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Tatiana Maslany and ‘She-Hulk’ Showrunner Jessica Gao Talk Trolling the Trolls

Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk stands in Hulk form, waiting at secretary desk of a production office

The announcement of a Marvel ‘She-Hulk’ series set off a predictable yet still disappointing round of trolling from misogynists online. It’s unsurprising of course, as these neck-beards come out of the woodwork every time a woman-led superhero series or film comes out. There’s the relentless sexist posting online, the review-bombing, and the general manbaby tantrums from trolls who clearly have nothing better to do. The only thing more frustrating than this barrage of misogyny is the mundanity of it: women and other marginalized groups have been taught to not only expect vicious online abuse, but to ignore it and take the high road. Of course, there’s little satisfaction to trolling to trolls, as you’re giving them the attention they desperately crave. But the lack of accountability for online abuse (especially from social media giants who value “free speech” over violent threats online) is still disappointing and demoralizing.

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‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ faces this toxic misogyny head-on by making angry online men Jen’s primary villains. The show functions best as a critique of the daily stream of sexism women face, both super-powered and not. Throughout the first season, Jen takes on workplace sexism, dehumanizing dates, media criticism, and a steady stream of online hate via troll site Intelligencia. The series culminates in a massive slut-shaming attack on Jen and She-Hulk, with the leak of a sex tape. The meta-commentary of vicious sexism both in and outside the show is the work of showrunner Jessica Gao, who discussed the show’s message in an interview with Variety.

“Our writers room opened three years ago. The fact that we were able to predict what the reaction was going to be, what a lot of the trolling comments were going to be, really shows how very tired and unoriginal these trolls are. That really tickled me because the little troll that lives inside of me really loves trolling the trolls,” said Gao.

Series star Tatiana Maslany added, “Jessica Gao is a genius and knows about the culture we’re living in and her position in it when she’s writing these stories about a woman superhero. She knows what that response is going to be. As a cast, it was delightful sending each other these troll responses, like “Oh my god, give them a week and then they’re going to literally see this pop up verbatim in the show and become the villains of the show.” It was thrilling.”

Maslany continued, “Reading the script, it was so true. There’s so much resistance to a woman just existing in that space of superheroes. There’s always going to be that. I sort of anticipated it. It’s why I also feel it’s important. There’s such an entitlement to space held by certain people, and to even exist as She-Hulk is like a fuck-you, and I love that.”

You can stream all of season one of ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ on Disney+.

(via Variety, featured image: Marvel)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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