As political primary season approaches and different factions form, it may be a good time to take stock of the kind of behavior which should be avoided. One might not think so, but there are a lot of similarities between the toxic side of nerd culture and the destructive arguments about who is or isn't a "true" or "real" Christian, American, or even Democrat. From a certain point of view, one of the most notable fan conventions was actually held in Nicaea in 325, where devotees got together to talk about how awesome their particular superhero was and excluded all the story elements they thought sucked. While the subject matter is different, the behavior is just as limiting no matter the material, with the only difference being fanboys haven’t started any civil wars, crusades, or inquisitions over what should be the official doctrine of make believe … yet.
Trying to have a reasonable discussion with trolls when it comes to entertainment and media, where the arguments are over subjective interpretations of fantasies, becomes a flame war with no end in sight. How else can one describe a situation where the knee-jerk reaction to girls liking comic books or video games, and wanting to be included and respected, is to be repulsed and make it about how they are the ones being victimized? Conservatives, sexists, racists, and maybe even Russian trolls have attempted boycotts to denounce any aspect of a film or TV show which they deem to be based in progressive politics and social justice. Two of the biggest franchises in science fiction have gone through fan backlashes against what segments of their bases see as a betrayal of the material’s legacy. While there are criticisms to be made and an argument to be had, for some their affection for the material is personal, and an identifying aspect of who they are. Because of this, any attempt to change, modify, or add in a way which goes outside the lines of what they see these things to be in their own mind becomes blasphemous. And those lines can be set for the stupidest of reasons, like seeing a TV show as being the place for a He-Man woman haters club.
Captain Marvel is the 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is notable for being the first Marvel movie to star a female lead, Brie Larson. About three weeks ago, Larson gave an interview to a disabled journalist wherein she stated she specifically requested the press availability be opened up to more people of color, women, etc., since she felt the events were dominated by a succession of white men asking her questions. To a certain group of people up their own assholes, this attempt at diversity was a declaration of war on men and whiteness which could not be allowed to stand. So dipshits with too much time on their hands went to work on trying to tank Captain Marvel’s Rotten Tomatoes score, similar to previous alleged attempts at a coordinated (Russian) trolling campaign against certain films to stoke political strife, while also leaving comments like: “I somehow feel that [the Skrulls] are not the enemy, but that I am, since Brie Larsen has been careful to state she doesn’t want the press tour to include types like me.”
Rotten Tomatoes has announced they will be making changes which will include disabling user reviews before a film debuts in order to “accurately and authentically represent the voice of fans, while protecting our data and public forums from bad actors.”
From George Nash at The Guardian:
Rotten Tomatoes’ move came as it cited an “uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling”. Captain Marvel, the widely anticipated 21st installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which stars Brie Larson in the title role, is released in US and UK cinemas on 8 March, but has nonetheless been subject to a flurry of negative reviews posted to the film’s Rotten Tomatoes page over the last few weeks, resulting in its “audience score” plummeting from 96% to 54%.
It appears the backlash has been fueled by Larson’s recent comments about the movie’s press tour, in which she expressed growing concerns about the “overwhelmingly white male” proportion of film journalists she has spoken to over the last few years. In an interview with Marie Claire earlier this year, the actor, who won an Oscar in 2016 for her performance in Room, spoke about utilizing her role as the eponymous superhero to campaign for increased diversity in the movie industry.
This has been an ongoing issue for genre films and TV series.
- Paul Feig’s 2016 remake of Ghostbusters was both a critical and financial disappointment. However, from the first moment the movie was announced, there was a certain amount of sexism in the mix as well, with an unhappy contingent of middle-aged fanboy assholes who think it’s their duty to protect their childhood from the cooties of an all-female reimagining of the story. As mentioned in an earlier post, the extent of this misogyny extended to leaving nasty comments on the Facebook page for Tufts Medical Center in Boston after Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon visited sick children in their Ghostbusters costumes. Feig called the reactions surrounding the movie “some of the most vile, misogynistic shit I’ve ever seen in my life.” And the trolling of Jones became so bad she was almost chased off Twitter, after people repeatedly accused her of playing a racial stereotype—Feig claims Jones’s role was originally written for McCarthy. Some of the negativity came from protectiveness against any sort of change away from the status quo of the original. That’s been true for almost any reboot. But it was also arguably about larger societal ideas of gender roles and the image of what women are supposed to be, which filters down into pop culture representations. And when the square pegs don’t fit into the presumed round holes, some people dislike that which goes against what is deemed to be “normal.”
- Star Trek: Discovery has been on the receiving end of hostile male audience members claiming the presence of female lead characters of color is a form of “social justice warrior,” liberal propaganda, which is strange for people who are supposedly fans of a franchise known for its history of progressive stances. Although, this sort of cognitive dissonance isn’t without precedent. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, an anti-federalist who killed 168 people and was tied to white supremacist groups, was also a huge fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show centered on a united, multicultural humanity leading a socialist, interstellar superstate, which McVeigh claimed should be a “a Utopian model for the future.” Just spend a moment trying to square that circle.
- Comicsgate has been called an evolution of Gamergate, wherein a segment of comic book fans decided to attempt a blacklist which targeted major figures in the industry, like Larry Hama, Mark Waid, Alex de Campi, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Ta-Nehisi Coates, etc., who were either women, people of color, or whose politics are left-leaning. Comicsgate was perceived as a backlash against publishers deciding to expand their characters and stories to encompass more diversity, with some retailer blaming declining sales on “black,” “homo,” and “freaking female” comics. But what set things off allegedly was a group of female Marvel Comics staffers (a.k.a. “The Milkshake Crew”) posting a selfie on Twitter, with two alt-right comic book trolls in particular, Richard C. Meyer and Ethan Van Sciver, using it and other issues—too many people of color being around and the female characters’ breasts not being big enough—as jumping off points to complain about women and liberals ruining everything by existing.
From Asher Elbein at The Daily Beast:
As with Gamergate, says Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, much of the discussion around comics takes place in the tangled online ecosystems of social media, message boards, and blogs, where trolls increasingly ran rampant. Some of these spaces flared up during Gamergate, but never quite evolved into their own movement. But with Trump’s election and the resulting surge in alt-right and conservative boldness, Farago says, things changed. “More and more, my impression is that [Comicsgate] is made up of people who were into the Gamergate thing,” Farago said, “and when that ran out of steam they noticed that they hadn’t made comics miserable for enough people yet.”
One of the faces of that change is Richard C. Meyer, the owner of a YouTube channel (ironically) titled Diversity & Comics … He was annoyed by what he considered the “masculinization” of [Captain Marvel], and by the way he felt Marvel was pushing what he considered an unsuccessful book. “I started noticing a lot more weird stuff,” he said. “Feminization of men, masculinization of women, basically, all the classic heterosexual pairings being destroyed... you realize this is a trend, and you start wondering why they’re doing it. Why is Luke Cage, the quintessential blaxploitation tough guy, why is he pushing a baby carriage and he’s the wimpiest, most soft-spoken—this is not done on accident.”
“One of the things about SJWs is that they get a job because of surface qualities, being a woman, being black, being gay, being trans, and there’s no adjustment on the ground to negative fan reaction due to low sales,” he told The Daily Beast. The milkshake crew particularly raised his ire: “They obviously seemed to not be qualified. They can’t spot basic typos, they can’t notice major plot holes, they antagonize the fans... I talk to all these people, actual, legitimate talents, who can’t get a job to save their lives. Meanwhile some airhead who calls the fans Nazis and turns out laughably bad work is getting Eisner awards.”
Both Meyer’s YouTube and Twitter accounts rapidly became a repository for a constant stream of personal attacks and dog-whistles for his followers. He has publically labeled Ta-Nehisi Coates a “race hustler” and repeatedly mocked DC writer Magdalene Visaggio as a “man in a wig,” claiming that she is violent and mentally ill. He fixates on the the physical appearance of female creators he dislikes and retweeted memes mocking certain creators as “autistic retards,” along with images of himself slapping them. In a private YouTube video called “The Dark Roast,” originally posted in November 2017 and obtained by The Daily Beast, Meyer called one Marvel editor a “cum-dumpster,” accused various female writers of “sucking their way into the industry,” and mused which famous creators were pedophiles or had psychological problems. “The Dark Roast is where I get to say stuff like ‘Dan Slott looks like a pedophile,’” he says in the recording. “I don’t have to dance around, I don’t have to say ‘parody’ or wink-wink.”
- The addition of female writers to the staff of Rick and Morty in its third season resulted in those writers being subjected to online harassment, threats, slander, and some horrible excuses for human beings doxxing their personal information across the internet.
- There is a segment of Star Wars fandom, and conservative elements of pop culture criticism, which don’t like the property being in the hands of a woman (Kathleen Kennedy) who at the very least has stated diversity, both in front of and behind the camera, is a goal of hers at Lucasfilm, the fact more people of color and women are in significant roles as part of the franchise. Also, the themes of Star Wars, which are anti-fascist and anti-authoritarian, step on the toes of Republicans and conservatives, whose cult of personality is currently creeping in the pro direction for those things. This has been seen in an extreme backlash from some of the franchise’s fans disappointed with The Last Jedi, with some of the audience being downright racist and sexist in both their viewpoint of what Star Wars is “supposed to be” with slurs against people involved with making these movies. And the way some of those people decided to deal with it was to revel in their stupidity, which included allegedly driving actress Kelly Marie Tran, who portrayed Rose in The Last Jedi, from Instagram with repeated racist and sexist comments.