“How can you make content for people that you’re kind of afraid of?"
July 25, 2021 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Lindsay Ellis goes on The Financial Diet to talk about the financial aftermath of being canceled “There were so many people who were waiting for the excuse to topple me.”

Video mentions that the whole thing blew up because she deleted her own Twitter, losing some followers, living in fear of offending people with anything she produces, how one shouldn’t defend themselves against accusations, and how Twitter is addictive. She’s no longer handling her own Twitter account (her agency is doing it)and says if she can’t interact, she doesn’t really want to be there. She won’t be doing a book tour due to pandemic, rather than this incident.

Lindsay has worked for The Financial Diet before.

Follow up from here.
posted by jenfullmoon (119 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
...no. No, a lot of us were fans of Lindsay, and even sympathetic to her after the lawsuit + situation with moviebob. Not at this point, however.

This -- all this discussion on cancel culture -- just feels like people wanting to avoid actually engaging critics. It feels exhausting because it's more compelling, it seems, to have a discussion on how awful Twitter can be, than to talk about how poor the original critique was, much less her response.

I have a lot of sympathy for trying to unpack all this -- I've tasted a slice of this Internet attack pie, and I imagine it's far worse in Ellis' case. I would not want to be in her shoes.

Yet I have a lot more sympathy for the Asian voices whose concerns, rightly or otherwise, get drowned out in the fallout. Surely to goodness we should have some way to find the gold nuggets in these discussions and address them? Can't we have that discussion without just laying out a Pretty Twitter Hate Machine as our sole response when these issue arise?

(PS someone in the prior discussion mentioned the links to 2 other video essayist Ellis was recommending, then pulled? Since one was Todd in the Shadows, whose bit leans on no one seeing his face or really knowing much about him, I suspect those links got added without Ellis consulting the essayists...and then pulled when it implied that Tood was a Person of Color, something he strives to not make part of his online presence.

That level of apparent...care, shall we say, is part of you I mistrust a lot of Ellis' responses in this situation, and am reconsidering some of my own criticism that was buttressed by her work.)
posted by Asim at 10:58 PM on July 25 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the big problem here is that she's trying to rewrite history here, saying that all she did was just compare the two works - when if you read her original tweet and her followup argument, she makes the pretty clear argument that she sees these works as tracing their lineage through Avatar, which was what had minority creators (and AAPI creators in particular) upset with the argument - they are justifiably tired of having their works and culture mediated through the works of white men, especially when the underlying thesis doesn't hold up. Ellis going on a friendly platform to engage in whitewashing her statement is a load of bullshit, and yet because of the friendly platform, it's got a good chance of working, and thus those complaints will get dismissed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:24 PM on July 25 [15 favorites]


Isn’t one of the major points here that, as a woman, and as a woman critic on the internet, Ellis is never allowed to be wrong? There’s good faith explorations of her arguments faults, and there’s another darker side where people just can’t wait for her to STFU. And what’s particularly galling is that they both use each other’s language.
posted by The River Ivel at 12:53 AM on July 26 [77 favorites]


Is there a transcript anywhere?
posted by Dysk at 1:24 AM on July 26 [13 favorites]


I can't get over the idea that there are apparently people so mad about someone comparing one stupid story to another that they're ready to lynch someone for it.

By the way, I'm not a superfan of Ellis. I think that (in)famous reaction video of her is also over the top but at least I can understand why she went for that.
posted by Kosmob0t at 1:28 AM on July 26 [15 favorites]


Dysk: Is there a transcript anywhere?

If you click on the ellipsis symbol under the YouTube video you'll see an option to open the closed caption transcript. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.
posted by Kattullus at 1:31 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


There’s good faith explorations of her arguments faults, and there’s another darker side where people just can’t wait for her to STFU. And what’s particularly galling is that they both use each other’s language.

It is worse than that, I think: both are happening at the same time, people are more willing to find faults because she is a woman critic in a way that they wouldn't for men, and there is absolutely cross-pollination between people motivated by getting her to STFU and people wanting to critique the position (in the same way that some conservatives get real concerned about sexism, but only as much as it allows them to advance racist viewpoints). To get a truly fair critique of the viewpoint, you'd need to not know who it was coming from, and at this point that's probably impossible.

I did notice that her career as a critic has basically ended - the one video she's posted since was so defensive and listless that I couldn't watch it - but also I'd noticed that her career as a critic had reached kind of a lull in the year before that as she devoted most of her creative energy towards her writing, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is a transition away from the public eye that was coming one way or another.

A friend of mine, who is American centrist tending towards conservative, reacted to the original video by effectively saying she paid the price for the audience she courted, a comment that stuck with me because, despite the whiff of 'get woke go broke' it has, I don't know how I'd refute it. It does seem like her prominence in certain circles - she's commonly included as part of whatever "BreadTube" is despite whatever politics is in her videos being fairly typical Hollywood liberalism - made her appear far more influential than she actually is, and the problem with purity culture in leftist spaces, including on MetaFilter, has been long observed. She was bound to make a comment that hurt people out of ignorance or culture difference at some point, as are we all.

We can't even have a conversation about what she said without bringing in our own prejudices.
posted by Merus at 1:36 AM on July 26 [73 favorites]


I can't get over the idea that there are apparently people so mad about someone comparing one stupid story to another that they're ready to lynch someone for it.

That's not what happened, and repeating that argument only serves to dismiss the actual, legitimate criticism that Ellis has faced. What happened was that she made a flippant comment that pushed issues of erasure and cultural colonization (namely, that creators of color drawing on their own cultural heritage are viewed as pulling their ideas from a work created by white men.) In response, those creators then called her out on that argument, looking to have her realize what the problem is with what she said. Unfortunately, a bunch of bad faith actors then seized on the legitimate criticism that she was facing to attack her.

But here's the thing - while she didn't deserve the vitriol that those bad faith actors hurled at her, the original criticism, is, well, legitimate. She did outright argue that Raya - a work built by a number of AAPI artists drawing on their own cultural traditions - was derived from Avatar - a work created primarily by white men pulling from Eastern tropes and traditions. And so you had minority creators pointing out how that take was wrong, dismissive of the actual cultural shifts happening in children's media at the time, and discounting how those shifts have allowed minority creators to create these new works. The fact that bad faith actors abused their argument doesn't make their argument somehow wrong.

She was bound to make a comment that hurt people out of ignorance or culture difference at some point, as are we all.
But that's not the issue - the issue is that she refuses to acknowledge that harm and take responsibility. Worse, she's now trying to rewrite history and argue that she didn't say what she said, or that it was hyperbole and shouldn't be taken seriously. That's the problem here, and part of it is that she cultivated a base that takes both media criticism and social justice seriously - and thus had the tools to hold her accountable to that as well.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:53 AM on July 26 [46 favorites]


Thanks for the explanation NoxAeternum. I forgot about that bit.
posted by Kosmob0t at 2:06 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


I wasn't expecting this video to lower my opinion of Lindsey but it did.

As bad an idea as her initial reaction video was, the disclosures in that video suggested to me that she was making a genuine attempt to explain and apologise for some of the behaviours she thought people were taking issue with. That she didn't actually understand why her Raya tweet was offensive was a problem, but given the tidal wave of abuse she was also receiving at the time I could understand it.

The way Lindsey describes the incident in this video shows that she's given up on trying to understand why anyone could have had a legitimate problem with the Raya/Avatar tweet or how she handled it. The interviewer actually says "I think that any normal person does not understand the problem [with the Raya tweet]" and Lindsey nods.

I realise it isn't easy, but if you can't engage with good faith criticism or even see the people making it as anything other than haters and bullies I'm not sure how you can be an effective critic that doesn't hurt people.
posted by zymil at 2:15 AM on July 26 [10 favorites]


I watched her response video to the controversy, and... I was really shocked that she wasn't a lot more savvy at this kind of thing, considering her previous work. She's not entirely thrilled with her original takes, and just apologizing for her bad takes and moving on would have left her in pretty much the same place as she started. Instead, she's been doing a lot of the doubling down and Streisanding you're usually used to seeing in the subjects of her videos.
posted by groda at 2:38 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


Mod note: As a quick note, folks, please don't use the term "lynch" to describe things that definitely are not that. Same as referring to a thing as a "holocaust" or "rape," etc., when it might be something unpleasant or annoying ... this sort of usage really does serve to diminish and trivialize real life actual horrors. We all love an apt metaphor, but take some care, please. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:42 AM on July 26 [72 favorites]


Nice pull quote. For someone who makes their living talking about media, it's almost too on the nose for how shifting class is portrayed with tropes, it's just needs a "little" in front of people to really sell it. I had minimal interest one way or the other in Ellis, but with her story encompassing everything from sexism to racism to now taking on a classism aspect, it really is donning the full panoply of American experience in all its ugly glory.

It's not that Ellis is wrong about everything in her response to the controversies surrounding her videos. In addition to the sexism she's faced there are people who would like to see her fail and work to make that happen. There is a considerable problem in the way people treat each other on social media that makes good faith discussion virtually impossible at large scale and that individual "content creators" have to accept that and basically choose not to engage since that only compounds their problems.

This of course further fosters the divide that has Ellis now speaking of herself as separate from the audience she relies on for her wealth. The interview highlights this a number of times, with both Ellis and Fagan talking about their audience in terms of masses and all that entails to them, but then asking for considerations for themselves as individuals for the importance of their "content creation". They scoff at those who reference their success for placing them at a different standard, but also attempt to use their place as defense against the horde they are forced to ignore.

It's all kind of fascinating, a mess, with reasonable observations mixed in with blinkered solipsism. The newness of the form and its minimal buffer between "star" and public makes it something like celeb-concentrate, not quite like what used to be harvested by the studios and carefully prepped by producers for market, this type is canned and served watered down as it can be overwhelming otherwise.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:15 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


What happened to her reminds me a lot of that helicopter sci-fi story. Not in a finger-wagging "this brilliant creator was destroyed by wokeness" way but in that it was a repeat of the phenomenon where legitimate criticisms get co-opted by "allies" for internet points. I think THAT requires self-examination among critics who are not members of the harmed groups, rather than them ignoring that larger issue in favor of offering forward their opinions on whether the apology was sufficient. If you are wondering if the apology was sufficient then look to the analyses of those that were harmed--and you better damn well make sure your conclusions are based on more than one or two voices.

Was the response and fallout proportional to the harm done by the original action? I am not a member of the harmed groups so I cannot answer that (and based on the demographics of Metafilter I think the majority of commenters here cannot answer that either).
posted by schroedinger at 4:24 AM on July 26 [18 favorites]


I think this is partly a danger of leveraging your identity in the way YouTube seems to encourage.

The other sundry critics who compared Raya to Avatar weren't attacked, partly because there s no such "attack surface"

The comments on 'reverse engineering' a justification are worth a listen, three quarters through.

The bad faith needed to make the numbers for the shame dogpile isn't going to drive 'accountability'. I think most people realize that dunking on people isn't activism, although too many obviously do not.

As far as a response to 'get woke go broke'-- the attacks don't seem to have hit Ellis's biz metrics, so?

I guess a first obvious response, perhaps, is that the finances are not the problem (despite this show title, skip to the end of the program), it s the ability of someone to authentically engage online in an online community they once felt a part of which is shut down.

Ellis is not a political commentator per se, but I suppose if I were arguing politics, I would point out that, say, it wasn't the internet dogpile that cancelled Bill O'Reilly, it was Fox, in response to the NYTimes publication of his repeated harassment of Fox employees.

But then these are two different subjects. I am not conservative, but I would ask one how they feel about how Beth Rickey was shunned by her fellow conservatives for campaigning to censure David Duke and Nazism. After Rickey campaigned against Nazism in the republican party, her social circle cut her off. That, at least, is a similar social shunning
posted by eustatic at 4:26 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


Am i allowed to speak as a southeast asian yet, or am I still on the hook to have to listen to Ellis again?

In any case, i was never interested in her being cancelled. I was interested, as a casual fan and someone who tended to look forward to her commentary, to see if she could extend that analytical power to actually see what was in play for people like me. But, eh. Guess not.

Ok gonna pipe down again.
posted by cendawanita at 5:20 AM on July 26 [37 favorites]


I always had trouble understanding what was so bad about the original remark. Is it that it's obviously absurd to think that the Disney Company, at some point during the long process of pitching, story development, market research, executive interference, legal vetting, focus groups and test showings, might possibly have contemplated the benefits of referring (while dancing carefully around the edges of actionable copyright infringement) to an earlier series that carved, at least in certain profitable markets, the groove into which they might hope to gently guide their newborn intellectual property (by means such as giving it an obviously resonant name)? Or that of course they did, but it's very, very rude to say so?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:24 AM on July 26 [22 favorites]


Since this topic came up again, I want to say that the best discussion of what we in tumblr / twitter anime fandom call "the discourse" is Melina Pendulum's.

(And why am I brining up "the discourse"? Because it wasn't just the gamergates, the South Asian fans of Avatar and Raya, or the social justice folks who took issue with Lindsay's tweet and seized on it as the chance to bring her down, it was the pro-shippers who thought she'd dismissed them out of hand when she waded into this topic unawares the week before and saw this as their big chance to go after Lindsay Ellis.)

Melina Pendulum is a friend of Sarah Z's, another ytuber who was peripherally involved in this mess, and in her video on the state of fandom she talks about moral panics and also the frustration that comes from trying to make those good faith arguments abt, eg, racism and seeing them all dismissed as part of the (very, very real) moral panic and conservative backlash wearing a progressive hat online. And the general trend online of using media criticism as a substitute for, in place of, moral judgements about people's behavior towards other people.

I have to find the link, gimme a minute.
posted by subdee at 5:44 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]




It’s kind of rude to suggest that in creators of Asian descent, who have been historically marginalized and erased in media, are cribbing from white guys, who are the real auteurs, even though everyone involved is drawing on Asian cultures in their work.

Omitting that from a description of what happened feels pretty reductio ad absurdam.

It’s also kind of weird for someone to not be able to entertain the idea that they said and did something that’s frustrating for some people, even if that thing isn’t the end of the world.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:48 AM on July 26 [12 favorites]


NoxAeternum, did Ellis make a flippant comment or an outright argument? They're quite different things. Also, how many AAPI creatives are listed amongst the directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors on Raya? Out of how many total? And how many of those are White American men or women?

This was a Disney film. This is the studio that tried to trademark "Día de los Muertos" for merchandise. How many creatives of Mexican descent have topline crew credits on Coco? How many creatives of Polynesian descent have topline crew credits on Moana? If you read anything about the production processes of these films, they invariably involve a bunch of White Disney/Pixar employees flying into and touring the region they want to portray on film. Often cultural consultants are brought in late in the production process when the studio wants to make sure they're not doing anything deeply offensive.

There is no reason why there can't be a Disney/Pixar film that draws on South-East Asian culture and is stacked full of creatives from that culture. Raya is not that film, and if you act like it is you are setting the bar very, very conveniently low for studio executives who are big fans of the status quo, given where it has them.
posted by Panthalassa at 5:54 AM on July 26 [16 favorites]


I don't know if that was a comment about me or other people in the thread, but my position isn't that she didn't say something frustrating to some people, but that the furor of the backlash was largely driven by score-settling over a different discussion that had happened the week before.
posted by subdee at 5:56 AM on July 26 [5 favorites]


I can't find the tweets at this point, but Todd is out as being a person of color and I remember him saying he suppprted her. I have seen videos of him where there is better lighting. I do not think he is trying to hide it. They used to date years ago and have a longstanding friendship.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:17 AM on July 26


i just want to respond, somewhat lightheartedly, to this:
Raya is not that film, and if you act like it is you are setting the bar very, very conveniently low for studio executives who are big fans of the status quo, given where it has them.

heh, the (southeast asian) people in my life who mattered to me were absolutely giving this movie a hard time, especially since we were taking it as a call-in, since literally the same malaysian writer who was part of the CRA movie (which, check my history, I have Opinions about) led the creative team for this movie (or at least very much presented by Disney as such). So yes, diaspora but also adult professional middle-class expatriate who fit well into the System. We're giving the team a hard time BECAUSE we know the flavour of our internal anglophilia BUT...

Lindsay Ellis's careless tweet was so laughably, stereotypically Western Reviewer nonsense, it legit stopped us for a good minute, going, goddammit, do we have to defend Raya now?

that's the view from where we are. However flattened for industrial consumption this movie is, however deliberately generic this movie chose to be, however intentionally blind to the actual diversity of "Southeast Asia", that tweet definitely elicited a hearty, yet unsurprised, chuckle. And salty retweets. Sorry it got taken advantage of by the undoubtedly sexist, but Western reviewers really cannot hear themselves whenever they opinionate about something outside their culture. Yeah, we contain multitudes.
posted by cendawanita at 6:57 AM on July 26 [43 favorites]


I always had trouble understanding what was so bad about the original remark.

The problem was that she stated (and then later doubled down on) the position that Avatar was the source point for the development of a good chunk of YA media, like Raya. While Avatar is an important series in Western YA animation (and was clearly an influence on a lot of other works) pointing to it as the entry point and source for those works is basically ignoring the larger movement of inspiration by the anime/manga boom of the late 90s-2000s creating greater crosstalk between Western and Eastern media, and how the young people consuming YA media during that boom are now the creators and showrunners. In an interview, Infinity Train creator Owen Dennis laid out how this worked:
Anime influenced kids in the ‘90s and ‘00s due to packaging like Toonami. Those kids are now in their 30s and making their own TV shows. They want to make stuff similar to what they watched when they were kids. Hence, you get shows like Steven Universe, Owl House, She-Ra, Kipo, OK K.O., Rise of the TMNT, etc. It’s clear that anime has influenced an entire generation of cartoon creators. Anime can be kid-oriented, but can also veer into adult themes.

As kids, many show creators were watching the adult stuff, so they’re trying to recreate what anime does in the American market. Unfortunately, the people in charge didn’t grow up with anime, so they often miss its value.
In that aspect, the main impact of Avatar was that it opened doors for creators inspired by that boom,as well as creators from the East. But to argue that it was somehow a genesis point requires ignoring a lot of what was happening in Western animation and YA media - which is especially questionable when coming from a media critic who made their reputation on analyzing Western animation.

NoxAeternum, did Ellis make a flippant comment or an outright argument? They're quite different things.

She did both, actually. The original tweet itself was flippant, but she followed that up with her "cancellation" video where she laid out the argument outright. I remember watching that portion, and when she talked about "doing the research", my thoughts being "no, if you did the research, you would realize very quickly that there's a greater cultural movement that you missed."
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:39 AM on July 26 [12 favorites]


just apologizing for her bad takes and moving on would have left her in pretty much the same place as she started

This is the part that's interesting to me. She could have just said "huh, I hadn't thought of that. Lemme go do some learning about it". Then read some of the discussion, searched out people who both understood the issue and who she could trust give her feedback in good faith, etc. She seems well-enough connected that she could find some people like that.

So why did she double down instead?

There's a thing where sometimes people react badly to situations because they have some narrative in mind that frames reacting in a good way negatively -- as capitulation to some dark, powerful forces; as something they "shouldn't have to" do; etc. If Ellis hadn't had a narrative in mind about "cancel culture", would she have been so quick to dismiss people's reaction? If she hadn't (justifiably) had a self-narrative about being, as a woman on the internet, particularly subject to bad-faith attack, would she have been so quick to find people's reaction as being in bad faith? If she didn't think about "wokeness" with some sarcasm, would she have been so apt to dismiss the need for it here?

Apologizing when you've insulted someone is generally the decent thing to do, even if you're not sure how you've insulted them. It doesn't have to mean self-flagellation. It's only ever not the right thing to do if the other person is acting in bad faith -- and you'd better be pretty sure that's the case, and most importantly, that what you said wouldn't have been insulting to a good-faith listener either. And even then, it doesn't cost you very much to apologize on Twitter -- unless you see doing that as part of a negative narrative you absolutely, morally, must take a stand against.

I think the lesson here is to be very careful about what narratives you're working with, consciously or unconsciously. And that sometimes the right thing to do is to ask yourself if a decent person, acting in pure good faith, could also have been offended by what you did. Because even if you don't believe your opposition is acting in good faith, it's important to act in good faith yourself; if you've done something that in itself is worth taking responsibility for, then take responsibility for it.

tl;dr - The internet is huge; Twitter attract huge crowds. It's easy to be dehumanized, and it's also easy to dehumanize the people who object to what you do. To dismiss them as a baying mob. It's wise practice to imagine some individuals of good faith within that mob, and aim your reactions at them.
posted by trig at 7:56 AM on July 26 [16 favorites]


This -- all this discussion on cancel culture -- just feels like people wanting to avoid actually engaging critics. It feels exhausting because it's more compelling, it seems, to have a discussion on how awful Twitter can be, than to talk about how poor the original critique was, much less her response.

I've been doing something of a dive into Marshall McLuhan recently, fifty plus years since he pulled the proverbial rug out from under the party ... and we're still wondering why everything's so confused. I'm pretty sure he'd be way more interested in discussing the nature of Twitter's awfulness than "how poor the original critique was" because The Medium Is The Message (and all that). In other words, he'd be interested in the fish tank itself, not the particular stuff that's floating around in it.

From the previous Lindsay Ellis thread:

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).

This reads to me as harassment, plain and simple. But more importantly (assuming we genuinely wish to extricate ourselves from these "cancel wars") it's an incisive critique of the medium in question (some of its worst aspects anyway), which I believe we really do need to reconcile one way or another before there's any serious point in ...

understanding what was so bad about the original remark.

Actually, that's putting it wrong. Because I think many of us already understand what's so bad about it. But the reason this particular situation has such sturdy "legs" (the reason we still care) is because the harassment Lindsay Elliot experienced (is still experiencing) feels so out of whack. Yeah, she said a sloppy thing (in 222 characters) that perhaps deserved some pushback, and then, in pushing back on that pushback, maybe she dug a deeper hole for herself ... but she doesn't deserve to be negated because of it.

Does she?

Because that's what the medium in question seems to encourage. Taking a McLuhanistic perspective, I suppose I'd argue that it doesn't matter if Twitter itself is wrong or right. What matters is that we first acknowledge what it even is ... and then adjust our conceptions and expectations accordingly.
posted by philip-random at 8:20 AM on July 26 [18 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).

Yeah, this is exactly the kind of internalized narrative I'm thinking of. But if you're convinced nothing works, then you might as well choose to do the decent thing. And who knows, maybe in this case it will work. Thoughtful apologies have actually helped in a lot of these cases. Maybe because sometimes the narrative is false, and not everyone is out to dehumanize you after all.
posted by trig at 8:27 AM on July 26 [5 favorites]


It's gonna be so funny when North Korea hacks Disney and we get all the internal Raya docs and executive emails and Avatar is referenced all the time
posted by Cezar Golescu at 8:37 AM on July 26 [17 favorites]


Thoughtful apologies have actually helped in a lot of these cases.

Thoughtful apologies will help with people being thoughtful in that moment. The problem is the flood of people being reactive or in actual bad faith in which the people being thoughtful will be engulfed. By the time an Internet shitstorm reaches critical mass, the former far outnumber the latter.

Which is a huge shame, because, as others have said, the issues raised in these discussions are usually not only legitimate, but urgent, and I hate to see the productive conversations drowned out. (This is not calling for a more "civil" tone or whatever, but it is calling for an avoidance of behavior such as, e.g., publicly declaring an author transphobic without even having read the work that's the basis for the charge, or holding individuals who seem more "accessible" to a far higher standard than people with much greater power.)
posted by praemunire at 8:38 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


Could you give a few examples trig? I think I agree with what you say about the narratives we tell ourselves, but I'm struggling to think of any examples where an apology has put a stop to a shit storm once it starts.
posted by Braeburn at 8:40 AM on July 26 [8 favorites]


New rule: unless you've watched the 45-minute video in this post, don't comment.

Hello, I'm Asian and I defend Lindsay Ellis. I already described why previously on the blue and why I am, at this point, more-than-a-little skeptical of her critics. It was obvious that there were people in that thread that didn't watch her two hour video before commenting (or even literally the first two minutes), and I'm going to assume that history is repeating itself here (especially given that I see a lot of the same usernames). In this MetaFilter FPP comment, I'm going to talk about the video featured in the MetaFilter FPP. My "don't comment if you didn't bother to actually watch the video" is spicy, but also... fair?

First, I thought some of the YouTubers left insightful comments (heh, another sign of the end times for 2021):

One commenter points out how Honest Trailers makes the exact same comparison between Raya and the Last Dragon and Avatar: The Last Airbender for laughs without causing similar furor.

Another commenter mentions the "can't wait for Jenny Nicholson to tweet something bad so that we can cancel her too" posts. I've seen some of this too (and especially more for Contrapoints) and , and for me it reinforces that these outrages are more about the dogpile than the actual person. (I'm sure this mefi post will get over 100 comments; the urge to participate and have your say is very real.)

Ellis brings up how people use the size of her Patreon to minimize these attacks, even though her Patreon only reports the number of supporters and not the dollar amount. (An average of $1 per supporter or $10 a supporter would mean an order of magnitude of difference.) She brings up how she has seven employees and the Patreon money mostly goes to payroll. It reminds me of John Scalzi's reply to one of his detractors where he said something like, "you don't know my numbers better than I do", and this is something that as an author I've encountered myself (though to a much, much less degree.)

Ellis also brought up how she lets an agency manage her Twitter account and she doesn't have direct access anymore. She mentioned how before she had set her mentions to mutuals only (she'd only get notifications from accounts she also followed, rather than from everyone) but even then the website is addictive. I've done the same thing for the same reason (along with blocking the notification number bubble, the link to replies, and the sidebar, and having an ad blocker). I still occasionally find a useful link on the site, but otherwise I treat social media in general like cigarettes. She calls Twitter an addiction in a literal way, saying for the first couple weeks off her brain didn't know what to do with itself and kept wanting to get that stimulus of checking tweets. I relate to that, hard.

I did notice in the video that Ellis and the host Chelsea Fagan mainly talked about being cancelled for tweets as something that happens to content creators, but for me this has been an issue that mainly affects women (Contrapoints comes to mind foremost). Male "breadtuber" content creators who comment on pop culture never seem to have these blow ups. It's hard for me to tell which is more significant: that these dogpiles are targeted at women or if they only get legs when the targets are women.

Okay, one note unrelated to the video itself: This video talks a lot about of different issues that content creators face, but I only see three comments about this video's content (two are asking for and providing a link to a transcript). If you want to know "why does she keep doubling down?" then ask yourself why everyone else wants to have a rehash (dare I say redux) of her tweet and the discussion that already happened in the last mefi post. (Again, I'm seeing a lot of the same usernames.)
posted by AlSweigart at 8:50 AM on July 26 [58 favorites]


I don’t really understand the idea of taking these mass market corporate children’s animation products put out by globe spanning empires as some kind of vehicle for authentic unfiltered personal and cultural expression
posted by anazgnos at 9:00 AM on July 26 [38 favorites]


The problem was that she stated (and then later doubled down on) the position that Avatar was the source point for the development of a good chunk of YA media, like Raya.

Ah, I think I see what happened: I understood her as saying that there is a genre of films and books that in some way reprise Avatar, and Raya can be placed in that genre, but some people seem to have understood her as saying that Raya is *only* in that specific genre and can't be placed in any others, and wasn't influenced by anything else except through Avatar (which would indeed ignore a whole lot of common precursors).

That's an odd interpretation of the original tweet in particular, but it does explain a lot of the reaction she got.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:05 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


Ellis brings up how people use the size of her Patreon to minimize these attacks, even though her Patreon only reports the number of supporters and not the dollar amount.

I’ll admit I did skip around, because I wanted to get to the financial impact part, but my understanding when I got there was that the financial impact turned out to be small? On the order of one percent?

I was pretty sympathetic over the actual incident because it seemed like an example of how people are penalized more for failing to meet high expectations - of general thoughtfulness, or worse, of responsiveness - than if they openly don’t give a fuck (or of course if they cultivate an audience that wants them to be offensive). But some of the framing about financial impact seems baity if the conclusion is that in the end it didn’t make much of a dent. It seems like the real lessons are more about how to keep a healthy emotional distance.
posted by atoxyl at 9:16 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


It's gonna be so funny when North Korea hacks Disney and we get all the internal Raya docs and executive emails and Avatar is referenced all the time

This. I understand that what Lindsay Ellis said and did is problematic, and her handling of her "apology" has been really tone-deaf, and really stupid considering that she seems to be one of those people who is savvy enough about social media that she can make a career out of it.

And yet...What Cezar and others above are referencing is the fact that Avatar stands out among Asian and Asian-inspired art in that it entered the zeitgeist in a way that most other manga/anime did not. I can buy Avatar bedsheets at walmart. There was a live-action movie based on Avatar directed by a Hollywood darling that had lines around the block for the midnight premiere. Avatar and its Nick-produced sequel Korra weren't aired on Toonami; this is a whale among a lot of anime minnows.

And if there's one thing I know about Lindsay Ellis, it's that she understands her hollywood history. The first video of hers that I really liked was the breakdown of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, and it was mostly because she laid out the history of Disney to show how and why they make business decisions, and how that's changed over the decades.

So I have no doubt that when she saw Raya, she was thinking that somewhere inside of Disney studios there were producers who had been pitched this film and that pitch had included the phrase "Avatar but with dragons" or some shit. Just like it always used to be "Speed but on a boat" or "Die Hard but with robots" or whatever. I mean, call me racist, fine, but when I saw the Raya trailer, one of my first thoughts was "well somebody at Disney likes Korra." I mean, there is no way this was a coincidence. People at Disney knew Avatar was popular, and knew they could get butts in seats if people could expect something similar to another property they liked.

Lindsay Ellis called that out, and people got upset because there is more to Asian culture than what is presented in Avatar. To which she probably should have responded "yes, but does Disney know that?"
posted by nushustu at 9:16 AM on July 26 [23 favorites]


or worse, of responsiveness

by which I don’t mean it’s bad to be responsive to fan concerns but that doing well here actually often seems to raise the bar for the future, rather than buying “reserves” of goodwill
posted by atoxyl at 9:20 AM on July 26


I read the transcript of the latest video. I think but in general there are a few things going on here.

1. No one deserved to be doxxed or be harassed, where "harassed" is threats, personal comments, wishing someone would die in a fire, all of that. That's a first principle. On my quick read of the transcript, I don't see Ellis saying that happened.

1.b. She wasn't 'cancelled' - at least according to this transcript, her numbers are the same.

2. Twitter does reward the hot take. Twitter shit storms are shitty. There is a discussion to be had about Twitter.

However, there is a bit of 'live by the sword, die by the sword' here. I feel for everyone who has to be on Twitter for their job - mine used to involve that and it's not fun. My Twitter is banal due to this experience, though, and while that's not the solution for everyone, I generally stay out of it in case I need to be Professionally Online again.

My understanding from the comments in this and the last thread is that Ellis was involved in some kind of other online discussion where the people cranky from that discussion followed her into this discussion. She lives in the same environment I was being careful about in 2011. There's no question that's a really bad feeling, but people being cranky at creators happens to writers/filmmakers/etc. all the time. See: Jane Fonda after her anti-war comments, etc.

3. That leads to - there is a shift in the direct audience relationship that content creators have now, and it means that the people making the content get the feedback very, very directly.

That's somewhat new, like, last 20 years new. It is emotionally and creatively draining.

As an example, when I was working for Large Canadian Women's Magazine, the print team made a mistake cutting something out of a piece. When that blew up on Twitter, the writer felt angry, the editor that made that decision felt defensive...and I apologized and we immediately and ran, print in the next editor and online that day, the information that should have been included and invited the critics to have space on our platform.

The thing is, everyone was a little insulated from the nascent Tweet storm. I was handling it, but it wasn't my mistake so although it was very fraught, it wasn't personal.

That's what having multiple layers of accountability does for you. Ellis doesn't work for Vanity Fair, so she doesn't get to have the complaints go to the Vanity Fair inbox, etc.

Ellis says "Positive reinforcement just washes over me.I internalize none of it." If that's the case, that's an issue - but her audience isn't responsible for that issue exactly. It's something we're all learning together and her perspective is important.

But I'm not sure there's a way to live by your opinions, and not risk having people decide you suck based on your opinions, even if it's a one-off statement.

As stated above, that's different from harassment. I'm still unclear where this one lands although I did read in the transcript, "People were digging up all kinds of old tweets of hers, coming out with sort of I knew it type language about her," which doesn't strike me as harassment necessarily - like they were engaging maybe in a bit of bad faith, but they were engaging with things she'd put out as professional content.

Ellis herself says "I deleted my Twitter account. And that was what made me trend."

4. Ellis had a lot of options here. I can think of a few ways to have handled it, including apologizing early, and instead of making a video about Her Personal Experience Of Being Cancelled, she could even have interviewed or centred other voices and given them a bit of space on her channel. That might have helped her recover her creative mojo, too.

Or she could have ignored it, or a lot of things.

Would that have been a perfect solution? No, of course not. But nothing is online! Every recipe has someone who comments that they are allergic to chicken so why do you have chicken in your chicken recipe!

It's the audience's moral role to not like, doxx, issue threats, call your mother up, etc. There's no question about that.

But when you publish something, people may hate it. They may hate it stupidly. They may congregate opinions as if it's Black Friday. I'm really not sure that content creators are entitled to never trending for the wrong reasons.

Ellis has decided in her last video and this one to share her viewpoint that this is a big narrative about purity culture and the left. If I were her editor, I would have put a different writer on that question, and tried to assign her work I knew would feed her creative spirit, maybe even behind the scenes for a bit.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:20 AM on July 26 [17 favorites]


The problem was that she stated (and then later doubled down on) the position that Avatar was the source point for the development of a good chunk of YA media, like Raya...

While Avatar is an important series in Western YA animation (and was clearly an influence on a lot of other works)...


Aren't the two bolded statements making almost the exact same point?
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:27 AM on July 26 [6 favorites]


It seems like the real lessons are more about how to keep a healthy emotional distance.

I think at this point we've seen enough people crumple under this kind of pressure to safely conclude that, without layers of corporate interface between you and your audience/a very healthy margin of privilege, cultivating a "healthy emotional distance" isn't an adequate tactic.
posted by praemunire at 9:41 AM on July 26 [22 favorites]


Aren't the two bolded statements making almost the exact same point?

No. There's a difference between "X is important and influential" and "X is the reason that the genre exists", and the latter is fraught with implications that aren't in the former. Avatar is important in Western animation and definitely opened doors, but it was also a response to larger trends in the animation market. Which leads into:

And yet...What Cezar and others above are referencing is the fact that Avatar stands out among Asian and Asian-inspired art in that it entered the zeitgeist in a way that most other manga/anime did not. I can buy Avatar bedsheets at walmart. There was a live-action movie based on Avatar directed by a Hollywood darling that had lines around the block for the midnight premiere. Avatar and its Nick-produced sequel Korra weren't aired on Toonami; this is a whale among a lot of anime minnows.

This is a very questionable reading of that era of animation history, and tends to reflect biases in Western culture. The reality is that you did see breakthroughs of anime properties in the US in the late 90s and early 2000s - Dragon Ball Z being the big one for a lot of people. And the vehicle for that was Toonami, which did a lot to drive the move by actually pitching shonen series to their intended audience in the West without too much interference. Avatar was in part Nick's response to the success that CN was having with Toonami, to create their own shonen style series because it was clear that shonen can sell in the US. In short it was part of a greater shift in Western animation, in particular TV animation, from episodic fare to the more arc-driven model more common in Eastern animation and works.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:53 AM on July 26 [10 favorites]


I have nothing substantive to add here, but no kidding it takes me a good minute or two every time this comes up to realize the discussion isn't about the movie with the blue aliens.

Generational boundary, I'm sure.
posted by Kyol at 9:54 AM on July 26 [22 favorites]


I think at this point we've seen enough people crumple under this kind of pressure to safely conclude that, without layers of corporate interface between you and your audience/a very healthy margin of privilege, cultivating a "healthy emotional distance" isn't an adequate tactic.

Without those layers of corporate interference, a certain segment of the audience starts to form those para social bonds and when you mess up as a creator, they take it personally. "How could you let me down by tweeting this careless thing, I thought you were on my side."
posted by subdee at 9:54 AM on July 26 [10 favorites]


I'd probably argue that it's impossible to have a "healthy emotional distance" and use social media platforms as intended.

I see professional creators/writers who:
- lock their accounts overnight, and often for longer (eg. david allen green)
- deactivate for months and drop back in when they have something to say and then deactivate again (the Nicole Cliffe)
- straight up have someone else manage it (as Ellis now does)

All these essentially work to break the always-on dynamic of social media relationships.

The cost might not end up being a direct immediate measurable loss of earnings on Patreon, but how can you account for the cost of better mental health, or loss of earnings as a result of these incidents?
posted by Braeburn at 9:58 AM on July 26 [14 favorites]


@Kyol.. come join me with my warm milk and comforter
posted by elkevelvet at 9:58 AM on July 26


I think at this point we've seen enough people crumple under this kind of pressure to safely conclude that, without layers of corporate interface between you and your audience/a very healthy margin of privilege, cultivating a "healthy emotional distance" isn't an adequate tactic.

Well, it’s a good point about privilege and access to platforms for sure.

However, I think it’s also possible people just don’t absorb the healthy responses because the people who manage them aren’t making multiple videos about it.

At one point I had a guest column run on the NYT Motherlode blog. (It was about how Googling almost any childhood illness leads to “leukaemia” in the middle of the night. Different order of magnitude but then I wasn’t doing that as a living. Anyways, about 10% of the comments expressed that I was a terrible mother. I didn’t love that but - they don’t know me, and I chose to display my neurotic tendencies. To my mind, that was different than say, Rebecca Black getting mocked for her song. I was a relatively media-savvy writer choosing to write.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:03 AM on July 26 [4 favorites]


However, I think it’s also possible people just don’t absorb the healthy responses because the people who manage them aren’t making multiple videos about it.

I know someone who wrote an article for a large media outlet about parenting that got some attention. It was controversial in a way that's actually fairly germane here--expressing an opinion that probably had some flaws and could've used some thoughtful pushback, but also the kind of thing that the right-wing mommy-crowd would find hugely inflammatory. She didn't make a video about it, but I know she was very upset by some of the comments. Not just on the article--she was hassled in the context of her other work for a while.
posted by praemunire at 10:53 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


I get that it's extra disappointing when someone who's supposed to be an "ally" has a bad take. We're mentally steeled to get shit on by our enemies, but not from our friends and so in some respect it feels worse, even if it's just a little minor poop instead of the veritable shitstorm of rotten bile we receive daily from those who actively mean us harm.

But who really benefits from these hyperagressive takedowns? It seems like it's gift-wrapped to please the Right. On the one hand, they get the thrill of watching the public humiliation of another (generally) culturally progressive, often underrepresented voice, and even while they enjoy the downfall, they can still secondarily point fingers at the "woke orthodoxy" or what-have-you for supposedly destroying free speech. And take a smug satisfaction in the internecine struggles of the Left. Frankly the whole thing makes me a bit tinfoil-hat suspicious that some of these targeted social media conflagrations are being fueled by bad actor accelerants.
posted by xigxag at 11:12 AM on July 26 [20 favorites]


I also think it's not really possible to have a thoughtful and honest back and forth about an opinion on social media once any of the participants have gotten above a certain level of fame/attention/followers, because the thoughtful and honest discussion will be drown out by noise pretty quickly, especially when a) malign actors get involved or b) inattentive allies with only volume to contribute get involved. Twitter, with is relatively short posts and the ample rewards for quick one-liners, is probably the last place you should try to have such a discussion. And the whole thing is made worse the higher the parasocial stakes are.

So... where do you have honest and thoughtful conversations with or between higher-profile people? Probably nowhere, which is discouraging.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:13 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


So... where do you have honest and thoughtful conversations with or between higher-profile people?

The only time I have had these kinds of conversations were at book readings with the author. I have also contacted authors via their university email (readily available). And I'm not an angry asshole, so they always respond back. Sometimes these turn into short email conversations.

Once upon a time, if you had something to say, you could tell your family, friends, coworkers, strangers on the bus, or stand on the corner and try to get people's attention. The internet can give anyone the chance to shout. Given the heavily mediated nature of the internet and its anonymity, it's so easy to now shout directly at almost anyone. And because they're not standing next to you, you have no fear of them shouting (or maybe worse) back.

So we now have a world full of shouting assholes, and those trying to shout them down. And conversely, writing on the internet is like walking on eggs, very slowly, very carefully, because one little misstep and the egg breaks releasing loads of accusations, some warranted, but in a lot of cases, it's just a chance to shout. Meanwhile, everyone else feels like they have to take sides which leads to more shouting. Ms Ellis stated a couple of sentences, maybe thoughtlessly, maybe not, we do not know, yet now all gather like witnessing some momentous event, and the shouting continues. I am really tired of all this.
posted by njohnson23 at 12:35 PM on July 26 [9 favorites]


Right. I think none of us have any idea how those reasonable critiques of Ellis's comments looked to her. Were they completely buried in a deluge of other comments? Were they indistinguishable from people who quoted bits of the legitimate critique as they delivered abuse?

Think about how you'd be hesitant to compliment the looks of a stranger in part because you don't know how many sleezy comments she's gotten about her looks today and whether your compliment will just seem like one more bit of that noise she's dealing with.

Ellis gets 20-50 comments in response to every tweet she makes and many of them get many hundreds of comments. Every time you tweet something critical at someone with a lot of followers, that's the context in which your comment will be read.
posted by straight at 12:45 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


Minority voices used to have little or no opportunities to be heard by people creating and distributing mass media. Now social media gives them more opportunities, and that feels like a step forward, but it's still just one voice or a few voices in a crowd of hundreds or thousands.

We still have this problem of people saying worthwhile important things but instead of getting rejected by the editor of the letters page, they are drowned out by the crowd, or a piece of their comment is appropriated and used by the mob for something else, even though it may superficially look like what they said is right there next to the famous person's comment.
posted by straight at 12:54 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Minority voices used to have little or no opportunities to be heard by people creating and distributing mass media. Now social media gives them more opportunities, and that feels like a step forward,

Yes, and that is a big plus to social media, however, it also makes minority speakers on social media vulnerable in new ways. Leslie Jones and Kelly Marie Tran, among many others were viciously attacked. Fandoms contain terrible people (someone one notoriously threw a cup of cold vomit a Joe Haldeman at a convention back in the day), but now you can be a bullying asshole from the other side of the planet. So social media cuts in many directions and often indiscriminately.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:22 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


It’s also kind of weird for someone to not be able to entertain the idea that they said and did something that’s frustrating for some people, even if that thing isn’t the end of the world.

Just to be clear, this part of my comment wasn’t about anyone in this thread but about Ellis herself. It just seems odd that she decided that this, of all things, was the hill to die on.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:27 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


I really think being under attack on social media permanently alters (or damages) how you engage with the world. Ellis has detailed the different attacks she's had over the past 5+ years, from many different corners. She also has watched her friends be set upon, vastly disproportionately to any original wrongdoing. There's a threshold where you can't take any more of being eternally vigilant, so you change how you operate.

At the end of the video they discuss therapy, and I'm surprised Ellis hasn't been able to find anyone who's simultaneously a licensed therapist and online enough to understand where she's coming from.
posted by Braeburn at 1:52 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


[Disclosure: old white guy, anime fan from the old days but not up to date, currently on episode 4 of Avatar: The Last Airbender at my kids' suggestion]

I keep seeing (here, in the previous thread, and in discussions elsewhere on the 'net) that Ellis' error was suggesting that AtLA was the source of inspiration for RatLD, when there's actually a tradition of East/Southeast/South Asian stories that inspired the writers of RatLD directly (and which AtLA drew on as well, hence the similarities). Can anybody tell me (or point me to a discussion of) what those authentically direct-from-Asia elements are? I assume we're not talking about visual stuff like costumes and names and architecture. Are there sources that share the broad "multiple nations that need to be unified by magic" worldbuilding and story structure? (Like maybe Journey to the West/Dragonball?)

I've seen suggestions, for example, that the multiple nations are inspired by the caste systems of Hindi and Confucian societies, but the word "caste" doesn't appear in either of the MeFi threads.

In particular, are there precedents for setting such a story in a fictionalized region rather than real, historical Asia? ("Ruritanian" is the right term I'm tempted to use, but that's specifically European.) I can't speak for Ellis, but that's the similarity between RatLD and AtLA that initially jumped out at me—that they're both produced by Western companies and set in pseudo-Asia, allowing the producers to pick and choose (and appropriate) whatever elements they like while holding the real cultures and histories at arm's length to insulate themselves from accusations of stereotyping.
posted by The Tensor at 2:05 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised Ellis hasn't been able to find anyone who's simultaneously a licensed therapist and online enough to understand where she's coming from.

From my experiences there aren't a whole lot of people like this, although I would expect Ellis to have some connections to find one. Most therapists/psychologists I've talked to about this kind of thing are so good at distancing themselves from feedback (you have to be in order to be a successful therapist) that things like parasocial relationships don't make sense to them. I'm sure this will change as people who grew up on The Internet become therapists, but it's not easy to find someone who you can actually talk to usefully about the interaction between internet culture and mental health. Honestly I would expect MetaFilter to have a much higher-than-average number of such people.

I think this point is actually really relevant, and something I've thought about as I consider doing more "public" internet stuff: It is absolutely not fair to expect internet creators to deal with intense negative criticism in a healthy way. It's not fair to expect ANYONE to do this, because humans are literally not set up to be able to handle any sort of criticism at this kind of emotional and physical scale. The corporate layers of abstraction are needed to allow "normal people" to deal with harsh criticism, because you need some structure (or experience as a therapist) to be able to do the emotional separation needed to not go crazy listening to thousands of people who are angry at you.

I think that's the most unfair part here, I don't really have an opinion on what Ellis said, but it's unrealistic to expect most people to be able to deal with this kind of personally-directed mental energy and give some sort of reasonable response. There's a reason most people say really stupid things when confronted like this: the human brain is overwhelmed and starts working incorrectly.
posted by JZig at 2:12 PM on July 26 [9 favorites]


"It just seems odd that she decided that this, of all things, was the hill to die on."

I'm finding every day that people I think I know quite well do very odd things. People choose the strangest hills to die on. There is no single explanation for it, but there are many valid explanations.
posted by elkevelvet at 2:50 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


If you're looking for a specific anime influence, offhand I'd say Naruto has many of the same elements (heh).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:51 PM on July 26


So... where do you have honest and thoughtful conversations with or between higher-profile people?

Maybe I'm using social media wrong, but my response to this question is: you don't. They don't owe you anything. I've occasionally commented on something by high profile people and the higher the profile, the less likely they are to respond which is … totally reasonable. They don't know me from a stick in the ground. If they go so far as to "like" my comment, that's nice. But I don't expect it.

I have honest and thoughtful conversations with the people I actually know and who know me. We talk about what people say, but we don't expect them to respond. If they are politicians and I'm their constituent, then I do expect them (or their staff) to respond somehow - and I have used Twitter posts to try to get a response out of large companies that were jerking me around on their policies. But critics or content creators? Just like authors or television producers, it's my choice to consume their content. If I don't like their content, I stop consuming it. Maybe I talk about it with people I know. But it strikes me as the height of rudeness to expect someone like Ellis or Natalie Wynn (Contrapoints) to listen to me just because I happen to follow them on Twitter and/or watch their videos, anymore that I would expect Peter Mansbridge to take my call because I didn't like how he introduces the news.

I am very aware of the "para-" part of "parasocial" - it's not a real social relationship.

As for honest and thoughtful conversations between higher-profile people: there are many people I follow who do have real relationships with each other, often because they are colleagues (e.g., progressive rabbis chatting together, or authors in related genres) - and they can have good conversations. But generally, really deep conversations do not happen on social media: the medium isn't good for it. Twitter or YouTube are really broadcast media that aren't good at interchange. You don't have the same back and forth of a conversation. At best, you have speeches or columns, but not discourse.
posted by jb at 3:07 PM on July 26 [21 favorites]


I don’t really understand the idea of taking these mass market corporate children’s animation products put out by globe spanning empires as some kind of vehicle for authentic unfiltered personal and cultural expression

Wait, is your take that if something is made to make money, is for the masses, and that its primary audience is kids that means it's of zero importance at all, and therefore nobody should spend any significant amount of time creating or analyzing it?

I guess it's Pregnant Spider-Man Elsa Fortnite YouTube videos all the way down then.
posted by FJT at 3:15 PM on July 26


made to make money, is for the masses, and that its primary audience is kids that means it's of zero importance at all,

where does the comment you're dispensing with say "zero importance"? All it does is question whether shareholder driven corporate empires that span the world are the best delivery systems "... for authentic unfiltered personal and cultural expression".

I think that's a relevant question to ask.
posted by philip-random at 3:31 PM on July 26 [9 favorites]


I think that's a relevant question to ask.

it may be something worth asking, but it is not relevant to the current discussion. Because nobody expected an authentic unfiltered personal and cultural expression. That statement is setting a pretty much impossibly high bar for any kind of story or media, and not only the ones made by corporations, or for the masses, or for children. Hence, I went in with an equally impossible opposite direction.

But just because someone can't make an authentic unfiltered personal and cultural expression doesn't mean no effort should be made at all.
posted by FJT at 3:53 PM on July 26


Maybe I'm using social media wrong, but my response to this question is: you don't.

Perhaps I phrased that badly. I'm not interested in communicating directly with Ellis, myself. However, people (including some of the creators?) were understandably upset by her thoughtless tweet. What were they supposed to do, just stew over it? So they took it to twitter in an attempt (as I understand it) to have an honest and thoughtful discussion which did not work out that way. So how could they have expressed their feelings? Response videos?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:53 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Response videos are a good idea. Or general discussion - but that's different from directly addressing, and then being upset if the person does not respond.
posted by jb at 4:02 PM on July 26


where does the comment you're dispensing with say "zero importance"? All it does is question whether shareholder driven corporate empires that span the world are the best delivery systems "... for authentic unfiltered personal and cultural expression".

I think that's a relevant question to ask.


No, it's the "sellout" argument, just rephrased. And just as in music, the argument that artists in other mediums are diminished by working commercially to be able to provide for themselves is getting tiresome. Yes, working within commercial restraints requires compromise, but so do a lot of other aspects of creative endeavors.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:07 PM on July 26


I wonder how many critical comments a person can read before the semantic content received from each additional message smears into either a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down?
posted by straight at 5:44 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


I was way to far into this thread before it was revealed to me that we weren't talking about the blue people on the planet with Unobtanium and all that stuff.

I was really trying hard to figure out how that movie from so long ago could have been SO VERY INFLUENTIAL over YA stuff.

Anyway, I'm on track now.
posted by hippybear at 8:10 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Isn't ATLA really basically the Wizard Of Oz? Having to meet the right people, gather their skills together, under threat from a power bent on capturing you for their own purposes...
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on July 26



I'm surprised Ellis hasn't been able to find anyone who's simultaneously a licensed therapist and online enough to understand where she's coming from.


Speaking professionally, I'm not. Psychology and Social Work in general have put way more emphasis on in person dynamics (after all, that's what's happening in face to face individual or group therapy) and in general as a whole therapists aren't the most technically savvy people in my experience. I went straight into social work. I'm now in my mid 30s which makes me just at the point where I have enough experience to be competent at what I am doing which isn't even individual therapy! And I recieved absolutely zero education in my program on it. There's not alot of CEU 's or discussion in my circles about it though I'm sure there is stuff out there at this point for professional education.

In my personal life, the mental health advice I got about my internet life had been not helpful to me. I didn't online date in the dating site way, but did marry someone I met online. I also got a ton of support from online groups, which i was actively discouraged from doing for reasons, but likely saved my life and kept me sane enough to work on recovery and moving forward in. YMMV.

I'm sure there are people out there and academic discussions about this kind of thing but it's definately not a part of any generalized education , or if it is it just started to be. The pandemic shift has transformed this field and incredibly suddenly. In terms of people recieving their education now, those people don't get full private practice careers at graduation, the clinical lisensure parts take time, and building up a name. I think we are about 5 years out from seeing a large number of mental health professionals who have a really good understanding of this, which in twitter time is a really really long time.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:08 PM on July 26 [7 favorites]


> Thoughtful apologies have actually helped in a lot of these cases.

With normal human social interactions this is the case but part of the point here is we are in a brave new world where the social group involved in these interactions is so mega-huge that normal social signals and modes of interaction are no longer operative.

This is what McLuhan was getting at with "the medium is the message". Twitter, Youtube, et al are dysfunctional media due to their very nature and design and one of the many things that means is, that if you were hoping to get someone's attention about issues like cultural appropriation, erasure, and so on--which are, when all is said and done, fairly nuanced and delicate concepts--then a place like Twitter is fast becoming a place where that cannot productively be done.

If you're having a small discussion among a relatively few people, yes. But once it becomes the laser focus of tens of thousands to millions of people that make up 'The Internet' then all hope of human discourse or reasonable human communication is gone.

It's a pile-on orders of magnitude beyond any pile-on we have seen before, and once it has started the pressure turns everything at its core to an unrecognizable white-hot molten mass.

We talk about "X could have done Y better" or "X is internet-savvy and should have known exactly how to deal with a shitstorm of this sort".

But the fact is that the only way to deal with a situation like that, once it has reached that white-hot critical mass of interest, would be to hire a large PR firm of the type that corporations, A-level movie stars, and national politicians hire when things go south, and follow their instructions to a T.

Meanwhile you have to withdraw behind the walls of your multi-million dollar Hollywood compound and take extreme measures when traveling outside it to avoid paparazzi etc.

That is the sort of thing that a few very wealthy individuals and large corporations can do, but the average youtuber or twitter "thought leader" - no way.

For that person there is literally no way out.

And once you have reached that point, the opportunity to have a reasoned discussion or for a sincere apology to make any difference at all, is long, long gone.
posted by flug at 12:28 AM on July 27 [14 favorites]


I was way to far into this thread before it was revealed to me that we weren't talking about the blue people on the planet with Unobtanium and all that stuff.

I was really trying hard to figure out how that movie from so long ago could have been SO VERY INFLUENTIAL over YA stuff.

I guess if anyone else feeling like this has managed to get down this far: the amount of people still talking about the Avatar with the blue people is effectively a rounding error. It is safe to assume that when mention Avatar, they are referring to the influential Western anime young adult TV series about a world in which elemental martial arts exist, and not James Cameron's extremely lucrative but inspirationally bankrupt movie.
posted by Merus at 12:56 AM on July 27


It's a pile-on orders of magnitude beyond any pile-on we have seen before, and once it has started the pressure turns everything at its core to an unrecognizable white-hot molten mass.

Are we still talking about Ellis? Because that is an incredibly exaggerated picture of the reality if so. We have seen many internet pile-ons far beyond this one, for a relatively small-time Internet-celeb. Not that her situation doesn't suck, but it is certainly not the worst pile-on in human history, far from it.
posted by Dysk at 3:46 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I feel like making the argument that it was not the worst pile-on in human history (which literally nobody said) is a way of getting around the question of whether it was big enough that it could no longer be materially and psychological handled by a single human.

Much smaller pile-ons destroy people. I think Ellis's particular plight is not so much interesting as is the formation of these pile-ons and how they can be short-circuited, if they can at all. For every pile-on with a target as highly-positioned as Ellis there are many more with targets who have decidedly less power, all of whom are deemed privileged for one reason or another by their attackers in order to justify the attack. Being the target of a right wing troll farm is horrible; being the target of the people who you thought were your allies is its own form of psychological torture. This is a larger Internet Problem and it is not going to be addressed by hashing out whether one pile-on versus another was just.
posted by schroedinger at 5:01 AM on July 27 [16 favorites]


(which literally nobody said)

I don't know how else to read the first clause of the comment I quoted?
posted by Dysk at 5:28 AM on July 27


I interpreted the comment as talking about how internet pile-ons in general exceed the magnitude of the not-internet pile-ons of the past.

Also: again, I don't think quibbling about the specific terribleness level of Eliss's personal pile-on is really that interesting?
posted by schroedinger at 5:49 AM on July 27 [5 favorites]


I don't know how else to read the first clause of the comment I quoted?

In the context of the sentence preceding it
posted by Cezar Golescu at 6:39 AM on July 27 [6 favorites]


But once it becomes the laser focus of tens of thousands to millions of people that make up 'The Internet' then all hope of human discourse or reasonable human communication is gone.

I agree with this statement but not, I think in the way it's intended. Once you're on YouTube or Instagram or whatever, you're a media personality and you don't have friends/allies/discourse. You have an audience.

And as a creator, and in this case a critic, part of the discipline of that profession is to navigate that relationship. What I see with Ellis is that she is definitely suffering. Her question, how do you make content for people you're kind of afraid of, is a great question. I hope it fuels her work in the future. It's also like, a very common historical question for artists from all walks of life.

But I do disagree that Twitter-mob-whatcha-gonna-do-purity-politics are the whole story here. I think when we treat ALL Twitter arguments the same we are engaging in the same flattening of human experience that we're critiquing.

The steps for this situation -- lame/controversial/colonial comment that's latched onto by people, some of whom are genuinely hurt and thought about it and some of whom are just glad to catch you with your pants down, so to speak -- are actually pretty well known and they don't take thousands of dollars in PR.

1. Delete the Tweet.
2. Apologize - "I deleted a Tweet that was a bad take on Raya. I'm opening to learning more, reading thoughtfully today and taking it in." (Pro tip: your thoughts are your own and can be 'I hate you all' :))
3. Lie low for a few days, preferably on a beach, with your notifications off. For extra bonus points, you can also elevate others, like "thought I would share this thoughtful comment which made me think."

This does work. I've seen it work over and over. I'm not saying Ellis has to be capable of it -- I wasn't at the point there was a Geocities site devoted to my evilness, I just saw the people upset with me as shitheads -- but a lot of the time, it does.

I mean even the title of this particular video is kind of deceptive. It's not an out-and-out lie, but it's not exactly what they talk about and if you browse past it, it leaves you with the impression that she was cancelled and lost tons of money -- and that's untrue.

Is it on her audience to adore her always only so her income is assured? Is it their job to drown out the negative voices on a totally different platform? Isn't drowning out the negative voices -- not meaning voices that hate you because of your skin colour but people who disagree with you -- actually its own mob mentality and kind of what we want to work against?
posted by warriorqueen at 8:24 AM on July 27 [10 favorites]


I think a lot of the "she's in a completely impossible situation" stuff overstates her fame. She's not exactly being hounded by paps, is she? I get she's getting shit on her twitter mentions, and elsewhere on the internet, but this isn't quite the Diana-grade invasion of every aspect of her life that a lot of people seem to be painting this as, is it?
posted by Dysk at 10:07 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]


warriorqueen, that looks a lot like what she said in the previous video discussed here she had tried several times and not found effective.
posted by straight at 10:50 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, no, Lindsay's not a paparazzi magnet. On the other hand, she's an online harassment magnet.

Is it on her audience to adore her always only so her income is assured?

Actually, yeah, if you work in the arts, if you work on YouTube, if you work for yourself, if you live off Patreon money. She's lucky this doesn't sound(?) like it's whoppingly affected her income, as yet. But if a lot of people hate you, there goes your money down the toilet and hell if I know if she could get a job with an employer at this point after DIY'ing for so long, if she could no longer DIY her career and she's notorious online.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:58 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Sure, nothing's 100%.

I'm going to think about if I should get into what I see in the video you relinked to, which I have watched since the last discussion. It makes me feel very sad, but not about Twitter or the mob, and this new video is worse.

But if a lot of people hate you, there goes your money down the toilet and hell if I know if she could get a job with an employer at this point after DIY'ing for so long, if she could no longer DIY her career and she's notorious online.

Okay but look - even if that's true, that is not her audience's responsibility. It's just not.

And THAT'S the core confusion as I see it and in some ways the influencer's dilemma.

If you enjoy her work then yes, kick her a few bucks or better yet a regular subscription.

But no one is guaranteed an income from their creative work critiquing film in longform videos, and there are lots and lots and lots of jobs in the world that I promise you can have regardless of your online notorious take on Raya or how many Disney movies you have reviewed in your past. I actually think though she has a very good chance of continuing if she can sort out the difference between herself and her creative work.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:27 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I think it would behoove you to say what you see; it sounds like you're making implications about her mental health, separate from the harassment she's facing?
posted by sagc at 12:30 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]



1. Delete the Tweet.
2. Apologize - "I deleted a Tweet that was a bad take on Raya. I'm opening to learning more, reading thoughtfully today and taking it in." (Pro tip: your thoughts are your own and can be 'I hate you all' :))
3. Lie low for a few days, preferably on a beach, with your notifications off. For extra bonus points, you can also elevate others, like "thought I would share this thoughtful comment which made me think."

This does work. I've seen it work over and over.


A few people have asserted this, and I'd be really greatful for some examples. I've found 'Sorry Watch' but it's very broad.

There's also a running theme of not accepting non of insincere apologies, which clashes with what I'd do- delete and apologise in order to reduce blowback no matter what I privately thought. It's been said before, but it's almost impossible to be sorry without time and distance from the subject matter.
posted by Braeburn at 12:34 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I’m heading in to work but no, not exactly. It’s more what happens on the blogging/influencer/fan-based curve where your feedback loop is so direct.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:36 PM on July 27


In general, when someone says about internet criticism "I've been in that situation and here's how I handled it," I don't have a good sense of whether the two situations are actually similar, and I'm not sure whether the person making the comparison really knows either. The amount, the viciousness, and persistency varies a lot and it's hard to know how big the iceberg is under the waterline of what can be publicly seen.
posted by straight at 1:54 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Given that I'm the only person in this entire thread who posts under their real name, I doubt anyone here even begins to know what it's like to be a public internet figure in 2021. I can't imagine the stress level of being a woman who has repeatedly been targeted by the 4chan/kiwifarms crowd.

All of you saying "if only she had apologized for saying Raya and the Last Dragon is basically a redux of Avatar" have huge "here's how to avoid being catcalled" vibes.
posted by AlSweigart at 2:29 PM on July 27 [17 favorites]


I've been trying to get this down to not a billion words but failing but here goes - in her explainer video, which I can't watch fully, i have to jump around and read the transcript because I find it really painful...I just see someone in a hugely dysfunctional relationship with her audience - supporters and detractors alike.

It's part of the sole content creator/influencer economy/pathway, where your first coin is validation that you have something worthwhile to say. And at the start, it's people who like you telling people they think will like you about you. It's really nice.

But at the point that you become a "real" success (i.e. can make a bit of money), that's when your audience goes past the sort of level where the discussion and connection is based on mutual admiration or whatever, and so inevitably you start to appear in people's spheres where they don't like what you have to say.

And if you are in an ecosystem where you can have other ways of developing and growing -- improving your content or your knowledge or getting mentoring and feedback from someone who really is better than you but cares about your growth, or at least, you know, relatively secure health insurance and some retirement savings, then you can learn to separate out what's useful and what's not.

But without that, the people who are detractors have outsized influence, and the people who adore you can end up actually toxic because a) they want more of the same when maybe what would help you most is someone who thinks you should try something different and b) the way they express their adoration is either through money or through engagement, so they are either your boss or your nosy always-opinionated neighbour.

And the people who are bad actors also do bad things; these people always exist but numerically in a workplace they are limited but online, not so much.

And then you have the undifferentiated masses who are both and neither until proven otherwise.

I can't quite figure out who Ellis is talking to in her explainer video - the people on her side where she wants to go through this experience together with them, responding to her critics, or trying to sway the people in the middle. Mara Wilson? Everyone else who's ever done her wrong? Everyone who's done her right? Does she know?

Do the million views from people who don't care about Twitter count, or no? Does losing 1% of your income mean you're cancelled?

Does she know that if you're upset that people can't just dislike you without calling you evil and digging up dirt on you, you can also just be upset that people are digging up dirt on you without stating the woke mob has set the world on fire? And what's more you can shut off notifications and comments and take a break?

I dunno man. Her current, professionally curated, Twitter feed seems okay. Hopefully she is or will be too.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:06 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


And what's more you can shut off notifications and comments and take a break?

It doesn't always stop at Twitter though, does it? People spamming your phone number at all hours, calling your employer, sending pictures they took of your home to you, swatting . . . I am extending it beyond Ellis but the problem goes beyond Ellis. Famous people get invested in the feedback of their fans, but the fans get even more invested in the output of the famous person. And that happens irrespective of Famous Person investment, that happens even if Famous Person has a healthy detachment and mentorship and an eye towards growth. Is the parasocial relationship really one that is under the famous person's control?
posted by schroedinger at 10:16 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Mod note: One deleted. Dropping in to grumpily say you don't really know anything about this, but it's all ridiculous isn't a good way to participate. Just pass up threads about topics you don't care / know about rather than complain that other people do. (Like don't enter a sports thread to express shock that people care about grown men playing with a ball, etc.)
posted by taz (staff) at 11:11 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Probably, it's possible to avoid creation of a paradoxical relationship at an earlier point in a creator's career. You could take steps- not putting your face on things, not engaging directly with watchers and followers,

These are also the same steps that would limit growth and exposure of your work, and they can't be undone.

The idea that all of this was only taking place on twitter and you can avoid in by just logging off doesn't reflect the experiences of people who are the subject of harassment. Twitter is the platform that sets the spark of a fire that uses someone's whole life as gasoline.
posted by Braeburn at 12:54 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


It doesn't always stop at Twitter though, does it?

That's true, and it is a fear. It was a fear for me after I had a member that was banned from a forum for posting what I can only describe as a 2,000 word manifesto (during the 2000 Canadian Federal election) drive from Elliot Lake to Toronto to walk into the office to show us he wasn't a creep (a 6 hour drive; didn't have the intended effect.)

But it didn't happen.

We should definitely engage in creating a culture where that doesn't happen and where reporters can do their jobs without harassment and John Lennon wasn't shot. But that isn't what happened here. Either a Tweet has impact or it doesn't and Ellis seems to be arguing both ends here, saying that her off-the-cuff Tweet and its morning follow-up was taken in the worst possible way. But people who also Tweeted about her Tweet off the cuff and let their lateral thinking go to anti-Asian violence are attacking her personally.

That's what I meant by live by the sword, die by the sword. You can't argue other people's words matter but not your own. That's why I stand by my statement that apologies work.

By work, by the way, I don't mean apologizing and deleting will "stop people from commenting on what you actually said, even badly and even in bad faith." I mean that if you are genuinely caring about the impact of your words and if you see something you did had an impact that was not intended, and you apologize, in most cases you can maintain your relationship to the vast majority of your audience who are not bad actors and move on.

This is not the case when you are getting death threats because of an ex-boyfriend. But again, I don't believe in flattening all heightened response into "good" and "bad" categories based on numbers alone.

And yes, that might mean deciding that there are things in your soul that you will not express to an audience of 1.5 million.

You could take steps- not putting your face on things, not engaging directly with watchers and followers,

These are also the same steps that would limit growth and exposure of your work, and they can't be undone.


Yes. If you are building a brand on critique, critics are going to be a part of it, as well as people who are upset by your criticism. That doesn't mean that creators deserve harassment -- no one does -- but online zeitgeist critique is a part of choosing online content as your field. I took a quick look at Ellis's channel since I hadn't in a while, her style is not really for me as much as I enjoy critique, and she has a 2018 video about authenticity and YouTube that's worth a watch. All content is cultivated.

My son sometimes watches this horrific (we talk about it) vlogger channel called The Royalty Family. They have 14 million subscribers. Comments are off. Their content choices are nauseating for me - some people see a jokey rich family I guess but I see what I consider narcissistic parenting on full display. If I were going to turn to evil masterminding and deplatform people just because I dislike them, they would be fairly high on my list.

They don't deserve harassment either. But I also kind of wish there were more conversation and denorming of them...although I'm not sure that could happen because kids are involved and no one ethical really wants to go after kids. Or performative wealth. And in any case - they aren't reading the comments. Because they turned them off.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:11 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I mean that if you are genuinely caring about the impact of your words and if you see something you did had an impact that was not intended, and you apologize, in most cases you can maintain your relationship to the vast majority of your audience who are not bad actors and move on.

One of the most interesting little bits of commentary in the main link is when Ellis talks about apologizing and notes that it has to be genuine and matched with a desire to atone to make it meaningful, and that she isn't apologizing because it wouldn't be that. Which goes to those saying she should apologize whether she means it or not, something, by her argument, which erodes the benefit of apology and makes it just about power and performance.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:30 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


On reflection, I think that sorta highlights the problem Ellis has. She's positioned herself at the intersection of fandom and authority, which is a fraught place to be as she uses that place to lecture about movies and their relationship to our social issues, but from an expertise that is fairly narrow, fit to the fandom she is speaking to.

She knows a lot about a limited range of works, but can be out of her depth when trying to extend that knowledge to larger themes or ideas, leaving her often narrowly "right" but also in a broader sense "wrong" or where there is at least far more to debate than she fits into her essays. That's by no means unusual or something that is just an "Ellis thing", most writers, particularly about popular culture, start off like that, some improve, just compare some of Ebert's rather dreadful early reviews to his later takes for example.

It comes from the culture and audience for these kinds of pieces not really taking popular culture all that seriously in a lot of ways, while also really investing a lot of themselves into it. So when someone comes along who tries bridge that divide it both intrigues and annoys a lot of people. Ellis tends to fit her evidence to the claim rather than having a vast array of history or more circumscribed set of claims to speak from/about, as a more academic approach might take, which fits her audience, but will run into issues around some of those claims for coming from a select set of references which contain their own biases. This can make her "right" in that narrow sense of reference, but miss out on the larger picture of those who are coming from a different set of experiences with media.

It's something she undoubtedly would keep getting better at as she worked, that's how so many writers on culture have improved, but social media doesn't allow for improvement in the way traditional media did, for bad and good. As there are voices that no longer want to hear from that same limited perspective of popular biased culture and demand more accounting, but also don't want to wait for those doing the work to grow in their understanding as it is expected as a baseline rather than a goal.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:07 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


Yes, well put, that's exactly what I haven't been able to express.

which erodes the benefit of apology and makes it just about power and performance

Just to expand on this.

I'm a Canadian mum so that's my perspective but I teach my kids that if you hurt someone with your words or actions, you apologize because that's acknowledging that the other person is hurt. Then you can evaluate if you need to take other steps or not. It's not about a lifetime tally of Who Was Genuinely Sorry For Absolute Mistakes or not, it's how human beings respond to the fact that we get on each other's nerves sometimes.

The apology is the shorthand for human beings to acknowledge impact. I had a really bad interaction at work last week. I don't honestly think I said anything like what was heard and quote, anyone who knows me, unquote would know that I have spent hours and hours to try to avoid the kind of situation that my customer thought I wasn't taking seriously. But for whatever reason (pandemic, mostly), we had a huge miscommunication about safety measures.

In my immortal soul, I truly believe the other person took my words as badly as possible and has no idea where I'm coming from.

It's not her job to know where I'm coming from. I want her to be okay more than I want to have her understand that I Was Right, because that is exactly what I wanted - the safety of everyone involved. So I apologized, my boss apologized. We didn't do that because I Did Wrong, we did it because that's what would help.

I don't see that as eroding anything or a power play. In this case we are probably going to make a change, but it is an issue of competing safety measures, X vs. Y., and so we are adopting another set of risk rather than the initial set.

Apologizing doesn't have to be zero sum, power exchange. It can be a bridge.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:16 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Apologizing doesn't have to be zero sum, power exchange. It can be a bridge.

It can be, but in these kinds of cases the "apology" will never be enough, even if it's a truly humiliating ritual of self-abasement (that can then be picked over for further evidence of sin).

She is, of course, well aware that even if some people were genuinely offended by what she'd said (or by whatever it was they thought she had said) a large part of the noise was coming from the army of trolls and other fellow-travellers of chaos who had her in their sights:
LE: And here is why diving into that is just like hideously invasive in a way that used to be the domain of like your chans and your kiwi farms, but now it's Twitter leftist babies that do it.

CF: Well I'm sure 4chan is probably still doing it.

LE: Oh they're doing it.

CF: Yeah, and they're doing it on Reddit too.

LE: Yeah they're the ones who collate the evidence and then they seed it to Twitter and then like they just like go off.
Giving in and performing as demanded would have achieved nothing at all.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:48 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


"Twitter leftist babies"

o-kay then.
posted by cendawanita at 7:17 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Referring to people who haven't been Extremely Online as long as you as "babies" has become a much more common thing over the last few years, I've seen; especially on Twitter and occasionally here on Metafilter.
posted by sagc at 7:23 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


It can be, but in these kinds of cases the "apology" will never be enough, even if it's a truly humiliating ritual of self-abasement (that can then be picked over for further evidence of sin).

To who will a thoughtful apology "never be enough"? To bad faith actors who seized upon this as another attack? Fuck them, because they're not who the apology is for. The apology is for the people who were genuinely hurt by her comments, and who engaged in good faith over that. And many times, that's what they want - an acknowledgement of the hurt they suffered, as well as the person making a good faith effort to make things better.

Bad faith actors are such because they are acting in bad faith. The argument that their behavior precludes showing contrition feels more and more like an excuse for not engaging with the people arguing in good faith about how one's actions hurt them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:25 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Referring to people who haven't been Extremely Online as long as you as "babies" has become a much more common thing over the last few years, I've seen; especially on Twitter and occasionally here on Metafilter.

Which doesn't make it any less shitty, patronizing, or dismissive. Which is sort of the heart of this issue.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:27 AM on July 28


Giving in and performing as demanded would have achieved nothing at all.

See, I disagree. What NoxAeternum said but I'll add a bit, it's dear to my heart this week.

I'm not going to make any more sweeping arguments, I'll just share my experience. I knew who Ellis was and I'd liked her video on stormtroopers, watched a few more and thought, ehn. Not really for me, but I like the nerdy-fandom vibes.

Months later, I saw the Twitter blow up via the trending thing,, and saw she made a Tweet that I consider colonialism at work (right or wrong, that's my opinion as an audience member) and I was curious how she handled it.

And the answer is with two videos that centre her experience. Like, okay, it's her channel. But I don't want to litigate her life. I want to watch/read stuff that I think will make me a better watcher/reader/writer.

I'm not a leftist baby (I'm not sure these exist any more than snowflakes), and she's lost me. I suspect I'm closer to her audience profile than any of the people who were freaking out on Twitter - someone who wants to think a bit more deeply about media.

But she didn't care about me at all, she focused on "well I'm not apologizing because it will do no good." Okay then. It actually would have done you good with me, but - I'm not on the radar. As a single person it makes zero different to her bottom line. But if her argument is that it's wrecking her creativity and 9 people are going be out of work...maybe examining your audience relations would help? And maybe she just plain needs help with that, no shame in that.

My direct experience is that the silent majority audience really does see how you handle being challenged, regardless of the challenge, as whether you will treat them the same way.

But - she's not thinking about me. She's fully focused on her enemies and The Woke Mob, again, a category I am a little uncertain of. Okay.

Also what actually happened? She hired someone else to manage her Twitter and it doesn't blow up every day. I guess a professional approach worked and I am not seeing her get mobbed all the time. Maybe that will help. I personally can't really take her seriously as a critic right now. She's an anti-leftist-baby vlogger.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:43 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


She does go into a bit of detail about why she didn't just apologise:
And so the narrative became like oh, since they're both Asian-inspired, you're implying that all Asian inspired things
are the same genre.

...And I woke up and saw people were like, "I can't believe you said this". And I'm like-- even now, I have a really hard time getting into the headspace where that interpretation made sense.

So I did exactly what you're not supposed to do and got defensive and tried to explain myself, which you should never, ever, ever do. And well it kind of snowballed from there.

... And if I still sound defensive about it, it's because I am, because I've seen so many people be like, "why didn't you address the valid criticism?"

And I'm like I don't know what to tell you man, I disagree that it's valid. I just don't think it's valid. So I'm not going to address it.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:52 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Yes, she failed to actually engage with the criticism and complaints, misconstrued the argument completely (again, the problem is that her argument was mediating the work of POC/AAPI creators through a lens built around a work created by white men based on cultural tropes from Eastern media, while ignoring the larger dynamics that led to all that), and dismissed her critics as wrong based on her misconception.

And now she's wondering why everyone is looking at her askance.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:05 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I think one thing we see in this thread is that it's *not* everyone looking at her askance - there are plenty of comments explaining why they don't agree with your take on it, for example - but it *is* making it extremely hard for her to be online in her career, regardless of the numbers or universality, due to the level of harassment.
posted by sagc at 8:14 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I teach my kids that if you hurt someone with your words or actions, you apologize because that's acknowledging that the other person is hurt.

That sounds like a good lesson for kids (and maybe also workers dealing with an angry customer), but things do get more complicated as you go along. Sometimes a demand for an apology really is just a form of manipulation, or an expression of a psychological need to exert control, or a display that makes the supposed wrongdoer a prop for the demander's own performance, or a mistake, or just obnoxiousness.

My direct experience is that the silent majority audience really does see how you handle being challenged, regardless of the challenge, as whether you will treat them the same way.

This is true, but it goes both ways! If you really think the challenge is rubbish, maybe enough of your audience will take a refusal to submit as a sign of integrity? Even courage? It might be worth it!
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:48 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


Sometimes a demand for an apology really is just a form of manipulation

And sometimes a refusal to give one is an indication that you're dug into a viewpoint and not willing to change it, which is supported by her video. In the year of our lord twenty-twenty one, her Tweet comparing Raya to Avatar is as pure as the driven snow and it's just bad actors.

I mean, that's her narrative and she's certainly sticking to it. But I think if the lesson is the woke mob of leftist babies will getcha...there may also be some nuance missing.

If you really think the challenge is rubbish, maybe enough of your audience will take a refusal to submit as a sign of integrity? Even courage? It might be worth it!

Well, maybe it will work for her. That and the deceptive video title.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:55 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I mean, that's a very un-nuanced take on her video discussion of this, based on a pull quote used once in the thread?

Hell, I would be that she'd find the whole "pure as drive snow and it's all bad actors" line an overstatement of her argument, too.
posted by sagc at 9:04 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


That was a summary of the discussion in this thread, yes.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:12 AM on July 28


its starting to look like being able to weaponize internet mobs might be a lucrative endeavor. Imagine being able to run a protection racket on the internet. $$$$$
posted by some loser at 11:05 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


1. Delete the Tweet.
2. Apologize - "I deleted a Tweet that was a bad take on Raya. I'm opening to learning more, reading thoughtfully today and taking it in." (Pro tip: your thoughts are your own and can be 'I hate you all' :))
3. Lie low for a few days, preferably on a beach, with your notifications off. For extra bonus points, you can also elevate others, like "thought I would share this thoughtful comment which made me think."


In my experience, this just gets sneered at because everyone knows it's the expected course of action.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 11:09 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Previously
posted by elkevelvet at 3:05 PM on July 28


Yes, she failed to actually engage with the criticism and complaints, misconstrued the argument completely ...And now she's wondering why everyone is looking at her askance.

Well, that's fair: her critics misconstrued her original tweet.
posted by jb at 4:30 PM on July 28 [7 favorites]


I laughed at the leftist babies line, recognizing the hyperbole of it but also the kernel of truth.
posted by subdee at 5:51 PM on July 28


I'm genuinely asking as a (I guess previous) fan (RIP to my own FPPs about her), why is it so hard to accept a critic may be limited by their own cultural view, and those who weren't bad faith actors were genuinely noting something that she missed and it wasn't a deliberate misapprehension?

in any case, i'm tapping out, seriously. since the last fpp on this i haven't even looked her up until this one, and am i really the outlier or is everyone else (who's not a troll) still "harassing" her? or just talking about her when the subject comes up also counts as harassment? Best of luck to her honestly, living with people just looking to bring her down must have its own psychic scars, but just like with Ebert in the early 00s, I'll take my leave and maybe my next encounter she continues to become a cultural commentator of note. (and maybe I'm disillusioned by fellow minoritarians of various labels, i've become cynical of defenses that hang on one aspect without acknowledging the rest. E.g. what I said about how much I gave the Malaysian expat-in-America who's in the creative team for Raya a hard time. I don't appreciate how much they love flattening our identities for a buck.)
posted by cendawanita at 7:32 PM on July 28 [8 favorites]


Well, that's fair: her critics misconstrued her original tweet.

They did? How were they supposed to know that her comment stating that half of YA fiction, including works created by people of color, traced their lineage back to a (admittedly highly important) series created by couple of white men responding in part to an upswell in interest in Eastern models of storytelling was hyperbolic and not indicative of her actual views - especially in light of the fact that you can see that argument made in genuine seriousness elsewhere (see also: the infamous "Cal Arts" slur used against the shifts in Western animation over the past few years.) And if your response here is that her critics should have shown her "good faith", let me point out that you're not making the same demand of Ellis - and that's the whole problem. Saying that her good faith critics should have "recognized" that her statement wasn't to be taken at face value while at the same time defending Ellis refusing to make any real effort to actually engage with their arguments is holding the two to separate standards.

"You misunderstood me" isn't an argument, it's an excuse. As one of our own once pointed out, "the failure mode of clever is asshole" - it turns out that it's very easy for pithy comments to not land right, especially when those reading may have a different experience than the speaker. And as always, misunderstandings are on the speaker to fix, because ultimately the rest of us only have their words to divine their intent. The fact that she stated that she could not understand why a group of creators who have routinely faced issues of cultural appropriation might have seen her comment as more of the same speaks to a lack of imagination and understanding on her part.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:39 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


misunderstandings are on the speaker to fix

They aren't. This principle hands out a trump card so juicy that you're practically begging bad faith actors to come in and use it. And they did.

And LE netted 150 new patrons after this dustup, which pretty strongly suggests that the demand for a reckoning backfired badly.
posted by factory123 at 11:29 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


They aren't. This principle hands out a trump card so juicy that you're practically begging bad faith actors to come in and use it. And they did.

Two points:

One, nobody knows what's in your heart but you. If you say something and another person operating in good faith misunderstands what you meant, that's on you and what you said not being clear to them. In addition, expecting Ellis' good faith critics to take her statements in a positive light while defending Ellis not returning the same is holding a double standard - which is especially fraught when discussing issues revolving around race and minority culture, like this was.

Two, bad faith actors operate in bad faith, hence the name. They are always going to find an excuse for their behavior, even if that means making one up. From where I stand, it's not addressing misunderstandings with people working in good faith that enables them, because then you hand them an actual legitimate argument, while dismissing good faith actors who might have sided with you had you returned that good faith.

And LE netted 150 new patrons after this dustup, which pretty strongly suggests that the demand for a reckoning backfired badly.

The fact that she did this video belies that, I think. Yes, in the end she came out ahead, but it seems that she had genuine concern over losing support.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:34 PM on July 29


that's on you

No it isn't. Not every misunderstanding is the fault of a speaker - many listeners are quite thick, or they innocently misread, or are pissy because they just burnt the toast, or any number of other possibilities. Of course, some people are also saying to themselves "time to hoist LE on her own social justice petard."

Speakers don't owe explanations or clarifications or restatements or apologies. It's ok for speakers not to engage with every person who responds to them.

This tactic of demanding a reckoning for everything a speaker says is incredibly high stakes. I know that in some communities and circles, this idea is persuasive and it enforces ideological discipline. To people on the outside, though, it often looks like pitchforks and witch hunts and drives people away.
posted by factory123 at 3:44 PM on July 29 [8 favorites]


From where I stand, it's not addressing misunderstandings with people working in good faith that enables them, because then you hand them an actual legitimate argument, while dismissing good faith actors who might have sided with you had you returned that good faith.

omg this is tedious. How do you determine whether someone is acting in good faith? You have to make a call. LE clearly did that, and she explained that in the interview.

You don't have to defend yourself against every accusation just because maybe, somewhere, there is someone who might be making that accusation in good faith. Sometimes you just cut your losses.

ESPECIALLY when at least one of those accusations is that her tweet wasn't nuanced enough to cover the entirety of the history of eastern influences on animation and how that has affected the content of this Disney film, in 280 characters. ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY as THE ENTIRE POINT of her tweet was a snarky argument to the contrary.
posted by nushustu at 3:53 PM on July 29 [9 favorites]


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