There’s nothing wrong with being a passionate fan of something.
It’s fine (and even quite nice) to feel a sense of ownership over creations that help get you through your everyday life.
But what’s not okay is when that sense of ownership turns toxic, causing fans to lash out at directors, writers or cast-members of their favourite show or movie.
As Star Wars actor Ahmed Best’s recent brave confession proves, that toxicity can have tragic consequences in the real world, which can threaten lives and livelihoods.
20 years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today. 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. Would this be a good story for my solo show? Lemme know. pic.twitter.com/NvVnImoJ7N
— Ahmed BEst (@ahmedbest) July 3, 2018
Here’s a collection of some of the worst fandoms in entertainment. We should make it clear that there are nice people in all of the following groups, but it only takes one bad apple to start a hate campaign and ruin the life of a totally innocent person.
Star Wars fans made Jake Lloyd’s life hellish through high school and into college (by the actor’s own admission), for the crime of leading The Phantom Menace, a film he was cast in at play Anakin Skywalker when he was just 10 years old. The bullying led the actor to quit acting, and the stress may have contributed to a schizophrenia diagnosis in 2015.
When asked if he’d use force powers on any of his antagonists, he replied, “I wouldn’t, because I know that asshole’s life is worse that I can make it.”
With recent hate campaigns against Rian Johnson, Daisy Ridley, and Kelly Marie Tran (Tran left Instagram to get away from her aggressors) continuing months after the release of The Last Jedi, let’s hope we don’t see further disturbing consequences from fan actions. This is supposed to be a series of family films about the battle between good and evil, not an actual battle between creators and fans.
Anyone thinks this is a new phenomenon though should remember what happened to George Lucas. After he sold Lucasfilm to Disney he explained, “You go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized. And it’s not much fun. You can’t experiment.”
The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s sequel to Batman Begins was a huge hit with fans and critics alike when it was released in 2008, earning an impressive 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating. So when its sequel, the trilogy topping The Dark Knight Rises, arrived in 2012 fans were hoping it would earn a perfect 100% rating.
When veteran film critic Marshall Fine published his negative review of Nolan’s superhero film on his blog Hollywood and Fine, he became the first critic to dent the film’s chance of a perfect rating.
Fans piled on to Fine’s blog, crashing his servers, and he had to request Rotten Tomatoes take his review off its aggregator while he fixed his site. He was also bombarded with vitriolic comments, including many death threats, which led RT to suspend the comments on the films. The film ended up with a respectable 87% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
25 years after the release of Ghostbusters II, and decades of development hell, a new Ghostbusters film was finally green-lit in 2014. Great news for fans of the franchise, right? WRONG.
A certain corner of the fanbase were furious that Sony Pictures had decided to reboot the series with an all-female cast, and they went after everyone involved with the film, including the film’s writer-director Paul Feig. One cast member who seemed to bear the brunt of the abuse though, was SNL star Leslie Jones, who played Patty Tolan.
Jones briefly quit Twitter when the film was released in July 2016 after receiving vile racist abuse, but her attackers went one step further in September that year. Trolls hacked her iCloud account, and then her personal website where they published nude photos of the star as well as pictures of her driving licence and passport. She later responded to the hack in the best way possible, with a hilarious SNL segment.
Sometimes fandoms get so angry, they can accidentally stop the show they love from being made. It looks like that might be what’s happened to Sherlock, with Martin Freeman expressing his annoyance with fan expectations putting him off returning to the show, because it’s, “not fun anymore.”
Benedict Cumberbatch responded. “It’s the responsibility of the storytellers to manage that, really,” he said.
“And I think, you know, it’s pretty weak to blame that on fans. You’re either along for the ride or not, and I think to be kowtowing would, in some cases, disappoint fans – so…I don’t think it can all rest on that.
“I think there are more people responsible than the people receiving what you’re working on.”
Oof, things just got pretty awkward at 221b Baker Street.
Rick & Morty
Considering it’s a really smart show that uses actual science to create silly and fun episodes about a nervous boy and his mad / drunk uncle, Rick & Morty‘s fans sure are mean.
During the most recent season, fans took it upon themselves to attack a couple of the show’s women writers, because they didn’t like their episodes (and, on a deeper level, didn’t like the perceived ‘forced diversity’ that brought women onto the show in the first place). They did this by ‘doxxing’ the writers, revealing their personal information (including their home addresses) online.
Creator Dan Harmon was not happy about the situation.
“These knobs, that want to protect the content they think they own — and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender,” Harmon said.
“It’s offensive to me as someone who was born male and white, and still works way harder than them, that there’s some white male [fan out there] trying to further some creepy agenda by ‘protecting’ my work.”
“I’ve made no bones about the fact that I loathe these people. It f—ing 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. You can’t just insist that everybody who watches your show get their head on straight.”
Breaking Bad’s creators and cast alike were shocked by fan reaction to Anna Gunn following her portrayal of Skyler on the show – with the actress being abused online and at Q&As, with the most frequent criticism against her was that she was a ‘bitch’ for criticising Walter, that he was trying to provide for his family, only for Skyler to get in the way of all the meth dealing and murder.
“It was very bizarre and confusing to us all,” Gunn said. “It was a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles, and then honestly, it was the brilliance of the construct of the show. People did find a hero in Walt, but they wanted so much to connect with him so viscerally that to see the person who often was his antagonist – therefore the show’s antagonist in a way – they felt like she was in the way of him doing whatever he wanted to do, and that he should be allowed to do what he wanted to do.”
The fan backlash even leaked into the show, during the final conversation between Walter and Skyler. When Skyler said, “If I have to hear one more time that you did this for the family,” she might as well have been talking to the fans.
Walt interrupted her by admitting, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it,” making it perfectly clear who the show’s actual bad guy was.
Steven Universe is a kids show about a young boy who lives with a bunch of magical aliens. It’s been praised for its diverse cast of characters, which includes strong LGBT representation in the form of two lead lesbian characters. It’s basically about love.
Sadly, some of the show’s fans aren’t all about love, with a toxic minority giving the Steven Universe fandom a fairly horrendous reputation. In 2015, a group of fans bullied a young fan-artist (Tumblr user Zamii070) to such an extent she attempted suicide.
Angry fans saw her art as being ‘racist’ and ‘fat-shaming’ and sent multiple rape and death threats against the teen artist. Thankfully, the girl’s parents were alerted when Zamii070 announced on Twitter that she was “going to sleep forever” and they managed to get her to hospital in time to save her life.
Steven Universe’s creators have repeatedly reached out to the negative section of the fandom, making statements on twitter in an attempt to keep the peace.
Fanartists can create whatever art they want & everyone has the freedom to criticize it for any reason. However, bullying is not criticism.
— ian jq (@ianjq) October 28, 2015
However, even the show’s staff aren’t safe, with one storyboard artist (Lauren Zuke) quitting twitter because the fandom was too intense.
im catching up on the lauren zuke discourse now and this is honestly just rly sad and upsetting pic.twitter.com/jNlf7PpATI
— your Chad cousin skye (@arcordo) August 13, 2016