Toxic Fandom, Politicization of Entertainment Is Killing My Enjoyment of Movies – including the Star Wars Franchise
(posted edited: new links added below) | Toxic Fan Culture: Michael Jackson Fans
I’ve enjoyed watching movies since I was a kid.
I’ve also enjoyed reading professional movie reviews and critiques – and this was years before the advent of the internet.
In the last several years, though, things – especially online – have turned so negative that it’s been souring my excitement or enjoyment of movies (well, that, plus finding out that certain actors are not as nice in real life as they are in some of their movie roles).
Not only do average joe’s in comment boxes under professional movie reviews seem to have gotten bitter, hostile, and angry in the last few years, but professional movie reviewers have become extremely nit-picky.
At least one article I reference below contains quotes by someone who thinks fandom has always been negative, and had there been a Twitter in the 1980s and 1990s, that the fans would have been just as bad back then – I’m not sure I agree with that.
I do think social media has changed things (for the worse), but I also feel there’s been an overall shift in culture itself. I am not so sure that fans back in the ’80s and ’90s would have been as hateful as they have been behaving the last five to ten years.
Professional movie critics these days seem to have a personal vendetta against movies generally, or certain film franchises, genres, actors, or directors.
I don’t recall seeing that level of animosity from professional critics in the 1970s to the early 2000s.
Film critics back in the day seemed more detached, even-handed, and objective (which made their critiques easier and more enjoyable to read).
I’m a long time Star Wars fan. When I first heard about the Solo: A Star Wars Story movie, I was excited.
I was looking forward to seeing it, and it opened May 25, 2018. I haven’t yet seen the new Solo movie at the theater, but I plan on seeing it soon.
It’s not often I leave my home and drive to a movie theater to see a movie – but for Star Wars, I will.
I admit that some of the Star Wars movies have not been exactly wonderful. The prequels had problems, and there were portions of The Last Jedi I did not care for.
While I did not particularly care for Last Jedi, I felt that the extreme level of vitriol against that film, especially in the form of online hatred and harassment of anyone associated with the movie – from the director to the actors – to movie critics who supported it – was inexcusable and absurd.
The avalanche of online backlash against Solo – and before the movie even hit theaters – was a buzz-kill. It deadened my enthusiasm for wanting to see the movie, which I plan on seeing at the theater anyway.
I plan on seeing Solo either later this week or the next, but it’s not going to be with the same level of enthusiasm as I previously held, since all the “Debbie Downers” and “Negative Nancys” online cannot stop trashing that movie.
(Or, more accurately, some of them are allowing their dislike of past Star Wars installments, Last Jedi particularly, to color their impressions of Solo, and they are letting everyone online know.)
Yes, sadly, a lot of the backlash I saw on Twitter or under online commentary about Solo was coming from self-professing Star Wars fans. And some of them think they are punishing Disney for Last Jedi by boycotting Solo, which I find rather self-defeating and stupid.
The way to punish Disney for Last Jedi if you were unhappy with it was to sit at home and not go to the theater to see Last Jedi once you read the reviews of it online – and to refrain from buying copies of Last Jedi on DVD (for those who still buy DVDs).
I’m moderately conservative, but I don’t get upset, as many of the other Star Wars fans do, with diversity in casting.
When I was a kid watching the Star Wars movies – this was long before I was political, and there was not a liberal “S.J.W.” phenomenon – I used to wonder why most of the characters on the screen were white men.
I used to wonder, when I was a kid watching the original Star Wars trilogy movies that began in 1977, why there were not more black people or women as pilots or as Jedi Knights.
A lot of my fellow conservatives will say they are not racist or sexist. Well, if that is so, if you are not a racist or sexist conservative, it should not bother you to see more black people or more women in movie franchises you enjoy.
And yet, frequently, I see a lot of white guys on Twitter or conservative sites (and occasionally white women) complaining about more roles going to blacks and women in Star Wars movies, or in other movies.
This sort of anti-diversity backlash and toxic fandom has become so bad that an Asian actress who had a role in Last Jedi was apparently bullied so relentlessly over her role in Last Jedi that she quit social media:
The 29-year-old actress was the target of relentless abuse at the hands of those calling themselves “fans,” who did not like her Last Jedi character, Rose.
….Tran is not the first Star Wars actress to leave social media due to abuse.
Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the new installments, deleted her account in 2016 after facing criticism after she posted on gun control.
I love Star Wars, but it’s not worth bullying real-life people over. It’s certainly not worth chasing an actress off social media.
The professional movie critics seem way more negative and cynical in the last few years in their reviews than I remember them in years past, going back to the 1970s.
What used to be a pleasant form of escapism – movie viewing – has been turned into a depressing, angry culture where everyone is politicizing, or being overly critical of, something that should be fun.
The too-cynical movie critics and the online mobs, consisting in part of over-zealous fan boys, with their pitchforks waving, with their endless belly-aching over every casting choice, plot line, or other aspect of film-making, has about killed my enjoyment of movies.
The flip side of the angry, conservative, sexist- to- racist, white, fan boy mobs are the angry, liberal, Social Justice Warriors, who send hate Tweets to anyone associated with a television series or movie that does not, in their opinion, contain enough LGBT characters, or does not align in whatever other way with some other social justice agenda.
Both sides of this coin – the anti- diversity conservative fan boys and the liberal SJW fans – are contributing to the decline of pop culture and my enjoyment of it.
I wish people would step back and remember these are just movies – even if some of them were once part of your childhood.
Movies are supposed to be fluffy, frothy fun, or a form of escapism.
However, people are now treating movies and other aspects of pop culture as though they are religious texts that need defending from heretics.
I sometimes tune in to movies or TV shows and read up on them online, to escape troubles in life, social justice messages, and politics (whether right or left wing), not have them shoved in my face even more.
Off-Site Links About These Issues:
Taking to Twitter, Mangold (who always has interesting, if not uncontroversial, thoughts on pop culture media) shared his thoughts about the direction fandom has taken in 2018 and what the results of that will be.
In a series of tweets, Mangold outlines his concern that fandom outrage, and the fear of upsetting an eager mob of commenters, Tweeters, YouTubers, and other variations of online fan, will drive smart, creative people out of wanting anything to do with big franchises. He likens it to a religious fervor: say or do the wrong thing, and you might be seen as a blasphemer.
… Loving something is fine and good, but when it turns into trolling and harassment it does real material harm to the people involved in creating those things. And Mangold is right: people will leave.
She may not regret it now, but the release of Friday didn’t just see Rebecca receive a few taunts about her musical ability.
The wave of abuse the teenager received started with people calling Friday the worst song ever, and at its worst, culminated in death threats that were investigated by the police. Rebecca said: ‘It was really scary for [my family].
Even though my parents don’t come from this world, they know that this industry can be scary and harsh, even without my specific situation. They were definitely scared of putting me out there. I wasn’t fully aware of the death threats that came in at the time, because I was so young.
Facebook group Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys claims credit for online abuse levelled at Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran, who quit social media as a result
…On 8 June, an outfit called Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys said it was behind the attacks in a now-removed Facebook post. The group accused longtime Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy of pursing a “feminazi agenda” that had led to the “perversion” of the “canon” of films, which feature intergalactic bounty hunters and their talking robot friends.
The post, which was photographed before deletion by the site Screenrant, expresses no remorse for any actions, instead declaring Tran’s exit from social media as “bloody glorious”.
Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys’ aim is for Star Wars to be controlled by a studio who will reverse “forced diversity” and “bring back the Straight White Male Hero that isn’t manufactured by a corrupt corporation”.
by Marc Bernardin, June 11, 2018
Racist harassment of ‘Last Jedi’ star Kelly Marie Tran and the ‘Solo’ backlash: Lucasfilm’s problem isn’t the movies, it’s trolls who want only the nostalgia of their youth, like “old Luke Skywalker hiding on an island from everything new,” writes columnist Marc Bernardin.
[Article details the abuse that certain female actors have faced online from movie fans]
…All of this begs the question: What exactly do Star Wars fans want? For so long, all they were asking for was more. It was 16 years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and then 10 years between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens.
Just getting Star Wars on the big screen was enough … at first. But then fans wheeled on the prequels: too much Jar Jar, too convoluted. (The vitriol was strong enough to chase Lucas away from directing and perhaps from Star Wars altogether.)
When J.J. Abrams signed on for The Force Awakens and built his narrative around a young woman with The Force and her black friend, it triggered the anti-SJW brigades. (Never mind it also gave them Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, and a pair of familiar droids.)
The #BoycottEpisodeVII hashtag spread, targeting Ridley and John Boyega, though it probably had more headlines than effect, as the film topped $2 billion worldwide.
But if The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were too progressive for some fans, why didn’t they comfort themselves in the warm blanket of Solo, co-written by Star Wars standard bearer Lawrence Kasdan and directed by Lucas’ Willow collaborator Ron Howard? It should’ve been everything they wanted in the prequels they didn’t get, without the “too many ladies and people of color” issues they claimed hurt the new films.
But judging by the gross, they didn’t want Solo either.
What is Star Wars fandom against? Turns out, the answer: itself.
Or, rather, the realization that Star Wars is and always has been for children, and they aren’t children any more.
Star Wars fans — I count myself among them — look to the original trilogy as an anchor of youth. They want anything Star Wars to make them feel the way they did when they saw “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …” roll across the screen 40 years ago.
by Keith O’Neil, January 2018
With fan communities getting bad reputations these days, Keith O’Neil asks all fans to keep their emotions in check when criticizing what they “love.”
….However, we’ve seen a growing trend in the past few years — a trend of particular fanbases becoming not just angry, but outright hostile if something happens in a movie or a comic book they don’t like. They’ll organize Change.org petitions to get a movie removed from canon (like The Last Jedi) or make hateful comments on Youtube pages.
Look, I am not saying you can’t have opinions on things you watch or read. We are humans after all, and God knows I have plenty of opinions. However, something we all should keep in mind for 2018 is keeping criticism strictly about the product itself and not make it personal.
Star Wars fans drove creator George Lucas away from the whole franchise.
….Sure, criticize the work, but don’t criticize the person. Understand the difference?
…If I criticize a movie, I try to keep it about the movie. The way some fans talk about Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi,you’d think he murdered a pack of baby seals after burning down an orphanage on Christmas Eve
by Simon Brew, Nov 20, 2017
In Den of Geek UK’s interview with Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, he lamented the fact that online fandom has become so fierce in some quarters that the ideal of writers and fans sitting around the same proverbial bonfire has become a pipe dream.
Moffat’s argument was that he and many people who work on Doctor Who would love to have more conversations with fans, but that the hostility online often makes that impossible.
People who make films and TV shows are now actively being warned about online fan response before they take jobs on. Because it’s known that, at its worst, fan response can get very personal, very hurtful, and very nasty.
…. Personally, I adore movies, and I adore talking about movies. But I now think we’re in very dangerous territory when we’re deciding on people’s personality traits because they got something out of a movie that you didn’t.
And in the case of the faux Marvel vs DC war, I can’t help but feel it’s getting worse.
Accusations of bias and hatred are being levelled before anyone has seen a finished film in some cases, and positions are being assumed irrespective of the movie that the debates are supposedly supposed to be about. That the battle, to a select few, has become more important than the films.
I confess, it utterly baffles me.
by Eli Glasner, July 2016
… From empowered to entitled
It’s all part of a changing dynamic as online communities go from being empowered to feeling entitled. Canadian Ivan Reitman directed the original Ghostbusters and worked on reviving the franchise for years.
Speaking with CBC News, he noted the changing tone online,
“The popularization of the internet and the opportunity for any person to give an opinion have created a certain level of criticism and a kind of vulgarity that certainly wasn’t around in the ’80s”
Devin Faraci has written about what he sees as an increasingly toxic online culture in a widely shared and debated article titled Fandom is Broken, where he detailed fans’ increasingly aggressive behaviour.
…”More and more of the creators that I know feel more uncomfortable and feel like they’re being attacked on the regular. What had once been kind of a delightful way to keep in touch with fans has turned into something a little bit uglier and a little bit nastier.”
…. Whether the feedback is negative or positive, the industry is listening, increasingly employing the services of companies such as Fizziology.com. The social media research film monitors what fans are saying and sells it back to studios. Co-president Ben Carlson says since the company began in 2009 the relationship between fans and studios has strengthened.
….. “Studios are now paying a lot more attention to what fans are saying,” he says. “That’s at every point along the way. There is an appetite from leaders at studios and key executives all the way through to filmmakers.”
by Aranyo Aarjan
On the backlash to The Last Jedi and toxic masculinity
…. The Internet has produced a new kind of critic. When it comes to music, film or any for of art, critics were traditionally people who were educated in their respective fields but, as the old adage goes, perhaps were not quite good enough to be artists themselves.
However, when it comes to the new generation of critics on their blogs or on YouTube, some of whom are incredibly popular, that role has now been taken over by the “fan” or the “nerd”.
In the case of film critics, channels like CinemaSins and Screen Junkies among others have created a culture of nit-picking plot points rather than analysing the symbolic or thematic elements of films.
This new type of review is more akin to listing a series of complaints about specific elements of the plot, rather than the directing, acting, cinematography, or any other factor one might look at when appreciating a film as an art-form.
Furthermore, due to YouTube’s recommend algorithms prioritising trending topics, there is a constant rush to review the latest releases and leaks at the shortest notice, giving no time for actual meaningful reflection and critique.
While some traditional establishment critics like Mark Kermode have made the jump to YouTube, the majority haven’t, and so given the immense popularity of these channels, it’s hard to deny their influence on the younger generations both as tastemakers, and in the way they watch films in the first place.
The problem here is that in many cases these YouTube critics miss the point of the film entirely, which is no more apparent than with the case of The Last Jedi.
For example, almost all of the negative reviews had no mention of the gorgeous visuals, great acting, and intelligent storytelling, but instead mostly rant on about the bad decisions that various characters make, completely oblivious to the film’s central theme of attaining personal growth through embracing failure.
This is hardly the only example though — whether the meltdown surrounding 2016’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot or the constant and vocal battles between Marvel and DC fans whenever a new comic book film is released — we are surrounded by a perpetual atmosphere of outrage by fan communities.
While on the surface this may seem mostly harmless, when you see similar patterns of misogyny, harassment, abuse and even death threats which emerge from this cacophony time and time again, there seems to be something much more insidious happening here.
… It isn’t difficult to see why there is a longing to see these unimaginably complex problems at a human level once again, when you can just blame your life’s problems on the girls that have come to play on your side of the playground, when a surrogate father-figure like Jordan Peterson can tell you to clean your room and stand up straight, and put you on a path of some heroic mythical journey.
Stuck in a perpetual adolescence, refusing to embrace the rapidly changing world around you, you pathologically long for a time of comic books and video games from your childhood, particularly before they were tainted by the forces of “Postmodern Neo-Marxism”, and then flocking to YouTube to go on pedantic multi-hour rants about how these changes are happening.
Here’s why a certain type of rabid pop-culture fandom transforms into ugly mob behavior online
…. Is it really that simple, though? Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly clear that fans of pop culture properties — whether movies, TV shows, books, video games, or anything else — don’t merely view them as forms of entertainment, or themselves as consumers of said media.
From Comic Cons to the nostalgia craze, it is clear that millions of people deeply identify with the culture produced by others, and many of them have developed a deep sense of entitlement that at its most innocuous is merely silly, but at its worst manifests itself in ugly bigotries.
…. The same entitlement that can cause DC Comics fans to complain about unpopular actors or unfavorable movie reviews can also, if they harbor certain prejudices, come across in more harmful ways.
Because only 15 percent of major movies star female characters, it was easy for fanboys with a sense of entitlement to denounce the new “Ghostbusters” reboot in viciously misogynistic language for recasting the lead roles with female performers.
Similarly, because video games have traditionally targeted white men as their core audience, movements like Gamergate can spring up when reactionary gamers hear feminists call for increased gender diversity in gaming. These sexist attitudes even appear around franchises where you wouldn’t expect it; just ask Anna Gunn, who has endured years of harassment for her role as Skyler White in the TV drama, “Breaking Bad.”
Unfortunately, the problem of nerd entitlement isn’t limited to misogyny. Last year a number of racists made waves with their movement to boycott “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” because it had cast John Boyega, a black actor, in one of the starring roles. A similar backlash occurred when it came out that Michael B. Jordan had been cast as The Human Torch in last year’s reboot of “The Fantastic Four.”
…What can be done about this? More than anything else, we need to change the conversation that we’re having about pop culture in general.
For better or worse, the fact that an entire generation holds pop culture on such a pedestal means that the cultural has become political.
As a result, when a disproportionately large number of movies, TV shows, video games, and books feature white, straight and male characters at the expense of other groups, this is an inherently political act (deliberately or otherwise) and needs to be confronted. Indeed, when nerds react to calls for diversity with hostility, they are only demonstrating how true this is.
There is a poignant significance to including non-white, non-male, and non-straight voices in cultural roles that were traditionally reserved for members of privileged groups. Conversely, it is terribly disheartening when the producers of entertainment refuse to recognize the cultural power they wield and utilize it in an inclusive way.
Beyond simply calling for diversity, though, we also must infuse our debate with an awareness that being a fanboy doesn’t entitle you to anything.
by Cameron Williams
There’s always going to be people who ruin something for everyone, but it increasingly feels like pop culture fandom has gone rotten. An aggressive type of entitled fan has become dominant and vocal in the past few decades. The arrogant confidence of these fans is out of control with the type of behaviour they think they can get away with.
by Peter Coffin, November 2015
When people accept an identity marketed to them, it’s a recipe for nothing but disaster.
….The reason I use “cultivated identity” rather than “consumer-centric marketing” is that the latter sounds positive for the consumer — almost as though it is a service.
I do not believe marketers attempting to define people’s identities to sell products is positive for anyone other than themselves and I most certainly do not believe it to be a service.
I do, however, believe it’s the primary reason behind toxic fandom.
Recently, you may have heard about people in the Steven Universe pushing a teenaged fan artist to a suicide attempt because she dared draw a “thin” version of a character who isn’t “thin.”
… Anyone who has experienced fandom-as-identity is likely to perpetuate it themselves — the “true fan.”
That means sussing out potential threats where there are none, attacking everyone and everything that doesn’t line up with one’s perception of a work of fiction (be it canon or headcanon), and following the pattern of abuse we are becoming extremely accustomed to speaking about here on the internet.
Frankly, the combination of identity marketing and social platforms not enforcing their own rules (which most definitely encourages and normalizes the worst behaviors) is sending countless people down this spiral of totally fiction-based hatred that, if I want to get down to it, bothers me at the deepest level.
People being afraid to talk objectively about something that isn’t even real is a situation that just shouldn’t exist.
Hopefully, at some point, liking stuff becomes a positive thing again.
by Mark Hill
…That was, in fact, a different era. In 2011 (before, among other things, Gamergate), we thought pop culture obsession was harmless fun.
Being a geek, we were told, had finally become cool. But we’ve since realized that being nothing but a geek can be hollow, if not outright toxic.
If you look at any modern fandom — video games, Game Of Thrones, comics, guns, furries, anime, whatever — you’re going to find two kinds of people.
There are those who use their hobby as stress release, who play Dungeons & Dragons with their friends on the weekend or who spend an hour before bed working on their Supernatural/Frasier fanfic in which Niles fucks God.
But then you have a minority of fans whose entire identity revolves around their fandom, who base their self-esteem on being great at Overwatch or knowing everything that there is to know about anime.
The object of their fandom becomes something more, a banner that represents their tribe.
…Every criticism of of the game becomes a criticism of them, because their sense of self is attached to that franchise. They think they’re an oppressed minority under siege from a culture that wants to destroy the only thing that defines them. And then all they’ll have left is the life they’ve been trying to escape.
by David Sims
A subset of fans are protesting the new movie ahead of its July release—with many speciously insisting their complaints have nothing to do with its female leads.
…Feig’s Ghostbusters isn’t out until July 15, but since the project was announced in 2014 as a reboot of the hit 1984 film, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, a vocal minority of movie fans have come up with specious reasons to criticize it.
Hollywood does too many reboots; the sacred legacy of the original film is under threat; the jokes in the trailer aren’t funny enough.
Things reached a fever pitch yesterday when James Rolfe, host of the popular “Cinemassacre” YouTube channel with over 2 million subscribers, announced that he wouldn’t even deign to watch the film. His reasoning dances around the simple fact that has set this innocuous-seeming movie apart from its fellow blockbusters this summer—that it’s a tentpole genre film starring women.
…. The vitriol directed at Ghostbusters seems to come in two forms: angry screeds in comments sections and people’s Twitter mentions, and videos like Rolfe’s, which try to justify the pushback as an idealistic defense of the original franchise’s legacy. Others look to dismiss the female cast as some sort of reverse-sexism, a “marketing gimmick” that diminishes the stars by turning them into tokens.
…Embedded in all of these preemptive and logically flimsy complaints is an obvious subtext: that the issue of appearance matters more than actual quality, and that the idea of a female cast taking up the mantle of a very male film series is just somehow wrong.
The pushback against an attempt to lower the superhero movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes has shown that the culture war’s latest battleground is still raging
by Sarah Hagi, October 2017
…I’d prefer to blame these fans’ behavior on their own motivations alone and go on blissfully enjoying the show. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s something about Rick and Morty that attracts bad people.
The show is crass and excessively violent. More importantly Rick, one of the show’s two protagonists, is a total jerk: intelligent, yes, but also cruel, arrogant, and selfish.
The show makes no bones about Rick being a bad person. He repeatedly puts Morty in mortal danger without even a hint of anxiety or remorse. He doesn’t care when people die or are hurt. We learn he abandoned his daughter at a young age only to appear in her life again unexpectedly. In the latest season, his behavior becomes increasingly damaging to those around him.
Fueled by alcoholism, he puts Morty through even more life-threatening situations, mostly just to prove a point.
Rick and Morty‘s worst fans love this about him, and take it personally when he seems to grow.
In fact, when fans harassed Gao and Becker, one of their stated reasons was that the female writers were making Rick submissive. It was like they were channeling Rick to protect him.
… I think the reason why the show’s fans sometimes behave so horribly has a lot to do with the psychology of fandom. A protagonist’s hold on the audience is incredibly powerful.
Because you see the world through their eyes, you inevitably sympathize with them, no matter how horrible they are. It’s why other critically acclaimed works that depict emotionally manipulative but captivating patriarchs (think Walter White from Breaking Bad) also have fomented a toxic fan culture.
So as the Rick and Morty fanbase turns into a monster, with even its creators trying to distance themselves from their predominantly male fans, I find myself being pushed away.
The series is still funny and it hasn’t even hit its narrative peak yet. But in the back of my mind, I can’t stop questioning how I can love something that’s become a catalyst for the worst kind of behavior.
by Scott Mendelson
The biggest danger toStar Wars is the specific strain of (mostly white and male) Star Wars fans who evolved from accusing Lucas of ruining Star Wars to begging Lucas to save it from Kathleen Kennedy and the folks at Disney and Lucasfilm who dared make Star Wars more racially and culturally diverse.
The financial success of the new batch of Star Wars movies speaks for itself. Voting with your wallet is the best and easiest way to show the trolls that their opinions are a vocal minority and a statistical irrelevancy.
Yet, there may be a price if this kind of fan defines Star Wars fandom. If these voices skew the narrative whenever we get a new Star Wars, especially among young people who see their new heroes being targeted by “manbabies” who are upset that the Star Wars movies are no longer targeted mostly at them, it won’t be much fun to talk about Star Wars anymore.
If the legacy of these new Star Wars movies becomes not defined by their financial success, their critical acclaim or their breakthrough rebuttals to conventional wisdom about who can star in what kinds of movies, but rather by the horrific online behavior of their worst and most entitled would-be fans, then the modern-day Syndromes will have truly hurt the thing they once loved.
Because a brand where the so-called fans themselves actively root for the failure and destruction of that property will soon be defined by the demographics that root for its failure rather than those who cheer for its successes.
June 2018, by Adam Rogers
…How does the love at the heart of fandom curdle into something so caustic?
These anti-fans see, in new casts and storylines, the agendas of blinkered Social Justice Warriors more interested in diversity quotas and Signaling Virtue than making good movies.
The new versions come to seem like aggressive critiques of the older work and by extension an existential attack on people who love it.
In their minds, critiques of monochrome casting become criticism of people who liked those prior versions—critiques of them—landing at the exact moment they lose perceived centrality in a story they thought they owned.
Those critiques are hard to untangle. If you think that Rey’s facility with a lightsaber and Jedi mind tricks happened too fast, does that make her a poorly developed character, or aMary Sue? Or does it make you sexist, if, after all, you didn’t complain about how fast Luke Skywalker spun up his powers, too
One way to answer that question is this: if your opinion makes you say body-shaming things to Kelly Marie Tran on the internet, it’s the bad thing.
Johnson’s Last Jedi was explicitly about not being beholden to the rules of the past. It’s possible to enjoy new things while continuing to love flawed old things, not just despite those flaws but because of them. Acknowledging weaknesses and re-critiquing older work helps sustain it as art. That’s as true of a Da Vinci sketch as it is ofReturn of the Jedi.
Obviously, the vast majority of “Star Wars” fans are not abusive trolls. But it only takes a vocal minority to ruin the brand.
By Brandon Katz • 05/16/18 6:00am
…. Something is deeply broken among the Star Wars faithful.
Respectable discourse has deteriorated completely as a small but determined minority of “fans” turn to the Dark Side— hate-spewing assholes looking to ruin the party for everyone, and often succeeding.
… Online petitions quickly sprang up calling for Disney to re-make the movie entirely, while quickly developing Facebook groups included How Rian Johnson Ruined Christmas (a Star Wars Story), Disney Killed Star Wars on December 14th 2017 and Fuck Rian Johnson & Kathleen Kennedy.
Johnson received numerous death threats… over a kids movie… about space samurai.
… Of course there were plenty of negative reviews and fan backlash [around the time Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released], but the common narrative that “George Lucas ruined my childhood” didn’t take on its full form until a few years later. Consumers simply weren’t able to bully critics (and one another) with the digital ease and convenience and to the extent of what is possible today.
…Some moviegoers who didn’t care for The Force Awakens stubbornly dug their heels, forming online “fan” groups aimed at boycotting future Star Wars films, calling for their removal from canon and systematically driving down audience scores on aggregate review sites.
…. “It seems important to understand that fandom is different from other forms of affinity we experience,” cultural anthropologist Susan Kresnicka, founder and president of Kresnicka Research & Insights, told Observer. “When we are fans, the object of fandom (OOF) meets very real, very important human needs—needs surrounding self-care, social-connection and identity.
“When we are fans, the object of fandom comes to represent some facet of who we consider ourselves to be—our moral values, our beliefs, our politics, our priorities, our approach to life, etc.,” she continued. “So when we are defending our OOFs, we are defending ourselves, which helps to explain the passion and vehemence that characterize our reactions.”
… Why These New Star Wars “Fans” Are the Worst
So what specifically are the most common arguments made by incensed fans these days?
… Ultra right-wing fans have taken extreme umbrage with the sequel trilogy and anthologies’ emphasis on diversity. These viewers can’t seem to accept a black main character (John Boyega’s Finn) or heroic female leads (Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso from Rogue One).
Boyega called these viewers out, right around the release of The Force Awakens,saying they were “victims of a disease in their mind” and that he was a “confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man.”
Ridley has dismissed all of the “Mary Sue” talk around her character as blatantly sexist.
It is in these complaints that the racist and chauvinistic undertones of the fandom can be seen in all of their provincial ugliness. These viewers are afraid of what they perceive to be the diminishing power of the white male in society.
These are the “fans” who make Star Wars a particularly hostile environment for some to traverse, especially for female entertainment reporters who receive endless streams of nasty hatred online. Except these aren’t fans at all, they’re simply trolls who want to stir up controversy and elicit reactions. They’re nothing more than attention-seekers who are struggling to find arenas for bullying after grade school.
… “Fans” vs. Trolls: How Technology Only Encourages Hatred
Whether they would admit it or not, the Hollywood powers that be want to hear from fans to better construct blockbusters that appeal to mass demographics, especially as the movie-making landscape becomes further dominated by familiar IP.
But acting on that feedback can produce drawbacks of its own.
“Long-standing franchises (like Star Wars) often carry modern political baggage by nature of being made in earlier eras when men, white people, straight people, etc. were even more socially privileged, and thus overrepresented in media,” KR&I’s Rachel Aparicio, a media studies scholar, told Observer. “Newer iterations of these franchises have often responded to those critiques by being somewhat more inclusive. However, this leads to the (arguably correct) perception that modern media is responding to a social justice agenda. This has made popular culture a lightning rod for conservatives — particularly conservative, white men — who see this process as symbolic of their (perceived) lessening of social and political power.”
“These fans are lashing out in a way that is protective of straight white men,” Robinson observed.
While countless fans have cultivated well-founded and articulate criticisms of the new films, it is these rabble-rousers who harp on a franchise’s diversity that seem to dominate the conversation with the loudest voices. At the root of the issue is a difference in opinion that has been taken to its extreme.
… Perhaps this isn’t anything new. Perhaps this was just a dormant virus waiting for mass communication technologies to develop so that it could infect and multiply.
Young argues that Star Wars fandom first fractured with the much-reviled Special Editions in 1997 and then again with the divisive prequel trilogy. Had Twitter been around back then, we would have been witnessing the same types of online battles. We now live in the age of entitlement and anonymity, and anyone who has ever perused a comments section can see that it has given free reign to the darker corners of the internet that don’t have to face the consequences of their words.
by Joshua Rivera
Star Wars should stop celebrating its fans. They don’t deserve it.
[Some Star Wars fans bullied some of the actors from the various Star Wars fans so much some of them quit social media]
…is Star Wars fandom really an institution worth defending?
No. It isn’t. Star Wars fandom is notoriously toxic, and you don’t have to look very far to find evidence. [The author cites more examples.]
…Go back further and it doesn’t get much better: Jake Lloyd, who was 8 when he played Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, blames the film and its fans for making his life “a living hell.”
…Now look: I’m sure millions of Star Wars fans are super people — but these good Star Wars fans aren’t the problem. We don’t point to all the people who are not horrible as a means of excusing people who are.
Spend any amount of time writing on the internet and you’ll know most readers are presumably great, because most readers don’t say anything. But the ones that do? A lot of them really aren’t great.
And all the well-intentioned Star Wars lovers tweeting #NotAllFans aren’t helping anyone, because they can’t change the fact that fandom, as it exists in 2018, is fundamentally broken.
Star Wars is a good case study for this, because it’s a science fiction fantasy franchise that began in 1977 that has been continuously celebrated into the present day — and, more importantly, across multiple entirely different eras of fandom.
Star Wars fans of the first few decades practiced an analog fandom that grew out of comic books, fanzines, and hobby shops. This was the only way to be a “fan” of anything back then, and while it was absolutely still toxic — women were unwelcome, and death threats written in ink aren’t any less troubling than tweets — it was isolated.
That doesn’t make this iteration of fandom better, it just helps explain the foundational mindset of Star Wars fandom: people (mostly men) taking ownership of a bit of pop culture in their own private spaces, and making them as open or as hostile as they wanted.
The early days of the internet didn’t do much to shake up this order. Fragmented into message boards, Usenets, and IRC networks, the proto-internet almost encouraged niche groups to gather and replicate the mentality of analog fandom, making their “neighborhood” an order of magnitude larger. Lonely fans found friends. Friends found what felt like small-town hangouts. Small-town kids felt like they were finally in a city.
Then came social media. Small groups thrust into — or invading — larger ones and barriers between online communities eroding.
While this has been a largely positive force — you can attribute much of our modern push for diversity in pop culture to this — it’s also the means by which some fandoms become noxious on a grand scale.
The possessive nature of fandom and the open nature of the internet have both reached their logical endpoints, and traditional fandom’s reflex — at least, in the case ofStar Wars — is to tighten its grip and become hostile towards any change in the franchise they felt slighted them.
These toys belong to them, and no one else is allowed to play with them. The world has changed, but their fandom did not.
by Hoai-Tran Bui, December 18th, 2017
… This past weekend, Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened to critical fanfare and skyrocketing box office numbers. But those accomplishments have been overshadowed by a looming force in the sci-fi franchise’s fandom. Some fans are calling it the worst Star Wars movie yet.
A few more are harassing director Rian Johnson on Twitter.
Others are petitioning that Last Jedi be removed from the series canon immediately. And the difference between the Rotten Tomatoes user and critical scores are very wide. So let’s examine what caused this rift between the critical community and the die-hard fans, and whether it says something about the movie itself, or a growing toxicity in fandom at large.
…This was just the beginning. Petitions have sprung up demanding that Rian Johnson apologize for his movie, or that Disney remake The Last Jedi altogether. And don’t check Rian Johnson’s Twitter feed if you have any empathy towards fellow human beings: users are sending nasty messages in response to his tweets, often complaining about inane issues like “too many close-ups.”
The Washington Post’s Analysis of Star Wars’ Toxic Fandom Doesn’t Go Deep Enough September 2018, by James Whitbrook
This morning, the Washington Post published an article titled “Who hates Star Wars for its newfound diversity? Here are the numbers.”
It comes to the perhaps unsurprising conclusion that, as ferocious as it has become lately, the toxic subculture that has developed in Star Wars fandom is a vocal minority. But its sampling is still too narrow.
….Sixty-three accounts in total, with 37 operated by men and 26 by women, formed the basis for this section of research, and while Lacina argues that Star Wars podcasters are indebted to Lucasfilm (even when not officially affiliated) as the existence of more Star Wars to talk about is vital to them, it’s a sample size that underestimates the scope of how female Star Wars fans interact and express their fandom.
Restricting discussion to specifically Kelly Marie Tran and Rose Tico also sidesteps other female figures, fictional or otherwise, who have become targets for abuse in the months since The Last Jedi.
Daisy Ridley’s character Rey (and in her case, this is a holdover from abuse that began with The Force Awakens) and Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern) have become frequent points of ire from abusive fandom, questioning everything from their capability as women in positions of power in The Last Jedi’s narrative to the fact that Holdo has purple hair and wears a glamorous dress while in command.
Outside of the film, there’s also been the vilification of producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who has become a focal point of criticism among some fans as the public “face” of Star Wars at large (look to some of the recent reactions to the official news that Kennedy, one of Hollywood’s most successful producers, is receiving an honorary Oscar from the Academy).
Most recently, The Star Wars Show and Rebels Recon host Andi Gutierrez faced a manufactured backlash after an image of her drinking out of a mug labeled “fanboy tears” was taken out of context to rile up a conflict between a Lucasfilm employee and Star Wars fandom. Lacina’s report is a start, but it barely scratches the surface of a firestorm that started brewing long beforeThe Last Jedi hit theaters.
The full report itself—which is well worth a read—at least acknowledges this limitation, even if the accompanying Washington Post article doesn’t.
Edit, July 2018:
Ahmed Best faced such backlash after playing Jar Jar in the Star Wars prequels that he considered taking his life, the actor revealed Tuesday.
Even though he did not name the franchise, Best wrote in a social media post that it was coming up on 20 years since he faced a resentment “that still affects my career today.”
Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace was released in 1999. It was Best’s first major role in a film.
Along with a scenic picture in which he and his child appear, Best wrote Tuesday, “This was the place I almost ended my life. It’s still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy is my gift for survival.”
The goofy CG Jar Jar was loved by children, but for the most part was despised by fans of the original trilogy who felt the character was too out of place. In fact, they were downright brutal, Best told Wired last year.
“I had death threats through the internet,” Best told Wired. “I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.”
.. A number of followers replied to Best’s Tuesday post, writing they were sorry to hear the experience was so rough on him.
Edit, August 2018
by Stereo Williams
Nicki’s fans sending death threats to a journalist is just the latest in a series of fan-army-abuse incidents, from Star Wars’ Kelly Marie Tran to Teen Titans star Anna Diop.
We have got to do something about the stans.
At their most benign, they’re annoying. Their hyper-devotion can make them insufferable little disciples to whatever or whomever it is they fawn over, be it their favorite recording artist or a film franchise they’ve been immersed in since they were old enough to zip up their Yoda pajamas.
But the worst kind of stans wield their fandom like a sword, ready to cut down anyone that crosses their fave.
It doesn’t matter if an external infidel has besmirched the name of their chosen deity or if some unworthy dreg is corrupting their beloved institution from the inside—the stans will swarm and sting, and you will feel every bit of their ire.
Of course, none of this is news. Much has been written about internet harassment, stan culture and how they affirm a certain toxic socialization that’s occurred online.
It’s a heinous mix of wish-fulfillment and mob mentality that has become normalized after years of watching it devolve into the kind of digital blood sport that leads to celebs or those who have transgressed against a celeb having to leave social media altogether.
The ultra-devoted fanbase has been around for decades, but in the age of social media it’s mobilized into something much more aggressive and abusive than a teen idol fanclub of yesteryear.
The most obvious recent example came courtesy of Nicki Minaj, her cadre of superfans (“The Barbz”) and a Toronto freelance journalist who dared express an opinion about a popular artist.
[The article describes the vitriol and death threats Wanna Thompson received from Minaj fans, and one very rude message from Minaj herself, merely for posting a tepid critique of Minaj’s recent musical output]
This kind of hyper-defensiveness isn’t limited to pop stars. There is a similar allegiance shown to popular entertainment brands of all kinds.
Granted, the spirit behind the antagonism of those movie/comic book/video game fanbases is less about defending the beloved institution from detractors, and more about harassing anyone allowed to join the hallowed franchise’s family tree—especially if the newcomer is non-white and/or female.
…When the new trailer for the upcoming Teen Titans movie debuted at Comic-Con in late July, actress Anna Diop was the target of an ugly racist backlash online from a horde of Teen Titans fans. Diop was subjected to hateful comments on Instagram and ongoing harassment on Twitter.
…It’s become increasingly disgusting to witness as it grows more pervasive by the day.
(Read the rest of that page by Stereo Williams on Daily Beasthere)
By Natelegé Whaley
…During aninterview Tuesday with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex to promote her latest record, Flex brought up a widely sharedForbes article from July that criticized the rapper’s album rollout and accused Minaj and her fans of verbally attacking culture writer Wanna Thompson in a direct message. (The New York Times originally reported on those allegations.)
“No, we’re not even going to give that psycho no love,” Minaj said, referring to the author of the scathing Forbes piece. “It was just a lonely weak loser who said that he was mad that I was taking Tekashi [6ix9ine] on tour and he was mad that I responded to some lady, who I didn’t even respond to, but they ran with that story.
“Um, who cares? Let’s move on,” Minaj added.
The “lady” Minaj denied harassing is Thompson.
On June 29, Thompson tweeted, “You know how dope it would be if Nicki put out mature content? No silly shit. Just reflecting on past relationships, being a boss, hardships, etc. She’s touching 40 soon, a new direction is needed.”
The following day, the Toronto-based writer shared a screenshot of an intimidating direct message she said she received from the rapper.
…After making the message public, Thompson said she received a flood of misogynoir-laced messages from Minaj’s fans. Thompson told Mic in July she was “exhausted” by the situation. But she wasn’t the only person who claimed to be on the receiving end of of such messages. Jerome Trammel, a social media coordinator, also accused Minaj and her fans of online harassment.
“They pulled up my old [work address] and they were saying they were going to come to my job and kill me,” Trammel said in a phone interview in July. “That I should die. I should hang myself. I should kill myself. I should commit suicide. I should slit my wrist.”
Edit, August 2018
The CW’s new Batwoman, Ruby Rose, is the latest high-profile actor to quit social media after facing harassment from so-called fans over her role in a nerdy project. It’s becoming more common for actors and creators to leave social media platforms because of online abuse, enough that it’s starting to feel like an everyday annoyance we can ignore. It’s not. And we shouldn’t.
Ruby Rose, who was recently chosen to play Batwoman in the next show on the CW’s Arrowverse, said she’s leaving Twitter after becoming the target of backlash over her casting.
“I am looking forward to getting more than 4 hours of sleep and to break from Twitter to focus all my energy on my next 2 projects. If you need me, I’ll be on my Bat Phone,” Rose wrote on her most recent tweet.
While some voices of disapproval over her role came from people who don’t like the idea of seeing Batwoman as a Jewish lesbian — even though that has been a part of the DC comics since 2005 — there have also been objections from those who point out that Rose is not Jewish and identifies as gender fluid, rather than strictly as a lesbian. The latter complaints were alluded to in Rose’s final tweets.
“Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be batwoman come from — has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read,” Rose tweeted. “I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change. I wish we would all support each other and our journeys.”
…Rose is the latest in a series of actors who have recently left Twitter for various reasons. “Star Wars” cast members Daisy Ridley deleted all her social media accounts this past December, while her co-star Kelly Marie Tran left Twitter amid harassment for her role in the series.
Ruby Rose has quit Twitter after a backlash over hercasting as lesbian superhero Batwoman in The CW’s Arrowverse.
Rose’s casting is set to make her the first LGBTQ lead in a live-action superhero series. Two days after the announcement, the Australian actress deleted her Twitter account and limited comments on her Instagram account to only people she knew after some fans took to social media to express their anger, with many erroneously arguing that Rose can’t play a lesbian character, despite the fact the Meg star has been out since the age of 12.
Some fans also argued that Rose wasn’t Jewish, unlike Kate Kane/Batwoman, and others questioned her acting skills to play the role.
“Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be batwoman’ come from — has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change,” Rose wrote in what appears to be her last few messages on Twitter before deleting her account (see full message below).
Rose is the latest star to be hounded off social media after a fan backlash. Stranger Things starMillie Bobby Brown, Star Wars actresses Kelly Marie Tran and Daisy Ridley have all deleted their social media accounts following harassment, threats and relentless negativity.
However annoying you might think Twitter can get, it’s thousands of times worse for celebrities with massive followings
Edit August 21, 2018
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” the actress explains of the hatred directed at her.
Kelly Marie Tran had had enough. It wasn’t simply venom spewed from haters. No, it was far worse.
The actress endured a relentless amount of abuse from trolls — both racist and sexist — simplly because she is an Asian woman who appeared in a Star Wars film.
After an under-the-radar complete departure from social media earlier this summer, Tran opened up about her decision in a New York Times op-ed posted Tuesday.
“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” Tran began her piece. “Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”
…For Tran, the garbage spewed at her via her social media was far more than haters with an ax to grind over a franchise they feel belongs to them.
“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white,” Tran wrote. “I want to live in a world where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence. I want to live in a world where people of all races, religions, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, gender identities and abilities are seen as what they have always been: human beings.”
…She may have had enough of social media, but as for Star Wars, that’s a different story. Tran will appear as Rose once more in the upcoming, untitled installment directed by J.J. Abrams.
by Jessica Sager
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” actress Kelly Marie Tran spoke out for the first time about quitting social media after being targeted by hateful trolls and bigoted cyberbullies.
In June, Tran, 29, the first woman of color cast in a lead role in the epic sci-fi franchise, quit Instagram after being deluged with comments disparaging her race, as well as her character Rose Tico.
It led her to question her own identity and severely damaged her self-esteem.
“As much as I hate to admit it, I started blaming myself. I thought, ‘Oh, maybe if I was thinner’ or ‘Maybe if I grow out my hair’ and, worst of all, ‘Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.’ For months, I went down a spiral of self-hate, into the darkest recesses of my mind, places where I tore myself apart, where I put their words above my own self-worth,” Tran wrote in an editorial published by the New York Times Tuesday.
“Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”
Tran, whose real first name is Loan, explained that she had tried to distance herself from her Vietnamese heritage since her childhood, when she stopped speaking Vietnamese to avoid being bullied by other kids.
The bullying she faced on Instagram brought a lot of those feelings back.
“Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was ‘other,’ that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them,” she wrote. “And that feeling, I realize now, was, and is, shame, a shame for the things that made me different, a shame for the culture from which I came from. And to me, the most disappointing thing was that I felt it at all.”
Tran wrote that she’d been “brainwashed” into thinking she was less than perfect simply because she is Vietnamese, but that she realizes now she’s fine the way she is, and that it’s the rest of the world — Hollywood and the media included — that needs to look inward and improve how people are treated.
“I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white. I want to live in a world where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence,” she wrote. “I want to live in a world where people of all races, religions, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, gender identities and abilities are seen as what they have always been: human beings.”
Edit August 29, 2018
By Abraham Riesman, August 2018
…As one might suspect from the name, Comicsgate is, roughly speaking, Gamergate for comics.
Like that infamous mass movement of angry gamers — which, it’s been convincingly argued, was a key component in the stunning rise of the alt-right and the election of Donald Trump — Comicsgate is a loose confederation of tweeters and YouTubers who make it their business to yell about how much they hate the “social justice warriors” who are, in their eyes, ruining their favorite medium with leftist politics.
Unlike Gamergate, the participants in Comicsgate didn’t choose their name — it was lobbed at them by their opponents. Nevertheless, the shoe fits, and many of the angry readers within the movement have embraced it.
…Since then, there’s been a growing tidal wave of reactionary hatred directed toward women and minorities in the comics world. In angry tweets, as well as rambling YouTube videos, members of the inchoate Comicsgate movement have derided female and minority characters, creators, and fans — all while claiming to want a return to an imagined past of apolitical comics.