How The Collective Mouth-Off Is About To Change The Presidential Election Process FOREVER!
– For the first time in the history of America, the internet lets EVERYBODY say what they are thinking
– Google and Facebook thought they could control this election but they are getting it flung back in their faces
Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
An unlikely team of supervillains must save the day.
(Photo: Clay Enos)
The biggest civil war of summer was supposed to be Captain America and Iron Man facing off in a superhero popcorn movie. But in the past few months, battle lines have been drawn all over pop culture, with tempers flaring, cooler heads not prevailing and hate spewing everywhere, mostly on the Internet.
There was DC vs. Marvel as fanboys and fangirls hotly debated comic-book franchises. Old-school Ghostbusters fans vs. the new reboot’s female stars. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian vs. Taylor Swift in a he said/she said war involving lyrics and Snapchat videos. Those who were excited to see Suicide Squad vs. the critics who reviled it, with RottenTomatoes.com becoming ground zero for trench warfare.
And then there’s the presidential race, where two weeks of conventions featured political parties calling each other out and cable news coverage showcased surrogates of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sniping at one another 24/7.
“What I see right now is the whole world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, and that’s creating a lot of tension and anger,” says Devin Faraci, editor in chief of film site Birth.Movies.Death. “That stuff leaks out into every possible direction. We’re in that weird position where everything sort of seems terrible and so as a result, people become negative and combative.”
It’s not as much people hating things as it is feverishly defending what they like, figures Mike Ryan, senior entertainment writer for Uproxx.com. “And if something or someone gets in the way of what they’re defending, watch out.”
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) kicked off an unlikely summer of warfare with ‘Captain America: Civil War.’ (Photo: Marvel)
Pop culture is a lightning rod in society, attracting very strong emotions both positive or negative, according to David Schmid, an English professor at University at Buffalo who has written about the overlap between crime and entertainment in his book Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture.
“From Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 to comic books in the 1950s, pop culture has always been a convenient scapegoat, whether it’s about politics and race or just fear of juvenile delinquency from reading comics,” Schmid says.
People have long held strong views, but they didn’t have the venues in which to express it, says Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.
“If you hung out in beauty parlors or barber shops, you probably heard similar kinds of responses, but that’s where they stopped,” Thompson says. “Maybe you might put something on paper and mimeograph it and put it under windshield wipers, or you wrote a letter to editor.”
But the instant gratification — and instant hot take — nature of social media changed all that. “I had a great-uncle who complained about everything, but we were the only ones who heard it,” Thompson adds. “Now everyone would hear about it.”
The love/hate relationship between theater crowds and movie critics has evolved similarly. Loyalists took it personally when scathing reviews piled on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad before they were able to see the movies themselves.
Filmgoers want objectivity in criticism, though their definition of it “always means ‘my opinion,’ ” Faraci says. “They believe they’re coming from the sole rational spot on Earth and anyone who disagrees with them is inherently irrational.”
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s high-profile race to the White House may have contributed to the current negativity in pop culture. (Photo: Getty Images)
He sees two turning points in the last five years where the conversation on social media became much more negative. Facebook commenters started having to use their real names in 2014 but continued saying “the most heinous stuff,” even with the lack of anonymity. And Twitter evolved from being a peer-to-peer messaging system to more of a global broadcasting medium. “Not every statement is for everybody, but the retweet button now allows you to (reach) people well beyond your own crowd or audience.”
Adds Schmid: “You start out using social media and down the line you start to feel social media is using you. So you update and you post and you tweet because you feel it’s expected now.”
According to Ryan, the rhetoric is so amped up right now, it trickles down into everything — even fans’ favorite comic-book characters on the big screen.
“DC vs. Marvel has somehow become an Oakland Raiders/Denver Broncos game, even though these movies don’t really compete head to head at the same time,” Ryan says. “But people cheer for them like they cheer for their favorite team.”
Even Suicide Squad director David Ayer got caught up in the rivalry: After a fan shouted “(Expletive) Marvel!” at the movie’s world premiere last week, Ayer repeated the sentiment onstage, though he tweeted a mea culpa soon afterward: “Not cool. Respect for my brother filmmakers.”
It’s a type of tribalism — where some root for Captain America: Civil War, others for Batman v Superman — that disturbs Faraci, a longtime aficionado of both comic companies.
“You have these kids who are really concerned about executives and box office the way I never was,” he says. “It feels like the Cola Wars have come to life and we’re all battling each other on the side of our chosen corporation. Guess what? I can like Superman and Spider-Man equally.”
Old ‘Ghostbusters’ fans took umbrage with the new crew: Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones). (Photo: Hopper Stone)
Fans identifying with music, politics, films and TV isn’t intrinsically bad, Schmid says. The Ghostbusters discussion in particular, around the idea that director Paul Feig’s female-centric reboot would “ruin” fanboys’ childhoods, “enabled a larger conversation to take place about the role of women in superhero movies and in movies in general. What starts off as negative or prejudiced point of view can in the fullness of time become more positive.”
When the movie opened, Feig acknowledged both sides, tweeting, “It’s been quite a ride, gang. Supporters, you rock. Haters, I’ve heard you all. Now let’s all just have fun. We need it.” Yet the negativity reached a boiling point soon after when star Leslie Jones was temporarily forced off Twitter after a deluge of racist tweets.
More recently, breakout star Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: The Force Awakens was chased off Instagram last week by backlash following an anti-gun post.
Before social media, people didn’t really get the chance to be so close “to the people who make the things that we love,” says Alanna Bennett, a BuzzFeed pop culture writer who took a Twitter break after she was harassed for a post proposing ways fans could support the new Ghostbusters movie.
“I think that we’re at a point now where it’s happening more and more … and people of color and especially women of color are disengaging from that when they’re in a very high-profile place.”
Trolls are a major part of the social-media space, which has erased age boundaries as it has grown more popular, according to Faraci. A 14-year-old could be arguing with an adult on the Internet, and the latter would never know it by conversing with a blank Twitter egg avatar.
Kanye West jumped onstage after Taylor Swift won for best female video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo: Christopher Polk, Getty Images)
Grown-ups aren’t above getting into the fray, either — for example, Trump bashing Clinton on Twitter and vice versa, or the ongoing public feud between Team Kimye and Team Swift. After Kardashian released video of Swift giving tacit approval to ugly lyrics mentioning her in West’s Famous, Swift fought back against being called a liar, adding that she “would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I never asked to be part of, since 2009” — the year West infamously interrupted her at the MTV Video Music Awards.
“If celebrities and politicians — who aren’t so very different these days — are constantly taking the negative path, it can feel like the status quo, the way things are done, an acceptable way to act,” says Kate Erbland, film editor at Indiewire.com.
“Every famous person ever has had petty beefs,” Faraci adds. “They just didn’t have the easy access to make those beefs public, and we’re still figuring out the etiquette of this stuff and how to properly use it.
“I don’t think people have gotten any worse. Our ability to immediately go to our worst place has been made easier.”
So is it fixable? Does everybody just need to hug it out?
“Eventually, people might become so sick of this (that) it becomes not cool, something people don’t respect in the marketplace of ideas and emotion,” Thompson says. “But I don’t see that happening in the near future.”
Erbland offers a three-step process to turn our collective frown upside down: “Better movies, better discussion and maybe less time on social media.”
But Faraci contends that if people just realized they were actually talking to other people when they engage on social media, they might not be so mean.
“We’re not just talking to an avatar or a statement,” he says. “We’re talking to a real human being who got up this morning, had breakfast, maybe something bad happened to them, maybe something good happened to them, but they’re living an actual life outside of their opinion on Suicide Squad.”
Contributing: Kelly Lawler and Maria Puente