Tag Archives: Reddit

Tales From The Comments Section: When Hypocrisy, Lying, And Trolling Converge

Even the most luxurious palace has a septic system that contains its foulest shit. It’s not just a fact of life. It might as well be a law of physics. In the same way the brightest light still casts a shadow, there’s always a dark underbelly to any world we explore.

The internet is no exception. If anything, the internet has more dark underbellies than most and I’m not just referring to porn sites or nefarious Google searches. Those are all plenty disturbing, but if the internet has an overflowing septic tank, it’s the collective comments section of many sites.

They’re not just the comments section to certain news sites.

They’re not just anonymous image boards like 4chan that pride themselves on excess shit-posting.

Even the comments section of mainstream websites like YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit have comments sections that will give your faith in humanity a hefty gut punch. They come in many forms, but they tend to follow the same patterns.

They’re degrading, insulting, whiny, vulgar, immature, and just plain wrong on multiple levels. I’m not calling for them to be censored or banned, outside the kind of comments that incite violence in the real world. I’m just pointing out that this is the ugly side of the internet and we can’t deny its stench.

I say that as someone who has spent many hours, much of them wasted, in comments sections and message boards over the years. Even during the early days of the internet, complete with dial up and AOL keyword searches, I’ve seen this ugliness firsthand. I also don’t deny that there are times when I’ve contributed to it. That’s something I genuinely regret.

While all toxic comments are different, they often employ similar rhetoric. It really hasn’t changed much from the AOL days. Just the other day, I made the mistake of browsing the comments of a YouTube video. I saw the same whiny, angry ranting that I saw on old message boards in 1999.

The topics may change. The verbiage may differ. Even the arguments made, if there are any, tend to be fairly similar. I could single out plenty of ugly comments I’ve encountered. However, I want to highlight one that I’ve seen a lot more of lately, especially among fans of superhero comics, Star Wars, and Star Trek.

They usually go like this.

“Everybody hates [insert character, show, actor/actress, etc.]!”

“Nobody likes [insert character, show, actor/actress, etc.]!”

It’s a sweeping, generalized statement. It’s usually said out of a mix of hate, resentment, and tribalism. Ironically, it’s often Star Wars fans who say stuff like this when talking about characters like Rey. It’s ironic because Obi-Wan Kanobi himself once said, “only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

It doesn’t help that these kinds of absolutes are total bullshit encased in wishful thinking that’s built entirely around head-canon. Certain fans want to believe that everyone agrees with them and those who don’t aren’t “true” fans.

No true Star Wars fan can like Rey.

No true Marvel fan can like Captain Marvel.

No true Star Trek fan can like “Star Trek Discovery.”

It’s basically the old “no true Scotsman” fallacy, but this one is laced with a mix of lies and hypocrisy. That’s because it’s demonstrably provable that these kinds of sweeping statements are wrong.

Not everyone hates Rey, Captain Marvel, or whoever else is the object of resentment at the moment. For one, Captain Marvel’s movie raked in $1 billion at the box office. Clearly, more than a few people liked her.

The same can be said for Rey. You can go onto Amazon and readily find merchandise featuring her. She may not be on the same level as Luke Skywalker, but that’s not a reasonable bar for a character who has only recently entered the franchise.

I can also attest that Rey has plenty of fans. It’s not just that I’m one of them. I’ve been to comic book conventions. I’ve seen women, young girls, and even a few men dress up as Rey. I’ve seen even more dress up as Captain Marvel. She clearly has plenty of fans.

That makes the whole idea that “nobody likes this character” or “everyone hates this character” demonstrably false. Those who say it aren’t just lying trolls. They’re hypocrites.

Now, I’ve made the mistake of arguing with these people before. I can safely conclude that it’s not a productive use of my time. These people will never be dissuaded. They still want to live in their head-canon where everyone hates exactly who they hate and anyone who thinks otherwise is just part of an evil conspiracy out to get them.

It’s a dangerous, toxic mentality that extends beyond fandoms and into politics. We saw just how bad it could get on January 6th during the Capitol riots. I’m not saying angry Star Wars fans are that bad, but the mentality is the same and it’s just as dangerous.

Again, I freely admit I’ve posted my share of dumb comments. I’ve said dumb things before, as well. Everyone has. We’re only human. We’re not perfect and never will be. I believe in free speech strongly and I understand that this is a byproduct of that. I’m willing to accept that.

I’m also willing to use that same freedom to point out the idiocy and hypocrisy of those kinds of comments. They’re not just a useless waste of bandwidth. They’re a symptom of a much larger problem. For now, the best thing to do is ignore these people and let them live in their fanciful head-canon. It may not fix the problem, but it’ll keep it from getting worse.

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Filed under Current Events, psychology, rants, Star Wars, superhero comics, superhero movies, television

A Subreddit Exploited Wall Street Hedge Funds (And I Applaud Them)

Every now and then, a news story comes along that just puts a smile on my face for all the right reasons. Granted, a lot of those news stories involve comic books and sex robots, but certain news transcends my preferences. They’re just too inherently awesome and cathartic to ignore.

This recent story surrounding a sub-reddit beating a multi-billion dollar hedge fund on Wall Street is definitely one of them. In the process, it suddenly turned Gamestop, a store I haven’t been in for three years, into the hottest stock on the market.

It’s the kind of story that would make a ridiculous movie. It’s not “The Big Short.” Hell, reads like a “Robot Chicken” sketch, plus or minus a few poop jokes. Except, this actually happened in the real world.

For those who haven’t been following this story, here’s a colorful breakdown by Esquire.

Esquire: How WallStreetBets Redditors Used Their Collective Power to Manipulate the Stock Market

News about the stock market rarely crosses over into the cultural mainstream, and historically when that’s happened, it’s meant some catastrophic financial event has taken place. (See: The housing and stock market crashes of 2008.)

But the stock market was the single biggest news story Wednesday, financial or otherwise, due to a group of Reddit shitlords pumping up a collection of stocks and pushing some billion-dollar financial institutions to the brink of bankruptcy.

Hedge fund Melvin Capital needed a $2.75 billion bailout on Monday after the stock price for GameStop, the video game retailer, spiked to more than $70 a share over the weekend. Just a month earlier, the stock was hovering near $15. Melvin was shorting the stock, hence the need for a bailout. Reports of Melvin Capital’s financial struggles sent GameStop’s share price soaring even higher, though, to more than $100 a share on Monday, putting the hedge fund in an even more precarious financial decision. As of this writing, the stock was trading for $330 per share—77 times higher than its share price of $4.28 a year ago.

The GameStop stock rally is the handiwork of r/WallStreetBets, a Reddit community where people share news, memes and personal anecdotes about playing the stock market.

Let’s all take a moment to shed a fake tear for a hedge fund that sought to make money by hoping a company would die. Let’s also take a moment to contain our rage that those assholes still got a multi-billion dollar bailout with little to no debate, but I digress.

That article gave us the basics. In short, a bunch of people on Reddit decided to exploit the short positions that a bunch of hedge funds had on Gamestop and make a ton of money on the side. It’s the kind of gimmicky stock trading tactics that you’d see in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” minus the strippers and ludes. The only difference is this didn’t break any laws and only fucked over hedge funds.

If you need a more thorough breakdown of just how those hedge funds were fucked over, here’s a video by the YouTube channel TLDR News. They break it down beautifully. I must warn you, though. If you get excited by seeing hedge funds get screwed over by a bunch of Reddit trolls, you might not be able to contain yourself.

Now, why do I love this story so much?

Why am I making such a big deal of it?

Why is this even news on such a large scale?

The answer is fairly simple. It’s not just that I love Reddit and have been an active user for years. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen that often. A bunch of normal, everyday people on Reddit getting the best of a Wall Street hedge fund? It just doesn’t seem possible.

Even if you’re a die hard capitalist or an dogmatic liberation, you can’t be too fond of hedge funds. In addition to being fertile grounds for fraudsters, con-men, and Gordan Gecko wannabes, they have just one goal. They seek to make rich people even richer. How they go about that varies, but they’re not above lying, cheating, and effectively gaming every capitalist system to their advantage.

They’re basically villains for both capitalists, socialists, and communists alike. They’ll screw over anyone, be they individuals or companies, so long as they can turn a profit. They don’t make anything. They don’t create or develop products that they sell to willing consumers. They mostly dick around with math, balance sheets, and stock prices to make money. That’s it.

I’m not a fan, to say the least. Watching them lose is like watching Lex Luthor get beat up by a five-year-old girl. You don’t think it’s possible, but it’s a glorious sight when you see it.

Honestly, this is the kind of story we need right now. A bunch of nobodies on the internet find a way to screw over a hedge fund whose business model involves screwing over struggling companies. What’s not to love? That’s a superhero narrative wrapped in true capitalism wrapped in American ingenuity. Ron Swanson himself would be proud.

There’s a lot more I could say about this. Since the story is still unfolding on many fronts, I’ll hold off. I’ll just say that if r/WallStreetBets does nothing more than screw over a hedge fund trying to profit from Gamestop’s demise, they’ll still have done a great good for this world.

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Filed under Current Events, psychology, rants

Some (Cringy) Thanksgiving Incidents To Get You Through Thanksgiving 2020

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Thanksgiving is going to be very different this year. Pretty much everything has had to be different this year, thanks to a once-in-a-century pandemic. There’s just no way around it. All we can do is adapt and endure.

For some, that means Thanksgiving is not going to be quite as festive. If you enjoy large family gatherings, hanging out near malls for Black Friday sales, or traveling extensively to meet up with relatives, then your Thanksgiving spirit is going to be tempered this year, by default. That’s just the way it is in 2020.

I’m already bracing myself. I’m still getting together with family, but it’s going to be on a much smaller scale than usual. Given how big my family is and how much they love get-togethers, that’s going to make it rough. We’re still going to try and make it work. Thankfully, most of us have already learned to have large gatherings through Zoom and FaceTime.

However, I’d rather not dwell on what this Thanksgiving will lack. In the interest of keeping things balanced, I’d like to do my part to help us endure these pandemic-hampered holidays.

To that end, I’d like to share a video from the channel, Best Posts & Comments. It’s a simple complication of Reddit posts that recounted infamous incidents that occurred on Thanksgiving.

I must offer a clear warning, though. Some of these incidents are quite cringy. Trust me. You’ll know it when you hear it. Cringe or not, I hope it helps you feel a bit better about Thanksgiving this year. Enjoy!

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Filed under Current Events, real stories, YouTube

No Sexy Sunday Thoughts (But Have Something Just As Fun)

I know it’s Sunday.

I know this is usually when I post my weekly edition of Sexy Sunday Thoughts. For those who enjoy this weekly dose of sexiness, I apologize. I am unable to provide said dose today.

I do have a good reason, though. Yesterday was exhausting to say the least. The wedding I referenced was dramatic in ways I did not expect. I prefer not to go into details. Again, there’s a good reason for that. Just know that I am still recovering and so is everyone involved.

In lieu of some Sunday Thoughts, please enjoy this video from the YouTube channel, Storytime With Reddit. It involves strippers and real stories about them. That should provide just enough sexiness until next Sunday. Enjoy!

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Filed under Sexy Sunday Thoughts, YouTube

Appreciating Some Awesome Things Father’s Have Done

Things are still pretty messed up right now. It seems like the year 2020 is determined to make us all lose hope in humanity and the future.

That’s where awesome fathers come in.

Father’s Day is this Sunday. For someone who has an awesome dad like me, it’s special because it gives me a chance to appreciate him in the way he deserves. I’m already preparing a little something for him that I hope he enjoys. He’s such a great guy and it’s because of him that I have hope for the future. Him and father’s like him are what help us stay strong during difficult times.

To those who don’t have a relationship with their fathers, it’s tragic. I feel for them. I hope they have a father figure in their life that they can look up to. Fathers are capable of so many amazing things. To help inspire that spirit, here’s a video from the channel Storytime With Reddit documenting some real life stories about fathers being awesome. Enjoy!

I sincerely hope that helped make your day. To all the awesome fathers out there, including my own, thank you for stories like this.

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Filed under gender issues, men's issues, real stories, Uplifting Stories

Romance Is Real: Men Recount Their Lover’s Greatest Romantic Gesture

The world is really messed up right now. I don’t think I need to remind everyone how or why. I’m trying to stay as positive as I can. Lately, though, I’ve been failing. Every day, I wake up and read my news feed, only to lament how fucked this world is right now. I know things have to get better at some point. That point just seems so far off.

I admit, it’s been very depressing. I’ve found myself feeling more depressed than usual and I know I’m not alone. Thankfully, being a big romance fan can have unexpected advantages. As bad as things are, you can’t stop people from loving each other and expressing that love in beautiful ways. You can quarantine populations, but you can’t quarantine passion.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer something uplifting to all my fellow romance fans. Thanks to the fine folks of the Reddit Recap channel, we have a list of real stories from real people about the most romantic gesture their lover ever did for them. Even on my worst days, reading stories like this puts a smile on my face and brings a tear of joy to my eye.

Please take a moment to enjoy this little montage. The last one should really warm your heart.

I hope your day is better because of that. If you have another story like this to share, please do so in the comments. Seriously, the world needs those kinds of stories right now.

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Filed under romance, Uplifting Stories

Things Mothers Yell While Giving Birth: A (Hilarious) Way To Get Into The Mother’s Day Spirit

Mother’s Day is almost here. I know where in the midst of a global pandemic. I know most people aren’t in a very celebratory mood. If ever there was a reason or person for which we should make an exception, it’s our mothers. Even if you’re on lock-down, stir crazy, and badly in need of a haircut, we should still celebrate Mother’s Day.

They birthed us.

They raised us.

They changed our diapers, guided us through puberty, and have seen us at our absolute worst.

They’ve earned this. As someone who is lucky enough to have such an awesome mom, I have every intention of celebrating Mother’s Day in whatever way we can. It won’t be too fancy or elaborate, but I will find a way to make my mother feel special this Sunday. I encourage everyone else to do the same.

If you need inspiration, perhaps this will help. Like it or not, our mothers did give birth to us. We don’t like to picture it, but it did happen. There’s even a very real chance they said or did something during that magical moment that was disturbing, hilarious, or a potent combination of the two. This video, courtesy of Updoot Reddit, reveal some of the crazy and wonderful things that women said while giving birth. Enjoy!

Even if this video didn’t inspire you, I still encourage everyone to find a way to celebrate Mother’s Day. This year may suck. The world may be in chaos. We may never go back to the normal we knew, but we can still let our mothers know how much we love them.

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Filed under health, Marriage and Relationships, women's issues

Funny/Disturbing Stories From (Bad) Sex Ed Classes

Sex is important. Most people would agree, no matter how prudish or repressed they might be.

Talking about it is important too and this is where most people disagree. There’s no getting around it. Talking about sex with anyone, be they teachers, parents, friends, or relatives, is uncomfortable and overwhelming. Most parents avoid talking to their kids about sex and most kids are just as eager to avoid those conversations.

The internet is not always helpful, either. That’s not to say there aren’t good resources for sex education. If you’re looking for something comprehensive, informative, and accurate, I highly recommend the resources from Advocates For Youth. Do not rely on “resources” like PornHub for sex education.

To the parents out there who keep avoiding the conversation, please take note of that. If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, then chances are they’ll learn it from porn and you do not want that. Learning about sex through porn is like learning to drive a car by playing Grand Theft Auto.

Ideally, kids still receive a decent level of sex education from school. I was lucky in that the schools I went to had a fairly comprehensive sex education program. It wasn’t perfect. They did not talk about things like orgasms, intimate communication, female arousal, or how feminine hygiene products work. It was still better than most, which made the kids in my area lucky.

Others didn’t have that kind of luck. Some people receive sex education that’s both inaccurate, bias, and downright damaging. Some comes from repressive religious institutions. Some come from repressive ideologies that barely see women as anything more than baby factories. It can be disturbing. It can also be hilarious. It can even be both.

If you need proof, please check out this funny collection of anecdotes I found, courtesy of the YouTube channel, Planet Reddit. I hope you find it funny and informative. I also hope it hammers home the importance of accurate, comprehensive sex education.

If you make it through the entire video, please spare a thought for the kids who endured those classes. Let’s just hope they didn’t fill the many gaps in their knowledge through porn.

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Filed under health, human nature, sex in society, sexuality

The Hard Consequences Of Soft Censorship

internet-censorship

If you walked up to any random person on the street and asked them how they feel about censorship, chances are they would say they’re against it. Absent any context, most people equate censorship with tyranny and rightly so. Historically speaking, tyrannical societies are not beacons of free speech.

When you add context to that same question, though, then people are a bit more diverse in their response. They may say they’re against censorship, but they’ll also oppose hate speech and even support efforts to remove it from certain venues or platforms. It’s not the same as government-suppressed speech, but it’s still censorship on some levels.

A government’s effort to prohibit or punish speech is more daunting. That’s exactly why we have things like the First Amendment. Governments are big, powerful entities with armies and tax collectors. Their brand of censorship is a lot more concrete than others. That’s why such extensive legal protections are necessary.

When it comes less overt forms of censorship, though, the line isn’t as clear and neither are the legal protections. It can take the form of de-platforming a controversial speaker, which has happened on college campuses. It can also take the form of banning certain websites or certain subgroups within a website. These efforts aren’t usually called censorship. They’re usually referred to as preventing the spread of hate.

Personally, I don’t buy that excuse. As much as I abhor some of the things people say, both online and in person, any attempt to indirectly silence them is still censorship in my book. I call it “soft censorship” because it doesn’t involve government force. In many cases, it’s a grass roots effort to combat certain ideas that many find offensive.

That seems to be the most notable standard these days, the offensiveness of certain speech. That’s understandable, given how the world is more connected than it has ever been in human history. It’s now easier than ever for hateful, offensive speech to spread. Conversely, it’s also easy for the outrage to that speech to spread as well.

As a result, the forces behind that outrage are often the most powerful forces behind soft censorship. That outrage takes many forms too. It can be driven by political correctness, religious dogma, and general trolling. Censorship or suppression of speech is not always the stated goal, but it is often a desired result.

Given the ongoing changes to the media landscape, this brand of censorship seems to be getting more prominent than anything government effort. In fact, the reason I chose to bring this issue up is because of a few notable incidents that highlight the growing disconnect between free speech and movements to combat hate speech.

The first incident happened earlier this year and came from the gaming world, a domain that is no stranger to censorship and targeted outrage. The outrage in this case, though, had nothing to do with how beautiful women are depicted and everything to do with the policy of the popular Steam platform by Valve.

The particulars of the issue are simple. Valve was getting criticism for allowing too many violent, adult-oriented games on their platform, including those with overtly erotic themes. For a while, it looked like they would follow the same policy as Nintendo and Apple, who don’t allow anything that can’t be shown in a Disney movie.

Surprisingly, and refreshingly for some, Valve opted for a more libertarian policy. The standards are simple. As long as the content isn’t illegal or outright trolling, then it’s permitted. In the context of freedom of speech and creative freedom, this should count as a victory. However, that’s not how some saw it.

Almost immediately, Valve was heavily criticized for this freedom-centric policy and for all the wrong reasons. Some went so far as to call it irresponsible and cowardly, daring to permit games on their platform that might be overly graphic, crude, or sexy. Being a private company and not a government, that’s certainly their right.

Even so, it generated outrage. People didn’t see it as an act to promote free expression. They see it as a means of spreading hateful, offensive, sexist content and profiting from it. At at time when the video game industry sparks outrage every time it depicts a female character, Valve really took a chance by taking this approach and it’s sure to generate plenty more controversy, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Those same reasons showed up in another incident involving Reddit, a site on which I’m very active. Specifically, it involved a subreddit called KotakuInAction, which emerged in wake of the infamous GamerGate controversy in 2014. As a result, it has a reputation for being pretty brutal in its criticisms of regressive, far-left attitudes.

It’s oftent cited as one of the most “toxic” places on Reddit. There have been more than a few efforts to ban it. At one point, for reasons that I’d rather not get into, it was actually removed by its original creator. However, it was saved and put back up within less than a day, much to the relief of the nearly 100,000 subscribers.

Few will call that a victory for free speech. Those who criticize Valve and Reddit for permitting it don’t see their actions as suppressing speech. They see it as combating harassment and hate. Therein lies the problem with that effort, though. Harassment and hate are serious issues, but attacking only the speech is like attacking a single symptom of a much larger disease.

Even if Reddit had permanently banned KotakuInAction and Valve had opted to censor offensive games, it wouldn’t have made the ideas behind them disappear. Like putting a censor bar in front of female breasts, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re there and that they have an impact.

You could turn off the internet, burn every book, and shut down every newspaper tomorrow. That still wouldn’t stop people from thinking and feeling the things that lead them to want to say something offensive or create an offensive game. Speech is just a byproduct of ideas. Attacking the speech is not the same as confronting the source.

In fact, doing so can be counterproductive. There’s a real phenomenon called the Streisand Effect wherein efforts to hide, remove, or cenors something ends drawing more attention to it. The fact that Area 51 is a super-secret government facility that everyone knows about shows how powerful that effect can be.

In the context of combating hate, efforts to censor those behind it can end up elevating their message. When someone is censored, there’s an application of force implied. Whether it’s from a government or a moderator on a message board, censorship requires some level of force. Applying it to anyone is going to put them in a position to feel oppressed and that oppression tends to fuel hatred.

Harassment is different because when it comes to free speech, the line between discourse and threats is a bit less ambiguous. The Supreme Court has established a criteria for what constitutes “fighting words,” but it’s when things happen on a computer screen where it gets tricky.

Like hate, though, there’s a right and wrong way to deal with harassment. The right way to deal with a direct threat is to contact local law enforcement. The wrong way is to make it into a spectacle that requires that both the harasser and the platform they used to be condemned.

It’s an inescapable fact of life in any functioning society. The same platforms we use to interact will be used by others for disgusting, hateful, and offensive activities. We may feel disgust and revulsion for these things, but trying to silence both the people and the platform doesn’t make the sentiment behind it go away.

That’s the ultimate danger of soft censorship. It’s not like a censorship-loving government that can be overthrown or reformed. It’s a mentality that seeks to remove content from certain mediums in hopes that it will subsequently discourage the mentality behind it. Unfortunately, human beings aren’t wired that way.

That’s the ultimate danger of soft censorship. It’s not like a censorship-loving government that can be overthrown or reformed. It’s a mentality that seeks to remove content from certain mediums in hopes that it will subsequently discourage the mentality behind it. Considering the impact of the the Streisand Effect, it’s utterly backwards.

I’m all for confronting hate and combating harassment, but not through censorship, hard or soft. It’s hard enough trying to change someone’s mind in an era where they can customize their news feeds. At the end of the day, we can only truly affect someone’s heart and mind by focusing on the person and not what’s on their computer screens.

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Filed under censorship, Current Events, human nature, media issues, political correctness

How The Idea Of “Toxic Fandom” Is Fundamentally Flawed

toxic-comments-e1516922359181

The internet is a vast, wonderful place full of mesmerizing gifs, amazing stories, and the collective knowledge of our entire species. I would argue that the internet is one of humanity’s most important tools since the invention of fire. I strongly believe that is has done more good any other tool we’ve created.

I have a feeling that this rosy view of the internet is a minority opinion. These days, all the good the internet does tends to get lost in the stories that highlight its many dangers. I don’t deny that there are dangers there. The internet does have some dark places where hate, harassment, and outright depravity are on full display.

More and more, it seems, the internet is becoming an enabler of a new manifestation of popular culture. It’s called “toxic fandom” and it relies on the greatest strengths of the internet to bring out the absolute worst in people. It didn’t start with the heated fan reaction of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” but it certainly made it relevant.

Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear. There are assholes on the internet. There are also assholes in real life. The internet doesn’t make them that way. It just gives them a platform to be an asshole on a larger scale. That’s an unfortunate side-effect of the internet, but one that tends to obscure a larger narrative.

That’s because, much like inane terms such as “toxic masculinity,” the idea of toxic fandom relies on a series of assumptions that only ever have a sliver of truth behind them. It builds around this idea of there’s this grand, over-arching effort by immature, angry young men who secretly wish they could sexually harass women with impunity. It’s not quite on the level of an Alex Jones type conspiracy, but it’s close.

There have always been overly-passionate fans. It existed long before the internet and would still exist if the internet disappeared tomorrow. “Toxic fandom,” and there’s a reason I’m putting it in quotes, is something very different.

This doesn’t involve obsession with a particular celebrity. It involves a particular type of media like a movie, a TV show, or a video game. In some respects, this sort of fandom is a byproduct of overwhelming success. When something like “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” comes along, it resonates with an audience on a profound level. That sort of impact can last a lifetime.

I can attest to the power of that impact through my love of comic books. I’ve even cited a few that I find deeply moving, both in good ways and in not-so-good ways. Most everybody has had an experience like that at some point in their life, whether it’s their reaction to seeing “Titanic” for the first time or the feeling they get after they binge-watch “Breaking Bad.”

The toxic part usually comes when the media they’ve come to love manifests in a way that’s not just disappointing. It undermines those powerful feelings they’ve come to associate with that media. The results can be very distressing and until recently, the only way to express that distress was to sulk quietly in a darkened room.

Then, the internet comes along and suddenly, fans have a way to voice their feelings, for better and for worse. They can even connect with fans who feel like they do so that they don’t feel alone. The human tendency to form groups is one of the most fundamental acts anyone can do as a member of a highly social species.

Now, there’s nothing inherently “toxic” about that behavior. It has only made the news because the passions/vitriol of fans is more visible, thanks to the internet. Just browse any comments section of any movie or show on IMDB. Chances are you’ll find a few people who claim that this thing they once loved has been ruined and will use every possible medium to voice their displeasure.

This is where the “toxic” aspects of fandom start to have real-world consequences. Most recently, Kelly Marie Tran became the face of those victimized by toxic fandoms. After her portrayal of Rose Tico in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” she became the most polarizing figure in the history of Star Wars since Jar Jar Binks.

The story surrounding Ms. Tran’s harassment, which was objectively horrible, became vindication for those who believed that the Star Wars fanbase had become a mess of angry, hate-filled fanboys. They didn’t like that something they loved was changing and becoming more diverse. As such, their criticisms don’t matter. They may as well be wounded storm troopers in a room full of angry wookies.

The problem with this assumption is the same problem we get when someone writes off facts as fake news or diversity efforts as a neo-Marxist conspiracy. It’s a simple, convenient excuse to ignore possible flaws and justify personal assumptions. It also conflates the inescapable truth that assholes exist in the world and there’s nothing we can do about it.

None of this is to imply that harassment is justified or that fans can be exceedingly unreasonable. By the same token, this doesn’t imply that studios don’t deserve criticism when they attempt to revamp a beloved franchise in a way that does not keep with the spirit of the original. It’s only when criticism gets lost in the outrage that the “toxic” behaviors become more prominent.

It’s within that outrage, though, where the true flaws in the “toxic fanbase” narrative really break down. To a large extent, the “toxicity” that many complain about aren’t a product of unhealthy attitudes. They’re a manifestation of an inherent flaw in the relationship between fans and those who produce the iconic media they love.

To illustrate that flaw, think back to a recent controversy involving a “toxic fanbase.” Before the reaction “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” became the poster child for this issue, the all-female “Ghostbusters” remake was the most prominent example. It earned a lot of hatred for reasons that I’d rather not scrutinize.

With that hatred in mind, imagine a long-time Ghostbusters fan seeking to express their dismay. They decide to write a kind, detailed, and thoughtful letter to the studio, the director, and anyone else involved detailing their dismay and their criticisms. They may even cite specific examples on what they felt was wrong with the movie.

Chances are this sort of thoughtful, well-worded message would get deleted, ignored, or just plain lost in the digital landscape. Even if the head of Sony studios read it and agreed with every point made, they wouldn’t respond. They wouldn’t do anything ot change it. That would just be too inconvenient and it would look bad publicly.

From the perspective of the fan writing the letter, though, it sends the message that their sentiment doesn’t matter. Their passion for the media doesn’t matter. They might as well not even exist in the eyes of the producers. The only way for them to even acknowledge their existance is to be louder, angrier, and even a little meaner. Even if the reponse is negative, it at least acknowledges their existence.

It’s not the same as trolling. Trolls just want upset people for the fun of it. Fans voicing their displeasure are more sincere in the sense that they believe they’re protecting something they love. Whether or not that’s misguided is debatable. Some, namely those who harass and make threats, are more misguided than others. However, they only ever make up a very small percentage of fans.

In the end, that’s the most important perspective to have when it comes to fandom. Those who are the loudest tend to be the most obnoxious, but they’re loud because they feel like they have to be. The internet just gives them a way to be heard, which is something most fans haven’t had before.

That’s still not an excuse for being an asshole, but it’s also not an excuse for using those same assholes to call an entire fanbase toxic. It overlooks and undermines the genuine and sincere love people have of these cultural icons. As as a result, when someone feels like their love is being ignored, that’s when toxic hate often finds a way to fill that void.

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