When We Forget They’re People, Too…

Today is not a good day to be online for me.

There’s so much hate going on over a simple vote for “Best Hero” on MTV, with votes counted with every tweet bearing the chosen hero’s hashtag. And while I tried to distance myself from it all, it made me think of how people like Kristen Stewart must feel when they see or read so much hatred and judgment online for a character, or characters, they’ve played, or worst, for being themselves, warts and all.

It makes me wonder how one can really shield oneself from such bad energy and manage to wake up each day with a smile. Or even the barest shred of faith in humanity.

The personal attacks and opinions expressed about Miss Stewart are quite disturbing at times. And it reminded me about how a group of people can wield so much power collectively, as on Twitter, using that power contained in 160 characters.

Crowd psychology is a branch of social psychology. Ordinary people can typically gain direct power by acting collectively. Historically, because large groups of people have been able to bring about dramatic and sudden social change in a manner that bypasses established due process, they have also provoked controversy. Social scientists have developed several different theories for explaining crowd psychology, and the ways in which the psychology of the crowd differs significantly from the psychology of those individuals within it.

The above statement is from Wikipedia, about crowd mentality and this was what came to mind today when I saw the venom directed not at the character of Snow White, but on Kristen Stewart.

There is so much power to be had when we sit behind a computer screen, anonymous behind our avatars, as we sit comfortably in our homes. When we find a group, we become stronger, and that strength can be used for good or bad.

It’s when it’s used for the wrong reasons that it becomes its ugliest.

And it’s made my stay online today brief – which for those of you who enjoy the power of finding yourself in the crowd, using your collective strength for good or no – a good thing.

For I won’t be boring you any more of my opinions for awhile.

39 thoughts on “When We Forget They’re People, Too…

  1. It is unfortunate that people act with a pack mentality when it comes to bullying online. This reminds me of the lecture my college Anthropology professor gave when she explained the phenomenon called ‘comunitas’. She explained how it had been proven that people who would normally never exhibit a specific behavior would follow it if they were in a crowd or influenced by a group. It only takes one instigator to embolden others to lash against someone just because they can hide behind a username or the cowardly ‘anonymous’. It’s a miracle to me that she and Rob Pattinson haven’t turned into lunatics or gone on a murder rampage or something like that. I think that is one of the reasons they have latched unto each other and fallen in love, because nobody else they know an understand what they have had and still have to life with every day. I feel sorry for them. I really do.

    1. Thank you, Bertha, for your insightful comment. It’s interesting how crowd mentality does not need to be a physical thing to be equally damaging. I was reading a few tweets attacking Kristen Stewart’s character when the MTV poll was about characters and not actors.

      As a fellow human being, I was appalled at the venom directed at her and it depressed me to see that the venom came from a group of people whom I shared a common interest with.

    2. But isn’t ‘that the power that comes with freedom of expression.It isn’t always good. I’ll be a hypocrite if I say I haven’t made a wry remark about a celeb online,because I have on an off chance,and that’s not a great thing at all. But for most of the times I can’t be bothered about all these bashing contest(online bullying). Why only those two am sure there are other famous people out there and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal,having all these rave reaction to them is part of their job,they are in that industry where everything is under a microscope.But I guess the reason for all this bashing especially is the frustration about the in-your-face hype that seems to be going around a lot. I get that,but bringing people down for no reason ,that’s not cool at all.

      1. Yes, it is the power that comes with freedom of expression. I have no problems with one character winning over all the others. My problem is when voters directed their campaign of voting for one character at the expense of the actor playing the other character in the poll. And that is not cool.

  2. don’t like last sentence.

    re the issue of KS — it was astounding and frightening to me, the rhetorical fury with which even the Twihards turned on her after the revelation of her __________ [fill in the noun for whatever you want to call what she was doing with her director].

    1. How does that saying go again? Something about casting the first stone? It’s interesting to note that while she took the brunt of the blame from that alleged affair, no one pointed fingers at the man who was 17 years her senior.

      In the meantime, papers made tons of money out of shaming her then, and now that the director’s wife has filed for divorce, the papers are at it again with the blaming game all over again.

      1. Exactly. Yes, she cheated on her boyfriend with a married man but like you said, the married man was not vilified. I always get angry when that happens because our society tends to excuse the man because ‘Oh, he’s just a guy; men can’t help themselves. She’s the evil woman for tempting him.’ UGH! Not only was he married but he was technically old enough to have sired her and yet, she’s the slut. Her boyfriend forgave her. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is…I am so tired of the double standard!

      2. The reason that I left the blank there was that I didn’t want to describe it with prejudice toward her or him. If we really believe in sexual freedom, then we have to stop using using language that describes what she did with so much opprobrium.

        But in any case, what surprised me about it was not that people blamed KS and not the man involved (which was predictable), but that her fans in the end had so little sympathy for her. I’m not a part of that crowd, so I can’t venture to say, but it was like by not being with Pattinson or being faithful to Pattinson, she shattered their entire universe. I assume that’s where the venom came from — but it was appalling.

      3. I actually don’t have a problem with the word in question though maybe I should have used the word “relationship” instead. It was written with no judgment against her at all, just using a word that’s more familiar to me than any other word – although, again “relationship” would have been much better.

        I didn’t exactly get into the venom from the fans as I’m not part of that crowd either. What saddened me was the prejudice and quick judgment shown to her be fellow women, then when it happened and now, months after it’s happened. I think I noticed that more than the judgment shown by the Kstew/Rpatz fans.

      4. I didn’t mean to criticize your usage. I apologize.

        I didn’t follow the MTV thing because I could care less about Bilbo, but I was reading the comments in the “March Madness” thing on TORn , many of which were cruel to Richard Armitage’s fans, saying essentially Thorin wouldn’t be winning if it weren’t for the Army.

      5. Oh now! You didn’t need to apologize πŸ™‚ It’s just a word that I prefer to use coming from a culture where mistresses were, and are, just about a normal thing. It’s also a culture that says it’s okay for a husband to have a mistress, or mistresses, but not okay for the wife if she were to do the same thing, a culture where it’s always the woman’s fault – if the husband has an affair, then it’s the wife’s fault for not being good enough, and if it’s the “other woman”, it’s the woman’s fault for not saying no and for tempting him away from his wife. You can’t win whether you’re coming or going LOL

        I just realized last night that I’ve been a fan of Richard Armitage for about 5 – 6 months, so I’m pretty new. And from this newbie’s view, it’s sad to see how other fandoms diss the Army, especially TORn – and yet, with this whole MTV hero crap, who do they turn to to drum up the tweeting of the hashtag #votebilbo? The Armitage Army, of course.

      6. I totally take your pt. re: double standard.

        The TORn / Army thing is really annoying. It started the second he was cast, with Armitage fans going over there to learn more and finding that a vocal chunk of TORners were strongly opposed to Armitage’s casting. Then, when the vlogs started to appear and it was clear that he was (a) a nice guy who doesn’t care about his looks (b) a good actor and (c) a Tolkien fan himself who’d done as much background as they had, they started to make jokes about it, like they weren’t the ones all along who’d been so mean about his looks. That almost made me angrier.

        Someone who’s a real Tolkien-head told me that TORn is really itself just a small, very doctrinaire set of the Tolkien fandom that has sold its soul for its connection to Jackson and the studios, and that many Tolkien fans read it only for information and just ignore its pronouncements on other things. I don’t know if all of that is correct (although some of it in my experience clearly is), but realizing that it’s a tiny piece of Tolkien fans makes me feel better about Tolkien fans.

      7. I read that too and wondered why the venom. If they want to follow Tolkien’s canon by the books then why even bother to have a competition? Isn’t it supposed to be about a fan’s preference for a character? Besides, didn’t they state on the first day of voting that Sam Gamgee had won last year? I love Sam but no way would he win over all those powerful characters in battle. Therefore, it was the fans who love him and voted for him. Why, then, complain that we are voting for Thorin? I don’t get it.

      8. It’s the “you don’t really love Tolkien because you only came to this through the films” or “you don’t love Middle Earth enough b/c you’re a new fan” mentality. The new fan always loses because of course s/he can never have loved the thing in the same way or as long as the old fan. I have a former student who’s like this, who hates the LOTR films — who’s totally immune to my argument that I never managed to make it all the way through LOTR until I had the films.

        It’s a manifestation of what I was kind of dreading in our own fandom (and mostly seems not to have materialized, thank G-d) — that the legacy fans look down on the new fans simply b/c they are new …

      9. That is one crazy attitude to have because how is it somebody’s fault if they grew up in a culture where Tolkien was not known or used in school curriculums? Isn’t one of the pleasures of reading to share your discoveries with others? The other day I watched an interview with James Nesbitt and Richard in which Nesbitt said he had never read Tolkien because – even though he comes from a family of educators – his books were not part of their lives. Is he to be regarded as less of a fan now that he had brought to life one of the most beloved dwarves of the company? It’s completely absurd to classify him as someone who is not a ‘true’ fan! Please. Don’t people have better things to do than to lash at one another? I sure do!

      10. I also do not believe that it is a requirement for an actor who takes a role in a Tolkien film to have been a fan. That might be a fanboy fantasy — that seems to be why so many people in that fandom are cathected to Peter Jackson, because he’s a fanboy realizing his dream — but in fact, the only thing required is for the actor to do his best to play the role convincingly.

        Sci-fi / fantasy fandoms, it turns out, are often very hostile to women. I’m sure that was also part of it, as Armitage’s fandom up until that point (and maybe still?) is predominantly female.

      11. You make two great points. Actors have a right to discover authors just like everyone else. They don’t have to love the writer’s style or entire body of work in order to love the character they are playing in bring him/her to life. I too have noticed what you say about the hostility towards women who love SciFi and Fantasy genres; it is also present in the gaming world. The males get all territorial and defensive about us ‘invading’ their precious world. I suppose that is where the ‘a virgin who lives in his parent’s basement’ stereotype comes from, right? πŸ˜‰

  3. And (sorry to threadnap) the supreme paradox is that of all the actors we’ve seen interviewed, it’s Armitage who’s turned out to care most and speak most about his interest in the Tolkien texts. Even so, Thorin can’t be winning because Armitage did a good job and brought the role to life, but because of Armitage’s fangirls. (Sigh.)

    1. Yes! We have the video proof in that interview where they asked the actors and the director if they knew any obscure Tolkien fact. I was beaming with pride for our lovely man! Like the teenagers would say on Tumblr: ‘Take that, haters!’ hahaha

    2. When their favorite choice loses, someone’s got to take the blame, right? πŸ˜‰

      And you’re not threadnapping at all. We’re just moving the conversation right along just fine and I have no complaints whatsoever. πŸ™‚ I love to hear what other people think because sometimes my attention span is just so limited that I can’t write fast enough before – oh, look! I just saw Richard in another tab!

    3. You’re so right about Armitage being the one who turned out to be so learned of Tolkien texts. But not that it makes a difference to those peeps, because, like you said, of the fangirls 😦

  4. Hi! I totally get what you are saying, lately I’ve found myself thinking (more and more often) what you mention in your text above. Not only in the Internet but in RL when I hear a colleague or a friend make a negative remark or a critic to someone famous (actor, politician, musician,etc) I’ve found myself thinking and sometimes saying to them: how can you criticise something or someone when you don’t know that person? Or what really happened? And when they say those awful things about that person do they even think that that person has a family?

    I guess it’s very simple, like you say, look from the outside, at home as if you are watching a movie, or reading a book and criticise the situation/person and forget that in fact the other person is as human, and real as we are. With the same problems, mood swings, fears… Treat them like just characters in a fiction and they are not real. They won’t get hurt by the awful things being said about then on the net. It scares me that people can spread so much negativity and especially now with Twitter and FB it all seems so much easier… Sometimes I do really hope that many of them just stay away from the Internet.

    Thank you for this entry. I’ve been following your blog for some time (I’ve actually started following you on Tumblr because I was looking for Lucas North fic and I came by you :P) and I’m loving it. Great work!

    1. Thank you, Cris, for your insightful comment and I’m so glad you found me through Tumblr. Love Tumblr for my daily Lucas North fix! Definitely goes well with coffee πŸ™‚

      Unfortunately with our culture, as in most cultures probably, we thrive when it comes to bad news and even when there is no bad news, we’ll find it if we look hard enough. I guess I’m just softening up now when it comes to such things especially when I look at my 3-year old and think of what example I’d like to show him. But it’s also from seeing people break down after reading something bad written about them on FB or Twitter (and I mean regular people here), if not ourselves.

      I know my view is just my own, but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks that way πŸ™‚

      1. You’re so very welcome. I did find very interesting your view on this sort of “phenomenon” because I normally get people looking weirdly at me when I express my ideas on this subject. They don’t seem to care to see beyond the fact that these are people we are talking about not fictional character. What bothers me and worries me even more is that some just don’t seem to care. It’s like you say, we like bad news and some people long for them. What I’ve come to think also is that “we” seem to have a especially like to “destroy” heroes (in this case public figures). People seem to love to put people in pedestals, others love to tear them down and go like “see they screw up too”. Sometimes I think that we’ve gone from de-constructing/destroying and humanizing Greek mythological heroes to doing the same with real public figures. Except they used to be fictional and now they are real people.

        The Internet, as with everything, has it’s good and bad things, of course, and anonymous hate just seems to become more and more common. Be it, as you say, towards public figures or towards “normal” people. When you aren’t looking into someone’s eyes or seeing their reaction to your words it’s really easy to be mean and say bad things. You don’t feel the impact of your words and it’s oh so much more simple. Being detached.

        I understand what you say with “softening up”, I don’t have children yet, but with age I’ve become more and more empathetic. My father always said I think too much, and I guess he’s right. I always tried to see what was behind the motivation or behaviour of people. Maybe because I also like to write (and like psychology) I was more interested in understanding the why’s of human behaviour. I have also, with age become more tolerant and reasonable, I guess. And sometimes I don’t understand the reactions of fandom. I understand being passionate about things, but with respect and understanding, and sometimes that’s why I’ve stayed on the outskirts of fandom and never truly went in. It makes me sad when people start spreading negativity into something that should bring people together and be an outlet for creativity and art.

        Of course it’s also my view of things but I’m glad you shared your thoughts and I loved reading about it and been able to exchange these ideas πŸ™‚

        Ah, yes Lucas North πŸ˜€ I have got a case of Lucas Northtitis, lol, and Tumblr is definitely a good place for the fix :))) I still haven’t gotten around to finish season 9 of Spooks because I was spoiled and I’m suffering by anticipation at what’s going to happen to Lucas…

      2. Good luck with Season 9! I’m not watching it though although I know what happens. I’ve been so invested in Season 7 because of a fanfic story I began writing in November last year and am trying to finish it that I don’t want any ‘distractions’. Plus, after hearing about the John Bateman story arc, it’s not for me. I only have up to season 8 in my video library and I’m fine with it πŸ™‚

        Love our observations about tearing the celebrities down after building them back up πŸ™‚ Negative news sells the most, unfortunately but there’s still hope for us πŸ™‚

      3. :))) I have your fanfic on my mobile to read ;P That’s how I got here πŸ™‚

        Well, I’m having a hard time watching season 9 especially because I just don’t see that person they want to turn Lucas into in the previous seasons. Although upon watching the first episode of season 9 it almost looks like you are watching a different character already ( he reminds me more of John Porter from Strike Back and less Lucas). Maybe in part is because of what happens on the last episodes of season 8 that leads him to cope with the events in this way (even before the John Bateman arc starts), but I don’t want to spoil you in case you’ll want to watch season 8. I really loved season 7 and 8 and when I read what happened to him in season 9 it was such a blow. So in my mind I found a theory that has been growing and becoming more and more canon to me (simply because after 8 years in prison, and sacrificing himself fro Queen and Country I can’t cope with Lucas being a traitor). So for me he suffered some sort of brainwashing during his time in prison. There are psychological studies that prove that it is possible to create/manipulate memories if you have visual proof and someone you are familiar with and trust telling you what happen (even if it is a lie). Now imagine this, while your mind is fragile from years of torture, they show you fake pictures, fake videos (they are manipulated but you can’t tell the difference), and being told over and over that you are John Bateman, and not Lucas North. Eight years or less of this… Lol I know it sounds sort of insane and unrealistic, but I prefer this version in my mind. I’ve been debating if I should try and write a fanfic about this… But I’ll have to watch the rest of the season…

        πŸ˜€ Of course there’s hope for us, we just need to start being more aware of what surrounds us, and that just because we are at a computer doesn’t mean that on the other side isn’t a person too πŸ™‚ I think I read it somewhere (maybe during the year in school I had psychology) about the rise and fall of heroes and how people/society reacted to that and the parallel between the heroes of Greek mythology and the modern heroes. It was really interesting :))

  5. Very interesting discussion, ladies. I come from such a different perspective that I am wondering about my own powers of observation. I participated in the voting process, both Vote Thorin on TORN and Vote Bilbo on MTV, yet I did not see the negative aspects of it. Maybe I just didn’t read the comments, so it didn’t upset me. I did not see hate directed at either Armitage or KS. I have a very negative view of KS myself, so that may be part of my lack of concern. I don’t care about how she feels about what stupid people say about a stupid, meaningless internet contest. I myself wouldn’t say negative things about people online. I’m sure Armitage doesn’t care about what TORN people are saying about the stupid contest there, either. The man didn’t even know what a meme is, so I’m guessing he doesn’t spend a lot of time trolling around on a computer!

    The thing I have been thinking about on the other hand is the opposite. How people can work themselves up over someone in an adoring way. Like putting RA on a pedestal like he is some kind of saint. That has really disturbed me lately. People giving an imaginary person that much influence on their lives. I want to hug those people, who are obviously in need of solace and distraction from terrible RL problems. And I include myself among them! RA love has made a very powerful positive difference in my life! But I know it is not the man himself, just his image. But what would he think if he read these things??? Yikes!

    Also, I am a TORN member from day one. My name is actually on the Fellowship of the Ring DVD! Peter Jackson was savvy enough to include us Tolkienistas in his grand project from the beginning. So have some sympathy for those who may be a little territorial. That doesn’t include me, BTW. I didn’t know who Armitage was when he was cast and I am obviously delighted that he was!

    Anyway, my point is – don’t let the negativity of some knuckleheads deflect your enjoyment of the fellowship to be found online. I think very highly of you ladies and enjoy your contributions so much that I would be very sad to see any of you pull back from participation in the online community. especially you, Morrighan’s Muse!! : D

    1. Thank you for your comment, Marie! Didn’t know you are an original TORn member! I’m not actually part of, or knowledgeable about TORn as I’m more about Tolkien’s works, per se, and never got into the web presence that is TORn, even though I’m a HUGE fan of LOTR and can quote the entire trilogy – and the behind the scenes stuff (yes, it can be sad LOL) as well.

      On Thursday, TORn asked people on Twitter to be civil in regards to Snow White winning over Bilbo during the voting because people were getting personal over the Snow White thing – ascribing their tweets against the person playing the role versus the character/hero of Snow White who was in the running along against Bilbo, Ironman, the Hulk, and Catwoman (did I miss anyone?). I saw the hatred for Kristen Stewart and I was baffled over why when the contest was over characters, not actors. It wasn’t a contest between Miss Stewart, Martin Freeman, RDJ, etc. It was over characters we deemed as heroes. But it was as if people weren’t able to discern the actor from the role, and they still aren’t able to.

      It made me think of how attitudes such as this, if it were done in person, is akin to something like a crowd mentality. It also made me think of how, should K Stewart ever read the tweets about her – and I’m not saying she does, or doesn’t – just how it would make her feel. Most importantly, what if we normal people hear or read someone saying terrible stuff about us?

      This was really my point over the whole thing. That regardless of whether the person is famous or not, they have feelings, too.

      I still work with people in the business, though not as much as I used to, but I see them at their most vulnerable (I’m a massage therapist) and even when they may come with all the attitude in the world, it’s made me realize that they’re no different from you or me. Sure they may make a lot of money and are famous, but they’re still people with feelings, and underneath it all, they’re still people πŸ™‚

      1. I’ve been a massive Tolkien fan since childhood (one of my obsessions!) so when I found out about the movies being made I had to find out as much as I could about them and being a fan himself, Peter Jackson was as inclusive as possible. I remember reports from people sneaking around the sets in NZ to get glimpses of what was being built! It was a lot of fun.

        I could go on and on – don’t get me started talking about LOTR! : D

        And I totally agree with you about being responsible about what you say about someone online. You never know who is reading what you say.

    2. I don’t think Armitage is chained to his computer like I am, but various comments he’s made in the last two years seem to suggest that he’s aware of stuff that was said about him by the TORn crowd in the leadup to the making of the film. I wouldn’t venture to say how he feels about it, although like everyone else, I wonder.

      I don’t conclude that that creates an obligation for people not speak negatively about him, however. Being a public figure means that nasty stuff gets written about you. (My own work is commented upon in the scholarly press and what is said is sometimes praising but hardly always. If you do work that’s made public you have to learn to grow up and deal with the consequences.) What they say is up to them and how he feels if he reads it is up to him. I am just amazed by the intensity of the hate that comes across in some of these episodes, and wondering where it comes from. The potentiation of a “crowd mentality” may be one answer. I also wonder if the Internet doesn’t have something to do with it, the feeling of shouting into a big hollow shell and seeing/hearing the echoes coming back at you.

      The whole fan poll thing is a “thing” with me since the summer that Anglophenia did a similar runoff of favorite actors and Armitage ended up paired against Alan Rickman. Even though the poll was limited to a single vote by IP address, someone built some kind of web IP address redirect thingie that you could go to and thus vote at will for Armitage. I wasn’t sent the link (I think my rep is too straight arrow) but I know people who got it. Something similar must have been happening for Rickman because the stats in the whole thing were off the charts compared to the other pairings. Eventually Anglophenia suspended voting in that pairing and gave it to Rickman. It’s not that I care which of them wins (I am a fan of Rickman’s, also, though not on this level), but taking it so seriously ruined the fun for me and I don’t think I’d posted a poll since then for that reason. I posted this one — then I read the comments. I have to say that I regret doing both of those things now. Need to follow my own rules!

      1. I never heard about the Anglophenia/Alan Rickman/Richard Armitage thing but then I’m still 5 months into being a fan of RA, and even if I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter or LOTR, I never really ventured onto their corresponding sites online. If I remember correctly, for many years, if I wasn’t working online, I was on Ravelry and quite content with my knitting and spinning adventures with no idea of what lay beyond the knitted walls πŸ™‚

        And then I stumbled upon North & South, took the red pill and fell into the rabbit hole so deep I don’t even know where to begin to get out of it LOL

    3. Just a note — I got the WETA Chronicles II today and there’s a sentence or two in there about how Armitage was concerned he couldn’t manage the Thorin role and thought there were people who were secretly in agreement with him. I don’t know about secretly, but there were people on TORn who were so opposed to his casting that they felt would probably be “sent home” after Dwarf Camp. So I assume he knows about that …

      1. If people like us knew about that, I bet he knew about it, too. But hopefully people shielded him from all that negativity – that, or take the iPad away from him LOL

        But it always feels great when you prove the naysayers wrong. As they say, success is the best revenge πŸ™‚

      2. I guess that’s why he kept his bags packed for three weeks, as he said in an interview. That makes sense. But so sad. It bothered me when he said that about keeping his bags packed, but I understood it as part of his lack of confidence in his own ability. In thinking about it, of course it makes sense that he would have been reading the TORn boards, since he took so seriously his being cast in such an important role. I had no opinion one way or the other about him when he was cast. He was just lumped in with all the actors I didn’t know! The one I was looking forward to seeing was Aidan Turner, whose work I was familiar with. LOL!! How wrong I was!!!

  6. I haven’t been on Twitter much lately, so I read this blog with much interest. People get carried away, just so their character would win. It’s a shame about the vilification of Kristen Stewart (who does not appeal to me much), but it’s ugly how some fans have no boundaries whatsoever. It says a lot about them. I’m glad you discussed this, because it needed to be said.

    1. Thank you πŸ™‚ I can’t wait for the MTV contest to be over, to be honest. I just wish people would separate the character from the person playing her – but that’s something I have no control over so, oh well…

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