In case you missed it over the weekend, something really great happened. Writer/director Kevin Smith asked his fans to “lose the f*$#ing misogyny.” Unfortunately, something bad had to happen first.
Just the other day, we brought you the story of a current shake-up of Netflix titles happening in the next few days. We saw the story on Death and Taxes Mag, which as it turns out, became the center of a kerfuffle on Saturday. While in my piece, I chose to make fun of my own bad taste in movies, Death and Taxes writer Maggie Serota went with: “’Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’” is included in the purge, but absolutely no one will miss that one.”
It’s the kind of throw away joke writers use on the internet on a regular basis. I can’t speak to her intent but as a person who’s written something similar in the past, I can say it probably speaks to her personal opinion on Smith’s film and wasn’t meant as a sweeping review of him personally. So how did this escalate to the point of Smith urging his fans to stop being misogynists?
Smith read a few fans’ tweets about Mashable taking a dig at his work. Turns out they were talking about Serota’s piece on Death and Taxes instead. This led Smith to leave, what seemed to me, a lighthearted, in jest, “Thanks for the free plug, Mags!” comment on her article. He then tweeted out the correct link to the article, tagged Serota, and wrote “Why the jab?”
[Warning: strong language ahead]
Even though he was asking a simple question, even though Serota didn’t write anything violent or harassing toward Smith, a segment of his fanbase decided to attack the writer verbally throwing words like “cunt” her way, and comments like, “put a dick in your mouth.”
A simple, “I disagree with your assessment,” would have sufficed, wouldn’t you say?
But this is the internet. And on the internet many feel free to work out their anger issues on complete strangers. We’ve seen how quickly a simple matter of disagreeing with someone (particularly on the internet, but not always so) can turn into police action-level harassment. And yes, this type of behavior is almost always aimed at women.
I didn’t know Serota, but seeing this play out on my Twitter feed brought back memories. In early 2012 I wrote two opinion pieces on Smith’s forthcoming AMC series, Comic Book Men. One posted before the first episode titled, “Why No Women in Comic Book Men?” and another after I watched the first episode titled, “Comic Book Men Revisited.” My opinions and reviews weren’t personal, they weren’t malicious, but that’s what I received in kind from Smith’s fans and a member of the Comic Book Men cast. All because I didn’t like the show. It was a steady stream of using the “block” button on social media and my editor banning individuals for a few weeks for throwing the same type of misogynist comments at me Serota was getting this weekend.
So in response to this current controversy, I wrote a series of tweets:
It’s so gross seeing someone or something’s fans harassing or turning violent when someone doesn’t like a thing. Writer @maggieserota is currently getting harassed bc she didn’t like one of @ThatKevinSmith‘s creations. I’ve been there myself. Not cool. She didn’t say anything personal about the man yet some of his fans decided to attack *her* personally. It’s, you know, OK to not like a thing. Seeing that kind of over-reactive behavior more and more from fans of all kinds. It’s truly disturbing. Fandom is supposed to be positive.
In this case, a few were of the mind Smith intended for this to happen, he wanted Serota to be attacked in this way. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt. The creator often retweets in such a way that users are spotlighted, plus, I’ve called out people on my own account before. When a follower of mine suggested Smith didn’t want her to be harassed I replied, “You’re probably right. He should tell them to stop instead of apologizing for them.” (he had apologized for several fans after Serota informed him of what was going on.)
And then he did.
In a piece titled, “IF YOU LIKE MY STUFF, THEN YOU LIKE WOMEN,” Smith wrote:
And if you like women, NEVER call them “cunts”. Or get vulgar with them at all. And if you like me or my stuff at all, then NEVER express yourself to ANYONE – woman or man – in misogynistic terms. This is important to me. Even before I was married and had a daughter, this was important to me. The Jay character aside, I’ve always tried to imbue the characters in my flicks with nothing but respect for women. If my movies have made you feel it’s okay to reduce another human being by labeling them a “bitch” or a “cunt”, then I was an even worse filmmaker than I thought.
He continued, “Granted, it wasn’t ALL misogynistic Tweets the author of that article received from my Followers; but if even ONE makes with the woman-hate, then I’ve failed to communicate that I stand for loving women, never hating or debasing them. NEVER. FOR ANY REASON. But ESPECIALLY not for something like a disagreement about a movie. Jesus…”
Sadly, this kind of behavior is status quo on the internet, but Smith’s response is exactly the kind of thing that should be happening more often. While sites like ours, or other folks in the geek community, can express how bad behavior like this is until they are blue in the face, having someone in a position of power (real or perceived) saying it, and saying it loud, has an even greater impact.
It’s the kind of thing we’re hoping to see more of in the new year. We’ve already seen a shift in the comic book world as it pertains to harassment – a serious call to stop the madness. Imagine a scenario where an editor receives a page from an artist or writer in which a female character is being objectified and the editor says, “No. Redo it.” instead of letting it slide by. That’s one of the places making a stand can make a change. Smith’s blog post is another.
Let’s hope everyone was listening.