Skip to main content

The Digital Age Has Changed How We Understand ‘Controversy’

Controversy has become a synonym for “free publicity.”

You can’t spit on the internet without stumbling into controversy. Basically, in this day and age, “controversy” means that somebody said or did a bad, bad thing to someone else, and therefore they should be collectively shamed. J.K. Rowling has received well-deserved flak for being transphobic, and multiple men in the entertainment business have gotten into hot water for sexual misconduct.

Sometimes, however, the controversy is unwarranted. Remember the Green M&M fiasco? I do. Basically, what happened was this: The M&Ms designers gave the previously high-heeled Green M&M some more comfortable footwear and the internet LOST IT. Tucker Carlson himself railed against the decision, incensed that he no longer wanted to f—k an animated piece of chocolate. On the other side of the aisle, there was similar ire, with some saying that the Green M&M was being slut-shamed. But guess what? I’m sure everyone went out and bought M&M’s that day. Even if they bought them to bury them, piss on them, or burn them, that money still changed hands.

In the purest sense, the word “controversy” is defined as a “disagreement, typically when prolonged, heated, and public.”

There is no problem with internet controversy, per se. In our ugly world, controversy is unavoidable. Bad people do bad things, have done so since the dawn of time, and will continue to do so until the lights go out for good. The problem is with which controversies we choose to focus our attention on. The unjustified war in Ukraine is obviously more pressing than a chocolate candy wardrobe change-up, but sometimes I can’t help but feel that we as netizens give them equal weight. I’m guilty of it, too. Hell, I wrote a whole article about the M&M debacle. Will anything change in the future? I doubt it.

If there’s one thing the internet craves more than anything, it’s the heady combination of outrage and novelty. And with an infinite amount of outrageous new things happening daily on Earth, we’re not gonna break our addiction any time soon.

(featured image: Getty Images)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.