Why Geek Culture Isn’t Responsible For the Leslie Jones Hate

Did you know that geek culture is killing itself?

Or is it just broken? Or wait, is it dead already?

It’s hard to keep track of whether or not people think the community is on the cusp of some new state. There’s so much discussion about fandom’s climate and mainstream integration as of late that parsing out what’s well-informed analysis and what’s that good old, hot-take fire is proving difficult.

What hasn’t been hard to keep track of though is a weird building consensus that modern fandom is in just about every way completely and utterly toxic. It’s a notion that’s resulted in a barrage of cultural criticism and finger pointing that has made even the most casual of fangirls and boys prickle.

The kindle for the heated debate came back in May, after The A.V. Club ran a piece on Ghostbusters, Frozen and what it determined was a sense of fandom entitlement. That was followed up by BirthMoviesDeath.com‘s Devin Faraci piece “Fandom Is Broken” in which he attempts to break down why modern day fan culture passion and critique have somehow cast a shadow over the golden age of the sub-culture. Those were, of course, followed up by a dozen more supportive and not so supportive takes, but then things went quiet, and all seemed okay.

What we perceived as a steady permanent calm, however, was just what comes before another storm. A storm that hit full force yesterday, after yet another incident involving Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones made entertainment critics, like The Guardian’s Ben Child, jump at the chance to tell us all just what’s wrong with fandom culture. Except that, like most of the criticism that came before it, it fails to address one very pertinent thing: fan culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

I’ll be honest, ever since that trailer backlash over Leslie Jones portrayal of Patty Tolan in Sony’s all-female reboot of Ghostbusters, I’ve been excessively attentive to the conversations surrounding the film. The biggest of which has been about the handful of two-minute sneak peeks released by Sony. In them, Patty was deemed a loud, sassy, MTA worker (read: undereducated) black woman who made all the race jokes and did all the physical comedy. For many, the character reeked of everything people hated about Hollywood’s enduring legacy of racist comedy. This racialized controversy was on top of the firestorm of criticisms already lobbed at the film, first for gender-bending its leads and then for the sheer audacity of Paul Feig to reboot a “classic.” This barrage of criticism didn’t let up with time either. In fact, it got worse with each passing day, turning the entire conversation about this movie into a giant circle jerk of negativity.

Then the film came out and low and behold, some people liked it. In fact, some people loved it. That modicum of success was apparently too much for an internet eager to foam at the mouth with their inexplicable hate. Which is how we ended up with Leslie Jones once again having to address social media harassment and critics once again feeling the need to point their finger at fandom culture. In a steady stream of tweets, Jones revealed how “trolls” had berated her with racist and sexist slurs and imagery, going so far as to create fake tweets of her using homophobic slurs, in an effort to make her a target of attack. While celebrities came out in hashtag support of Jones, writers like Child took it upon themselves to tell us that an entitled fandom was back at it again.

The full article was first published at ScreenSpy on July 20, 2016

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