For those of you who read this blog, you know that I almost always stick to TV talk. Nothing too deep and nothing too controversial, except maybe my stance as an anti-shipper. :-P I don't usually approach heavy topics, but today I was made aware of a popular fan artist named Euclase who hid her pictures from Tumblr and Deviant Art because she was being harrassed online. For the record, Euclase is one of the most talented artists I have ever seen online. So much so that she takes fan art to another level, creating digital art that looks so real many swear they are photographs. If you have not seen her work, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It's that good. But this isn't an article about the joys of good fan art. This is about bullying. In fact, it really isn't about Euclase at all.
When I first heard that she had left, I was curious as to why and so being a librarian I felt the need to research. What I found was the nasty trend of anonymous comments, which to be honest I do not get. If you feel passionately enough about something to join the discussion, then why hide behind anonymous. Stand up. Join the conversation. I have been in online fandom long enough to know that a lot of trolls go by Anonymous, and let me make clear that trolls are largely sociopaths trying to get their kicks by making other people miserable. I have no place for trolls and I am sorry to everyone who feels their sting. Now since Euclase removed everything on her accounts, I could not see what caused her to need to take a break. It was clear, however, that some people were questioning her authenticity, claiming that instead of actually drawing her art digitally she was in fact manipulating photos. It seems to be an accusation she was barraged with for quite some time even though she had many items posted in which she showed her process step by step. I have no doubt that many of these anonymous commenters were indeed trolls and bullies and no one deserves to have to deal with that. I too feel bad for what Euclase went through.
But here's the part no one seems to talk about which can be equally as bad. In my research I also came across people who claimed to be bullied by the same fans that poured out their rage at Euclase being driven from the internet. (UPDATE - She did post that she was just taking a break a little while ago.) From their perspective, they posted on her pages to discuss different perspectives on art or to ask questions or clarification. Again I haven't seen the pages so I have no way to know if they came off as rude or hostile. They might have. All I know is that more than one person felt like they were being attacked by other fans for what they said. Now please let me make it clear that no one can be held responsible for what their fans do or don't do. After all, you can't blame Jody Foster for John Hinckley's obsession, and yes, I know that's an extreme example. I have zero interest in adding to the pain Euclase has already suffered nor is anyone justified in harrassing her. However, I do think it is a good time to revisit the flip side of fandom again, which far too often wounds.
Let's face it, with social media in its heyday we all feel a little closer to our favorite celebs. We learn about their lives in real time which we never could have before and we show our love to them on a regular basis. The role of fan has become in many ways our second, non-paid job and we love it. As the bond between celebrity and fan gets closer, we tend to consider them part of our family and their successes become our successes, their hurts our hurts. It's a heady, passionate thing to be part of a fandom and in a lot of ways it can bring joy. Right until it brings pain, sometimes to the point of depression. When a fandom turns on you, watch out.
Sometimes fans mistakenly feel that in order to really be fans they need to rush to defend their favorite celebrity's honor. We've probably all done it if the girls in my fourth class a decade and a half ago are any example. I still remember the tears when another round of "Which one is better, Backstreet Boys or 'NSYNC?" broke out. That passion that unites us and inspires great creativity also comes with a dark side that can get out of control quickly and cause more damamge in its wake than the precipitating event could ever have done. Fandoms lash out over perceived hurts that can be frightening in its intensity and volume. With the ease of social media, we can garner huge legions of other fans to swoop down and decimate anyone who has the audacity to even look at our favorite celebrity sidewise or yikes, offer an opinion that is not the most flattering. I'll say it again. I love Jensen Ackles but Devour sucks out loud from all standpoints. And yes, that comment has caused me flack in the Supernatural fandom before. It's not the only time I've been hit hard by the SPN fandom either.
A couple of years ago, Misha Collins tweeted out a blog post written by someone who was seated next to him on an airplane. In it he talked about how Misha and I want to say Sebastian Roche (I could be wrong) received special attention from the flight attendants because they knew of Supernatural. He didn't say anyting negative about Misha or Sebastian. In fact he mentioned a couple of times what great guys they were. He was merely commenting on how society treats people differently. Almost as soon as Misha posted it, the blog got countless hits. Lots of SPN viewers, including celebrity fan S. E. Hinton, retweeted it and many spent their time mocking the man and his blog. When I tweeted that the man had said nothing negative about Misha or Sebastian and that people were being far too hard on him (bullying him to be honest), many of those people turned on me. It wasn't the first time I had experienced the negative side of fandom, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth and made me twice as wary of my so-called SPN family than I had been before it. A rabid fandom that strikes without thinking, without objectivity, without stopping to consider the consequences...a fandom that reacts solely on instinct is terrifying and there is nothing good about that.
Now I'm not saying that anything like that happened here or that it will when Euclase's accounts re-open. I am for sure not saying that we should stand back and let people bully someone off the internet. What happened to Euclase cannot be tolerated anymore. What I am saying is that before we post that nasty response or harangue someone on Tumblr, we need to step away from our devices and breathe. We need to gain perspective and think about how we respond. Think if we are only getting one side of the story or if we are reading more into someone's comments than they mean. If not, we are in danger of becoming the very bullies we are trying to combat. Intentions are not always clear on the internet. A different opinion doesn't always mean disrespect. When in doubt, take the high road and seek to understand. For sometimes in our rush to defend those we love, we steamroll right over people who never meant any harm. Mob mentality never helps and fandom has had far too many casualties already. Cyberbullying goes both ways.