I've been noticing a trend lately where people seem to deliberately be missing the point behind stuff in order to complain. I used to think it was just me, as I watched people write up lengthy articles nitpicking and "debunking" a comic I made because they simply missed the point, but I've started seeing it happening to other people too.
Recently over on The Oatmeal, artist Matthew Inman made a joke about guy gamers vs girl gamers. The joke was pretty simple: A guy gamer makes a mistake and gets bitched out by his fellow teammates online. Contrast to that, a girl gamer makes a mistake and her fellow teammates try to comfort her, tell her she's doing great, and make suggestive comments about hooking up. To me the joke was clear, guys treat girls differently online. However, that's not how the rest of the internet saw it...
From what I've read of the whole Oatmeal flare up, the reasons for the hate seem grounded in the fact he depicted the girl as blond and bubbly (ie: stupid) and not as "realistic" as most girl gamers actually are. Obviously for a simple comic strip like this, drawing the overly simplified (almost stick figure like) characters via established stereotypes is a good strategy to get your point across. I'm curious as to why no one is complaining that the guy is both fat and brown haired, which could be perceived as negative gender stereotype of male geeks?
Matthew was accused of being sexist and discouraging towards women, and the internet blew up over his post. He tried to apologize and stem the onslaught of hate, but it didn't do much good. He wrote a post trying to clarify his position and explaining his reasons, but still the hate kept coming. Finally he ended up donating $1,000 to a Women's Abuse Prevention Organization to prove that he's not the bad guy.
I've had people miss the point of a comic of mine before, so I know how frustrating this can be. It's even worse when people use the social media outlets at their disposal to spread their ignorance across the internet before you have a chance to try and explain. I get a lot of heat for sometimes adding "edits" in my descriptions where I have to clarify a position i've taken, but it's because of things like this that I do it. It's just easier to edit the description and tell everyone all at once your reasons than it is to try and have a discussion with each individual who deliberately misses the point.
Worse thing about this is that it seems like most of the people who miss the point are people who WANT to find fault with your work. They're looking for reasons to hate you, or to nitpick your stuff, and they can't see past their biases and frustrations. I've had to turn off comments on a number of my works because people missed a point and started flaming and attacking them and generally accusing me of stuff that, if they just listened to what I had to say, was basically the exact same thing they were telling me.
Here's the thing though... it was just an opinion. Matthew had an opinion, based on experiences he had, and he made a joke about it. He didn't actually hurt anyone, he didn't even really say anything controversial at all, so why all the hate? Why is having an opinion so deplorable these days and why does it seem like there's this "universally accepted internet opinion" that you must not contradict? Also, why is someone who's accused of such negative things not "allowed" to try and defend themselves from the wrongful convictions?
I've never subscribed to the notion that just because an artist posts something on the internet they're not "allowed" to defend themselves if their art or beliefs come under attack. Having free speech doesn't guarantee that you're right if you disagree with an opinion and both parties should be allowed to have their say. If you're going to criticize someone, let them explain their reasons and actions so you have a better understanding of where they're coming from. Mass flooding an artist with hate and bile does no one good.
This sort of all at once complaining has been steadily increasing. People react swiftly without thinking, spread their disgust via tumblr and facebook, and before you know it you've got an army of people all complaining and whining over something really insignificant and trivial. I'm sorry but this amount of hate over a COMIC STRIP is pretty uncalled for and unbecoming. Maybe we should be focusing that anger and disgust on things that can actually hurt us, like politicians, political activists, and corporate greed rather than focusing it on if a cartoonist drew a blond instead of a brunette.
Like I said, this isn't an isolated incident. It's happened to me, it's happened to some of my artist friends, and it's happening more and more violently as time goes on. What's the solution? How do we stop this madness? What are your thoughts? Do you think the hate on Matthew's post is justified? Do you think people need to get a life? Do you think we can continue to have online social interactions without increasing the disagreements?
IMO: The joke was funny. It didn't offend me. I didn't feel it was a gender insult to display the girl as thin and blond. And I don't think the hate surrounding this incident is justified or right.
Playing: Kid Icarus: Uprising - Light VS Dark