoing something as beloved as Ghostbusters was always going to be an uphill struggle, but the sheer level of hate the film got was staggering. Some of it is understandable. People in general don’t like the idea of certain classics being remade and ruined. We all breathed a sigh of relief when producer Frank Marshall stated he would ensure that a Back to the Future remake didn’t happen under his watch. However, one nasty section of the internet overwhelmed everything else and all complaints, both legitimate and not, were swept up in a hateful wave of misogyny.
Whether you agree or disagree with the direction or the writing or the actors’ performances is your personal prerogative. However, hating on a female cast just because they’re women is not cool. Not even a little bit. Some of the more extremist anti-busters groups started campaigning for a mass boycott of the movie because it’s part of the feminist agenda and blah blah blah. The whole thing became a vitriolic mess, with the opportunity to discuss Hollywood’s relentless plundering of classics relegated to a much bigger and thornier war of words about classic sexism.
11. The Great Wall (2017) – The great white Damon
Hollywood has been accused of whitewashing for decades, but the issue has come up again thanks to the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, the resulting boycott, and changes to policy. When the trailer for historical fantasy epic The Great Wall hit, many people were angered by what appeared to be another “white savior” story where a white man adopts a culture and saves it from extinction. The crux of people’s problems seemed to be that the movie is set in China over 1000 years ago, and yet it has to be the white guy to save everybody. Numerous Twitter users expressed their dissatisfaction with the idea and threatened to boycott, urging others to do the same.
There are legitimate concerns to be had about diversity and the lack of big name Asian actors in Hollywood movies, but is The Great Wall, a fantasy film with little to no bearing on reality, the best movie to discuss in relation to this? The movie is an American/Chinese co-production, with a multicultural cast directed by Zhang Yimou, the man behind the visually stunning Hero and House of Flying Daggers. As the film isn’t even out yet, the crucial context behind Damon’s role is missing, and people are getting angry over a few minutes of footage. Zhang Yimou publically commented on the controversy, defending his movie: “In many ways The Great Wall is the opposite of what is being suggested,” going on to conclude that, “I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision. I hope when everyone sees the film and is armed with the facts they will agree.“
10. Ender’s Game (2013) – The source material’s author is a jerk
After languishing in development hell for many years, a film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game finally made it to the big screen in 2013. Since the book’s release, Orson Scott Card showed his hand and became a public critic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. An activist group called Geeks Out called for a boycott of the movie because of Card’s beliefs.
Ender’s Game has no overt anti-gay agenda. It’s political, sure, but it’s mostly focused on examining the psychology of warfare, and has been on the U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List since it came out. As far as the outspoken Orson earning money from the movie goes, it turned out that he’d already been paid for the rights back in 1996 and he had no back-end deal, meaning he’d get no money from the film’s profits. There weren’t any, by the way — the film flopped at the box office and managed to be one of the biggest bombs of the year, despite tough competition from legendary duds like The Lone Ranger, Jack the Giant Slayer and After Earth.
9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – Diversity
Much of 2015 was spent crying joyful tears over the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, if the plethora of YouTube videos are to be believed. However, there were some people who weren’t fist pumping their hearts out at the shot of the Millennium Falcon majestically swooping over Jakku. Folks got up in arms over a multitude of reasons, ranging from the casting of John Boyega as black ex-Stormtrooper Finn, accusations of being anti-white propaganda (put a pin in that, we’ll be coming back to it) and Daisy Ridley’s headlining role as action heroine Rey. Many threatened to boycott the film, and the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII trended several times, thankfully mostly because people on Twitter were commenting on how dumb the whole thing was.
Diversity is not a bad thing. Representation is important. Kids like seeing themselves in the heroes they admire, and it’s great to give them that. Star Wars is a big universe bustling with people and aliens from all walks of life. Darth Vader wouldn’t have been half the badass he was without James Earl Jones’ booming tones. Plus, the Lando betrayal and eventual redemption angles in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have had the same impact if he wasn’t played by the suave Billy Dee Williams. A New Hope was a bit of a whitewash, but as the franchise marched on, they started including more diverse cast members. The Force Awakens did nothing but continue that. As Episode VII went on to make more money than most countries do in a fiscal year, it’s safe to say that the boycott didn’t really gain traction.
8. The Grey (2011) – Misrepresentation of…wolves
The 2011 Liam Neeson vehicle The Grey caused a number of little controversies prior to release. Many animal rights groups got upset over reports that the film production crew had bought several dead wolves from a trapper, both for set decoration and for the cast to eat wolf meat. On top of that, several groups had additional problems with the representation of wolves in the movie. In The Grey, oil-driller John Ottway (Neeson) and a handful of other men survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, only to find themselves stalked by a pack of vicious, bloodthirsty wolves. Groups were quick to point out that wolves aren’t as violent in real life, and that they rarely come into contact with humans, let alone attack them.
Your opinion on the wolf meat incident will vary depending on your beliefs (or whether or not you believe the rumors), but surely we can all agree that the people worried over the representation of wolves need to chill. It’s understandable to not want The Grey to do for wolves what Jaws did for sharks, but anyone watching the film will see that the movie’s not really about the wolves, but more about the survivors battling their personal demons. Wolves have been used in allegorical stories for centuries, so it seems weird to single The Grey out for attention, especially when it never pretended to be anything other than a man vs. nature thriller.
Of course, this flick is far from Liam Neeson’s first foray into bizarre film controversy…
7. All Liam Neeson movies – Gun violence
Who can hate Liam Neeson? He’s the world’s most kickass grandfather. He’s played Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, famed Batman baddie Ra’s Al Ghul, and as we all know, has a very particular sets of skills. One of those bizarrely unhappy campers was gunmaker Para USA, the supplier of weapons to Neeson’s Taken 3. Neeson was quoted as saying that the number of guns in the U.S. is a “disgrace” and commented on the regularity of mass shootings. Para USA didn’t take kindly to this and withdrew their support from Neeson’s future projects, urging other firearms manufacturers to do the same.
An actor’s political views are that person’s own business. They get paid to entertain audiences by portraying different people. That’s the deal, and it shouldn’t go much further than that. Neeson’s anti-gun stance may seem hypocritical to some, considering he starred in many gun-happy, violent movies, but the actor was keen to remind everyone that, “It’s fantasy. It’s in the movies, you know? I think it can give people a great release from stresses in life and all the rest of it, you know what I mean? It doesn’t mean they’re all going to go out and go, ‘Yeah, let’s get a gun.'”
6. All Bradley Cooper movies – He may or may not lean a bit left
Bradley Cooper won a lot of attention and praise for his role as Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. However, when the actor was pictured attending a Democratic convention, several fans of the film felt betrayed and took to Twitter to instigate a boycott on the actor’s future films.
As we said before, an actor’s personal beliefs should have no impact on how well they can or can’t play a character. It’s a business of make-believe. It’s weird how many people struggle with the divide between fantasy and reality, and how angry they get when their viewpoints are challenged. Let’s not forget that Bradley Cooper also played a talking raccoon with a penchant for explosives in Guardians of the Galaxy. Would it be reasonable to expect Cooper to know anything about interplanetary bounty hunting? Of course not. The man’s an actor, and a damn fine one at that. Isn’t that enough?
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – *sigh* More diversity issues
Another year, another Star Wars controversy. Once again, white supremacist groups have gotten involved and are criticizing the cast of Rogue One for the same thing as before, accusing Disney of “anti-white social engineering”. Basically, if a woman is in a major role and people of different ethnic backgrounds appear in prominent roles, these folks will have something to say about it. Again, most of it is just self-promotion, but many have threatened to boycott this movie, too. Yeah, have fun with that.
Director Gareth Edwards weighed in on the matter:. “The goal of a lot of films used to be: If we just eliminate the bad guys, we win…But I think a more modern, realistic viewpoint is that no one’s good, no one’s evil and the only real way we’re going to stop wars is to understand each other better, come together and empathize with them.”. Weirdly, this half-aligns with what some alt-right commenters said, claiming to still be excited for the movie and vowing to root for the Empire instead. No word yet on whether or not these boycotters root for Johnny Lawrence and Cobrai Kai dojo because Daniel’s mentor is Japanese.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – A feminist agenda
George Miller’s 2015 Mad Max sequel was a long time coming. When the first trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road finally hit, some fans didn’t like what they saw. In particular, the vocal minority seemed furious at Angriosa angry at Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s character. Infamous anti-feminist website Return of Kings decried Max’s apparent subservience to Furiosa and encouraged their like-minded readers to boycott the movie.
Many of their complaints were based purely on the trailer and focused on the apparent “feminist agenda” contained within the film. One of the points was that compared to Furiosa, Max is pretty tight-lipped and seems to simply make cameos in the action, rather than be the driving force behind it. The boycott didn’t end up amounting to anything, giving the impression that the outrage was (say it with us, everyone) more about self-promotion, as many websites were quick to report on the mini-controversy and bring in online traffic. It’s a shame to hate strong female characters based purely on some supposed agenda, but the fact that the anger was centered in sheer trailer conjecture is pretty stupid. Plus, their dedication to their supposedly beloved series has to be called into question when the website describes the movie as “ruining and rewriting” American culture, despite the whole thing being about as Australian as Hugh Jackman and Crocodile Dundee combined.
3. Thor (2011) – Rewriting (fictional) folklore
The Kenneth Branagh-directed MCU entry Thor became an unlikely source of controversy back in 2009 when it was announced that perennial coolest man alive candidate Idris Elba had been cast as the Asgardian gatekeeper, Heimdall. It turns out that some people had a problem with a black actor being cast in a role that was traditionally white. Bad became worse when white supremacist group the Council of Concerned Citizens got involved, calling for a mass boycott of the film for inserting “social engineering into European mythology”.
In terms of faithfulness to Norse myths, the Thor comics are as authentic as a 62 dollar bill. Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby based their stories around ancient Norse folklore, sure, but they also expanded and changed it in numerous different ways. Thor has fought Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde and Asgard has suffered a zombie apocalypse, for crying out loud. As Big Driis (his actual DJ name) said himself:“Thor’s mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That’s OK, but the color of my skin is wrong?”. The important elements of the character were maintained, Elba nailed it as the loveable badass Bifrost guardian, and the world spun on.
2. Finding Dory (2016) – A woman in the trailer had short hair
When the first trailer for this year’s megahit Finding Dory hit the internet, one small snippet caused a big conversation. In the fleeting scene, Hank the octopus ends up in a stroller, failing to pass as a baby. The trailer shows two women pushing the stroller, understandably shocked at the sight of a cephalopod sitting where their child should be. Seemingly (and unfortunately) based solely on the fact that one woman had short hair, people started speculating that Pixar had included their first gay couple in their new movie.
Several applauded the apparent decision, while some threatened to boycott instead. This is presumably down to people objecting to the presence of a gay couple in a children’s movie, but it doesn’t matter. Folks seemingly lost their minds over a few seconds in a trailer, and — despite having no other information available to them other than the physical appearances of the two women — spun stories of pure conjecture out of nothing. When Dory’s voice actor and LGBTQ activist Ellen DeGeneres was quizzed about it, she quipped : “It’s really amazing, because it’s two women pushing a stroller, which I didn’t even notice, and one of them has short hair and apparently if you have short hair you’re a lesbian. I did not know that was the rule. So, no, there’s no lesbian couple. I don’t think that that’s the case”.
1. Casino Royale (2006) – A Blond Bond
The James Bond series was in a bad way after the release of Die Another Day in 2002. The film was commercially successful but critically reviled. Introducing terrible CGI scenes and invisible cars to the mix was poorly received, and many felt that the series had lost its way. The Bond people agreed, and set about reviving the venerable franchise with a new direction, complete with a new Bond. Speculation was rampant as to who was suiting up as 007, and practically every eligible actor was linked to the role in some capacity. Eventually, Daniel Craig was announced as Pierce Brosnan’s replacement and most people were happy. Most.
Some sections of the Bond fandom lost their minds over this casting choice. A website was set up (danielcraigisnotbond.com) and encouraged angry fans to boycott the movie and swap stories and painfully unfunny photoshops of Craig. What was their problem you ask? To quote the original website: “How can a short, blond actor with the rough face of a professional boxer and a penchant for playing killers, cranks, cads and gigolos pull off the role of a tall, dark, handsome and suave secret agent?”
Pretty well, as it turns out. Craig has proved to be a hit since then, with 3 additional (well-received) outings under his belt, and his performance as Bond has been ranked as one of best in the series’ history. As far as the “not handsome” accusations go, let’s just say this – not just any actor gets voted to become a delicious, lickable frozen treat.
What other incessantly stupid movie controversies did you roll your eyes at? Sound off in the comments.