Q&A: Rachel Fimbianti talks research on IMDb ratings and female stereotypes


Courtesy of Rachel Fimbianti

Rachel Fimbianti. Fimbianti is researching IMDb user ratings and female stereotypes with her Summer Undergraduate Research Grant.

Sophia Scanlan, Copy Chief

While some students may be studying abroad, doing internships or working summer jobs, Communication senior Rachel Fimbianti is spending her days perusing a binder full of IMDb user ratings of “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel.”

Funded by a Summer Undergraduate Research Grant, the Radio, Television and Film major is specifically examining how viewers exacerbate certain female stereotypes within their IMDb comments. The Daily caught up with Fimbianti to hear how her research is going so far.

This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
The Daily: What made you interested in studying user ratings of “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel?”
Fimbianti: Recently, there have been these movies like “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel” that have come into the box office that sort of break outside of the traditional mold of what we expect a movie to do because when you look at superhero movies they’re predominantly white male-led. (And) when you look at “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel”’s box office totals, they did really well. But, you’re missing a piece there. You’re missing what happens after people buy a ticket — you’re missing what’s getting spread on the internet. So I wanted to look at what the other side is.

The Daily: What is your day-to-day looking like so far?
Fimbianti: I’m working with the first 250 reviews on both movies based on the pages’ “helpfulness.” I went through and I copied all of them and printed all of them off and put them into a binder. Now I have a pen and a set of highlighters, and I have Post-it notes that I’m going through and I’m highlighting specific instances in the reviews that are notable or fit with a trend, like Brie Larson’s feminine comments or IMDb’s skewed scoring system.

The Daily: What has been the most interesting thing you’ve found?
Fimbianti: I found a review that says something like, “I’m a proud father, a proud nurse, I have a daughter and I saw Wonder Woman and I was really proud to see that this is something my daughter could grow up to be.”

The Daily: What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered with the research?
Fimbianti: My biggest challenge so far has been walking in with the clearest head that I can because I enjoyed “Captain Marvel.” Then, I started reading the comments and I’m like, “Was this this bad and I just didn’t notice it?” Seeing people shredding something I thought was pretty good questioned me for a minute. I recognize that I’m walking in with a little bit of a bias — as I’m sure I’m not the first researcher to do — because I enjoy the movie, and I enjoy the positive female messaging. But that’s something that’s gotten dragged on a lot.

The Daily: How do you think you’ll present your research at the end of the summer?
Fimbianti: I’m hoping to be able to write a paper when I’m done about what I’ve found and about what people are saying and how they’re saying it — and what I believe the effects might be. It’s a little out of my wheelhouse how I’m going to write it because it’s so different from any other paper I wrote in class. I need to find a way to strike a balance between looking at how these things I read are wrong but also looking to the future with it and how we learn from it.

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