Fan vitriol can get out of control and sometimes even the creators are dragged into the fray. While there are cases of creators ridiculously overreacting to criticism, there are also cases of fan entitlement gone out of control and fans responding to things they don’t like with harassment rather than criticism. This is especially prevalent on the internet, where people believe their actions are less “real”. Under the cover anonymity and not as much accountability, they say and do awful things they would not be able to do face-to-face.
Many creators want to have fun and interact with their fans, and be accessible for discussion and questions. Many actors and other professionals want to do the same. But because of horrible fan behavior, creators are driven off of social media and we no longer get to enjoy that access.
I’m cataloguing these incidents in hopes that at least one person reading who might not have done so before realizes this behavior is unacceptable and has saddening consequences. We as fans need to be better. Creators are also human beings and we need to treat them as such. They don’t owe us themselves. We also need to remember that being online does not make our word and actions less hurtful. Treat creators, actors and all people with respect, whatever problems you have. Call out others you see crossing a line, too.
Lauren Zuke and the Steven Universe Fandom
The recent incident with Lauren Zuke is what prompted me to write this article. Lauren Zuke is a storyboard artist and writer on the wonderful Steven Universe cartoon. She was highly accessible on Twitter and was even the one behind a very fun Twitter account from the point of view of the character Peridot (this character got a Twitter on the show, so it’s pretty metatextual and amusing).
Unfortunately, she got caught in the crossfire of ship wars. She first commented on them in her Twitter saying, “Don’t attack people for liking things, stop it. It’s just really exhausting. Watching young gay people fight other young gay people over a show is heartbreaking. I hope you can see that we are trying to create something that will reach many different people, not separate them. And that’s my personal opinion that won’t change anything, see ya!”
One of the biggest ship wars, and likely the one Lauren was commenting on, was the fight between those who shipped the characters Peridot and Lapis Lazuli and those who shipped Peridot and Amethyst. (“Lapidot” vs “Amedot” shippers, to shorten it.) She ended up getting personally dragged in when she worked on an episode that showed Lapis and Peridot had bonded and were having fun living together. Zuke had previously done a lot of art of the two characters together. Fans therefore accused her of “favoring” the Lapidot ship and even “queerbaiting.”
Lapis Lazuli (l) and Peridot (r)
“Queerbaiting” refers to when a gay relationship is teased in order to keep queer fans interested, but creators never actually deliver. To be clear, queerbaiting is not a term that should apply to shows that already have tons of queer representation, which Steven Universe has. It’s been groundbreaking in openly depicting relationships between feminine-presenting characters positively.
Queerbaiting is when characters are repeatedly put into intimate, sexy situations together but then the show will dismiss it and maintain the characters are still straight. It’s when characters are joked about as being gay by other characters or mistaken for gay incredibly often, only to have the characters vehemently deny it and never actually deliver on representation. It deliberately gets queer fans’ hopes up and then reduces queerness to a punchline. It happens in shows that have little-to-no gay characters.
It is NOT any depiction of a positive relationship between characters of the same gender. And it’s certainly not favoring one queer ship over another queer ship. It’s also not something to call a relationship that’s still developing. With Steven Universe’s track record, Peridot and Lapis may even enter a relationship, but it would be unrealistic for that to happen instantly. Especially considering Lapis is still recovering from an abusive relationship.
Also creators can’t “favor ships”. They are CREATORS, not shippers, it’s up to them what romance to write.
And of course, Lauren Zuke is a gay woman, so accusing her of queerbaiting or policing which gay relationships she likes is ridiculous.
So Lauren Zuke left Twitter, with this to say:
It makes me sad that a creator on one of the most inclusive shows on television was driven away by the same people who claim to want inclusiveness. This is not the way.Advertisement
Sean Murray and No Man's Sky Fandom
Earlier this year, both the creator and the writer of the video game No Man’s Sky reported getting death threats over a simple two month delay in releasing the game. Creator Sean Murray said that “Hello Games looks like the house from Home Alone now” in response. Even the guy who wrote the Kotaku article reporting the game’s delay received threats.
Leslie Jones and Ghostbusters Fandom
A while back I wrote an article outlining the racist harassment Leslie Jones received merely for appearing in the 2016 Ghostbusters movie. It was sick stuff, ranging from comparing her to apes to mocking her about her dead family members. One person even faked homophobic and anti-semitic tweets in order to frame her. Jones eventually left Twitter in tears.
Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse since then. Jones eventually returned to Twitter in order to liveblog the Olympics, which ticked someone off enough to commit a felony. Leslie Jones’ website was hacked by people who posted private documents, including her passport, address and explicit photos. They placed an ape as the header of her website, to make their racist intentions clear. The FBI is currently investigating this criminal act.
It doesn’t matter whether you liked the 2016 Ghostbusters or whether you even like Leslie Jones. This sort of behavior is disgusting and it’s no coincidence that Jones is being singled out for it- rather than her white co-stars, or the director. This shows something deeply broken in our society and especially internet culture. If the people doing this did it because of their “love” of Ghostbusters, they never really loved the franchise, because they are willing to poison the community around it with hatred. I hope, regardless of personal feelings, everyone will take a stand against this sort of thing and support Jones during this terrible time.
Tom Hiddleston and Marvel Cinematic Universe Fandom
Tom Hiddleston, whose popularity skyrocketed after he took on the role of Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was previously extremely active on Twitter and interacted with his fans incredibly often. However, fan behavior crossed the line one too many times. There were several incidents: Hiddleston was linked to sexual fanart of himself many times, the location of his home was posted online, fans began stalking him en masse, a fan posed as someone he worked with in order to meet one and any woman he photographed with received death threats. Hiddleston distanced himself from fandom after this and now his Twitter account is updated much less often with generic things and he rarely takes pictures with fans anymore.
Bradley James, Angel Coulby and Merlin Fandom
Bradley James of the Merlin TV show temporarily left his Twitter when fans harassed his girlfriend and his co-star Angel Coulby. His girlfriend deactivated her Twitter and James now tweets far less often. Rabid shippers also ironically ruined any change of the male-costars they shipped having a photoshoot together when they inundated the event organizer of a photoshoot between James and Coulby with derisive tweets.
Jennifer Hepler and Dragon Age fandom
BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler was targeted with disgusting behavior by Dragon Age fans, including homophobes who held her responsible for the games’ gay content. She was accused of being “the cancer that was killing BioWare”. She was driven off Twitter for good by threats to kill her children
Daisy Ridley and Star Wars fandom
Recently, Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in The Force Awakens, was driven off Instagram. This was due to an innocuous statement she made about wanting tragic mass shootings to end. You think “I’m against murder” would be fairly uncontroversial, but a raging gun control debate erupted in the comments and Daisy Ridley and her work on Star Wars was dragged into it. “Says the woman who kills people with guns in movies. Such hypocrisy in Hollywood. Just shut up, Ridley, and make another Star Wars movie,” said one fan. So Ridley decided Instagram was too much trouble and her co-star John Boyega supported her in the decision.
Bryan Cogman and Game of Thrones fandom
Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman left Twitter after one too many insulting comments, saying fans would either rant at him about what they didn’t like or “worse, insult me and my bosses”. He decided the negativity ran the risk of actually affecting his work. He seems to have returned since then though.