If online sentiment is to be believed, Sony’s Ghostbusters reboot is in trouble even before its release, with the initial trailer for Paul Feig’s movie supposedly receiving more “thumbs down” votes on YouTube than any other movie trailer in the platform’s history.
But does that really mean that things are looking dire for the pic’s prospects, or is there something strange in this particular neighborhood?
At time of writing, the official Sony upload of the movie’s trailer has 624,461 thumbs-down votes, based on 29,906,237 views. That’s one thumbs-down vote for every 47.9 views, which would be an impressive number if it reflects a genuine dislike on behalf of all viewers — but what, exactly, suggests that it is genuine?
There is no way to check where the thumbs-down votes have come from, but the metrics seem genuinely strange when taken in context of other deeply unpopular YouTube videos; the most disliked video on the platform, “Baby” by Justin Bieber, has one thumbs-down vote for every 225 views, for example, and on average, the top 10 most disliked videos on YouTube — there’s a playlist — has one thumbs down for every 449 views. Is Ghostbusters really almost 10 times less popular than the most disliked videos on the platform? (It is now the 18th most unpopular video on the site, apparently.)
The numbers become stranger when you factor in other movies: The official teaser for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that seems anecdotally much derided on social media, only has 16,489 thumbs-down votes based on almost twice as many views as the Ghostbusters trailer. The trailer for last year’s dramatic flop Fantastic Four? Only 7,302 thumbs-down votes. So what is going on here?
Could it be the platform? Perhaps — with 22,839,055 views on Facebook at time of writing, sentiment towards the trailer is more than 90 percent positive, oddly enough. But that wouldn’t explain why YouTube users are seemingly far more savage towards the trailer than they were towards the trailer for Star Trek Beyond, a trailer so disliked that even the movie’s co-writer and co-star has publicly distanced himself from it (one thumbs-down vote for every 581 views, if you’re curious.)
Well, take another look at the list of YouTube’s most unpopular videos, and you’ll notice something almost immediately: There’s a preponderance of female-fronted videos on the list.
In fact, more than half of the videos on the list star women, which points towards a depressing truth: Ghostbusters is falling victim to the seemingly inherent sexism that surfaces across the internet, especially when it comes to nerd culture.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. The sexist backlash to the trailer’s initial release was noted at the time, with some pointing towards misogynistic comments on the YouTube upload itself. (The Washington Post even noticed how quickly the video was being downvoted after it appeared.)
The idea that the trailer is being targeted by those with a particular agenda becomes more obvious when reading through the comments on the YouTube page itself. In just the last hour at time of writing, the following comments have appeared: “You too can be apart [sic] of history by hitting that dislike button,” “I bet this will hit 1 Million dislikes,” “I wish I could dislike it more than once,” and “We need more dislikes!!!”
Ultimately, the idea of making “history” by turning the trailer into YouTube’s least popular video — or, at least, its least popular movie trailer (it’s unlikely to reach the Bieber-esque 6 million dislikes it’d need to take the overall title) — is a pointless one.
Not only does it not measure any organic dislike of the trailer, considering how easily the system can be gamed by creating multiple YouTube accounts to give the trailer the thumbs down (see also: accounts with names like “taterpenguin“), but it’s entirely counterintuitive if the aim is truly to make people dismiss the new Ghostbusters in any meaningful way.
As a result of its current YouTube status, after all, more people are talking about the movie than before, and just one look at its companions in the unpopularity stakes makes something else obvious besides the misogyny: There’s a lot of massively popular hit songs on there.
If that kind of mainstream, financial success is what comes of becoming unpopular on YouTube, other movies should be jealous of what Ghostbusters has going for it right now.