We used to live in a world where trolls only lived under bridges, sometimes turned to stone when badgering hobbits, or had long hair that only grew up into a pointy cone type thing. Those were the trolls I grew up with. I never understood the pointy haired ones, or their weird belly buttons, but I would occasionally steal them from my sister and tickle my nose with them. No, I have no explanation for this behavior. I’m aware that they didn’t smell good like Strawberry Shortcake figures, my god those smelt amazing, I was just a kid who occasionally did weird things. Surely, I can’t be the only one.
Since my childhood trolls have kind of evolved moving away from bridges, hobbits, and hair and instead manifesting into these faceless monsters that spit venom on the internet. When you think about it, this is kind of scarier. At least with the trolls from my childhood, there was a face to associate with what you were facing but now it’s not so much about the face as it is about the voice. Trolls live to ruin things. People. Events. Movies. Shows. Books. Comics. Games. Politics. Anything and everything is on the table for a troll. Look at it this way, if you love something or are particularly excited about something, there are a group of people out there hating it for the sake of hating it or hating because of political beliefs or hating because they grew up liking something else and so on and so forth. The act of trolling is based on spewing hate and negativity and it’s pretty prevalent everywhere on the internet.
Listen, I understand at this point in the game everyone knows what a troll is, and I’m not here to define them but I am here to kind of address the action. I Am Geek has been a website that has promoted community and inclusion. I am fully aware that not everything is for everyone and that’s okay. That’s what makes us unique and individuals. I’m not going to hate you because you love BvS and I don’t expect you to hate me because I love Infinity War. It’s a difference of opinion, and sure we can “argue” about which film is better, part of the fun of fandom, but at the end of the day, I’m going to walk away with the enjoyment of our debate. I’m not going to go home to trash you on the internet. That’s pointless. That’s not what I or this website is about.
I made a mistake last night, I kind of went down a rabbit hole of trolldom. I was on Twitter and looking into Comicsgate, a group against what they see as “forced” diversity and liberalism in comics, and after fifteen minutes I had to stop. I’ve been aware of Comicsgate for a while and I’ve watched some of my favorite authors and artists battle through it. I’ve watched a number of internet personalities that I follow make stands and speak against the hate, and I myself have spoken out against it, but all the comments I had been reading were surface level. I hadn’t taken that deep dive into some of the comments, mostly cause I don’t want to immerse myself in the negativity, but last night I got caught in the rabbit hole, and man, it’s just awful. It’s exhausting. It’s hateful. It’s ignorant. And I had to stop reading things because it was making me upset. Just the level that some people are willing to go… it’s kind of horrific.
One thing about rabbit holes though, once you fall down one it’s often difficult to pull yourself out, and my reading of Comicsgate comments just evolved into other things, mainly the advance review bombing of Captain Marvel. How can one advance review a movie that hasn’t been released yet? I’m not entirely sure. This is more of an anticipation review type deal where fans can come and talk about how excited they are about the film. Instead, it has become a troll haven where internet personalities who disagree with casting, actor’s beliefs, or just downright hate the product can vent their anger and bring down a movie’s score. This isn’t anything new. Things like this happened with The Last Jedi and Black Panther too. Trolls who seek to destroy things before people can experience them as if their negativity can dissuade a fan from seeing the movie. Here’s the thing, if someone is a fan of something, you’re hate and bile isn’t going to prevent them from seeing it. If anything, it’ll make them want to see it more to prove you wrong. Which makes this whole act pointless.
I was happy to see Rotten Tomatoes do away with this feature today giving trolls one less outlet. Granted, it’s the internet and trolls are going to troll but it leaves me optimistic seeing a company taking a proactive method to diminish trolling. Hell, Star Wars Episode IX was already receiving review bombs and that movie doesn’t have a trailer let alone a title. Just nonsense. You want to say that there has to be a way to take away their outlets but that’s only going to feed fire to their cause. A troll thrives on acknowledgment and while Rotten Tomatoes taking action is a big win it also will turn into a rallying cry within the troll community. “Look at them try and silence us. Blah blah blah blah. Hate hate hate hate.”
But one thing it does do is designates an area of the internet safe from trolling, at least a little safer, and that’s progress. It would be so easy for fans to stay away from the areas of the internet that are hotbeds for trolls but the sad part is trolls infiltrate and try and corrupt. It’s infuriating at times and the need to respond is always high, but in the long run, aren’t we just feeding into troll culture? A troll grows bigger with every response comment given. A troll grows hungrier with every insult and swear slung its way. A troll gets off on the interaction and as a fan base, as trying as it can be, can we make an effort to not respond to trolls? Let them get louder. That’s what mute and block buttons are for. Eventually when they see that their attacks and platforms are falling on deaf ears maybe the culture will change a bit… maybe?
This is all wishful thinking though. The troll epidemic will be a continuous problem because we live in a pretty combative society currently. Nothing is sacred and everything is on the table. I’m sure there will be some who read this and think I’m saying you can’t have an opinion that differs, and that’s not what I’m saying at all. There’s a difference to have a discussion or debate and spewing hate and venom. I know that line often gets blurred, but maybe we should try and take it back some. Trolling is only hurting fandom. It’s bullying to the highest degree. It’s trying to suppress you from showing your passion about something, and that’s garbage. We should all be allowed to celebrate what we love without fear of being harassed for doing so.
The troubling part is there is no clear way to end this column. There is no definitive answer to give to vanquish the internet from trolls. It’s easy to say just ignore trolls but at the same time how long can you stand on the sidelines while people get bullied for enjoying something? It just makes everything seem like some sort of vicious circle and round and round we go over and over again. Or maybe our response to trolls should be shrouded in positivity? Kill them with kindness as we were taught as children… I honestly don’t know.
I just reached a point yesterday where I couldn’t take it anymore, and I have this platform and thought that maybe I could add my voice to looking for a solution. Call me optimistic but there has to be a way to overcome trolling. The hobbits had the sun, troll dolls had haircuts, and bridge trolls had billy goats. What does the internet have? We have Rotten Tomatoes taking a stand but we need more. A group of troll hunters set to protect those of us who have educated opinions and are willing to discuss and debate those thoughts in a spirited yet safe manner. That can’t be too much to ask, can it?
Just try and be nice to each other, please. You’ll always have a safe haven here at I Am Geek. Trolls be damned.