With the introduction of social media, it’s easier to see how many people raise a concern or inspire a backlash, because it all happens in plain sight and once something is trending, the whole world is definitely going to find out about it.
Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, one that can be used for both good and bad. When social media is doing what you want it to, you’re winning. However, when you receive a bad review on Twitter, it’s all downhill from there.
I have a handful of examples but I’m going to start with the one that happened just a few weeks ago.
Sonic the Movie
The trailer launched for Sonic the movie last month, you can watch it here and to say it was met with a backlash would be a minor understatement.
There was no real comment on the story the trailer was telling, but more drama around the new look of Sonic himself. Sonic is a hedgehog and a cool hedgehog at that, well I mean the original Sonic on SEGA anyway.
Looking at the tweets surrounding the movie, everyone is asking why Sonic looks more like a racoon and why he’s got human-like teeth. The question I found myself asking, aside from the teeth, why is he so fluffy?
Numerous fan edits have made their way around Tumblr, reddit and Twitter, with most saying the fan art is better than the Movie Iteration of Sonic.
Is it hard to draw sonic at least close to the character we are used to? Not a deformed version of a guy in a sonic suit. @sonic_hedgehog @Sonicthemovie @SonicMovie #SonicMovie #SonicTheHedgehog pic.twitter.com/Wx0RfRlr3n— Paulo M. Avila Neto (@PauloAvilaNeto) May 2, 2019
Could it be with the success surrounding the Detective Pikachu trailers and the praise the filmmakers have received for the way they’ve designed the pokemon, they decided to try and recreate Sonic in a similar fashion? Or did they decide that the Sonic we all grew up playing, needed a 2019 makeover?
It would seem that all it took was the fan outpour on Twitter, Tumblr and other platforms for Director Jeff Fowler to announce they would be giving Sonic another makeover.
If they’ve created a Sonic movie starring a Sonic everyone hates, what’s the film going to be like? With the movie due to launch in November, it seems like they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them if they’re to please their fans and meet their release date.
Would have anything have changed if there had been no outcry? Of course not. It was the universal unhappiness shared on social platforms that generated enough attention to make it back to the Paramount and SEGA meeting rooms and enforce change.
If your target audience doesn’t like your main character iteration, you can almost guarantee no one is going to pay to see it at the cinema, so they’ve #gototfixfast if they want a good cinematic run.
— Jason Bennett (@jb95015) May 3, 2019
James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy
In July last year James Gunn was let go from Disney after a number of offensive tweets had been re-discovered, all posted on his social channels nearly a decade prior. Gunn had previously apologised for his behaviour long before his involvement with Guardians of the Galaxy, but once the tweets resurfaced, it wasn’t enough.
Production went on hold and the movie was postponed indefinitely with its future looking uncertain. There was a lot of support from the cast in favour of keeping Gunn involved with the project. David Bautista (?) went as far to say he was legally obliged to continue his contract, however if they tried to create Guardians of the Galaxy 3 without Gunn, he would do whatever was possible to get out of his contract.
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Although I don’t support James Gunn’s inappropriate jokes from years ago, he is a good man. I’d personally love to see him reinstated as director of Volume 3. If you please, read the following statement- signed by our entire cast.
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It appeared that this was not enough for Disney at the time, as the core actors expressed their love and support for Gunn on social media. However, it wasn’t just the films stars who were against Disney's decision, though they definitely had the loudest voices.
The fandom was outraged with many taking to social media stating they would boycott the next movie if Gunn wasn’t involved as he was the heart and soul of the Guardians movies. Though many hoped Disney would change their mind, Disney has never gone back on a decision or apologised for it.
This year, however, back in March Disney announced James Gunn had been rehired and would be back working on Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Even though it would mean a delay in production and a 2021 release date, fans were overjoyed and once again excited for the next instalment. For the first time, Disney had gone back on their final decision.
A decision a long time in the making, but I’m sure the retraction of Disney’s decision has more to do with the value and worth of the Guardians Franchise then the overall backlash of the fans, even if the two go hand in hand.
If you piss off your audience, the value of your product will decrease significantly if it doesn’t disappear altogether.
It doesn’t just happen within the movie scene, earlier this year Gucci had to remove a jumper from sale after a backlash against it’s ‘black-face’ design.
The jumper went on sale at $890 (£688) and was “Inspired by vintage ski masks, multicoloured knitted balaclavas walked the runway, adding a mysterious feel to this collection,” says the description. As one could expect, Twitter blew up with loads of people calling out the Italian brand for it’s ‘blackface’ with many threatening to boycott the brand if they didn’t remove it from sale immediately.
Gucci deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the wool balaclava jumper.— gucci (@gucci) February 7, 2019
We consider diversity to be a fundamental value to be fully upheld, respected, and at the forefront of every decision we make.
Full statement below. pic.twitter.com/P2iXL9uOhs
It wasn’t long until GUCCI had pulled the item from sale both online and in all of its stores and issued an apology. Though it was removed from sale and the company apologised, as can be seen with James Gunn’s incident, nothing can be forgotten.
The question is, how will it affect the brand? Turns out, not a lot. Results showed that the weeks after the incident, GUCCI’s sales were relatively unaffected.
As a result of the scandal, GUCCI has now launched a new plan, creating scholarship investment in Africa and partnering with schools across the globe. They’ve also made the decision to establish a diversity and inclusion global director to ensure they’re always being inclusive and diverse.
The truth is it’s hard to really know how many people need to rally behind a cause to generate change, but a possible milestone is when you hit the trending list on Twitter. If you’ve upset your audience and it starts trending, it’s only downhill from there and change is more likely to be put into motion.