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About That Boycott: On Star Wars and the Idea of “Feeding The Trolls”

Greetings, lovers of the Zoo. Today, instead of posting a new “Marvelous Women” piece, I’m going to comment on something that’s been on my mind since yesterday…which happens to be the commotion surrounding #BoycottStarWarsVII.

Yup. This is real life. That hashtag happened.

In case you haven’t heard, #BoycottStarWarsVII was trending yesterday, much to the confusion of the general public.

The tag, (which was started by the stereotypical, vitriolic racists you would expect), was trending by noon yesterday after these assholes lamented about the main characters of the upcoming Star Wars movie supporting “White genocide”. Because, apparently, wanting a movie to be as diverse as possible (oy, you know, reflect the world around you), is code for “White genocide”.

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Chet, are you being serious right now? Chet, what the f*ck?

That hyperbolic and racist ass statement aside, it did not take long for the tag to be hijacked by (non-racist) Star Wars fans and general movie-goers alike. Many denounced the tag for its racism and exclusion and pointed out how nonsensical it was that THIS was the reply to any positive shifts in representation. In fact, the tag trended so long that it attracted the attention of people who would usually be apathetic towards Star Wars and many of these people pledged to see the upcoming film in 2015 several times over, just to spite the racists.

After things calmed down a bit, a fair amount of news pieces and think pieces emerged to try to make sense of what happened with #BoycottStarWars. One that particularly caught my eye was Vox’s piece. While they were recalling the events that had happened during the day, Vox commented about how the people who started the tag were just doing it for shiggles and were just trolling to get some type of reaction from “SJWS”.

They later went on to say that the best course of action to take with deplorable individuals like that is to simply “ignore them, block them, and go about your day” and that doing the opposite would essentially be feeding the trolls.

You know, this is a very nice sentiment…if you are not directly affected by the vitriol that is being spewed by said “troll”.

Must be nice.

Refusing to feed the troll is not that easy when you have a PERSONAL stake in what the f*ck the troll is doing. And furthermore, I hate that statement because all it sounds like is a way to let these trolls off the hook.

“Oh, they are generally sh*tty people and they are saying sh*tty things, but you shouldn’t acknowledge that they say sh*tty things because you’d be feeding the troll and that’s what they want”

Que???

Do you understand that what you’re essentially saying is that these people should be allowed to run free and rampant in their aggression? And that I shouldn’t say anything because I would be wasting my time or because it doesn’t matter?

Because let me be the first to tell you right now: it matters. You know why? Because this nonsense is all about power and aggression.

The Daily Dot had a really great write-up about this a couple of years ago that I think is relevant now:

In many online circles, the most common piece of advice is “Don’t feed the troll(s),” which serves as both response to and apology for all kinds of online antagonism.

First of all, “don’t feed the trolls” frames conversations about aggressive online behaviors solely in terms of the aggressor. Even if a person avoids feeding the trolls (and/or person accused of trolling), he or she is still playing into the aggressor’s hands. It’s the aggressor’s game and the aggressor’s rules; the target (I prefer “target” over “victim,” since target establishes that a person has been singled out, but doesn’t imply helplessness) is little more than a plaything.

Even more insidiously, the imperative to not to feed the trolls (again, using that term loosely) places blame for whatever unpleasantness squarely at the target’s feet. If only the target hadn’t fed the trolls, the argument goes, the trolls wouldn’t have done what they did! And really, it’s kind of the target’s fault for doing something stupid on the Internet; maybe next time they’ll think twice before posting/doing/saying that sort of thing. In short, the targets—and not the trolls themselves—are the root cause of the trolls’ behaviors. The ultimate message here being: Don’t get trolled.

This is why I reject the premise “Don’t feed the trolls”: it gives all the power to the troll (or the person accused of trolling) and blames the victim for the aggressor’s actions.

That last line in particular is what I really want to harp on in this piece. Why is there an emphasis on “not feeding the trolls”? Why isn’t there an emphasis “not trolling?” Why is the onus placed on the rest of the reasonable part of the internet? Why aren’t we holding these trolls accountable?

I mean, not only is it very much in-line of victim-blaming behavior, but it lets these assholes off the hook and it creates a culture and an atmosphere where they don’t have to answer for their behavior because “it is what it is”. Frankly, I find that more f*cked up than the common saying that is something like “boys will be boys”. Like, are you really implying that people will be sh*tty and awful anyways so you should just let them be sh*tty because you are too lazy to deal with them and/or change things otherwise?

Because that is surely not a world I want to live in, where we accept things merely because it takes too much energy to change them.

I won’t.

Anyhow, I want to revisit what I mean about having a stake in issues that most likely to be trolled. Like I mentioned earlier, the whole reason that the calls for a boycott happened was because someone somewhere decided that one Black guy was one too many for this movie.

Even though he is not the first or the only Black guy in the series.

Like, I really want to ask these assholes if they’ve ever seen a Star Wars movie. Did y’all really forget about Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), and Lando Christensen (Billy Dee Williams)?

It's almost like y'all forgot what series you were watching. Welp.

It’s almost like y’all forgot what series you were watching. Welp.

Part of me is tickled by this overblown reaction to things being a little less White (and male too. Shoutouts to the new, female lead in the upcoming film). The other part of me is slightly frustrated because it is 2015 and people are still throwing tantrums about this movie being a way to appeal to the “politically correct” police.

Because there could not POSSIBLY be Star Wars fans who are Black or other people of color who relish the opportunity to see themselves on-screen. No. Not at all. It is *obviously* pandering to the “politically correct”.

That’s as succinctly as I can put it tbh.

Honestly, I don’t know how to address that ignorant line of thinking without including a string of curse words. So instead, I’m going to invoke a recent incident that reminds of this “boycott”. To explain, I was struck by the stark similarities between the current brouhaha over the composition of the Star Wars cast and the infamous Deadline piece that was penned by the equally infamous Nellie. In that infamous piece, she lamented the increase of “ethnic casting” (a low-key coded way of saying that the amount of Black people appearing on TV was increasing) and what it meant for White actors.

What’s more, she addressed the positive shift in representation as merely a “trend” and nothing more and implied that there was nothing positive about it.

I’ve got thick skin, so I took that horrendous piece of writing and ripped it to shreds in humorous fashion and went about my day. Not everyone was as willing to “shake it off” though. I mean, can you imagine how it would feel to read that? To read that your race is a “trend” or that the fact seeing more representations of yourself on the small screen (or big screen) is not a good thing because it violates the “norm”…which is not you?

And this is why I can’t get with that “don’t feed the trolls” bullsh*t. I am not in the business of allowing myself or others to be belittled or made invisible because of their race (or basically anything else that can cause one to be marginalized) and any forward thinking or progressive person (be they a nerd like in the case of Star Wars or not) shouldn’t be either.

Nope. This needs to be addressed. It needs to be confronted. All of these -isms and trolls that crop up in these things that we enjoy—these movies, these comics, these TV shows, etc—need to be held accountable and denounced. It is our responsibility as critical fans and consumers to do this, not because it is the “PC” thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do.

So, f*ck “feeding the trolls.”

I say turn the troller into the trolled. Drag them out into the open. Drag these trolls into the light.

And I mean EVERYONE.

Images From: Gifsec.com, Facebook, Tumblr, GeekTyrant.com, Drew Struzan
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7 thoughts on “About That Boycott: On Star Wars and the Idea of “Feeding The Trolls”

  1. The thing is that now this stupid tag has trended, which means more people are getting inflicted with their poison than it would have happened otherwise.

    I agree that it is important to stand up to this particular way of thinking. But I also think that there are better way to do this. Like writing an article which celebrates the diversity in Star Wars without even mentioning those trolls. This way you can drown their opinion without drawing attention directly to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I agree that calling these assholes out is a very tedious job to do because the lot of them thrive on the “controversy”. That said and as you mentioned, it must be done and we have to find better ways to do it.

      Like

  2. I’m glad you didn’t feel the need to show any of the vile tweets accompanying that hashtag. Several websites, in the interest of full disclosure or to be shocking, I guess, decided to display some of those tweets, and most of them did it with such little warning that I’ve been carefully vetting the articles I’m reading.

    Some of them are so vile, they are like an assault to one’s brain. It’s the kind of vitriol one gets when a bunch of racist a**hats are all trying to one up each other with how awful they can get (and I’m getting a little tired of being called everything but a child of God, in the comments sections of places I used to trust.)

    I don’t agree with the idea of throwing any marginalized people under the bus for as you said, “shiggles”. Even if they claim to not be racist (in the backpeddling), they’re doing a pretty d**n good imitation of racism, which is indistinguishable from the real thing. so, yeah. Congratulations on their typing skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That decision was purposeful. While most of the tag was filled with people denouncing this fuckers, the original tweets were so vile that I actually took a nap behind them. It was just too much.

      And I agree. I’ve actually crossed a bunch of sites off my list for not being humane enough to at least warn people before they posted those tweets all over.

      *Le sigh*

      The life of a Blerd, man. It’s interesting, to say the least.

      TL;DR: Fuck racist White nerds.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You might like this, if you haven’t read it already. After reading it, I don’t let racism/sexism pass. I do my best at the Socratic method, so that I’m not fighting them tooth and nail, or putting words in their mouths, which sets me up for ad hominems. I also try to write for the audience, rather than to the actual person I’m addressing – chances are, I’ll never change his or her mind, but I might be able to reach the hearts and minds of all the people who read comments, but would never jump in and talk themselves. I hope it’s a good method. I don’t know how to tell, honestly.

    http://jezebel.com/dont-ignore-the-trolls-feed-them-until-they-explode-977453815

    Liked by 1 person

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