Sense the SDCC thing, I've been seeing a lot of art and fics that are dragging Kara/Supergirl. Like I get that some people are upset at the actors but the characters have nothing to do with any of this. I started watching the show because I read the comics when I was a kid, I just loved Supergirl as a hero. It's really kind of upsetting. They're treating a character like shit because they don't like something the person who portrays them did.
So this is a long dissection of the current Supergirl fan behavior, but if you’ve been wondering what the hell is going on, you might be interested in reading these concepts.
I understand why you’re upset. I am too, because Kara is such a wonderful character. I don’t think I’ve ever liked a character as much as her.
But there are two things you should realize when seeing this:
1. They never really cared about Kara to being with. Your loved Kara-focused content isn’t changing or leaving, because these people were not making the Kara content. They were likely initially making Supercorp Lena-focused content.
2. It’s not even about her.
I think what a lot of people who are newly joining this SDCC homophobia discussion are missing is that a lot of the most vicious backlash is not from people who are uniquely upset over this issue (though there are certainly people who are- and understandably) but from people who have had consistently overzealous reactions of hate toward actors and characters alike, save their fave (pretty much Katie Mcgrath/Lena Luthor).
On tumblr, and very noticeably in this fandom, there are sections of fans who seem to genuinely enjoy hating things. It’s a sport.
They’re having fun sending the most hurtful things they can think of to actors, and are the quickest to begin making vicious memes and jokes surrounding a negative event, before there has been a consensus within the community of how bad the “sin” was.
The “punishment” begins before the jury is out, and trying to defend those in the situation feels like trying to put a bullet back into a gun after it’s been fired.
(Maybe it’s more like stepping in front of a bullet, because once these few have decided that the target is guilty, they won’t stop, and anyone who disagrees with them is guilty, too. Blogs and actors alike.)
This is partially why my discussion of the SDCC event had a “are they homophobic” slant (other then that I believe the nature of the event itself- if it was homophobic- hinges on the feeling behind the words, unlike most other instances of homophobia. It’s complicated and some people understandably disagree so far, but it’s really how I see it and I’ll be talking more about it a little later in different posts).
People started calling Melissa and Jeremy homophobic right away. Started targeting Kara as a character. Started “spite shipping” Lena and Reign.
Or alternative to these options- immediately fan re-casted Kara as someone else to still be able to ship Supercorp.
From where I stand, if you can so easily let go of this characterization of Kara, you never really cared about her as a character to begin with. If you don’t know that this was The™ person to play Kara Danvers, you’re likely more invested in the role she plays for Lena than for her as herself.
And regardless of gender, I am uninterested in ships in which one character exists for the sake of another. (Lena existing purely for the sake of Kara’s development squicks me, too)
Recasting a woc as Kara doesn’t sit well with me either, for that reason. It’s a similar concept to how Maggie must exist as her own complex and valued person, apart from Alex, because she is a character of color.
I can’t really read the minds of these people, and I guess I could be wrong, but it’s hard for me to imagine actual Kara fans recasting her in this way.
Essentially, a lot of these people, or at least a very vocal minority, are so quick to accept that something horrible has happened because they want an excuse to hate them.
They like it.
Maybe it’s because they’re upset with the way society is and want someone to suffer for it. Maybe it’s because they have unresolved anger in their lives.
But as it stands, it appears as if these people are using moral rightness and social activism as an excuse to be as mean as they want.
And like @youngbloodbuzz said in the link above, you start to look at their past behaviors in a new light. Were they genuinely upset at characters? Actors? Did they really feel like a travesty was occurring? That someone needed protecting?
Or were they just looking for reasons to call someone a “stupid cunt”?
It’s like they’re genuinely thinking, “It’s okay for me to make fun of someone’s physical appearance, call them intense names, make memes about how horrible they are innately, and send them death threats because they said something problematic once that a lot of people will hear.”
Sometimes they’ll call it “coping”, and maybe some people truly believe that makes it okay. But coping mechanisms are not above reproach.
If I hurt someone because I’m upset about something- even if I hurt someone because they did something wrong- it doesn’t erase the fact that I hurt them. We are still responsible to how we react to bad situations. We are still responsible for not reacting in an overly inflated way.
Sometimes people will focus on how those that they’re attacking have more of a responsibility to be good people. That they are but mere bloggers, screaming into the void. They can’t possibly be accountable for how they behave.
“I’m tired of talking about how bad the fans are, we should be focusing on what they did wrong!”
It creates an atmosphere in which an honest mistake from a well known person is much more crucifiable than the purposeful cruelty of the fans. We’re discouraged from criticizing popular blogs because the person they’re attacking has a wider audience and larger consequences for mistakes, as if popular bloggers don’t reach and influence thousands of people and as if we aren’t allowed to shape the way our own community functions.
Meanwhile, people who genuinely value morality and social activism fall prey to this thinking. They’ll even join in on the action, because they think it’s a moral act.
Rebellion, somehow. Righteous fire.
It’s a twisted mindset that spreads because people are afraid to be on the wrong side of morality.
Even people who really think the reaction is “too far” are quiet about it because they agree with the fact that what the offending celebrity did was wrong, and see that the level of vitriol for them now is overwhelming.
This is how I imagine that people who believe Melissa and Jeremy’s words to be homophobic but who do not think a couple of mistakes makes someone pure evil are relating to the current tumblr dialogue:
“Wow this thing was homophobic!”
“Huh, yeah, I agree. Maybe not intentionally, but yeah.”
“That means this person is homophobic!”
“Uh, well, not sure I’d go that far-”
“Oh and look at this other somewhat problematic thing they did a while ago”
“Hmm well that’s bad, but not everyone outside of social activism gets that that’s a bad thing, so I can see-”
“Wow did you hear that this person also has an opinion about the show that I disagree with! What the fuck is wrong with them?”
“Oh. Well I actually agree with them in that situation but-”
“Omg they think that their character is like this! Do they know them at all??? What kind of terrible actor doesn’t know their character?”
“Well that’s a pretty common way that people are reading this character. Just because you-”
“Here’s some conjecture about their personal life that I imagine happened that paints them in a bad light.”
“Well, you don’t know that, but either way you shouldn’t be diving into their personal-”
“Oh and here’s a totally real story from an anon about someone they know who knew this person in the past and says they were a jerk at this one point-”
And it becomes too much. If you don’t really love the actor, really love their character, you either extract yourself from the group or you ignore the opinions you disagree with.
It becomes quite clear that these people want to feel this way and won’t be changing any time soon.
And the more there seems to be a consensus about the issue, the less willing people are to speak out, for fear of rejection.
The Spiral of Silence theory is a good way to explain it:
To avoid isolation, people tend to refrain from publicly stating their views on controversial matters when they perceive that doing so would attract criticism, scorn, laughter, or other signs of disapproval.
Conversely, those who sense that their opinions will meet with approval tend to voice them fearlessly and at times vociferously.
Indeed, speaking out in such a way tends to enhance the threat of isolation faced by supporters of the opposing position, reinforcing their sense of being alone.
Thus a spiraling process begins, the dominant camp becoming ever louder and more self-confident while the other camp becomes increasingly silent.
Importantly, the spiral of silence occurs only in connection with controversial issues that have a strong moral component. What triggers a person’s fear of isolation is the belief that others will consider him or her not merely mistaken but morally bad. Accordingly, issues that lack a moral component or on which there is general consensus leave no room for a spiral of silence.
Additionally, I believe that if someone does speak out against the (perceived) majority, it is most likely to be someone who is very strongly opposing of it.
A person who believes “It isn’t homophobic at all! They are innocent!” is more likely to voice their disagreements than “Okay I agree with your assessment of the situation but I think maybe we’re being too harsh…”
So the “minority”- who could technically very well be the quiet majority (people with middle-ground opinions just don’t get as many followers)- stays quiet.
They might even change their minds to agree with the “majority”, over time.
Believing that the mindset of the group that you belong to is wrong is psychologically uncomfortable, so it is not uncommon for someone to try to adjust their thinking to fit those they feel connected to.
So, eventually, the only people who are speaking at all are those “majorities” who hate these people. Or those who act like they do for notes.
And then this thinking escalates amongst those still talking about it (remember: because it’s fun for them and they want to milk it for as long as possible) and it quickly translates to hating their character, once they’ve temporarily run out of material to be angry with the actor for.
So, back to your concern, how long until, “it’s hard to look at Melissa as Kara right now, because of how I fear she might feel about gay people” becomes something like “Mon-El is abusive, but Kara can choke so whatever” ?
(And on that note, one should consider how much they really wanted to protect Kara Danvers’ characterization from Mon-El’s influence, and how much was just a part of their hate-hobby.)
Maybe it won’t go that far. I hope it doesn’t. I hope people come to their senses about this.
But it’s escalated even since yesterday, when I started making this post. The language being used to describe Melissa when she is speaking normally, about normal things that some people have a difference of opinion on, is abhorrent.
So if you’re just trying to enjoy fandom in a peaceful and creative way, I encourage you to watch how the people you interact with react when something negative happens.
Are they disheartened? Crushed? Are they considering leaving the show and it’s fandom? Writing serious essays about how they’re hurt?
…Or do they come alive?
Are they incredibly angry, and then making jokes immediately? Memes and edits and creative content more so than they do on a peaceful day? Do you get the sense that they aren’t going anywhere, for a long time, even though they don’t seem to enjoy anything about the show?
Then you might be better off unfollowing them.
Of course, not everyone who makes a joke about negative things is thus enjoying it. It makes people feel better to make light of situations as well as to express anger, and doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re drama-seeking.
And sometimes people slip into the mob more than they would like to have, retrospectively. Say cruel things that they regret later.
It happens, and tumblr can be a persuasive and pervasive place.
If you follow someone who initially reblogs some slightly overly hateful things, but who then backs off after the first wave, they probably aren’t the kind of person who is fueled by anger.
I’ve seen a lot of people I considered to be level-headed get wrapped up in overly aggressive, black and white thinking during the initial reaction to events.
But then sometimes, a couple of weeks later, they’ll post a tentative “Anyone else still wanna kinda like this thing, even though we said it was bad before?” and they’ll get enough approval via reblogs to feel like it’s okay to go back to normal.
Some blogs quietly sort themselves out, in the end.
And if you’re one of those people who goes overboard occasionally, I get it.
You’re hurt and you didn’t realize that the basis for the fan reaction that you were involved in was morally shallow. That the people you were supporting were not righteously furious, but using righteousness as an excuse to be furious.
But remember the message here: people make mistakes. It’s the patterns that really tell you who they are.
And I think we can be better. Have better patterns, as a group.
In the end, I encourage you to point out when a reaction is too harsh, toward anyone. Even if it’s difficult. Even if you agree that what the person did was pretty bad.
Agreeing that “black and white thinking” is bad can feel like you’re lowering your standards for morality. But I promise, you can still value the things that you value and loathe the things that go against it, without condemning someone’s entire personhood based on a mistake or a handful of mistakes regarding those things.
Even big mistakes.
People are complicated. We are all made up of really good things and really bad things.
It’s easy to believe that someone is wholly bad when they screw up.
The hard part, the part that will ultimately ground you and help you mature, is realizing that someone can have some really bad parts within them and still be good people. (I encourage you to remember that when thinking about yourself, as well.)
The trick is recognizing the difference between when people are making honest mistakes that unintentionally hurt people, and when they’re willfully behaving a certain way because they want to hurt people (or don’t care that they will).
And further, between when people are lashing out because they’re hurt and when people are inventing hurt to be able to lash out.
These distinctions will help you realize who you can guide or trust to work their issues out on their own when they slip up, and who you should distance yourself from.
Some very vocal portions of the fandom are, unfortunately, the latter.