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On Toxic Fans (for 2020)

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Jan. 4, 2020

So the third and final installment in the new Disney Star Wars trilogy is out. Personally, I haven't seen it yet, mainly because the mild curiosity I have can wait until the movie hits the streaming services.

Initially, it seemed like this final installment would be met with average reactions and a general discontent with its efforts to please everyone while pulling the story back on the initial track that The Last Jedi had supposedly derailed the plot from.

While the attempt itself is fascinating and warrants its own article from a purely story-construction angle, what I'd like to talk about today isn't its merits or problems (which I'd have to first have watched to properly analyzed).

What is troubling, in my opinion, is the phenomenon of toxicity, death threats, and outrage re-emerging, with the creators as targets, as well as others.

There are articles (and even the tweet poster) focusing on the fact that this time the death threats are coming from the ‘progressives’ ‘SJWs’ and ‘TLJ fans’ or ‘Reylo fans’. In any case, coming from the side that was gleefully dissing on the side that was vocal in hating TLJ and the new trilogy in general, calling them out for harassment and threats. A ‘shoe is on the other foot’ type of schadenfreude, if you like, relishing in the ‘you’re just like us' or worse.

Of course it only proves that unsavory people that don't know how or don't want to behave as balanced, decent human beings exist within every group and every ‘side’. Not really a shocker, in my opinion.

However, what's actually problematic is that the reactions themselves are there, no matter which side they are coming from. 2019 especially was a year of extreme reactions and verbal/ social media wars over movies, and almost no discussion and entertainment of the art itself with a view to improve for next time.

Extreme reactions over art are nothing new; and I do think they are at times warranted, if unpleasant, provided they remain within the realm of art feedback that may drive the creation of new art in the future. When reactions spill over to threats of violence and personal attacks (or ad hominems) on the creators, then we can safely talk on toxicity, rather than heated debate.

And what worries me is that this is a cultivated thing rather than a spontaneous one. It seems to me that industries are enabling this sort of thing, seeking to monetize it rather than encourage people to be civilized about the things they don't like.

The thing though with learned behaviors is that a pattern of reaction doesn't remain confined within the limits of where it was first learned- it spills over and is applied as a pattern of reaction to other situations in daily life. So when we teach young people (because they seem to be a demographic ranging from adolescents to young adults) to become murderous about trifles such as movies or TV series, we're essentially teaching them to react with extreme violence or the extreme violence ideation in general. This is a way to breed fanatics with binary thinking where it shouldn't be binary, but nuanced- or at least not focused on creating ‘enemies’ out of people that disagree.

One cannot fight fire with fire when it comes to fanatism and extremism. There are ways to be firm and disarming without stooping to the level of attacks and threats or efforts to silence or gag the other. While the ways to achieve this is content for another article, I hope that with 2020 rolling in, we consider what we are actually enabling, and how we present ourselves to the world when we are disgruntled or angry.

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mks_monsters at 6:07PM, Jan. 5, 2020

When it comes to toxic fans and from what I have seen, they are people with serious issues and not because of their hobbies. It all comes from themselves. Something in their lives is missing so they latch onto something to believe it, but when that thing doesn't fit their image of what it should be, they go down the toxic road. I've met fans who went as far as insulting authors because they didn't make their OTP happen and others fight for the right to socially "own" a character by asking their friends to never use them in fanworks. I think toxic fans can change, but only if they are willing to face the real source of their problems.

PaulEberhardt at 5:15AM, Jan. 5, 2020

A couple of years ago or so I'd have dismissed much of this by speculating on how many of these haters would still have the courage to say any of these terrible things when actually facing those people they threaten. I'd have said that it could even be seen as a kind of compliment as it shows that your stuff matters to many people - one way or another (As in the old Polish proverb "Displeasing bad people is as good as praise.") Nowadays I'm much more worried, seeing how these things can escalate. I was recently told a bit about how algorithms in social media are designed to put those things to the fore that are most likely to grip people emotionally and then calculated that trolls showering everyone with abuse do it best (among others), starting kind of a downward spiral of extremes, including extreme overreactions to movies. No idea if it really works that way, but it's a disquieting thought when more and more people clearly pick up on these extremes for real.

bravo1102 at 8:22AM, Jan. 4, 2020

But then there's ancient Roman and Byzantine history about rabid fan bases rioting over gladiators and chariot racers. Bread and circuses. We've been here before. The public doesn't have to worry about bread so now they can obsess about the circus, whether it's the plight of elephants or killing off a character in a story. If there had been social media in 1977, we would have seen all the same directed at Lucas for killing Obi-wan. Lucas did receive hate letters back in the day.

bravo1102 at 8:18AM, Jan. 4, 2020

The gif is from Misery, a movie from 1990. Stephen King was writing about his most rabid fans and the threats he had gotten from them about his work. Writers and film makers pretty much called this one as far back as the 1970s and 80s in such films as Rollerball and Robocop and even They Live. Hyped media can breed a rabid fan base that will get violent. And they have social media to vent on so everyone can read them instead of just creators and policemen investigating stalkers and death threats. This is obsessive compulsive behavior that the media have been playing with and now they're worried they're going to get burned. There's an old Tom Hanks movies about D&D where his character takes it all too seriously like any rabid fan and threatens the lives of his group. Overreaction to a simple game and then you look at social media and the movie was tame by comparison because it talked about one nut as opposed to whole bunches of them making threats about trivial things.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 4:36AM, Jan. 4, 2020

It is a sad thing to see how people have become so deprived of their basic sense of community, individuality and reason, only to have it replaced by this insane outrage cultism we've seen across the board throughout the past decade. I can't help but feel that part of it stems from how we are all interminably and overwhelmingly besieged by the negative output and commercial superficiality of todays media. Reporters and pop culture mouthpieces pushing their views onto the public, seemingly designed to trap people in this perpetual loop of anxiety and stress, causing people to become more and more outraged, going from angry reaction posts about films and art to violent threats and personal attacks on film makers and artists among others. All in the name of clicks, views and ad revenue, with absolutely no regard for the long-term effect this has on the mental health of society. I say, let it go. Be aware of what is happening, but don't let it overwhelm you. Don't let these profiteers win.

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