"I am not a real celebrity!"
April 15, 2021 9:35 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks ago, Lindsay Ellis got canceled for making a tweet comparing two similar movies. Here's her very long response to pissing people off on this level. Brief recaps of the topics covered in it (after I watched the whole thing) are below. There's also a discussion of the video over here.

* She explains what got her canceled--comparing "Raya and the Last Dragon" to "Avatar: The Last Airbender."
* She has, of course, now quit Twitter.
* Compares her situation to Justine Sacco's bad AIDS joke tweet that got her fired and how these things blow up--in her case, while she was asleep.
* Talks about how everything she's ever done that wasn't 2021 appropriate in old videos was dug up and pointed at her that she's an awful person.
* Covers everything that everyone dug up about her that was awful since the early days of her Internet career. She made apologies/explained why for that stuff, though she isn't apologizing for the movie tweet.
* This leads Lindsay into going pretty extensively into Bad Shit That Has Happened To Her Personally, really bad stuff even if she doesn't go into great detail.
* She points out that a lot of other people have made the same "these movies are similar" commentary.
* She recites all of her Twitter hate tweets, which are extremely extreme for what she "did."
* Talks about the same behavior being aimed at other YouTube associates of hers such as Jenny Nicholson and ContraPoints. And that she got backlash from supporting a transwoman in "our own community."
* Talks about normalizing insincere apologies.
* Trying to stay 18 steps ahead of offending anyone, well... "This keeps happening" and people think that savaging other people is going to improve something?
* "The Beast, this fear that we all live under but don't acknowledge." Everyone's afraid of saying something wrong. "Every thought is a hostage situation. Is this the tweet that's going to sink me?" "One misstep can ruin our lives."
* "This video is not going to change any minds," it's just going to make people angry.
* She's tired of trying to stay ahead of making people angry to protect her brand. "Fuck my brand. I just don't care any more."
* "This is like the 800th time this has happened to me."
* She has quit Twitter, but she still has to use it to pimp her books, so...but she shouldn't have used her Twitter like "one of the boys" like someone who has less followers.
* "What gets you on the radar of the mob is nothing," existing in general included. Someday it will happen to you too. Or you'll do it too. "For a brief moment, it gave me a sense of power" to join in, but then she made someone's life worse.
posted by jenfullmoon (168 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Was hoping someone would repost.

Thank you.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:43 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Relevant:
Tech researchers say this is partially the fault of a phenomenon called "context collapse," a sociological concept that describes what happens when many social groups exist in one space.

Here's how context collapse plays out online. When you have Facebook friends numbering in the thousands, your audience becomes a little difficult to speak to all at once.

In an article for sapiens.org, Sophia Goodman described it as “trying to comfortably chat with your mother, bar buddy, work colleague, and ex-boyfriend at the same time.”
Also see Danah Boyd: How “context collapse” was coined
posted by flug at 10:03 PM on April 15 [39 favorites]


Does anyone know why she posted the patreon links for ToddInTheShadows and PrincessWeekes in the description box? How are they involved? I admit I didn't watch the whole video but I skimmed through and didn't see them.

Anyway I've been a lot happier since I quit twitter. It's so hard not to buy into the premise that every offhand tweet is a manifesto worthy of a feature film length defense.
posted by muddgirl at 10:05 PM on April 15


Like, I'm a regular here who's been quite salty about Raya as a southeast asian, but i find it very VERY telling in this long video which i haven't watched yet (still at work; and thanks jenfullmoon for the recap!) she's still not getting why the initial tweet is pretty dumb BUT (to me heh) rather typical western commentator myopia. Did it deserve all the callouts and receipts? I hesitate to say no only because, look, as a majoritarian myself (who's 'only' a global poc) being a muslim woman didn't at all lead me to have perfect understanding of my privilege in MY society.

Because that tweet IS rubbish. Avatar's references and Raya's aren't even the same parts of Asia, what more this handwavyness of the explanation for the tweet like I'm supposed to NOT point that out at least?
posted by cendawanita at 10:06 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


Given that she's a woman in the public eye, I'm sure that people here and elsewhere on social media will treat her with the same indulgence they did Kanye West's public activities...yeah right.
posted by happyroach at 10:10 PM on April 15 [16 favorites]


Contrapoints video on cancellation for more background. Lindsay Ellis is in that one too, because when Natalie Wynn was on the twitter chopping block for featuring Buck Angel in a video, they went after Lindsay Ellis too for publicly being friends with her and not immediately denouncing and ostracizing her as the mob demanded.
posted by subdee at 10:14 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


"One misstep can ruin our lives" ... "This is like the 800th time this has happened to me."

There are a lot of things going on in here, and any two of them together would be kind of a hot mess. This whole thing feels like a river full of missed opportunities for learning or introspection, piling up until the dam finally broke.
posted by mhoye at 10:14 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


The history of Internet Outrage is rife with stories of bad-faith actors going most viciously at people who share 99% of the angry group's goals and beliefs because that person is someone within reach. As Lindsay says in the video, they don't go after those incapable of shame, so they go after folks like her. Or Jenny Nicholson. Or Natalie Wynn. To be sure, Lindsay has said things she talks about in this video that she regrets, and yet I'm fairly certain that honest expression of regret and subsequent reconciliation isn't the goal of the people who have driven her off of Twitter. The goal was humiliation. To a lesser extent, it happens here, too. The internet runs on bad faith and ad tracking.
posted by tclark at 10:16 PM on April 15 [61 favorites]


Given that she's a woman in the public eye, I'm sure that people here and elsewhere on social media will treat her with the same indulgence they did Kanye West's public activities...yeah right.

Ah! That reminds me why she and Jenny N got 'cancelled' - they found a john boyega ig post, where he related his opinions about rey vis-a-vis reylos' sustained and racist harassment of him, problematic... except they stepped into the landmine of white women calling black men rapists. It was basically the wrong lens of critique but they also got badly hurt from bad faith attacks. Same here.
posted by cendawanita at 10:18 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


Does anyone know why she posted the patreon links for ToddInTheShadows and PrincessWeekes in the description box?

I haven't watched the whole video, but they are both people she's collaborated with heavily in the past. Maybe they were involved in some of the "everything that everyone dug up about her that was awful since the early days of her Internet career" and it's an apology for getting dragged into this?

I've seen some of the stuff that she and Todd in the Shadows did together when they were both part of Channel Awesome and oof, it is pretty cringe-inducing. They were both absolute babies, and also part of a larger company that appears to have been pretty toxic, so I don't really hold it against them, but I wonder if any of that stuff got cited?

(By the way, Todd in the Shadows is an excellent channel if you have any interest in the history of pop music.)
posted by lunasol at 10:19 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched the video yet so I don't know if this is discussed, but more context here is that a week prior to the fateful Avatar tweet, Lindsay Ellis and another youtuber, Sarah Z, drew some ire from "the fandom deep state" (that's a Lindsay Ellis reference, ya'll) for wading into a debate where they didn't know the full context.... that is, the question of whether "proshippers" in fandom are truly being harassed by "antishippers" in fandom.

The fandom in question is Hannibal fandom, which for the record, does have a major harassment problem, to the extent that showrunner Bryan Fuller himself is on a fandom blocklist... and recently showed his support by tweeting himself wearing a "proshipper" shirt and holding a "proshipper" mug. Anyway.

I don't know if this lead directly the 'cancellation' over the ALTA tweet but I do know that a lot of people I follow were pretty mad at Lindsay Ellis for her cavalier dismissal, and when they saw that she was now, herself, the target of a mob cancellation effort the response was basically "good now she'll know it is real."

But of course Lindsay Ellis already knew it was real; see Contrapoints video above.
posted by subdee at 10:28 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


https://twitter.com/artofelaineho/status/1382801937175744513?s=19

It's disappointing that criticism by Asians in regards to Lindsay Ellis's tweet comparing Raya to ATLA has been subsumed by the overwhelming idea of cancel culture, and what it means, to a white person.

She's centered herself in what was criticism about asian microaggression.

posted by cendawanita at 10:34 PM on April 15 [20 favorites]


"......it annoys me that it is more about "woman getting harassed on internet due to bandwagoning" is engulfing "white woman has been racist since forever" especially since the PoC critics also experienced harassment from this too".

IN her video too, she misgenders a number of her critics, and there were two folks she lumped under "white nonsense" that weren't even white!
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:38 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I have so many thoughts on this, you guys have no idea. But anyway this essay from 2015 should be required reading about "cancellation" from the left, and how it always seems to target the marginalized, or at least to negatively effect them the most:

https://thenewinquiry.com/hot-allostatic-load/

Lindsay is right that eventually all of us will be cancelled, unless we never take a controversial position or never stick our necks out for someone else who's been targeted. I've been in fandom for 16 years without ever being involved in any drama but it is so much worse now and inescapable.
posted by subdee at 10:39 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


https://twitter.com/sethhg313/status/1382805019125243913?s=19

(These are select tweets)
On one hand, I completely agree with her. I think cancel culture is toxic. Twitter is an ass platform, especially for women, POC, the LGBT+ community, etc with big platforms where they feel like they are constantly going to be shot down by one bad take. 3/?

In addition, campaigns like this have been spearheaded, not by marginalized groups but by white leftists/liberals using marginalized criticism for their own bullying. They dunk on their own to get their social justice brownie points. No wonder the right always wins. 4/?

However, despite my agreeing with her, I was expecting her to discuss the good-faith criticisms leveled against that tweet. All that required was another tweet, but a video like this works. Maybe there's more to unpack than I had realized 5/?

But what's unfortunate is that the white mob has overtaken so much of this conversation and the situation that Lindsay doesn't even discuss that good-faith criticism. She acknowledged that there are good-faith criticisms... but then hardly talks about them.6/?

This leads to it feeling like there are NO good-faith criticisms. Anyone new to the situation is going to side with Lindsay because all they see is the fact that a white mob attacked her over one bad take. That's not a good thing. 7/?
posted by cendawanita at 10:47 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


I also agree, by the way, that it's a question of a loss of context; and more than that, a loss of privacy. Here's a really good book I read on this topic recently, from 2000(!) but already predicting a lot of the trends we're seeing online recently:

The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America

Some choice quotes:

”Privacy protects us from being mis-defined and judged out of context in a world of short attention spans, a world in which information can be easily confused with knowledge. True knowledge of another person is the culmination of a slow process of mutual revelation. It requires the gradual setting aside of social masks, the incremental building of trust, which leads to the exchange of personal disclosures… (pg. 8)

*”When intimate personal information circulates among a small group of people who know us well, its significance can be weighed against other aspects of our personality and character. By contract, when intimate information is removed from its original context and revealed to strangers, we are vulnerable to being misjudged on the basis of our most embarrassing, and therefore most personal, tastes and preferences.” (pg. 9)

*”We fear the loss of anonymity in cyberspace precisely because we are spending more time browsing alone and less time with friends, family, and neighbors who can put our speech and conduct into a broader context. In cyberspace, the possibilities that personal information may be taken out of context continue to increase.” (199)
posted by subdee at 10:48 PM on April 15 [17 favorites]


https://twitter.com/FeoUltima/status/1382841032212152324?s=19
(With graphs and screenshots)

This is, hopefully, my final tweets about this.

Lindsay Ellis is the 58th highest supported Patreon user, 17th highest in the video category.

While her patrons dropped a bit (~500 users) after the Raya debacle, she's already recovered back to her count from the past 3 months. https://t.co/lnotWffrFL

I don't know how much money this makes her, that's not public details, but we know how many support her financially.

She's a cisgender white woman who is one of the top supported Patreon users as of right now.

She has not been cancelled or made a general villain over tweets.

The criticism she's faced, unfair or fair, has not hurt her standing as an online celebrity.

These things can still have a mental toll, for sure, but ultimately this has not made a dent in her support. People who supported her kept supporting her. That's provable.

She's a top supported Patreon user. She's a NYT best selling author.

Marginalized people criticizing her over queerphobic or racist jokes/takes on Twitter has not hurt her because people have chosen to stand with her rather than listen to the opposition.

She won. Game over.

And well, I mean, I'm not surprised. This is business as usual.

Every single time an online celeb says they're canceled over social media stuff their support either remains the same or even increases.

At worst it's a small loss that's regained in a day or two.

posted by cendawanita at 10:52 PM on April 15 [41 favorites]


Grateful for this thread today.

Twitter is sometimes a harassment generator. Not always, but the culture is there.

Regardless, if Twitter is bumped as a considerable platform, esp based on results above, she certainly isn't that* cancelled.

I'd frequent patreon over Twitter any day.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:53 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


And I think the loss of privacy, loss of context, is currently being weaponized by people who aren't genuinely interested in queer issues, trans issues, race issues, social justice issues at all, but pretend their (conservative) criticisms are coming from within the left in order to divide the community and set people who should rightfully be allies at each other's throats. Lindsay Ellis is a well-meaning, mostly leftist ally and there are better targets for cancellation than her.

And a side-effect of all this that is that it becomes harder and harder to actually be critical, to in good faith discuss legitimate points, without it being seen as an attack.
posted by subdee at 10:53 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


I wish there was more focus put on things like the above linked ideas of context collapse then in trying to assess the "justice" of every individual case of social media antagonism, but I know that's not gonna happen because that's just how social media works. It thrives on whimsy and outrage.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:54 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


..the line between visceral reactions, premeditated thought, and internet videos is sometimes very thin or non-existent.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:56 PM on April 15


She won. Game over.

In he video, she had to recount her experience of being sexually assaulted. Is that a victory?
posted by joethefob at 10:59 PM on April 15 [32 favorites]


Nope. Neither also the various asians and southeast asians who then had to disappear off of twitter for even wanting to point out the boneheadedness of that tweet. Can't even count on the cold comfort of cash.
posted by cendawanita at 11:02 PM on April 15 [17 favorites]


... also, what's that AAPI hashtag again?
posted by cendawanita at 11:03 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Lindsay Ellis is a well-meaning, mostly leftist ally and there are better targets for cancellation than her.

I'm not sure that someone who lumps critical comments of POC critics as "white nonsense" and misgenders others qualifies as well-meaning. Allyship isn't something you declare, it's something that you demonstrate.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:05 PM on April 15 [24 favorites]


Fair enough... TBH I got that description of Ellis from someone else I like and trust, I'm as guilty as anyone else of passing along takes without doing the full deep dive myself to learn the full context.

"Okay, yes, joining up with radical movements and constantly starting ideological slapfights over piddly inconsequential shit in order to drain people’s time and energy is the favoured play of bad-faith actors everywhere, that’s absolutely true – but sometimes you’ve gotta take a step back and ask yourself: is the thing the other person is objecting to really piddly inconsequential shit, or do I just think of it that way because it doesn’t affect me personally?"

-tumblr user prokopetz
posted by subdee at 11:05 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Woof. Given how this video has come with a resurgence of harassment against PoC, directed specifically against people she highlighted, there's really no good outcome. "Whoops, sorry people I identifiably highlighted in the video, you're just going to have to deal with having your face photoshopped onto terrorists again, here's hoping they don't SWAT you like they did last time!"
posted by CrystalDave at 11:18 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


Talks about normalizing insincere apologies
Ok, fine, I'll read it before I comment about it.

/starts watching

Oh, that's where I know that name from.
posted by krisjohn at 11:21 PM on April 15


she had to recount her experience of being sexually assaulted

Did she have to? Who made her? I mean, I think this is a tempest in a teapot. On one hand her take was a little dumb, but ultimately pretty quotidian and not worth the kerfuffle that's ensued. I still look forward to her next book. Rather than expend the effort to make a 2-hour response video which many people, rightly or wrongly, simply do not have the investment to engage with, why not just say "hey that was a dumb take" and then proceed to ignore the asshats anyway?
posted by axiom at 11:21 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


It's high time the pandemic is over and people get to go outside more again.
posted by dominik at 11:38 PM on April 15 [28 favorites]


Cancel + person

If we could all now stop validating the far-right by normalizing their language, that would be great.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:49 PM on April 15 [28 favorites]


Wasn't it originally a black internet/twitter term? according to this insider article, the term as understood was popularised there and spread via the usual overlaps in celebrity and fan cultures, definitely another term that the majority culture appropriated.
posted by cendawanita at 12:05 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


I watched the whole video. She explains the term and why she uses it at the start.

She could have done two things after that Twitter mess. Either just ignore it (and watch on while her friends and associates were also getting thrown under her bus) or do this; a complete rundown of all the things that are being dug up about her in an excruciating way. I think she choose wrongly but who am I? It's a shitty choice anyway and not anything she seems to "deserve".
posted by Kosmob0t at 12:50 AM on April 16 [15 favorites]


I wish there was more focus put on things like the above linked ideas of context collapse then in trying to assess the "justice" of every individual case of social media antagonism...

I want to second this. Justice is hard, and requires sophisticated rituals and systems in order to even loosely approximate fairness. Twitter does not provide people with the required tools to assess justice, and trying to assess and enforce justice with these tools creates toxic feedback loops that lead to dehumanization, cruelty, and mobbing.
posted by Alex404 at 1:08 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]


There are a lot of things going on in here, and any two of them together would be kind of a hot mess. This whole thing feels like a river full of missed opportunities for learning or introspection, piling up until the dam finally broke.

I really don't read it like this - Ellis does not strike me as that lacking in self-awareness, and the expectation that "learning and introspection" is required to happen merely because internet randos disagree, is ripe for abuse. Sometimes - often - the internet gets the wrong end of the stick. Even if some miracle has occurred and the internet is right, maybe it's okay to just be wrong about things, and that has to be fine. Everyone is wrong about everything constantly. A prominent critic thinking that Avatar and Raya are pretty similar shouldn't be harmful (and it by definition isn't systemic). We have to be able to thrive in the imperfect.

One of the issues the left has is purity culture - that there is a Best way of doing things, and anyone not doing that should therefore 'improve' until they are doing things the Best way. Obviously untrue when I put it in such reductive terms, but also alienating to people who might actually be causing harm and are still working towards reconciling that. This is a particularly pressing problem, because those on the left have to convince coal mining towns to abandon their purpose in life for the benefit of future generations, and it only gets harder when they're also referenced as racist, sexist, transphobic carnivores.

I'm also reminded of a notorious social justice troll in the science fiction fandom who went by Requires Hate and Winterfox. She basically buried all this, and has moved onto Twitter, where she's only slightly less aggressive. It was an early lesson in how someone can use the cloak of marginalisation to justify abusive behaviour.

Twitter does not provide people with the required tools to assess justice, and trying to assess and enforce justice with these tools creates toxic feedback loops that lead to dehumanization, cruelty, and mobbing.

I've argued this a few times here, but it's worth repeating: Twitter cannot be fixed, even if they banned all the Nazis. The model is fundamentally broken - even Mastodon has the same issues, even though they don't have the same Nazi problem. Context collapse is a feature of the platform. (Clubhouse has the same problem: it's selling itself on context collapse between you and celebrities, and if it doesn't fall apart because a big conference call fundamentally doesn't scale, it'll fall apart because of that.)

Right now it seems like the best available option is Discord and Slack - persistent chat servers where you can have small, contained communities, a shared history but also ephemeral - but they're also proving almost impossible to moderate effectively, in part because the tools are so bad.
posted by Merus at 1:45 AM on April 16 [41 favorites]


A prominent critic thinking that Avatar and Raya are pretty similar shouldn't be harmful (and it by definition isn't systemic).

One of the other things worth noting though is that prominence (or celebrity for that matter) on the internet doesn't necessarily come with anything more than being generally likable or amusing behind it. We've pretty much given up the cultural gatekeepers we used to rely on to filter content and protect it by being largely opaque and removed from us regular folks who now have unfiltered access through the internet to sharing opinions. There was good reason for disliking the old way for how it maintained the values of the dominant culture in so many ways, but the new way has its problems too, not the least of which is in people being able to assert claims of knowledge that they may not be able to fully live up to.

I don't know all that much about Ellis, and nothing about this most recent controversy beyond what the linked conversations provide, but from the few videos I watched in past years, she would sometimes assert claims about movie history that weren't all that true. It wasn't anything particularly harmful, just not really accurate, and she is far from the only person to do such a thing, so I'm not singling her out for it, just saying that the internet doesn't have fact checkers or any clear standard around claims of expertise other than what the viewer/listener/reader brings to it themselves and however they might view claims of outside credentials, if there are any to look at.

In other words, there's reason to distrust likeability as a hallmark and with that the same kinds of dominant culture values that might continue to maintain themselves through it. It's not wrong to question and sometimes call out the self made celebs of the web, but how we go about verifying, correcting, and building a better, more equitable culture with the tools of social media is something more difficult to address, cuz trying to build a shared culture through hating ain't gonna work.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:24 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


Sure she's being criticized for a hundred different things by a thousand different people, many of them shouting and being abusive, but it's quite telling that she hasn't responded correctly to my reasonable, important, and politely-worded criticism.
posted by straight at 2:34 AM on April 16 [67 favorites]


It's disappointing that criticism by Asians in regards to Lindsay Ellis's tweet comparing Raya to ATLA has been subsumed by the overwhelming idea of cancel culture, and what it means, to a white person.

She's centered herself in what was criticism about asian microaggression.


I agree that it is disappointing and all-too-typical that the real concerns of Asians got lost in all the noise and that Asian people involved in the discussion also had to deal with abuse without some of the same resources to deal with it that Ellis has.

But I'm not sure it's correct to say she centered herself. Twitter centered her. She's not the one that decided to label the trending issue "Lindsay Ellis" rather than "Raya and ATLA" or "Asian Microaggressions."
posted by straight at 2:49 AM on April 16 [32 favorites]


i will disagree with that last bit there only BECAUSE she did in fact made it clear in her follow up tweet before deleting, that she wasn't registering the accurate criticism but in fact conflating all of them as of a piece. As you say, she's rather typical in her misinformation, and as has been attested in this very thread, has a habit of offering opinions to things she's not completely informed about, especially in things that's out of her area of speciality (which is apparently, if it's not Transformers, then never mind). i mean, remember the very criticisms that were in the Mefi FPP about her Stephanie Meyer video? in this manner, i would very much say she made it about her, specifically in digging in her heels and not recognising the initial dunking wasn't even mean.
posted by cendawanita at 3:11 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


If people like Lindsay Ellis or Natalie Wynn get canceled - trans, bi, women, allies - the standards for being a human being online are impossibly high and being canceled has lost all meaning and function. Maybe Jenna Marbles did the only wise thing and just quit everything.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:11 AM on April 16 [21 favorites]


But she wasn't being cancelled! people who were bad faith interlocutors with fake receipts IS a problem, but as the days went on the worst it got, BECAUSE she wasn't even registering the Asians engaging with her in good faith. Prior to this it was indigenous commenters with the Twilight video. Apparently Jewish ppl had had to say something with her Prince of Egypt one. she would like to say she was, because ...? she's been wrong, and corrected, and dug in, opening herself to bad faith actors, thereby ruining HER mental health and also the mental health of people like ME or actual minorities in America? gosh. definitely deleting a twitter account is the nuclear option, but maybe it's because we ALL know her, and unlike, say, Bean Dad?
posted by cendawanita at 3:16 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


There was no reaction that would have stopped the trashing once it started. No way she could have properly engaged with the right critics to make it stop. I know it's nice to think that if she'd just reacting correctly then this would have blown over, but that's not how it works.

Likewise for people who were getting abused in turn for responding to her- once the abuse cycle starts there's no way for people like Selene to make it stop.
posted by Braeburn at 3:45 AM on April 16 [40 favorites]


A prominent critic thinking that Avatar and Raya are pretty similar shouldn't be harmful (and it by definition isn't systemic).

Except that's not what she was saying. Instead, what she said was that Raya (and a lot of modern media) trace their lineage to A:TLA, instead of noting that they are both products of greater exposure of Eastern culture and media in the West. And yes, this matters, because it's basically telling AAPI creators that their cultural heritage is mediated by a series created by a couple of white men, which brings up issues of appropriation and erasure.

And it matters that Ellis was wrong because she has centered herself as being someone who breaks down and explains media for the masses. Her saying that modern media that uses Eastern themes and tropes traces its lineage to A:TLA is problematic because she does have the clout to make that incorrect argument stick. Hence why the pushback happened.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:56 AM on April 16 [20 favorites]


Hmmmm... doesn't really sound like the was cancelled. It sounds like she said something wrong, was called on it, her detractors used it to harass her, she couldn't differentiate between the two and dug in and now has as many Patreon supporters as she did before the mess began.
posted by dazed_one at 4:47 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


When I was in university in the dark ages in 1989 as the communist wall fell I was naively on the Justice Committee for my dorm and so when minor rules were broken it would meet, interview everyone, and give out fines. Some members of a sports team had a party where they tray surfed (= turning the fire hose on at the top of three flights of stairs and riding cafeteria trays down the resulting river) and we convicted them of $150 fines each which was a lot of money.

So then I, as a member of the committee, had urine dumped under my door several times and got shoved going down the stairs a few times.

All of that is to say that a desire for justice, judgement (which may or may not align with the first), retribution, and outrage is baked into the human experience, and although I do think social media platforms amplify it and make it accessible -- and make doxxing possible -- in newfangled ways, and let more people partake of it, it's not new.

Blaming Twitter is an easy way out here.

In this situation, as a former Content Creator and current writer, I have loads of feelings about what it would be like to be various people in the situation. As a white woman I have to be careful about centring my feelings beyond my own dinner table.

As someone committed to equity, my true concern lies with people of Asian descent who are being discriminated against and fearful of being assaulted in the face of a global pandemic that has created a well in the vast ocean of racism that existed already due to, essentially, colonization.

So from that vantage point I'm a bit like...regardless of whether anyone deserves anything, Lindsay Ellis is experiencing a point in decolonization, which is where the depth of the colonizer's ignorance, which was acceptable before, is revealed and reviled, but also defended.

I am ignorant of what the Twitter mob did to her but if it stayed in the realm of commentary and not death/rape/doxxing threats then while I feel for her my own personal line is that while I might comment on MetaFilter because it sparks joy and hopefully keeps my learning going to participate with you all here in thinking these things through, my actual social justice energy is going to go elsewhere.

I suspect that any energy I would spend worrying about Lindsay Ellis would be more about defending myself, because I know the depths of my ignorance and failings (well, no, but I have some idea.) Weirdly Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know memoir around her experience of racism just dropped off my holds list and onto my phone and I think I'm going to read that instead of the 90 min video.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:58 AM on April 16 [19 favorites]


This is a person who has sought to put themselves in the public eye. They built a big online following and made lots of money out of it. They made a post to social media to their large number of followers and that post was criticized by people who had a strong negative reaction to it. Those same critics pointed out a pattern of similar public behavior in the past. Now they are attempting to mute these critics by portraying themselves as a victim of “cancel culture” and calling critics toxic.
Celebrities can blame cancel culture and avoid any accountability for their own shittiness.
posted by interogative mood at 5:36 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I would very strongly recommend people wanting to engage with this to watch the actual video. I'm seeing a lot of assertions that are just flatly untrue about what the video covers and the positions Ellis takes about them.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:42 AM on April 16 [54 favorites]


I have been a Lindsey Ellis fan for several years now. I see this video as more of a culmination of years of being in the social eye and targeted again and again by GamerGate bad faith actors, the alt-right, death threats, toxic fandom attacks, and her not getting it right all the time. It was a very public meltdown that ranged from "I once had a friend who publicly shit on me because she didn't think I was there for her" to "in the early days of my career a video surfaced and it gets emailed by people who hate me to anyone who ever develops a business relationship with me, and here's why it was made" to "Twitter is terrible, not just because people use it in bad faith, but because it encourages me to say shit without thinking and that's why I quit it" to "I once asked a Muslim friend is a joke would be funny and boy do I wish I had learned that lesson without looking like a racist piece of shit."

I think we can both be good people and try to be good people and also have self-destructive tendencies. I thought her point about ATLA and Raya was not really a great look, but I also had heard it from a dozen other places first - and you'll notice that the Honest Trailer guys didn't get grief for making an even more egregious statement. Of course, they are comedy nerd bros, and she is someone who holds herself to a higher standard, but I can see how grating it is.

Ultimately, I am willing to forgive her missteps because they are the kind of missteps I would make in her position, and because I generally agree with her while disagreeing on specific details. I do think that allowing deplatforming and cancelling be conflated is problematic for sound bites. Being ostracized for saying something bone-headed is normal culture but as she repeated time and again that she isn't being deplatformed and this is not hurting her financially, it's just that she is persona non grata amongst the Twitterati right now and it sucks.

I am glad I use Twitter for stupid meme jokes about D&D and Vampire: the Masquerade, and for posting some pictures that I wouldn't post on Facebook. I can't imagine being hooked up to that machine.
posted by gwydapllew at 5:53 AM on April 16 [24 favorites]


Mass-social-media platforms like FB and Twitter are even more corrosive than mass media platforms like Fox News and TLC (remember when that stood for The Learning Channel?). My college age son is not on any of them. He spends most of his online time on various Discords: small, moderated spaces dedicated to a particular topic of interest.

It's interesting how Metafilter itself has changed through the various eras of internet social technology. At one point it seemed much higher tech than Usenet or IRC channels, and now it seems quaint, like some obscure subreddit for unsure cultists.
posted by rikschell at 5:57 AM on April 16 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: "quaint, like some obscure subreddit for unsure cultists."
posted by mikelieman at 6:09 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]


I think that there's definitely room for both "Lindsey Ellis was wrong about ATLA and maybe didn't handle that part well" and "lots of internet shitbirds took that as an excuse to be shitbirds and/or revive old grudges and that wasn't fair." Personally, I'm starting to wonder if Twitter is worth the occasional positive reinforcement of a minor celebrity liking or retweeting something that I wrote.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:24 AM on April 16 [16 favorites]


Cancel + person

If we could all now stop validating the far-right by normalizing their language, that would be great.

Wasn't it originally a black internet/twitter term? according to this insider article


Am I mistaken in thinking the concept of “cancelling a person” started with Suey Parks’s #CancelColbert campaign in 2014, 2 years before the time frame in the Insider article?
posted by ejs at 6:35 AM on April 16


#CancelColbert! god, that takes me back. between him and Jon Stewart, they're like the cable version of LE here, right down to their reactions when called out, adjusted for their magnitude for fame, and actually having tv shows on cable rather than PBS's Youtube channel.
posted by cendawanita at 7:00 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if this link is going to work, but this comment on the video stood out to me:

"I literally cannot believe that a single tweet about a failed animated movie drove a person to opening up about their worst trauma in such an open, public way just to try to get twitter vultures off of them. "
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:58 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


Yeah maybe we can bring back "dogpiled" or is that unfair to dogs?

Like, I feel like canceling should be, "I'm not going to watch any of her shit anymore, and I'll tell you why" versus dogpiling where you feel some need to tell Lindsay Ellis this directly.

And yeah, its bad that the Twitter trending approach turned this into a discussion of whether Lindsay Ellis is good or bad, and not like, how to dismantle Eurocentric expectations for fantasy worlds.
posted by RobotHero at 8:19 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I literally cannot believe that a single tweet about a failed animated movie drove a person to opening up about their worst trauma in such an open, public way just to try to get twitter vultures off of them.

I don't mean this dismissively: The only way to win is to not participate.

At least we are no longer constantly bombarded with freshman hot takes on how the Arab Spring is going to end global oppression.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:22 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


the standards for being a human being online are impossibly high and being canceled has lost all meaning and function.

Has there ever been a positive meaning or function in so-called cancelling. It feels to me like a reckless tactic regardless of who's using it. I mean, I get it that some people are so loathsome in their public personas that they need to be shut down. But how to do it? What's the tactic that doesn't always carry the potential of ... well, this comment says it better than I could ...

There was no reaction that would have stopped the trashing once it started. No way she could have properly engaged with the right critics to make it stop. I know it's nice to think that if she'd just reacting correctly then this would have blown over, but that's not how it works.

Likewise for people who were getting abused in turn for responding to her- once the abuse cycle starts there's no way for people like Selene to make it stop.


The problem with righteous intentions is that humans just aren't ever entirely righteous, particularly the ones who think they are. Mix this blind spot up with the unfathomably climate-like complexity of media systems (thank you, Dr. McLuhan) and you have what amounts to a perpetual condition of hurricane season.
posted by philip-random at 8:31 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


...thank you, Dr. McLuhan...

The medium is the message and the content is the audience.
posted by Alex404 at 8:50 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


A bit of preface:
- I appreciate the thoughtful and critical discussion of Ellis's Raya tweet here and elsewhere. It was a bad take, and deserves to be examined and corrected.
- The issues with the tweet are separate from the harassment. The harassment doesn't invalidate good-faith critiques of the tweet, and the tweet in no way justifies the harassment.
- Ellis is far from the only person who has been harassed on the internet; the consequences for her (though real) are certainly not the worst that anyone has ever had to deal with. As clearly explained in Porpentine's essay linked above, the consequences of harassment are far worse for people who are already dealing with hyper-marginalization.
- I get that hours-long videos are not accessible to everyone. I really wish these things had transcripts.

With all that said: if you're not an hours-long videos person, or if you don't follow Ellis, you might not be aware that this is far from her first time dealing with internet harassment, and that her previous experiences are definitely contributing to her response now. If you can deal with one more video, this talk from XOXO lays out her experience with an online harassment campaign in 2018 (as well as previous harassment campaigns). It caused her such severe distress that it led to her being hospitalized. She talks about the way she was targeted by the alt-right, which both harassed her directly and also tried to bait Left Twitter and other organizations into picking up their bad-faith criticisms and harassing her on their behalf. This is something she also alludes to in the "list of sins" section of her current video. A few pull-quotes for those who can't watch the whole XOXO video:

"There's nothing more isolating than being targeted, because the whole purpose is to isolate you and make you toxic to your colleagues. They don't want to touch you, because if they touch you publicly, they get it, too."

"This is still kind of difficult to talk about, because I do still have some trauma associated with this. The thing about being afraid all the time...is being afraid messes with your brain chemistry. You start having the same responses that you would have if you were in physical danger. You become jumpy, more irritable, you become more depressed. The goal is to hurt you."

"We have to start finding ways to support people who are going through this while not actually aggravating their trauma and inviting more harassment. So, if you see someone going through something like this, and you think it's the right thing to do, stand up for your friends and colleagues."

She goes through a whole list of tactics that she's tried that don't work, including ignoring it (just prompts more extreme behavior), trying to reason with them (it's not about reason), being self-deprecating (they don't get it), disappearing (interpreted as a sign of guilt), continuing to exist in a public space (it's exactly what they don't want), and apologizing (doesn't matter to people who have dehumanized you). I definitely had this list in mind as I watched her latest video -- which is yet another attempt to deal with harassment.

And she talks about a number of other folks deeply affected by harassment campaigns -- for instance, Carlos Maza (by the way, his newest video, How to be Hopeless, is amazing), Sarah Jeong (who wrote The Internet of Garbage, a book about online harassment), Natalie Wynne (whose video Canceling is also incredibly illuminating) and others.

Tl;dr: when you watch this video, you're not seeing the response of some neutral, lofty, objective public intellectual. Ellis is not someone who flipped out over the slightest bit of critique. You're watching someone who has been harassed to the point of breakdown, multiple times, try to find a constructive way to deal with it. Is her approach perfect? Probably not. Is there a perfect approach? It appears not. Is this type of harassment campaign a serious problem for many people, not just her? It appears so -- and it seems that the toll it takes is more severe for more marginalized people. I think it's worth keeping that context in mind.
posted by ourobouros at 8:55 AM on April 16 [63 favorites]


She goes through a whole list of tactics that she's tried that don't work, including ignoring it (just prompts more extreme behavior), trying to reason with them (it's not about reason), being self-deprecating (they don't get it), disappearing (interpreted as a sign of guilt), continuing to exist in a public space (it's exactly what they don't want), and apologizing (doesn't matter to people who have dehumanized you).

I am not kidding when I say I am sure that someday, people are going to start killing themselves from getting this harassment over one bad tweet. Because none of the other options so far work, do they? Because that person has destroyed their entire life forever over one tweet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:01 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


People in harassment situations, particularly digital harassment, kill or shoot themselves semi frequently. The stats are online, I might get them in a bit.

All of the above is correct.
The situation is related to feeling as though there is no resolve or means to "get away," so people affected are essentially stuck in a tunnel of feeling immobile and degraded or incessantly devalued.

It sounds as though she said some incredibly tone-deaf or contextually awkward things, but the situation she's in isn't really a way to mend those things. It's very likely once things began, the experience lead to other mis-statements perhaps she'd ordinarily never make.

I think a lot of people in digital harassment situations are essentially just scapegoats of the internet. Strike a certain chord, and it literally doesn't matter what your actual personality is like: people will attach whatever hateable characteristic to your person, and essentially approach out of a need to exercise unchanneled aggression.

Whether the person has notoreity or not, whether the statements made are condemnable or not, absolutely no one deserves to be in that position.

It's absolutely not okay.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:13 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


"Probably not. Is there a perfect approach? It appears not. Is this type of harassment campaign a serious problem for many people, not just her? It appears so -- and it seems that the toll it takes is more severe for more marginalized people."

To add, even if the person is lofty, neutral, and objective, they may not be in some areas, after a few years. Harassment is incredibly corrosive. It's like having a hyper destructive virus that affects the psychological immunity.

I sort of cannot even fathom being marginalized and a victim of constant harassment. The position is already restricted, it seems like an extraordinarily alienating space to inhabit. Awful.

I think a lot of people/observers who have never experienced this type of situation often immediately say, "but "I" would never say/do/react in a way so reactive/stupidly," without registering when someone feels threatened or in consistent danger, their actions are far, far more likely to contradict normal activity or to be susceptible to mistakes. I think even the most stoic person will start to feel unnerved if enough people on the internet threaten to hurt them or compromise their safety.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:17 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


People's level of distress and worry about this kind of thing is wild to me. I often feel like it's centering subjective white distress to an incredible extreme. People out there being shot to death by the police and it's like ???? but a white woman being "cancelled" (but not even losing financial support in any notable way) and like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sound the claxons this is a social emergency!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

People can care about what they want, but it's worth it to acknowledge (as some have done) that being "canceled" gets disproportionate attention, particularly when you can pin it on mean POC being SO MEAN.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:19 AM on April 16 [11 favorites]


Twitter IS garbage. You can thank it for extending the reach of the last President of the United States. Why is anyone on that platform?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:19 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


"People out there being shot to death by the police and it's like ???? but a white woman being "cancelled" (but not even losing financial support in any notable way) and like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sound the claxons this is a social emergency!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I need to finish the video (I reached halfway-) I don't think she cares about being "cancelled" in the face value sense.

She probably cares about not having her life attacked on a daily basis or having that style of digital harassment turn into real world aggression (as it statistically very often does.)
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:22 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


She goes through a whole list of tactics that she's tried that don't work

That's the thing. Nothing will work. Nothing. Will. Work. I can't say I blame her for not wanting to try anymore.

Shifting goalposts, disregarding retractions and admissions of error, zeroing in on areas where someone stands up for themselves as evidence of being irredeemable. Read this thread, and all of those things can be seen. It's textbook abusive behavior, and nothing will work because the only goal is retribution, and that appetite is literally insatiable. The only thing Lindsay Ellis can do now is go back 15 years and pick a different path in life, because forgiveness and reconciliation are not on offer. They never were.
posted by tclark at 9:22 AM on April 16 [40 favorites]


Has there ever been a positive meaning or function in so-called cancelling.

Yes. Relatively less powerful people have zero access to meaningful justice system/police protection and, to the extent that they are able to exert power in numbers to enact informal sanctions and inform others of important risks, they are doing, essentially, necessary policing work. "Cancelling" also provides social support for victims because, remember, it also feels shitty-to-the-point-of-affecting-mental-health when people are able to say and do harmful things without any social consequence.

I feel like next I'm going to have to start explaining that antifa isn't really going to break into your house to steal your dog. Yes, "cancel culture" whatever that means is sometimes good.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:26 AM on April 16 [13 favorites]


"Shifting goalposts, disregarding retractions and admissions of error, zeroing in on areas where someone stands up for themselves as evidence of being irredeemable. Read this thread, and all of those things can be seen. It's textbook abusive behavior, and nothing will work because the only goal is retribution, and that appetite is literally insatiable. The only thing Lindsay Ellis can do now is go back 15 years and pick a different path in life, because forgiveness and reconciliation are not on offer. They never were."

Even if she sought a more aggressive legal pathway, because the internet has no limitations and what's out remains out, she's essentially at permanent risk.

It's easy to say, "well she shouldn't have been so sloppy/messy," but this woman probably deserves to get into her car in a parking lot at night safely, without thinking of heightened concerns, or to live a life without fear that the things she loves or created will be destroyed by people who refuse to offer her basic human decency because "everyone else is doing it."

It is not relevant to this argument that others have it "worse," or "actual violence is worse": those statements are reductive.

This situation is still a problem for a 'marginalized' group (read: women) and the matter deserves respect and a critical eye, regardless of whether or not the subject is sometimes unpalatable or does not have a perfect "track record."

Condone harassment for women, and allow it for other minorities as well. The activities are not mutually exclusive.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:30 AM on April 16 [18 favorites]


Long before the internet existed, humans have enjoyed joining mobs where they interpret a target's well-meaning actions or words in the worst faith possible and then gleefully rip them apart. Members of marginalized groups have pretty much always lived in fear of this phenomenon.

I think the difference now is that (a) the internet and aforementioned context collapse makes this easier and (b) now members of non-marginalized groups are being affected. I think the second bit is especially why there's so much alarm suddenly happening now.

It is crappy it takes majoritarian groups being sad for the harm of this behavior to be recognized. But the solution is to counter the mob mentality in its entirety. If we hem and haw over who is an acceptable target and say "it's not that bad" then inevitably those same arguments will continue to be used to justify subjecting the most vulnerable members of society to the absolute worst shit when they are perceived to step out of line.

There needs to be some kind of push to encourage people to extend a bit more good faith and to use criticism as the start of dialogue rather than an opportunity to deliver a smackdown. If you start with the smackdown inevitably the result is defensiveness and the opportunity for change is over. If you have assumed good faith and tried to dialogue and it's just defiantly rejected then that's another thing, but people have to be given the chance. If someone fucks up we should be thinking about rehabilitation, not about punishment.

This is not a "won't somebody think of the white tears!!!!" plea, because the more privileged you are the more you should be made aware of the necessity of assuming good faith and whatnot (like, how different would our criminal justice system be if that's how it was approached?). Also the more privilege you have the more likely it is you have the capacity for the emotional labor that assuming good faith requires.

The tendency to immediately label someone who we disagree with as the enemy is a larger issue that is affecting everyone beyond social media and is only increasing tribalism and deepening societal fissures. It has to be addressed. There are larger existential issues affecting the world as a whole and the human race is just not going to make it if we continue the way we're going.
posted by schroedinger at 9:36 AM on April 16 [19 favorites]


It is not relevant to this argument that others have it "worse," or "actual violence is worse": those statements are reductive.

They're distinct issues, and powerful people have a lot to gain by conflating criticism and violence. It is certainly an issue if women are harassed off of the internet. It's an issue -- a really serious issue that I've written about extensively -- if women can't rely on basic police protection against things like death threats and harassment.

However, the fact that people are urging me to watch a 90 minute video about this and are framing it as being about "one tweet" and are really concerned about it is something that also follows a pattern -- also very serious -- of centering and amplifying white distress, particularly white feminine distress -- as a way of discrediting and, essentially, smearing valid means of social and political engagement.

In this very thread we have people using this one incident as a springboard for wide, sweeping criticisms of various social activities and things like "context collapse." If we're taking this out of the very specific context -- harassment against women on the internet -- the wider picture is relevant and needs to be considered.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:38 AM on April 16 [12 favorites]


However, the fact that people are urging me to watch a 90 minute video about this and are framing it as being about "one tweet" and are really concerned about it is something that also follows a pattern -- also very serious -- of centering and amplifying white distress, particularly white feminine distress -- as a way of discrediting and, essentially, smearing valid means of social and political engagement.

There are roughly the same number of comments here defending Lindsay Ellis in less than 16 hours as there were mourning Daunte Wright and George Floyd over the course of almost three weeks.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 9:41 AM on April 16 [14 favorites]


Rock'em: -thank you for expanding.

As a slight aside(but not), I learned "context collapse," due to this thread, and I kind-of needed the vocab word.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:43 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


"The tendency to immediately label someone who we disagree with as the enemy is a larger issue that is affecting everyone beyond social media and is only increasing tribalism and deepening societal fissures."

Beautiful, thank you.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:44 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


There are roughly the same number of comments here defending Lindsay Ellis in less than 16 hours as there were mourning Daunte Wright and George Floyd over the course of almost three weeks.

I'm certain that would not be the case if there were a bunch of people here trying to justify and minimize their deaths.
posted by straight at 10:09 AM on April 16 [13 favorites]


I haven't seen a single person justify and minimize Ellis' harassment. I've seen people justifying the criticisms made of her work, many of which seem valid and are made by LGBTQ people and POC and women. But you know what else I've seen? Lots of people characterize those criticisms as anti-LGBTQ and anti-POC and anti-woman, even (and possibly especially) when those criticisms are coming from LGBTQ people and POC and women.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 10:16 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


Slam dunking for clout though. If that isn't every comment section.
posted by iamck at 10:20 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Talking about how minorities have it worse, and calling out bad behavior is one of the few tools that people without power have to address people with power and create (social) consequences for their actions, and how when we flatly condemn all of call-out culture we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater... all of that is true.

But it also reminds me of that bit at the end of Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut novel) where everyone has to handicap themselves down so no one will have an unfair advantage over anyone else. Or about that recent TIME magazine article that discusses how income disparities between races have narrowed, but this is because of four decades of flat or declining wages for low- and middle-income white men, instead of any kind of wage gain for women or nonwhites.

Yes harassment is so much worse for nonwhites, both online and off. Yes it feels good when someone who previously was not able to see your suffering, now can suffer as you did. Yes this accountability, this suffering, can lead in time to greater introspection and empathy, more care taken not to offend. The culture as a whole is moving in that direction, honestly I see it 99% of the time as a good thing.

But it also creates a situation where equality doesn't come from lifting up, but from tearing down. And as discussed in that Porpentine video I linked above, it's the most vulnerable who suffer the most, and the most insulated and connected who suffer the least, always. There are MAJOR drawbacks to this kind of justice.
posted by subdee at 10:21 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


subdee: Minor point: You're thinking of a short story by Vonnegut called "Harrison Bergeron". It's not part of Sirens of Titan.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:37 AM on April 16


@Nancy Lebovitz it looks like it's in both "Harrison Bergeron" and Sirens of Titan.

"A similar dystopian society to that of "Harrison Bergeron" appears in Vonnegut's 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan. When the Space Wanderer returns to Earth he finds a society in which handicaps are used to make all people equal, eradicating the supposedly ruinous effects of blind luck on human society. The narrator claims that now "the weakest and the meekest were bound to admit, at last, that the race of life was fair".

"Unlike in "Harrison Bergeron", however, the citizens in The Sirens of Titan choose to wear these handicaps voluntarily as an act of faith towards the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, although it is suggested that not to do so would invite social condemnation."

From wikipedia.
posted by subdee at 10:42 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Yes harassment is so much worse for nonwhites, both online and off. Yes it feels good when someone who previously was not able to see your suffering, now can suffer as you did.

This is...a take.

If Ellis had said, "Watched Captain Marvel, and I think we need to come up with a term for all these films and books that are basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer reduxes. It's like half of all speculative fiction published nowadays anyway" no one would be questioning why people came down on her misinformed statement.

Saying, "Here is why what you said was dumb, please do your research" is not PoCs making her suffer in retribution. Good lord.
posted by rednikki at 11:17 AM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Damn. The important parts of this thread are the ones that dissect how one turned into the other; I think that applies to rednikki's comment as well.
posted by sagc at 11:19 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Mod note: Some back and forth about a derailing comment deleted - it would be great to focus on the topic of the thread and not on an individual commenter's take regarding Lindsay Ellis. Things got a bit out of hand and showing some restraint and dropping the derail would be great. If you personally don't care about the topic, please skip the thread, no need to make a big show of not caring. As always, please refer to our community guidelines for best practices when participating in threads!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:28 AM on April 16 [9 favorites]


"Yes it feels good when someone who previously was not able to see your suffering, now can suffer as you did. "

Actually what I was thinking of is the same thing I brought up in my first comment. That Lindsay Ellis was cavalier about the issue of harassment in shipping fandom just the week prior; so when she was then at the center of a trashing / harassment campaign (or perceived herself to be at the center of such a campaign) over what I guess you could call a history of speaking with too much authority about things she did not know enough about, the response from a lot of people I know was to shrug. It happened to them and she didn't care, so now that it's happened to her, why should they care?
posted by subdee at 11:32 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I learned from this video that such a thing as a "youtube agent" exists.
posted by Orlop at 11:38 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Mod note: Responding to a mod note by immediately picking up where you left off isn't cool. FirstMateKate, firstdaffodils, drop it now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:58 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I think both of these things can be true:

1. Someone did a hurtful thing that they ought to apologize for in a way that directs attention to the people who were harmed and encourages people to listen to and care about them.

2. Someone is receiving so much internet abuse that they are not able to do #1 right now.

I think it is hard from the outside to reliably say whether someone has enough resources and privileges that #2 is not true.

I agree it would be better if we were talking more about the concerns of the people harmed by all the stuff related to Raya and Avatar. I don't see how criticizing Ellis's video moves us in that direction.
posted by straight at 12:04 PM on April 16 [24 favorites]


I think that's accurate, and I also think that the internet abuse might be caused by #1, but it can easily metastasize into a self-perpetuating campaign.
posted by sagc at 12:13 PM on April 16


" I also think that the internet abuse might be caused by #1, but it can easily metastasize into a self-perpetuating campaign."



You think she's self perpetuating or exacerbating difficulty by the approach she's creating, yea?
(Literally just flatly asking- no intensity)
posted by firstdaffodils at 12:33 PM on April 16


I'm gonna say again that the proship angle is relevant here and a lot of people are overlooking it because it's a niche issue they have never heard about, unlike the racial insensitivity issue which they have more experience with.

Yes her specific misstep - the spark that lit the kindling - involved bad media criticism of two big Western media properties both inspired by Asian media, but the reason many "fannish" people - her audience for that ATLA v Reya video - were so happy to dogpile her for her mistake (or at least not stick up for her) was because she brushed off their complaints the week before.

https://olderthannetfic.tumblr.com/post/646703813982633984/the-thing-that-gets-me-the-most-about-all-this-is#notes

Many internet arguments are much less high-minded, and much more petty than you might realize. Often it's not a question of who is "right" and who is "wrong" but of conflict within a community that is not being solved by discussion, so it's solved by trashing your opponent instead. From my obviously-unbiased personal vantage point, what I see is that fannish folk on twitter wanted to take her down a peg, and they found a good-enough reason to do it.

Or as a friend of mine put it, "she doesn’t get it except as it pertains to her."
posted by subdee at 12:37 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


One day I'm gonna come into one of these youtuber/twitterperson drama threads and not see someone straightfacedly explaining that real justice being inaccessible makes mob justice okay. As if mob justice isn't a contradiction in terms.

It hasn't happened yet, but I hold out hope.

(for the record, I don't care about Lindsey Ellis and I think her tweet was dumb and I'm not watching another damn video about internet slapfights; just saying people arguing that it is okay and good to trash people on twitter because mob justice is the traditional cry of the oppressed against the oppressor like I saw someone say a few big drama threads back should maybe read a history book.)
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 12:49 PM on April 16 [12 favorites]


And this exists right alongside the POC and Asians who were rightfully criticizing her ATLA tweet for the content it contained, and not looking to force Lindsay Ellis off twitter... Lindsay Ellis is the person who took Lindsay Ellis off twitter, and she was probably right to do so, because because from experience often the only way to stop this kind of dogpiling is to deactivate, go private, or change your screen name until the attack is over - take the kindling away from the fire.

SO yeah let's not call it "cancelling" because she hasn't lost any money, no one has withdrawn their sponsorship, she hasn't lost Patreons (this time)... the only thing she lost was Twitter and that's probably just temporary.

But the reason I personally care about this is because... do you guys you know how many people I know who've had to do the same thing? Delete, rename, go private, until the harassers get bored and move on? It happens every other week!

She can't connect the dots, but there's a bright line straight from the harassment of people writing dark fic, queer fic, kinky fic - indeed any fic that isn't a heterosexual monogamous marriage - and the alt-right, troll, TERF, harassment machine that has targeted her before.

And that's because similarly to Gamegate, similarly to Youtube and its alt-right pipeline, similarly to certain subreddits, "fandom" right now is full of attacks on content creators for the purpose, literally the purpose, of finding fault with people outside the mainstream; and making those spaces unsafe for them; and getting the Left to eat its own; and forcing people out.

She couldn't see it, but for people in those spaces this is happening so often that people are getting jumpy and jumping on everyone. That and the twitter architecture that makes it easier to judge someone out of context than try to solve the issues through discussion by getting all the perspectives in one place, I see as another piece in the puzzle of what happened here.
posted by subdee at 1:03 PM on April 16 [14 favorites]


You think she's self perpetuating or exacerbating difficulty by the approach she's creating, yea?
(Literally just flatly asking- no intensity)


My read on it was that it was saying that #1 was the spark that lit the fire, a fire which then became self-perpetuating.
posted by Dysk at 1:08 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


And now I'm definitely gonna step away from the thread, lol, because the last thing I want to do is detail this away from the grievances of racial minorities. I did want to add the part I personally know about, though, to paint a fuller picture.
posted by subdee at 1:09 PM on April 16


You know, I get that it's a long video, and probably not everyone's cup of tea... but you don't have to comment here if you don't have the time or interest in watching it. A lot of folks here are really showing their asses and have no idea. It's okay to just read some threads and not participate! I find I learn a lot that way.
posted by biogeo at 1:44 PM on April 16 [36 favorites]


You know, I get that it's a long video, and probably not everyone's cup of tea... but you don't have to comment here if you don't have the time or interest in watching it. A lot of folks here are really showing their asses and have no idea. It's okay to just read some threads and not participate! I find I learn a lot that way.

Sure, fair point. But we do discuss a lot of people being cancelled here where we don't give them the clicks on the road there.

Like I won't watch anything with Woody Allen in it, and I'm not sure I have to give the Georgia GOP my time and attention to support Will Smith pulling his production out of the state. These are the things that come to mind for me when I read about someone being cancelled.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:13 PM on April 16


Regarding the concept of "cancelling", I think this was the first thing she talked about in the video. If you don't want to watch the whole thing, she gives an interesting discussion of how the term originated in a song lyric, was used in Black English for a while with a sense of more personal feeling (e.g., my positive feelings about you/this thing are now cancelled in light of something I have learned), was adopted/co-opted/appropriated by young White people with a stronger sense of public shaming, and finally most recently been adopted/co-opted/appropriated by right-wing media as the latest straw bogeyman in their culture war, another step on the "political correctness" / "social justice warriors" / "wokeness" treadmill. It was pretty interesting, I hadn't been aware of the background and longer history of the term than its more recent usage within the last few years in online discourse.
posted by biogeo at 2:19 PM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Also for the record, I'm not saying that universally one shouldn't participate in a discussion on Metafilter without having done all of the reading (or watching) in the FPP. But if you haven't, it's probably good to approach your contributions to the thread with a bit of humility. In my opinion the problem in this thread (and a problem with Very Online Culture more generally, exactly what Ellis is talking about in her video) is people quickly and loudly dominating discussions, sucking up all the oxygen from people who might have more informed and nuanced things to say. It's okay to have an opinion before you've seen all the facts or heard all the arguments, just have a little humility about it. It's a good strategy to avoid inadvertently joining an abusive pile-on.
posted by biogeo at 2:29 PM on April 16 [19 favorites]


and i'm one of those who are aware enough of the history, LE, and why it went down the way it did, and i stand by my comments throughout this thread, and yeah, i still can't find time to watch a movie-length video of her academic theorising as a means to explain something (twitter deletion) to social convention practiced and originated by a community tht usually have no direct daily political influence (ie dunking on her, or writing her off, and just checking out and not immediately give her the benefit of the doubt), which btw has been metastasized by the right-wing into social harassment. especially when she herself admitted in ways that count for her livelihood there's little impact.

i am FULLY aware the trolls who've been barely kept at bay in harassing wouldn't give two hoots if she apologised or acknowledged her tweet was an embarassing take from a self-appointed cultural commentator (that buffy and captain marvel analogy is good; how about if someone came out of godzilla vs kong and said that movie seem to share tropes tht originated from pacific rim?). but why oh why such a long self-involved guided discussion, or rather lecture, weeks after the fact when ALL that tweet deserved was actually a better response WITHIN her role as said cultural commentator that acknowledged her gaffe? SHE DOESN'T DESERVE HARASSMENT. she also preemptively deleted her twitter (for established historical reasons) and then went on to frame it as people are 'cancelling' her except the usage of that word is as a pejorative right-wing one meant to silence her, for all that she established where the language came from and why.

she's got a history of (unintentional) microaggressions towards known minorities in her analysis of pop culture, which makes me generally distrust her analysis outside of white girl fandom inclination. that's it. if only her blind spot is more like Scorcese dismissing superhero movies or Ebert's early dismissal of video games. at least we're all probably on the same page with regards to the subcultures in question, and no one has to do Introduction to Industry-Wide Representation of Cultural References outside of the Anglosphere (not even Eurosphere).

That I am personally keeping it focused to that side of the discussion rather than the generalised one on harassment that she's currently engaging on, is simply because that's where the learning opportunity seem to have flown by, while she's still in deep pain and is rationalising it all as harassment or the severe case of Twitter not Liking her, which I understand is a valuable currency for someone who's bread and butter right now is the Internet.
posted by cendawanita at 2:37 PM on April 16 [17 favorites]


I did watch the first 10 minutes of her video after all the discussion here but I couldn't make heads or tails of it really, except that I realize I've watched 1.5 of her videos before. The not watching is definitely on me, but she doesn't actually help me understand her position except that she's pretty flip about it at the start and explains why she is not actually cancelled.

Like...I think she is assuming I know a lot about her.

She had an anecdote that she was hanging out in a bar and it was really funny that the owner asked her about her job and she was like ha ha I'm so cancelled right now. Then she explains the background for cancelled, that she's not a celebrity, and that Twitter is garbage. I did get that she says she's not cancelled.

It didn't seem like she was engaging in the issue of the original bad take about how one Asian SFF/kids movie is like another Asian SFF/kids movie.

(Which I still feel -- the comparison -- is likely due to colonialism and questions around who is a media critic, and what their knowledge of cultural traditions is, and which movies get made in North America etc. - I didn't understand how this can be a derail given the original Tweet and framing for this post but now I get that it is, this is about her pain and her story.)

Anyways, I did read the video summary above, which seemed fairly comprehensive, and did not get that. Now I see it's about Gamer Gate. Which I guess is an entirely other conversation. No shade to the poster here, just a miscommunication and I'm guessing she's a National Treasure Lindsay Ellis or something. I guess that is why her story is centred here. Mea culpa.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:47 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


If you want to skip ahead, there's some sort of sections annotated on the timeline for the video. Around an hour and 11 minutes in, a section called "The Tweet" where she talks about that and what she was thinking when she said it.

She leans into stuff like Princess Namaari is a Prince Zuko, which, I guess, but I also don't see how she would expect people to take that interpretation from the original tweet.

There's a big section in the middle called My list of sins, which is all prior stuff dredged up by people who did want to make it all about her instead of about Raya and the Last Dragon, so if you're not interested, skip that part and it's a much shorter video.
posted by RobotHero at 3:08 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


". but why oh why such a long self-involved guided discussion, or rather lecture, weeks after the fact when ALL that tweet deserved was actually a better response WITHIN her role as said cultural commentator that acknowledged her gaffe? SHE DOESN'T DESERVE HARASSMENT. she also preemptively deleted her twitter (for established historical reasons) and then went on to frame it as people are 'cancelling' her except the usage of that word is as a pejorative right-wing one meant to silence her, for all that she established where the language came from and why."

This is theoretical, and I'm just looking at this from an academic standpoint:
If she felt attacked for months, and at any point she felt physically threatened, let alone the threat of her career: she probably felt a sense of grounding in a literal lecture designed to deconstruct attacks and her responses. It's a shield.

Even if she cancelled her own usage of a platform: self phase outs are a form of personal defense. If you owned or had agency in a platform where people would not stop tearing you don't, you'd like quickly realize one method of cauterizing the teardown would be to dismantle or deactivate the platform handle. This could actually be construed as victim blaming.

Sentiments expressed, Facebook is junk. Twitter is junk. Even if the internet is a vehicle for income, there are far better platforms to patronize. The UX of these platforms is essentially digital chain-smoking.

I don't know this figure (Ellis), I just saw this thread today.

"Like...I think she is assuming I know a lot about her." She's probably not thinking of typical internet users. People who harass from the internet or doxx, will find out how many wisdom teeth you've had removed and try to demonize you for it.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:36 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


That I am personally keeping it focused to that side of the discussion rather than the generalised one on harassment that she's currently engaging on, is simply because that's where the learning opportunity seem to have flown by,

How do you know this without having watched the video, though? She actually spends quite a bit of time talking about these points exactly, including many of the previous and current "learning opportunties" and how her responses to them have been conveniently ignored or distorted by people now looking to paint her as a Problematic Person. Like I said, it's fine that you don't want to watch this long video, and it's okay that you've already made up your mind about her and aren't interested in hearing her side of things here. But maybe it's okay to just say that and leave it there? You've spent a lot of time in this thread bringing up points that are specifically addressed in detail in the video. Which is particularly ironic considering that one of Ellis's points is that she's learned (and demonstrates with multiple examples) that it doesn't matter whether she apologizes, or how deeply she engages with good-faith criticism of things she's said or done: all of that is ignored in the next round of pile-ons, and she's again attacked for not having apologized for or engaged with criticism of things she's said in the past, because the people attacking her don't bother to actually listen to what she says but instead get everything second-hand.
posted by biogeo at 3:43 PM on April 16 [27 favorites]


*typo. " where people would not stop tearing you don't, you'd like quickly realize one method of cauterizing the teardown would be to dismantle or deactivate the platform handle. This could actually be construed as victim blaming" "tearing you down"* "likely quickly realize"* "placing blame for removing the Twitter profile could be construed as victim blaming"*

Sorry mods, feel free to merge with previous comment.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:44 PM on April 16


It's a really difficult place to be in. A one time statement from a video is probably valuable, not to the attackers it's addressing, but confused people who actually want to sympathize or help. After that, it's probably best she keep it light for awhile and redirect some of her content in an effort to reshape the circumstances. Poor thing.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:47 PM on April 16


It didn't seem like she was engaging in the issue of the original bad take about how one Asian SFF/kids movie is like another Asian SFF/kids movie.

It's at the 1 hour and 15 minute mark, and actually it's really jarring because it comes right after the discussion of her sexual assault, which is the last item on what she calls her 'list of sins' (and honestly THAT item, with the added context that most people on twitter probably didn't have, really comes off like being terrified for the rest of your life that your ex-boyfriend will circulate the nudes he's been saving on his computer).

There's something that's happening a lot online recently, that I've seen some people call "a flattening of sins" and that Conflict is Not Abuse calls "an overstatement of harm". All the transgressions are treated as equally serious. You're pure as driven snow or fallen. There's no acknowledgement that there's a large, large middle group between 'harmless' and 'irredeemable'.

Something she discusses at the end of the video, and something I've been thinking about for a while, is that it really is so much worse when the criticism comes from inside the house. If it was just the alt-right dudebros, or the TERFs, trying once again to push her off youtube it almost wouldn't matter; it hurts so much worse when it comes from people you thought had your back, or from a space you thought was safe to express yourself in.
posted by subdee at 3:50 PM on April 16 [9 favorites]


"Something she discusses at the end of the video, and something I've been thinking about for a while, is that is really is so much worse when the criticism comes from inside the house. If it was just the alt-right dudebros, or the TERFs, trying once again to push her off youtube it almost wouldn't matter; it hurts so much worse when it comes from people you thought had your back, or from a space you thought was safe to express yourself in."

Cultural self-referential destruction is the worst and unfortunately probably very common but unseen.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:55 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


She had an anecdote that she was hanging out in a bar and it was really funny that the owner asked her about her job and she was like ha ha I'm so cancelled right now. Then she explains the background for cancelled, that she's not a celebrity, and that Twitter is garbage. I did get that she says she's not cancelled.

The "I'm not a celebrity" bit rubs me the wrong way because a) she very much is one, and b) has used her celebrity to her advantage - we saw this in her Omegaverse video, where she used her status as a NYT best-selling author as part of her argument there. Trying to argue that she's not a celebrity after facing the negative aspects and using it to her advantage rubs me as special pleading.

Around an hour and 11 minutes in, a section called "The Tweet" where she talks about that and what she was thinking when she said it.

She leans into stuff like Princess Namaari is a Prince Zuko, which, I guess, but I also don't see how she would expect people to take that interpretation from the original tweet.


That was the one part of the video that I found problematic in particular, because it felt like she was doubling down on the false thesis that started things in the first place - the argument that modern Western media (and YA media and animation in particular) using Eastern tropes and folklore trace their lineage back to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Which, as many POC creators and critics were pointing out, is just wrong. Leaving out the issues of appropriation and erasure, the argument doesn't withstand scrutiny - Avatar was itself a reaction to growing interest in Eastern culture and media seen in the late 90s and early 2000s, with the explosion in anime (and shonen anime in particular.) Those creators were themselves inspired by that growth in popularity of Eastern media (remember, this is part of the "Cal Arts" slur - that these animators were being influenced by Eastern media, ignoring Western animation), not by Avatar in particular. And yes, this is important because of the issues of appropriation and erasure - telling POC creators (and AAPI creators in particular) that their cultural inspiration is mediated through a series created by a couple of white men is problematic in all sorts of ways beyond just being wrong.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:07 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


The "I'm not a celebrity" bit rubs me the wrong way because a) she very much is one, and b) has used her celebrity to her advantage - we saw this in her Omegaverse video, where she used her status as a NYT best-selling author as part of her argument there. Trying to argue that she's not a celebrity after facing the negative aspects and using it to her advantage rubs me as special pleading.

I concur that she's a minor Internet celebrity (note the "whodis?" sort of remarks in this thread), but she's not a REAL celebrity seems to be her argument--not one with teams of lawyers and others working for her like your average movie star has, was the point she was making. She isn't famous enough/making enough that she could afford security teams and whatnot for all the harassment she gets as well, I suspect.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:11 PM on April 16 [10 favorites]


Okay dokes ! Then I'll just hang around the winterfalcon threads, and in the words of a SEAsian language, semoga anda semua bahagia dan aman tak layan kami yang tak puas.
posted by cendawanita at 4:42 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Making it entirely about her original..infraction..at a time when she's still the subject of some rather disgusting harassment is what I find distasteful. If I'm in the middle of being mugged I'm certainly not going to take suggestions about how I should have taken some pepper spray with me or not walked around at 3 in the morning in an area known for muggings very well.

Before the mugging started it's a perfectly reasonable discussion to have. Later, after I've had time to process the trauma, also reasonable. But at the time I'm being threatened, not so much. Either do something to help or hold off for a bit, thanks. You needn't wait until muggings aren't a thing any more, just until the one currently in progress is over.

(I'm not referring to anyone here on MeFi since I'm nearly certain Lindsay Ellis is not a member or reader and nobody here is trying to inspire others to harass her elsewhere, but it's definitely a dynamic on Twitter and elsewhere that I'd really like to see go away)
posted by wierdo at 4:52 PM on April 16 [10 favorites]


One day I'm gonna come into one of these youtuber/twitterperson drama threads and not see someone straightfacedly explaining that real justice being inaccessible makes mob justice okay. As if mob justice isn't a contradiction in terms.

So you think #metoo is not justice? It's inherently not okay? That is a natural extension of your logic. That shit was (and is) basic cancelling 101 and it's just as hell.

If you're gonna feminist get your shit together so you're not repeating hot takes like this as though they're real holier-than-thou insights. They're not. They're shallow and silly.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:44 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Harvey weinstein was convicted in court, not twitter. And his offense was rape, not annoying tweets.
posted by factory123 at 6:25 PM on April 16 [14 favorites]


Annoying tweets turn into person-doxxing or person-outside-house or person-at-car in 0-5. Not always but not uncommon.

I would be okay if one of the takeaways from this was, "don't use Twitter."
posted by firstdaffodils at 6:31 PM on April 16


Harvey weinstein was convicted in court, not twitter.

Weinstein is one person. Lots and lots of men were not convicted in courts, but still faced some degree of consequence as a result of #metoo. Obviously having better access to more formal justice would be better (especially if formal justice didn't look like the retributive mess it does) but #metoo is not reducible to Weinstein (or any other single or handful of cases).
posted by Dysk at 6:44 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


So you think #metoo is not justice? It's inherently not okay? That is a natural extension of your logic. That shit was (and is) basic cancelling 101 and it's just as hell.

If you're gonna feminist get your shit together so you're not repeating hot takes like this as though they're real holier-than-thou insights. They're not. They're shallow and silly.


If you don't see a difference between #metoo and trashing someone on twitter for saying a dumb thing, we have very little to talk about.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 7:09 PM on April 16 [19 favorites]


Over a hundred comments and I can't see a single link that says exactly what the tweet was. WHAT WAS IT?
posted by ymgve at 8:17 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


There's something that's happening a lot online recently, that I've seen some people call "a flattening of sins" and that Conflict is Not Abuse calls "an overstatement of harm". All the transgressions are treated as equally serious.

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." - James 2:10

I remember years ago a (Catholic) friend of mine noted that for her, the clearest difference that she saw between her own denomination and Protestants was not so much on any one point of theology but on the way they saw their community. As far as she could tell, any point of disagreement, however small, at least theoretically justified - and historically often enough led to in practice - fission in a Protestant sect, with one group bluntly condemning all others as damned and marching off to form their own separate congregation. And this willingness to abandon and then condemn their former compatriots was not viewed as just a necessary sacrifice but instead was likely to be celebrated as a sign of special dedication and righteousness. They had passed a test from God.

It's hardly a new thought, that other forms of social/political mobilization can take on attributes of religion, but I am increasingly struck by how the single most heretical thing one can say in a lot f these debates nowadays is, simply, "this is not worth fighting over/breaking with people over/hurting people over." Everything matters. Infinitely.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:29 PM on April 16 [12 favorites]


I am a Patreon supporter of both Lindsay Ellis and Jenny Nicholson and to see this kind of thing is sad, but not surprising. My friends tell me that I use Facebook like most people use Twitter (posting mostly little witticisms and such) and that I should really tweet instead to reach a wider audience. I don't, and stories like this are why. I hear Facebook is having really low morale right now; Twitter if anything must be worse. What must it feel like to build an entertainment product whose biggest users are afraid of it and see it like it's Shirley Jackson's Lottery?
posted by phoenixy at 8:42 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


HW got a trial, the execs and reporters targeted by metoo had to answer to their employers, but Ellis gets a neverending public trial of her character because she wrote:

"Also watched Raya and the Last Dragon and I think we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: The Last Airbender reduxes. It’s like half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years."
posted by factory123 at 9:13 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]


That's...it? I don't know much about the movie or recent YA fiction to judge how hot a take that is, but it seems barely lukewarm. This was all it took to get the internet up in arms?
posted by ymgve at 9:19 PM on April 16 [12 favorites]


That's...it? I don't know much about the movie or recent YA fiction to judge how hot a take that is, but it seems barely lukewarm. This was all it took to get the internet up in arms?

Yeah well, Requires Hate basically won.
posted by happyroach at 10:57 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I remember years ago a (Catholic) friend of mine noted that for her, the clearest difference that she saw between her own denomination and Protestants was not so much on any one point of theology but on the way they saw their community. As far as she could tell, any point of disagreement, however small, at least theoretically justified - and historically often enough led to in practice - fission in a Protestant sect, with one group bluntly condemning all others as damned and marching off to form their own separate congregation. And this willingness to abandon and then condemn their former compatriots was not viewed as just a necessary sacrifice but instead was likely to be celebrated as a sign of special dedication and righteousness. They had passed a test from God.

This is wildly inaccurate and offensive. Wildly. That this is a Catholic contrasting their own take on religion (community! good!) with others' (hate community! they basically eat each other alive and they like it!) only serves to make it worse.
posted by Dysk at 11:53 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


One quip about a disney movie cannot possibly be worth all this.
posted by StarkRoads at 12:33 AM on April 17 [11 favorites]


She is reading many of the comments on Reddit and no doubt she needs to engage with good faith/less purely abusive comments, but it may take a while to get over the panic from seeing the volume and intensity of comments. If she eventually gets the messages that give her sincere advice, taking a few days to gather her strength to engage with them is fine with me [a person affected by one of her ableist comments].

She is relatable to me and I can personally say something that pertains to my experiences --I cant help being at the intersections I am at. It's not like "One comment= one prayer" [or vote].
posted by RuvaBlue at 12:43 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I watched the entire video and it is one of the most difficult pieces of media to react to I've ever seen.

She has the level of self awareness required to brutally drag herself like Eminem in 8 Mile. She does such a good job of trashing herself for a surprisingly shocking list of past mistakes in the "my list of sins" section that she simultaneously lowered and raised my opinion of her.

She has the right to explain her experience of sexual assault and how it influences the way she interacts online and her content. I think she makes a compelling case for why certain problematic content she's created should be read with compassion.

Unfortunately I don't think she was able to apologise for the original Raya tweet, not because she didn't honestly try, but because she doesn't understand the harm she caused.

It's understandable that she felt she needed to talk about the disgusting hate campaign she's received from bad actors, but I think she should have shelved the video until she understood the valid criticism of the original tweet.

Given she does effectively apologise for other previous harms she has caused in the same video I have hope that she will grow enough in time to understand how she hurt people with that tweet.
posted by zymil at 2:12 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Ymgve, I have been thinking the exact same thing. If she had compared other movies, would this explosion have happened?

Beyond that, I am afraid to say more, but the drama seems extremely disproportionate to the sin, as it were.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:48 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Lindsay Ellis can be a mostly good media critic (especially compared to the sad field of Youtube media critics) and not know enough about Asian media to recognize that some things are just genre tropes... and this can be related to, but it is not the same thing as, not caring enough about minority voices.

Though from what I understand, people have tried to tell her before, on this issue in particular... but this was one tweet, off the cuff, not even fully articulated, tossed off before bed, and not something she spent time writing, reviewing, fact-checking or editing in a video that carefully lays out her full and considered opinion.

But as I've said before, fannish folks just wanted to take her down a peg for the dust-up last week, where she waded into the fray in support of her friend Sarah Z without realizing, basically, the entire history and context of that situation.

The conflation of media criticism with social justice... of course they are related, because we live in Debord's society of the spectacle, so improving the spectacle does improve society. But it's not 1:1 and bad media criticism is not necessarily a social justice issue; meanwhile "social justice" being used - sometimes, not always - as an excuse to bully creative types off social media is a real problem.
posted by subdee at 8:25 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


One quip about a disney movie cannot possibly be worth all this.

There are multiple users in this thread who unambiguously disagree with you on this one.
posted by tclark at 8:31 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


They are of course free to do so! I have a lot of trouble seeing how yet another toxic twitter fight, apparently largely motivated at settling scores from a previous toxic twitter fight, is going to result in a better world by taking down LE in particular.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:18 AM on April 17 [13 favorites]


I may have missed something but I don't think there is anyone on this thread advocating for a Twitter mob. I think everyone is engaging with the actual issues, perhaps not from the same angles of approach.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:20 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I may have missed something but I don't think there is anyone on this thread advocating for a Twitter mob

By 'all this' I had intended to refer to said twitter mobbing, but my quip about LE's quip was imprecise. It's so easy to do.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:30 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


There's a couple of separate issues here:
1. LE made a statement from her large platform that caused pain for a number of people from Asian cultures. She does not seem to understand what they were trying to correct or have taken it onboard; instead she's doubling down.
2. LE has been harassed online before, and during this incident received a number of harassing comments on Twitter which caused her pain. This is the central topic of the video that was posted.
3. LE was dismissive last week about OTHER people with smaller platforms getting the same dogpiling and harassment that she is receiving now. This dismissiveness caused pain for a number of people. Some of those people may have participated in the dogpile and others did not see a reason to defend her since she was dismissive of them.

Some people in this thread are trying to highlight and explain 1 and 3 in order to give a 360 perspective of what's going on here. Other people in this thread feel that it is disrespectful to address anything but Lindsay Ellis's pain here.

Please let me know if this seems accurate.
posted by rednikki at 11:29 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


Well, your final paragraph seems to paint one group in this thread as the "problem", so I'm going to disagree.
posted by sagc at 11:42 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


happyroach, I hadn't heard the Requires Hate story before, but I googled it after your comment and found the (Hugo award winning) blogpost on the subject, and that is a fascinating story.
posted by factory123 at 11:48 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


"she's got a history of (unintentional) microaggressions towards known minorities in her analysis of pop culture, which makes me generally distrust her analysis outside of white girl fandom inclination. that's it. if only her blind spot is more like Scorcese dismissing superhero movies or Ebert's early dismissal of video games. at least we're all probably on the same page with regards to the subcultures in question, and no one has to do Introduction to Industry-Wide Representation of Cultural References outside of the Anglosphere (not even Eurosphere).

That I am personally keeping it focused to that side of the discussion rather than the generalised one on harassment that she's currently engaging on, is simply because that's where the learning opportunity seem to have flown by, while she's still in deep pain and is rationalising it all as harassment or the severe case of Twitter not Liking her, which I understand is a valuable currency for someone who's bread and butter right now is the Internet."

Missed this, slightly, yesterday.
If she has a history of this, that's very problematic.
Sentiments expressed, tarring and feathering (figuratively) has now created a giant mess for everyone in Lindsay's known field (and Lindsay) to clean. It'll probably also make it much more difficult and slowly paced for her to realize the gravity of her experiences.

Unfortunately, it does seem like the best option for her at this point is to lay low and stfa from Twitter.
posted by firstdaffodils at 2:31 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


What a strange video that says everything. It's an apology, it's a non-apology, it's reasonable arguments, it's a vicious hate mail, it's an explainer, it's a really weird bit of snide back-atcha gossip involving Mara Wilson, it's an incredibly personal story, it's a savvy video that discards the idea of a simple apology video because barf amirite, it's thoughtful, it's glib, it's empathetic, it's egotistical. It's like an entire person, it almost says too much to talk about what it says.
posted by fleacircus at 9:35 PM on April 17 [16 favorites]


.. possibly best synopsis.
posted by firstdaffodils at 9:52 PM on April 17


how dare she be sharper than I?
posted by philip-random at 10:11 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, it does seem like the best option for her at this point is to lay low and stfa from Twitter.

FTFA.

I mean you weren't wrong, you just needed to make it a general, as opposed to specific case. Don't get me wrong, Twitter does have things like Gail Simone trolling comics fans, but largely, it isn't worth the effort to engage with it.
posted by happyroach at 12:22 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


What a strange video that says everything... It's like an entire person, it almost says too much to talk about what it says.

Well yeah, it's over an hour and a half long.
posted by Dysk at 2:25 AM on April 18


(Which does make this feel a little like a gish gallop style defence - she says so much it is almost impossible to address all of it.)
posted by Dysk at 2:29 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


It's probably borderline impossible for her to generalize or address all of it.

She's probably breaking down or deconstructing concepts as she might for her job, but there are so many subjects to tap, expand, then shift from and into another subject, that it's a 90min project of human intensity.


Lol, this poor woman.
Keep that discernment for race based nuance and stfa from Twitter forever.

And yes, Twitter just isn't an important platform (unless you're hosting a small revolution in Egypt or whatever). I somewhat understood why a lot of readers or lurkers were like, "soo, how is this important?"
posted by firstdaffodils at 8:40 AM on April 18


Someone (cendawanita) used the phrase, "(unintentional) micro-aggressions" and I think it fits the situation very well.

When reading over the publishing/"tweet," it basically feels as if it's hitting a borderline version of racism that's difficult for a lot of white people of certain generations (or non) to identify (I am sure it's a sore thumb to marginalized groups- why wouldn't it be?). It is* racist, but almost in a biological sense (see biological racism), where the area of self awareness is blurred or difficult for the person to navigate.

I think it's insanely silly to say her life is 'ruined,' in any context from this publishing (this just sounds like assholes, assholing away), especially as she's seemingly largely the same character, can still hustle, and she still has channels or access to great resources like Patreon to carry her work.


Realistically, the world is okay to have people of profile who can say, "I messed up, I enacted a lot of micro-aggressions." We want these sincere apologies and revisions in the public sphere.

All in all, she probably didn't need several years worth of trauma for someone to tell her, "hey, those are micro-aggressions, we aren't doing that anymore." Internet of garbage, indeed.

Fin here.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:02 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Hi, I'm Asian. I gotta start with that because otherwise people will call me white, and the LE critics in these comments can't be counted on to watch the first two minutes of the video let alone read my words. Being biracial white and Asian means... you're Asian. It's relevant here because the only time people call me white (or the ever fun not-Asian-enough) is when they want to invalidate a statement I made without actually talking about the statement. But Asian people being lauded one moment (victims of violence/internment/model minority) and thrown under the bus the next (too white adjacent/anti-black racism/kung flu) is all a part of package I'm used to.

In a world (which isn't Asia but has Asia aesthetics) of magic and martial arts, different kingdoms each represented by an element are at peace until one day the Fire/Fang nation attacked and only one young hero and their friends can save the world.

They sound pretty similar to me.

Here's the part where I go into preemptive mitigation to head off detractors who would take the worst possible interpretation of what I said (even though it won't work).

Umbrella Academy is similar to X-Men. Hunger Games is similar to Battle Royale. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is similar to Lara Croft (or is it the other way around? Which came first?) Harry Potter and Twilight and The Simpsons and Minecraft have spawned their own "reduxes" (to use the word in LE's original tweet). Of course they aren't identical and differences exist between, I dunno, Bella Swan and Ana Steele, but whether you want to hear "redux" as "inspired by" or "ripoff of" is your own Rorschach test.

Either way, LE is right: it would be helpful to have a word for this genre. "Shonen" is for anime and "fantasy" is too broad. But you know something's there when even the movie poster for Raya and the Last Dragon is unintentionally but perfectly hit by the (affectionate) parody book cover of the "The Good Witch Azura" in The Owl House: The hero in a confident pose, the cute animal sidekick, etc. And of course Avatar didn't start this genre; Avatar has it's own inspirations, and those inspirations have their inspirations. But what else besides Avatar would be a good landmark on this continuum?

Before you answer: what makes Avatar Avatar is much more than its Asian motif.

I can't help but notice the reoccurring theme of LE's detractors being that they haven't actually watched the video (or in some cases, used the length and amount of detail it contains *as the reason* to not watch or address it - calling it a "gish gallop"). People are in this thread asking about the origin of "cancelled" ("Wasn't it originally a black internet/twitter term?") when LE explains it in LITERALLY THE FIRST TWO MINUTES OF HER VIDEO. Or the person who doesn't outright say LE described her sexual assault in the video just for sympathy ("Did she have to? Who made her?"), but only in a naa-naa-I'm-not-touching-you way. They then go on to say that LE should just ignore the trolls. The video goes into why that doesn't work either, so I'm going to assume they also didn't watch it. So ignoring the issue doesn't work and addressing it with a near two-hour video doesn't work.

The vast, sustained, and inevitable-yet-never-predictable harassment that LE gets is appalling, as are all the attempts to minimize or justify it because those are a part of the harassment. It is NOT the format of Twitter or "context collapse" or any of that, because I'm seeing ALL of this played out here on the blue.

JK Rowling quickly follows up her supposedly-transphobic comments with no-wait-she-really-is-transphobic comments. You don't have to dig deep. I sincerely try get to the bottom of these "controversies" or "long histories" that I'm assured exist about Lindsey Ellis or Contrapoints (or apparently even Jenny Nicholson now?) and I always come up with... nothing that should make me or anyone have to write a 600 word comment about. What I do find is the internet trying to come up with new reasons to take a woman down a peg.
posted by AlSweigart at 11:15 AM on April 18 [48 favorites]


You seem to be conflating or collapsing a lot of different commenters with different criticisms and positions here in order to make a point.
posted by Dysk at 11:57 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Addendum: Most recently, Hana Kimura is a vaguely similar reference point for women in digital harassment and potential outcomes. It did not end well for her.
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:59 AM on April 18


The hot take by Ellis that kicked off this controversy seems to be based on a rather ridiculous premise that a cross cultural story framework that has been used for millennia actually originated in Avatar the Last Airbender. Influencer driven culture and its drama derived from ignorant, provocative hot takes is killing this country. That drama seems to be the primary way these influences make money; I mean 1.2 million views for a 100 minute monetized YouTube video.
posted by interogative mood at 1:12 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


In a world (which isn't Asia but has Asia aesthetics) of magic and martial arts, different kingdoms each represented by an element are at peace until one day the Fire/Fang nation attacked and only one young hero and their friends can save the world.

They sound pretty similar to me.


And had she said "they're similar", we wouldn't be here. But she didn't say "they're similar", but "Raya and other similar works in Western YA fiction trace their lineage back to Avatar," because that's what using "redux" means. That has been the sticking point, and the point that her critics (note: not her harassers) have been pointing out. The problem with using Avatar as a landmark is that in doing so, it's saying that the growth in popularity of Eastern folklore and media in the West is the result of this one particular series created by white men, which doesn't hold up to scrutiny whatsoever (for one, said growth predates Avatar by quite a bit, and the series was in fact a response to the larger movement occurring in YA literature and animation.) That's not to say that Avatar isn't influential - it very much is - but it's not The Reason why Western YA fiction has been using more and more Eastern motifs and tropes as of late, and to argue that it is serves to erase the experience of creators (many of whom are POC) who were inspired by the increase in Western interest in Eastern culture for encouraging them to create their works.

You mention "Umbrella Academy is similar to X-Men", but this actually misses the point - The Umbrella Academy isn't similar to X-Men, but a deconstruction of the latter to discuss the issues with the concept - which in turn is part of a long tradition in Western comics of using such as a form of industry conversation on the media (the most famous example being Watchmen, Alan Moore's dissection of the superhero genre.) There has been a long-running discussion on whether The Hunger Games draws from Battle Royale (Collins has publicly said she had not seen or read the latter before writing the former), but that stems from the similarities in the concepts of the two (and it's worth pointing out that there are also key differences between the two as well.) As for Buffy and Lara, this is probably the closest to the phenomenon here - they're both part of a cultural move towards the development of more prominent heroines, so their similarities derive from that common cultural influence. But in all of these analyses, we're talking about looking at one media example to another, and not mapping large scale media shifts to a particular work, which is going to be problematic because it is very rarely that media and culture gets reshaped by one specific work.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:21 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


I was initially going to post a fiery defense of LE, but after having spent some time thinking about this, I think I understand more of where her critics are coming from. Having said that, I still don’t agree with much of the criticism of her initial set of tweets.

I’m not a media critic, but let me just go through one of the specific Twitter threads linked above (which has now been deleted—a shame, since it’s actually an example of good-faith criticism):
Ugh okay I didn't want to talk about Raya because my feelings on it are complicated (as with any other piece of media I consume) but if a white woman can tweet her throwaway opinion on it I guess I can too.

Context: I'm a Singaporean of Chinese ethnicity

I'm interpreting her tweet as generously as I can, and what she's saying is that the "people separated into elements team up to fight an evil element + an antihero redemption arc" is a trope that she wants to classify.

Her take on "this trope definitely came from ATLA" is wrong, and the reason why people read her take is racist is because "separating people by attributes" is a trope that has been used by storytellers before ATLA, particularly in Asian storytelling.
The problem with this interpretation is that the trope LE was talking about did not just involve "people separated into elements team up to fight an evil element." Here's the quoted tweet (which has now been deleted):
no this trend is pretty unique from Avatar--there's always nations based on one attribute (elements, dragon parts), there's always a fire nation who arrives to ruin everything, and there's always a zuko with a redemption arc. I wasn't thinking folklore at all.
So her tweet specifically mentioned the word nation, which I think is a subtle yet important distinction from “people separated into elements”—and from the examples the thread listed below:
Our brains love to categorize people by arbitrary characteristics (see: horoscopes & personality tests) and dividing people by their unique power is not a concept that ATLA thought up.

In Chinese philosophy, people (loosely) believe in the 5 elements: fire, water, earth, metal, and wood. We use these to divine anything from astrology to fengshui, medicine and martial arts.

ATLA adapted these to make their show, as does anime and Chinese wuxia/kungfu films.

You have other versions that are not saddled with cultural baggage - ancient Roman medicine believed in the 4 humours, Captain Planet is the combination of 5 elements, Harry Potter divides their students by personalities who team up to fight Bad Guy.
The different nations in ATLA are more akin to the different nations we have IRL—that’s what allows it to tackle subjects like genocide or imperialism. I think this is different from the four houses of Hogwarts (I don’t know what a Captain Planet is). Unless I’m deeply mistaken, in Harry Potter, by the time wizards graduate from Hogwarts, they all end up participating in the same society, and the house they once belonged to cease to hold any importance in how they interact with one another—I’m sure there is some inter-house prejudice, but it’s not integral to the story. Meanwhile, in the world of ATLA, the relationships between Fire and the other nations they invaded were often integral to the story (see “Zuko Alone”).

Now the thread did not provide any examples of specific Asian stories that employ the trope of "dividing people by their unique power," but since they mentioned wuxia, they might have been referring to the various sects in the wuxia stories I used to read/watch as a kid. These sects (like the Wudang Sect or the Shaoling Sect), have their own subculture and their own styles of fighting, and conflict between the sects are often what drove the story—but again, I don't think these sects are comparable to the different nations in ATLA. These sects are not created from some immutable quality that people inherently possess, and they are often not inherited.

As for how ATLA adapted the five Chinese elements for the bending in their show—at the end of the day, all tropes can derive their lineage from some earlier tropes. For example, George Romero’s zombie films originated from the zombie in Haitian folklore. ATLA’s element-based nations are probably inspired by the five Chinese elements in the same way. Yet, at each iteration, some type of transformation takes place so that something new is created, and I think, in the case of ATLA, the trope it employed is distinct enough from its various progenitors, that it is probably safe to say that it had started the trend of using the trope LE was talking about in YA media in the US.

Now, I don’t think LE was consciously aware of the differences between Hogwarts/wuxia sects and the four nations (she certainly didn’t articulate them that well in either the tweet or in the video). But what I’m trying to say is that, as a viewer/reader, they do feel quite different, even though I’m only too well aware that I might have missed some crucial pieces of work (especially since I’m only tangentially more familiar with works from China), so if there are examples of works that do feature the trope in question, I would love to talk about them.
ATLA might've been the first time Ellis consciously recognized this trope, and that's her benchmark when something similar arises.

Unfortunately, she picked a film written by BIPOC to compare to ATLA, when she could've picked... idk, Divergent

Raya may have been influenced by ATLA, totally! But it's not a ripoff when ATLA is the one that borrowed from our culture to begin with.
LE did not claim that Raya was a ripoff of ATLA.
Why express the need for genre classification, after watching a film with BIPOC writing it, and then add TWO more BIPOC books as evidence?

YA publishing is at a point where they're bringing in more BIPOC voices than ever before, and the timing of this tweet only adds to the constant drumbeat that "this trope is done, we've no room for BIPOC to tell their version of the story."

And for a figure whose job is to analyze and critique media (and I've learned a lot from her videos), these tweets of "people are reading too much into what I've written" feels particularly ironic.
These last few tweets elucidated for me exactly where the conflict lies. I think many Asian creators are justifiably concerned that their work will be deemed “unoriginal” when compared with ATLA—and I don’t really have anything to say in response to that, since I’m not a media creator, though LE certainly could’ve mentioned brought this up in the video (instead of just talking about the general anti-Asian racism).

I guess the point of this long-ass deep-reading of people’s tweets about children’s cartoons is that it is not immediately obvious to me, a literal Chinese person, what LE’s transgressions were, and I’m frustrated that folks just presumed that what she stated was wrong without having that actual conversation (which may have already been had! But I did not see anyone making the same set of observations I did to the threads above, so I thought at the very least, I would put my thoughts out there).
posted by joethefob at 3:07 PM on April 18 [13 favorites]


What about the long history of Disney only running stories they feel are safe enough to be accepted by a wide audience?

What about the history of a zillion Twilight ish things being greenlit after Twilight, a zillion Harry Potter ish things being promoted after Harry Potter, not because the authors of those stories were inspired by Twilight or Harry Potter in particular, but because the studios / publishers realized that there was an opportunity to promote those kinds of stories to a proven audience?

What about that time The Strokes were popular in 2002, so suddenly there were a lot of leather jacket wearing punk bands getting signed to major labels?

It's not that all these bands were all inspired by The Strokes and all copying the The Strokes - the good ones had already been doing their local band thing for years before this happened - but the labels saw an opportunity to make more of "this thing" they had proof that people liked.

My friend is trying to sell her novel, she's having a hard time because the publishers are asking her to name 2-3 recently published books that are similar. She's BIPOC too and the story is about "a New Zealand creative living in New Orleans with his family, grappling with parenthood, mental illness, cancer, interpersonal relationships, bisexuality, hostile weather formations, the past, the present, and the future" and it doesn't have a clear plotline. She says it's similar to The Corrections.

If you watch the whole LE video, she never goes as far as to explicitly say that she can see why people were upset with her tweet. She doesn't try to explain the criticism, as the critics understand it, which would show that she understood it. Instead she relates it to a long history of enemies taking any misstep, and making sure it's blown up and continually brought up again and again to torment her any time she doesn't criticism-proof her tweets. Or to a history of tweets blowing up past the point of useful criticism while the author is asleep (twitter villain of the day, etc).

I'm not a media critic, if I had made a long video like this I probably would have done the psychiatrist thing of parroting back the argument of the opponents, "I can see why so many people were upset, because it looked like my tweet said..." before explaining what I actually meant by my 120 character tossed-off tweet... LE does the second and not the first, which makes it seem incomplete even though it's over an hour long. It's easy for me to be an armchair-critic though. She says she was talking about Avatar's influence in popularizing these tropes, not that it is the first or only example of them.

***
***
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From my personal experience with being called out on social media, a call-out like this is almost a blessing. You spend so much time waiting for it to happen, expecting it to happen, because it happens eventually to everyone who reaches a certain level of popularity online and has enemies... or even people who aren't enemies but who benefit in some way from your being gone.

Getting a call-out that's so obscure and so mired in internet discourse that it can't even be understood by people who aren't intimately involved in the discourse is the best kind of call-out you can receive. You can brush it off because no one who already supports you will be swayed, most neutral third parties who watch your video first won't be swayed, and people who only see the arguments against you and not your arguments... I mean, there's nothing you can say to those people anyway. They won't see your arguments. They are a loss no matter what you say, so you can just write them off.

Again I'm speaking from my personal experience, though, since I'm not LE and even with this whole video it's not like I know exactly what she's thinking.
posted by subdee at 3:56 PM on April 18


I can't really seem to stay away from this thread, sorry ya'll... I've just been thinking about these issues for a very long time for personal reasons, as I'm sure many people here have been, and LE's high profile means that a lot of things that have been bubbling away in niche internet subcultures might finally, though this event, reach mainstream consciousness. So I keep coming back here hoping to add more different ideas to the idea pile. I believe all of them, even the ones that contradict.
posted by subdee at 3:59 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


It actually seems like a lot of people can't. Even with the pop culture veneer, there are some deep underlying currents of culture bubbling up here, it's true.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:10 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Anway, to the question of whether there could be a connection between Avatar, Raya, and (supposedly) similar stories popping in YA - I don't know anything about YA publishing so I don't know about that part of it. I have seen both Raya and Avatar and the one didn't particularly remind me of the other, except they are both obviously inspired by similar things. Raya is very very very simple and streamlined compared to Avatar, there's no ambiguity about its central moral lesson whatsoever.

I think the comparison to Zuko is actually a bad comparison, because I don't think the redemption plotline with Zuko is as telegraphed as the redemption plotline with Namaari. In the first scene in the whole movie, Raya's dad tells her it's important to make yourself vulnerable first, because distrust and noncooperation is the worst outcome for everyone. And the rest of the movie is just watching that play out and waiting for Raya to realize that he was right all along, even if it got him killed, knowing all the damage of the war is just gonna be undone again with no real losses, because it's a Disney movie.

Raya and her dad coming from the rich kingdom, and Namaari and her folk coming from the poor kingdom that becomes the richest kingdom (relatively) after the world is broken, is I think the most subtle and deepest thing going on in the movie. Avatar has more historical parallels (the invasion of Imperial Japan, etc) and is not purely based on a fantasy setting, so just for that reason alone I think it ends up being a bit more complex in its political themes than Raya.

So I don't think they're that similar.

The idea that Disney could have been thinking about Avatar when they decided to back Raya doesn't seem all that crazy, though. Big companies like Disney want a clear answer to question "what other recently popular thing is this story like?" before they invest in you. They don't like risks. Recently Disney cut funding on what would have been their first movie with queer leads ever, because it being based on a Noelle Stevenson (creator of Steven Universe) webcomic is seen as a risk as much as a selling point these days. No risks, no Noelle Stevenson, no queer leads in a Disney movie.

Saying we have Wakandavision because Black Panther isn't controversial, saying "perhaps we need a name for this Black Panther redux plot of a powerful African nation with advanced technology" might very well be controversial. But that's why twitter is a bad medium unless you're gonna have a professional team behind you. Lindsay Ellis says she meant first one, not the second. Whether you believe that's true really depends on how much you're willing to trust her. The people from the privileged kingdoms trust more easily...

Besides the issue of whether LE is a trustworthy ally who can be extended the benefit of the doubt with her tweets, or if we should be assuming she is blind to issues that don't effect her personally because that's what her past controversies indicate, I think we could also add the question of whether the Avatar-Raya comparison is Lindsay Ellis' own individual sin coming out of her own individual shortcomings, or if that tweet is pointing toward a structural issue with how Disney movies get made - an issue that would still exist even if Lindsay Ellis was not there to tweet about it.
posted by subdee at 4:45 PM on April 18


> The hot take by Ellis that kicked off this controversy seems to be based on a rather ridiculous premise that a cross cultural story framework that has been used for millennia actually originated in Avatar the Last Airbender.

What? Her tweet... about the Disney movie... claims AVATAR COLON THE LAST AIRBENDER is the origins of a millennia-old cross cultural story framework...? Do you mean, storytelling itself? Or... the concept of heroes and quests...? What?

Yeah, I agree that premise does sound ridiculous... Were we looking at the same tweet?

I'm sorry, I can't follow this discussion anymore. I get enough of this on Twitter. I'm out.
posted by AlSweigart at 5:55 PM on April 18 [14 favorites]


To clarify my point. Her tweet was;
“Also watched Raya and the Last Dragon and I think we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: the Last Airbender reduxes. It’s like half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years anyway.”
She is elevating Avatar the Last Airbender and decrying other works as being derivative of ATLA. ATLA isn’t its own genre, it’s standard Hero with a Thousand Faces stuff. Joseph Campbell’s demonstrated in his book this is a long standing cross cultural story framework.

Her claim that ATLA is the root of a genre and all such stories that come after it are reduxes is ignorant. Worse because many story elements and settings of ALTA come from Asian cultures and the writers of ALTA were not from those cultures; now she’s basically saying to the Asian writers of RALD that they have no right to use their own heritage in their stories because sorry some white people planted their flag on top of it first. Anyone who dare uses Asian elements in a story built around the hero’s journey is just redoing ATLA.

We should celebrate that Asian writers are getting to sell and tell these stories to big studios like Disney. We can acknowledge that ATLA, Star Wars and other works that used Asian philosophies in their story paved the way for studios to know there was a commercial market for these kinds of stories. However it is ignorant and racist to suggest that the stories being told now are just remixes of these earlier stories.

And for a supposedly intellectual, liberal media critic to make the statement is really awful.
posted by interogative mood at 8:43 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


What? Her tweet... about the Disney movie... claims AVATAR COLON THE LAST AIRBENDER is the origins of a millennia-old cross cultural story framework...? Do you mean, storytelling itself? Or... the concept of heroes and quests...? What?

If you want an analogy, it's like a white food critic complaining that the new Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant that opened in their town is a derivative copy of Howlin' Ray's when in fact both white owned businesses actually copied the black owned Prince's.
posted by zymil at 8:59 PM on April 18 [10 favorites]


“Also watched Raya and the Last Dragon and I think we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: the Last Airbender reduxes. It’s like half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years anyway.”

There's probably some reasonable analysis that could be made about the success of Avatar and how it's brought certain lines of Asian mythology and storytelling tropes into the mainstream for this current generation of Western audiences and filmmakers. While Raya may not owe much to Avatar from a story perspective (because those influences go back, you know, millennia), I don't think it's unreasonable to argue that without Avatar, Raya would have been much less likely to be made in the US.

This is a lot of kerfuffle over one dumb tweet that was clearly going for glib and landed at insensitive, and I feel like it's something that Ellis could have avoided with a few more tweets explaining her thinking a bit. I haven't watched her big video but it doesn't sound like she hit that mark.

I don't interpret the tweet that stating that Avatar created this genre - I think it's just her touchtone for the Asian fantasy genre with elemental magic. But I can see how it was read that way. Twitter isn't good for nuance.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:33 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


She is elevating Avatar the Last Airbender and decrying other works as being derivative of ATLA.

That statement doesn't elevate or decry anything, it's entirely value-neutral. All art is derivative of previous art, the question is only which art it draws inspiration from. Examining what art has influenced other art is a big part of what Ellis does with her work, and it's quite independent of any judgment she makes about the quality or value of any given piece of art. I don't quite understand the inference that people seem to be drawing that she's saying "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is good while other things are bad, or at least less good.

now she’s basically saying to the Asian writers of RALD that they have no right to use their own heritage in their stories because sorry some white people planted their flag on top of it first.

That is reading quite a lot into what she wrote. Actually, I'd say that's not really reading into it, that's just putting words in her mouth. All she said is that Raya and the Last Dragon, and "half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years", are highly derivative of Avatar. I have no idea whether that's true, as I'm not really familiar with either work, but as she points out in the video, some of the creators of Raya specifically cited Avatar as an influence, so it doesn't seem like an especially idiosyncratic take.
posted by biogeo at 10:22 PM on April 18 [16 favorites]


"half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years"

This is extremely untrue though.

I don't want to harass Ellis, and I get the idea that people feel like discussing this issue here is contributing to that - I don't agree. But what's happening in SFF YA is an incredibly rich transition to telling stories that originate out of non-Western traditions, yes - and characterizing that as basing them on Avatar is pretty ignorant. Here's a decent round up of some of the top works of 2020 - highly recommend taking a look.

In the tiny circles in which I operate the hope is that YA SFF is decolonizing - recognizing and drawing from non-Western traditions though diverse authors.

Now I don't know if she really meant what she said, or if she meant movies (although again, I would look at YA SFF movies pretty closely before I made that assertion, especially if you are looking at the last few years and not, say, 2017 when Lego Ninjago comes out) but - it is so bad a take as to wonder what on earth she meant by it.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:12 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Ellis does acknowledge in the video that her statement about YA fantasy was hyperbole and she doesn't stand by it.
posted by biogeo at 7:20 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


Last year, Thought Slime posted a video that had a lot of ableist language and framing to it. They took it down, apologized (even as other breadtubers were saying "no! taking it down is just cancel culture! you're being censored") and then released a thoughtful video the same length as their usual video essays (about 20 minutes) talking about critcism, doubling down, defensiveness and squaring up to hurt.

It's still pretty evergreen
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:18 AM on April 19 [7 favorites]


I don't interpret the tweet that stating that Avatar created this genre

She said "we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: the Last Airbender reduxes"

Maybe I don't understand what redux means, but it seems to me she is saying that the genre consists of stories that redo Avatar: The Last Airbender"

That statement doesn't elevate or decry anything, it's entirely value-neutral

I think that artists writers would interpret their work being called a remake of something else and then categorized as like half of the whole category as a criticism.

Perhaps this will help. Imagine instead she wrote:
Also listened to the new Kanye West album. We need to come up with a term for this genre that is just Eiminem reduxes. It's like half of all popular music anyway.
posted by interogative mood at 1:08 PM on April 19 [6 favorites]


I don't interpret "redux" as meaning "remake" or "redo". However, your example with Kanye West and Eminem is a helpful comparison for thinking about this, thank you!
posted by biogeo at 1:20 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


I'm genuinely curious what you think "redux" means in this context.
posted by interogative mood at 10:40 AM on April 20


> "we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: the Last Airbender reduxes"

I'm not going to argue about what Ellis meant or didn't mean, but try this very similar wording on for size:

"we need to come up with a name for this genre that are things that are basically similar to Avatar: the Last Airbender and seem to have become popular with mainstream media and publishers in the U.S. since the success of Airbender"

My point isn't to argue about what Ellis did or did not mean, but to point out how shitty Twitter is as a communication medium.

It thrives on snide/snarky hot takes--because those are what get the re-tweets & attention--and requires a shorthand/telegraph writing style that uses many words like "redux" precisely because they telescope 2-3 sentences or paragraphs of explanation into a single short word.

By its nature this leaves a whole lot of blanks to be filled in and naturally everyone fills them in the way they think they should be filled--for better or worse.

(Hate to even bring Trump into this--or any--discussion but this is at least 3/4 of the secret of his success. Vague, half-coherent but punchy tweets allowed everyone of his followers to fill in the blanks exactly as they wished and so to believe this was a guy who was exactly 100% on their own wavelength. And if ever something does cross the line, well it's "just a joke". Either way, there is just enough content there to allow any given tweet to suggest just about anything you like, and never quite enough to completely pin anything down 100%.)
posted by flug at 10:54 AM on April 20 [5 favorites]


Also listened to the new Kanye West album. We need to come up with a term for this genre that is just Eiminem reduxes. It's like half of all popular music anyway.

It's helpful to see that that's the way a lot of people heard Ellis. But I think a more precise analogy would be more like:

"Also listened to [a white hip-hop artist]. We need to come up with a term for this genre of songs that is basically [a particular Eminem song] reduxes. It seems like half of the hip-hop songs on the charts the past few years are about [subject of Eminem song]."

Maybe some would take that as a claim that Eminem was the first to sing about that topic, but one could also interpret it as attributing the sudden prevalence of songs about that topic to the success of Eminem's song.
posted by straight at 8:31 PM on April 20


"Also listened to [a white hip-hop artist]. We need to come up with a term for this genre of songs that is basically [a particular Eminem song] reduxes. It seems like half of the hip-hop songs on the charts the past few years are about [subject of Eminem song]."

This is no longer just analogy on the way that the original Eminem example was though - you're adding content. Your final sentence is significantly more fleshed out, and reads to me like it's saying something completely different.
posted by Dysk at 5:50 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


[white hip hop artist] is a less precise analogy. A major source of the outrage around the tweet was the fact that Raya and the Last Dragon was written by Asian writers and featured a predominantly Asian voice actors while Avatar didn’t. Using hip-hop instead of popular music also makes it less precise an analogy. Her statement suggests a complete ignorance of the large corpus of anime / manga that Avatar was inspired by and appropriated. Part of the outrage was that she’s saying “we need a genre” when there is a genre. This is something a self described expert media and culture critic ought to know.

I agree that the problem here is that the influencer culture created by Twitter that elevates people with who write short provocative hot takes without any regard for truth or actual knowledge. These takes usually result in a torrent of hate and scorn being directed at the subject by the influencer’s followers.

Most depressing in this is that the lesson the algorithms are teaching other influences is that behavior like Lindsey Ellis’ will be rewarded with more monetized YouTube views and paying Patreons.
posted by interogative mood at 6:58 AM on April 21 [5 favorites]


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