Here is a bit of an unusual situation: I’m going to write about a movie I haven’t seen.
“Gunday” is a 2014 Bollywood movie that hasn’t been made available in Region 1 (or in English) yet. However, it managed to sink all the way to the lowest spot in the IMDb Bottom 100 almost immediately upon release. Seems fishy, doesn’t it?
Well, the folks at FiveThirtyEight took notice, and used their beautiful data-mancy to dig into the story of how (and why) “Gunday” has taken a dominating position in the basement of the IMDb Bottom 100. Check it out here.
First off, the high number of votes on IMDb for “Gunday” is the result of a social media campaign lobbied against the film. Apparently, there is a particularly offensive depiction of the Bangladeshi revolution in the movie that rubbed a lot of people in the wrong way. In order to bring attention to this (?), some activist Bangladeshis tanked the movie’s IMDb page with 1-star reviews by the thousands. From the FiveThirtyEight post:
“Gunday” offended a huge, sensitive, organized and social-media-savvy group of people who were encouraged to mobilize to protest the movie by giving it the lowest rating possible on IMDb. Of “Gunday’s” ratings, 36,000 came from outside the U.S., and 91 percent of all reviewers gave it one star.
This brings up one of the central issues with the democratic, open-to-all nature of the IMDb’s ratings and rankings. What prevents this sort of mob-influence situation from dishonestly inflating/deflating a movie’s score?
Although there have since been numerous complaints about the down-voting of “Gunday,” IMDb doesn’t seem to be discounting the plethora of low ratings, or at least not yet. IMDB’s head of PR, Emily Glassman, told me that while the site has several built-in safeguards to prevent ballot-stuffing, the policy is not to delete or modify individual ratings from registered users.
“Our approach is not to focus on individual titles or incidents, but to analyze this behavior whenever it occurs and to apply any new learnings to strengthen our voting mechanism, so that the resulting improvements affect all titles/votes in our system rather than just the ones specifically affected by these isolated situations,” she said.
That all sounds appropriately vague and mysterious for the IMDb. Their qualifications for the Bottom 100 are still generally unclear, and have apparently changed a number of times in the past based on the archived lists I’ve found. Currently, a set quota of 1500 votes is needed for a film to qualify for the list, but there are other vague qualifiers that are not explicitly stated. For comparison, this is the formula used to determine the other end of the spectrum, the IMDb Top 250:
- = weighted rating
- = average for the movie as a number from 0 to 10 (mean) = (Rating)
- = number of votes for the movie = (votes)
- = minimum votes required to be listed in the Top 250 (currently 25,000)
- = the mean vote across the whole report (currently 7.0)
The Bottom 100 likely utilizes a very similar formula, although I’ve found different rumors about variables. Just as the quote suggests, I imagine IMDb tinkers with their formulas and ranking system quite a bit, so it is anyone’s guess as to just how the IMDb Bottom 100 precisely functions. I am interested to see if any action is taken to prevent this sort of vote-bombing in the future, and whether “Gunday” will hold that #1 Bottom 100 spot long enough for me to actually get a copy of the film. Who would have thought that this shitty movie challenge would tie into geopolitical activism, algorithms, and statistics so heavily?
I’m planning on watching “Gunday” and reviewing it on its own merits once I can get a hold of a copy with subtitles, but I can’t say for sure when that will be. In the meantime, I figured its rapid plummet to the bottom was interesting enough to justify covering.
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