Toxic fandom is inescapable these days. Far too often, it seems to be wrapped up in sexism or racism or both, with predominantly male fans trolling female stars of film (Star Wars, first Daisy Riddley, now Kelly Marie Tran) or TV (Stranger Things) franchises as well as any female writers on a beloved animated show (Rick & Morty).
Blame Jordan Peterson. Blame Trump. Blame the anonymity of the internet. Blame the social distancing of social media. Blame the polarization of, well, just about everything these days. Blame the general breakdown of society.
Blame whatever you want, but the truth is some fans are assholes. They just are. They’ve always existed; they’re just more empowered and emboldened these days.
So, what do we do about it? What do we do when Millie Bobby Brown has to delete her Twitter because some dicks made her the center of an anti-gay meme? How do you rally around Kelly Marie Tran when she departs Instagram after far too many months of abuse? What’s the proper response when Leslie Jones is targeted by hackers just because she happened to star in a new Ghostbusters movie?
Jones has some thoughts, telling TheWrap yesterday:
“Now, going back, if I could go back, I probably would’ve made a statement and then just ignored the rest of it, because to be honest, it’s nothing but dogs barking at a parade. The parade does not stop for dogs that are barking. They just continue to march. That is a getting-through-it-moment, because what’s so f—ed up on the other side is that it changes over on the other side so fast. What I’m realizing about Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff, everyone is going to have their opinion, and since we’ve given them a platform to do it, they’re going to express it whether it’s right or wrong.”
Her advice for Tran: “To me, I’m a scrapper. I’m going to always fight,” Jones said. “What I can tell her is first of all, reach out to her people, reach out to Twitter, reach out to Instagram, and make sure they start protecting her. Because that’s what I did. That was one of the first things I did was hit Twitter like, ‘Hey, I’m not supposed to be getting harassed on your site. This is not supposed to be happening.’”
Absolutely: we need to ally together and shout as loud as we can that this is not acceptable. A difference of opinion is one thing. Same goes for an open and honest debate where two sides reach wildly differing conclusions. But don’t go harassing someone online and wrap yourself in the “I’m just a fan offering an honest critique” flag.
Thankfully, some of the people in charge just aren’t having it anymore.
Some very aggressive Battlefield fans are upset that the game includes women, or has a woman on the cover. The general situation is that some gamers are upset about women existing, which is a pretty common event in gaming, but this time the anger is aimed at Battlefield 5.
What’s notable is the response of some members of the creative team behind the game.
“Battlefield V is a lot about the unseen, the untold, the unplayed,” EA chief creative officer Patrick Soderlund told Gamasutra. “The common perception is that there were no women in World War II. There were a ton of women who both fought in World War II and partook in the war.”
He goes on to state that the development team pushed for women to be included in the game — that his daughter doesn’t understand why people are upset, that both men and women want to play as women and that’s just the way gaming is these days — before he gets to the real point.
“And we don’t take any flak,” Soderlund stated. “We stand up for the cause, because I think those people who don’t understand it, well, you have two choices: either accept it or don’t buy the game. I’m fine with either or. It’s just not ok.”
Dan Harmon, co-creator of Rick and Morty, has made his distaste for the same sort of vocally horrible fan known. Somehow the toxic Rick and Morty fans also tend to attack women involved with the show. It’s weird how that keeps happening, huh?
“I’ve made no bones about the fact that I loathe these people,” Harmon told Entertainment Weekly in a story about the show’s women being harassed. “It fucking sucks. And the only thing I can say is if you’re lucky enough to make a show that is really good that people like, that means some bad people are going to like it too.”
This might not seem like much, but it’s often said that a country takes on the moral tone set by its leader. That can apply to fandom as well, and the leaders are inevitably the content creators responsible for making the things we’re supposed to love. If more of them are out there signaling their disgust and disapproval of toxic fandom it might merely enflame the trolls or lead to boycott attempts, but at least it will set the tone that this shit isn’t okay.