Why is Amazon suspending reviews for ‘Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power’?

Is it an earnest attempt to fight racist trolls, or a sinister bid to bully legitimate criticism?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: Amazon Founder and Executive Chair Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez attend...
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Amazon doesn’t want to hear your Rings of Power takes, at least not for now. Over the weekend, the studio behind the highly anticipated new Lord of the Rings spin-off show suspended user reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for three days, ostensibly to protect itself from its own fandom review-bombing the series.

Since The Rings of Power’s two-episode premiere last Friday, some 20,000 viewers have rated the show on Rotten Tomatoes, resulting in a dismal 39% audience score, a stark contrast to the show’s strong 84% critics score. A source at Amazon told the Hollywood Reporter that the review embargo was to help filter out trolls and that it had instituted the policy earlier this summer for all Prime Video shows (though if that were the case, it wouldn’t explain why the review pause was enacted midway after the audience score began dwindling, rather than immediately after the show’s premiere).

Indeed, if one might expect a show to be review-bombed (i.e. a coordinated effort from a fan base to deluge a work with bad scores online due to some gripe, often racist or sexist, with how it fits within our culture wars) it’d likely be a show like Rings of Power, a $1 billion spin-off gamble for Amazon that centers a female character, has the most diverse cast in the franchise’s history, and carries along with it one of the zeitgeist’s most rabid fan bases.

But whether the show is actually being review-bombed, or Amazon is simply using the phenomenon as an excuse to shield itself from reasonably disappointed fans, is debatable. Some online chatter that has bubbled up (naturally, algorithms push polarizing takes, which generate online engagement, to the top) around the show has centered around thinly veiled racist outrage over things like Black elves in the show.

Yet, on Rotten Tomatoes, where Amazon is centering its action, the negative reviews appear to largely voice legitimate criticisms of what viewers perceive to be a lackluster and emptily expensive show. Most suspicious of all, people online have noted that all negative written reviews of the show on IMDb, which Amazon owns, have been wiped from the site. All that remain there are largely glowing takes on the series.

It’s hard to criticize taking action against online trolls, but one might also see this as just another move by the biggest company in the world strong-arming its way into a new facet of cultural dominance. Prime Video has already reported a whopping 25 million viewers on premiere day, the platform’s biggest opening yet, for what is being considered the most expensive season of television ever. Now, it would prefer not to see any fans, acting in good faith or not, expressing their dissatisfaction.