Some have called 2015 a great year for movies. Others are holding a very different opinion. And a third, increasingly prevalent stance on this calendar year’s cinema is that it shouldn’t even be seen in the first place. A great number of films to hit theaters since January have incited, for one reason or another, protests and boycotts from a wide spectrum of enraged communities. Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming The Hateful Eight is being boycotted, placing itself at the center of perhaps the most public of these controversies.
The Weinstein Company-produced Western, set to release nationwide on Christmas, has aroused opposition from law enforcement organizations following the director’s participation in a New York City rally against police brutality. The cops are angry. Harvey Weinstein is angrier. (Bustle has reached out to The Weinstein Company in response to this situation, but has not yet heard back.)
The circumstances surrounding The Hateful Eight may well involve the highest-volume protest of any movie to come out in 2015, but the Tarantino picture is in plenty of good company. Here’s a look back at a number of other movies this year that have met with backlash and boycott attempts — sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for… well, let’s just say that Twitter doesn’t always provide the free exchange of healthy ideas that we might wish it would.
1. Taken 3
Firearms manufacturer Para USA.
Over the issue of: Liam Neeson’s public lamentation of America’s gun problem.
The hullabaloo in a nutshell: Just before the overseas release of his third Taken movie, star Neeson told the Dubai-based publication Gulf News that he believed there to be “too many [expletive] guns out there. Especially in America.” He further illustrated the phenomenon as “a [expletive] disgrace,” which didn’t sit well with the Para USA, the company responsible for supplying the Taken 3 production with its firearms. Para USA not only claimed a boycott of Taken 3, but also called upon its fellow firearms distributors to refuse business to any future pictures featuring Neeson.
The result: With a domestic gross of $89 million, Taken 3 came in at a good $50 million less than its predecessor, Taken 2. While pro-gun vigilance might have kept some from buying a ticket to the threequel, the lackluster performance was more likely owed to general theater fatigue.
Boycotted by: LGBT
Over the issue of: The “whitewashing” of the Stonewall riots story by way of the film’s casting.
The hullabaloo in a nutshell: Roland Emmerich’s construction of a predominantly white and cis male ensemble at the head of his Stonewall picture incited a great deal of fury from LGBT groups demanding better recognition for the people of color and trans women who played paramount roles in the 1969 movement. Following backlash from a number of groups, including one boycott petition that reached 20,000 signatures, Emmerich made matters worse by “explaining” his decision in a conversation with Buzzfeed: “'I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”
The result: After alienating what some might call its target demographic, Stonewall wound up making a paltry $187,674.
Boycotted by: Care2.
Over the issue of: The casting of white actor Rooney Mara’s as Native American character Tiger Lilly.
The hullabaloo in a nutshell: If American viewers were deterred from Pan by any controversy, it’d be the casting of Rooney Mara as the Native American character Tiger Lilly. The movie didn’t help matters when it admitted that Mara beat out two actors of color for the part. (Granted, neither was reported to be Native American).
The result: Though Pan didn't fare that well in the box office, this wasn't solely responsible.
Boycotted by: Change.org.
Over the issue of: The casting of the lighter skinned mixed-race actor Zoe Saldana as black musician and activist Nina Simone.
The hullabaloo in a nutshell: Immediately upon the casting of Saldana back in 2013, fans of Simone’s legacy began to take issue with what they considered a subtler form of the whitewashing implemented in films like Stonewall. The organization Change.org unleashed a petition to boycott the upcoming biographical picture on the basis of the production’s refusal to lend Simone’s embodiment to an actor of darker skin.
The result: Nina hits theaters December 4, so we have yet to see what kind of effect the boycott will have.
5. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Boycotted by: Lunatics.
Over the issue of: The fact that there are black people in the movie.
The hullabaloo in a nutshell: Following the release of the latest trailer for the heavily anticipated Star Wars picture, the crème de la crème of American society hit Twitter with vehement objection to the showcase of black actor John Boyega in a central, and, what’s more, heroic-looking role. The hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII sprung about quickly, attached to claims that the inclusion of black actors in the franchise doubles as promotion of white genocide.
What good it’ll do: Star Wars will be fine. Our sanity, however, is another story.
Be the motivation humane or, just as frequently, totally out of whack, the impulse to boycott a motion picture remains ubiquitous among the opinionated of today's moviegoers. Sometimes these movements make an impact; other times, they merely bring more attention to the movie in question. So how will Tarantino's Hateful Eight fare come release? No matter where you stand on the issue, you've got to be pretty skeptical that police unions can keep America from seeing the latest effort of one of its most popular filmmakers.
Images: The Weinstein Company; 20th Century Fox; Roadside Attractions; Warner Bros.; Disney