Why Toxic Fans Are Targeting Female Producers
Star Wars and Marvel are the biggest movie franchises around, basically becoming their own modern mythologies. As such, everyone involved in the creation of content for these franchises has received widespread recognition. But with that recognition, one rising trend has been the harassment, blaming, and general scapegoating of female producers.
Kathleen Kennedy and Victoria Alonso were two of the main producers of the Disney-Era Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have produced some of the highest grossing films of all time. Yet, both women have become main targets of toxic fans.
Women in filmmaking
Kathleen Kennedy and Victoria Alonso were among the highest-ranking female executives in Lucasfilm and Marvel Entertainment—and Kennedy still is, while Alonso was fired earlier this year and has since filed a lawsuit against Disney over it. Alonso had co-produced or executive-produced every project under the MCU umbrella since Iron Man (2008). Kathleen Kennedy produced every live-action Star Wars property from 2014 onwards.
That’s not to say there haven’t been other women in the filmmaking of these franchises; some fans seem quick to forget that Marcia Lucas was the editor for the original Star Wars trilogy, earning an Oscar for her work on the first film.
However, since a lot of the directors only directed one or two Marvel/Star Wars movies, that meant the larger universe was led by the producers, who worked on every piece of media; most people credit Marvel Studios president Kevin Fiege with the MCU’s overall success more than the individual directors (with the exceptions of Winter Soldier/Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame directors the Russo brothers and Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler).
That has also made producers easy targets when the “fans” were disappointed or enraged by the directions their beloved franchises were taking.
The (Anti-)’Woke’ Mentality
There’s also a large group of these toxic fans that blame Kennedy and Alonso for making their favorite fandoms “woke.” But did they, really?
Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Star Wars creator George Lucas would know that he’s never been quiet about his critique of the American military-industrial complex or colonialism/imperialism; Darth Vader basically quoted George Bush at the end of Revenge of the Sith, back when critiquing the Iraq war got you canceled (just ask The Chicks). Marvel Comics debuted the X-Men during the height of the Civil Rights movement.
So what changed?
Honestly, not a lot; these toxic fans, and their complete misunderstanding of the things the love, have always been a staple of Star Wars and Marvel. Some toxic fans harassed Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best to the point that it severely affected his mental health. Ashley Eckstein received a lot of online hate for the early seasons of The Clone Wars.
I would argue that the terminology was the biggest shift for these fans. Using the term “woke” as a blanket pejorative for inclusion has allowed toxic fans to rally behind a simple phrase. They don’t have to worry about what the art is actually saying: If they don’t like it, it’s “woke”; if it’s “woke,” then it’s bad, and it’s the fault
The fact that these women began taking more public roles as the franchises became more diverse made them easy scapegoats. After all, those behind this toxicity have made it clear that they don’t like women, and with Alonso’s attorney pushing back against her firing by saying, “Victoria, a gay Latina who had the courage to criticize Disney, was silenced,” it’s no surprise she’s become a target of some of the most hateful people on the internet.
Ignoring successes, focusing on failures
Another trend has been blaming these producers for failures of these franchises. Fans of The Mandalorian, which has been one of Star Wars’ recent success stories, have often said that this was what the uneven (at best) Star Wars sequel trilogy should have been and blamed Kennedy, apparently not realizing that Kennedy was a producer on the show, as well. So, when Star Wars fails, it’s her fault, but when it succeeds, it’s thanks to someone else?
Kathleen Kennedy has been a producer for decades, working on iconic movies like Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and E.T., but it was only when she began working on the Star Wars sequel trilogy that fans began to take notice of her, and turn on her.
Similarly, Victoria Alonso has been a producer of the MCU since the first Iron Man movie, but after fans grew frustrated with phase 4, they leveled the blame against her, despite the part she played in the franchise getting that far in the first place.
Valid critique vs. bad faith harassment
That’s not to say there aren’t valid critiques of these producers’ work. As President of Physical, Post Production, VFX, and Animation at Marvel Studios, Victoria Alonso seems to have been at least partially responsible for the “Marvel crunch,” which has burdened VFX workers with hard-to-meet deadlines. Although, when Chris Lee at Vulture reported that sources told him Alonso was “singularly responsible for Marvel’s toxic work environment,” The Ringer’s Joanna Robinson said that would be a “gross mischaracterization” based on her own sources and the polar opposite of what she’d heard.
The fact that there is so much bad-faith criticism of these producers and their work makes it genuinely difficult to discern what is and isn’t reasonable critique of their work. Alonso’s firing has seemingly rallied a lot of these toxic fans, who have taken it as a sign that they were right to harass and blame her.
The worst part about this trend is that there’s not really any way to fix it, especially when these fandoms have become so entrenched in their own toxicity that it’s basically a micro-economy. Every day, you get new videos or social media hot takes about how they ruined Star Wars and Marvel. Type in either woman’s name to any social media site, and you’ll probably see rants against these women before you find any actual interviews with them or information about them. It’s an endless feedback loop of shameless pandering.
Even researching for this article has resulted in more of these toxic videos being suggested to me by algorithms. Alonso’s lawsuit may shed some light on the behind-the-scenes issues at Marvel, but many of these fans will continue to bend over backwards to blame her, no matter what. Until we know more, we’ll have to do our best to ignore the noise and try to discern the fact from the fiction when it comes to the messy productions of Marvel and Star Wars.
(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
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