With the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that have emerged in the wake of The New York Times’ bombshell reporting on Harvey Weinstein, it can be hard for moviegoers and viewers to know if their favorite films and shows have been tainted.
A group of creatives at Los Angeles agency Zambezi created Rotten Apples, a site that lets viewers search titles to find out. Searches result in either a rating of “Fresh Apples” (meaning no cast or crew members have allegations against them) or “Rotten Apples,” accompanied by names and links to articles detailing the allegations.
“Rotten Apples” range from well-known actors, directors and producers like Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roman Polanski and Geoffrey Rush to lesser-known individuals such as Murray Miller, a writer on HBO’s Girls who has been accused of sexual assault. Any Miramax or Weinstein Company production that credits Harvey Weinstein as an executive producer, for example, will bring up a link to a New Yorker article about the myriad allegations against him.
Zambezi partner and executive director of technology Justice Erolin; user design lead Bekah Nutt; associate creative director and copywriter Tal Wagman; and associate creative director and art director Annie Johnston created the site, which launched Dec. 11. Since then, Rotten Apples has seen over 2.7 million searches from all over the world, far exceeding their expectations.
“I think we’ve had hits from every country in the world except North Korea,” Erolin told Adweek.
Wagman said the project grew out of the realization that sexual misconduct allegations in the entertainment industry were becoming more difficult to keep track of.
“It just became clear that we needed to try to make some kind of tool that would make it easier for people to keep track of what was going on and become ethical consumers of media,” Wagman said.
He added that they weren’t trying to tell users what to do with the information, just providing “people trying to be conscientious viewers” the means to make informed decisions.
“We’ve shed a light I think with this website on the pervasiveness of it, and what they do with that knowledge is up to them,” Johnston said. “But no matter what, there’s a great discussion happening about it.”
The Rotten Apples team starting working on the site about two months ago, compiling names and links to what they say are “reliable third-party sources” like The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Erolin estimated that the site has been updated 10 to 12 times since its launch as the result of user submissions.
Wagman pointed out Sharknado 2 as a movie some may be surprised to see result in a “Rotten Apples” designation. That’s because former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle has a role in it. But Wagman noted that the site isn’t intended “to condemn entire projects.”
“It’s not that the movie itself is a rotten apple; it’s that these individuals are,” Johnston said.
The short-term goal for Rotten Apples is to keep up with the news and maintain accuracy, while longer term, its creators hope it can evolve with its users’ needs.
Johnston said the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is “widespread all over every industry,” including advertising. “I don’t think any industry is exempt from it,” she said.
Wagman said conversation about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry “shows how important we as a global society view entertainment” and acts as “a way into a much bigger problem.”