A great gross soup of conspiratorial outrage
Read to the end for a thought-provoking meme about Dracula
AO3 Is Under Attack
Last week, the Organization for Transformative Works, the nonprofit administrators of fan fiction website Archive of Our Own, reported on their public channels that they had been the subject of malicious attacks aimed at their volunteers. These attacks took the form of emails containing threats as well as “CSAM” (child sexual abuse material). Because of the nature of how these emails were sent, e.g. through the organization’s internal lists, dealing with the problem necessitated shutting down internal tools that the AO3 uses to keep itself running. This has caused a lot of distress among volunteers, as well as widespread organizational disruption. Even the Archive’s planned update to the Minecraft SMP fandom tags — something I discussed as a long-time issue back in one of my first Garbage Day columns — is having to be further delayed, as the AO3 seeks assistance from federal law enforcement in preventing ongoing harassment and tracking down the perpetrator.
Observing the reaction to the news of the attacks on social media, speculation was rampant that the attacks were “coming from inside the house.” That is to say, that they were being performed by “antis,” a subset of militant fans who, among other things, loudly object to the AO3’s archival policy which allows explicit fiction written about underage characters. Naturally, there is absolutely no proof of this: sending malicious, illegal CSAM-filled emails to AO3 volunteers is low even for your typical toxic fan. But the fact that more than a few peoples’ minds took that leap is indicative of the general perception of what today’s toxic fans are capable of.
The “anti” phenomenon, which perhaps may have seen referred to as “purity culture,” is an ongoing issue in fandom spaces. There’s a Sarah Z video about it which, full disclosure, I have not watched; the Fanlore page is overlong but a good resource. There are tenuous links to other spheres of the culture war, but suffice it to say that it’s the long tail of SJW-era Tumblr playing out. Everything you’ve ever heard about “age gap discourse” and “Steven Universe death threats” and “Qanon-as-fandom” and “Reylo drama” simmers together into a great gross soup of conspiratorial outrage circulating mainly at the metacultural level, but with very real effects on the lives of real people.
A friend who works in the animation industry told me a tale of woe involving the cartoon Amphibia, and attempts by antis to cancel an artist on the show for drawing what they perceived to be “child porn” (it was a picture of a teenage character being carried bridal-style by the main antagonist, who is an adult toad). This has since escalated, my friend said, into attempts to get said artist, as well as others in the industry who supported her on social media against the cancellation, fired from their jobs: Emailing higher ups at animation studios, tweeting to networks about them being pedophiles/drawing child porn, engaging in hashtag smear campaigns. Of course, this is second-hand anecdata dealing with the actions of a small group within a subculture, but that doesn’t lessen the trauma that this kind of targeted harassment has caused. Knowing of actions like these ones, one can understand why news of the attack faced by AO3 might conjure up an association.
As Emmi Conley pointed out in Ryan’s recent article about Depp v. Heard, the Tumblr NSFW ban meant the mass exodus of fans to other platforms, namely Twitter. I think the exodus being motivated specifically by the need for a place to participate in the traditional fan activity of erotic fantasy is a key here. The urge to defend the creation or consumption of such content can easily become an essential part of one’s public identity as a fan; and just as easily so can the reverse, as a result of the feelings of fear and disgust evoked by content that feels “gross” or “wrong.”
Back in 1985, science fiction author and fan Joanna Russ, writing on the topic of Kirk/Spock, made the immortal observation that “only those for whom a sexual fantasy ‘works,’ that is, those who are aroused by it, have a chance of telling us to what particular set of conditions that fantasy speaks, and can analyze how and why it works and for whom [...] Sexual fantasy that doesn’t arouse is boring, funny, or repellent, and unsympathetic outsiders trying to decode these fantasies (or any others) will make all sorts of mistakes.” Twitter, in particular, because it is an algorithmic platform that also allows NSFW content, and encourages widespread context collapse in the name of revenue, is the perfect petri dish in which to grow the contagion of unsympathetic outsider-dom, and the cascading consequences which follow after, which then spread to other platforms and communities.
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The World Is Tumblr Now, Which Means Tumblr Is Finally Free
As Allegra mentioned above, I wrote about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial for Polygon this week. I wanted to try and understand why this particular trial was causing this sort of overwhelming toxicity across the internet. During the course of my reporting, Emmi Conley, an online propaganda researcher, dropped a bomb of a theory on my lap that I can’t really shake: The Tumblr porn ban changed how online fandom works forever.
“They are no longer mostly contained within their circles. Now, one of the most exciting things that can happen to a fandom is to be seen. They want to see themselves on the trending page,” Conley told me.
It’s a fascinating theory and it lines up with some of my own research I’ve done about the porn ban, which I recently wrote about last month. What’s especially funny about this idea is that, while all of the worst behaviors within fandom spaces are now completely externalized across the entire internet, as we’ve seen with Depp v. Heard, Tumblr has conversely become an online oasis.
And that Tumblr renaissance has lined up with the return of My Chemical Romance this week who dropped their first new single since 2014.
The whole site, which is still obsessed with Dracula, is now completely feral thanks to the new My Chemical Romance song. It’s really a sight to behold. If you want a good starting place, the #mcr tag is a good one.
Also, two last stray Tumblr things. People Matching Artworks is a real good blog to check out. And, on Wednesday, I wrote about how Tumblr’s post promotional tool, Blaze, didn’t integrate with blocked tags. I missed this, but Blaze has been updated to respect users’ block tags and filters. Also, if you haven’t seen Tumblr’s Work In Progress blog, it’s a really fascinating experiment in platform transparency.
A Good Tweet
Too Turnt Tony’s Too Turnt TikToks
Over the last week, videos from the creator @tooturnttony broke their containment unit on TikTok and began leaking out across Twitter. The videos are a psychosexual fever dream, seemingly devoid of context but also containing too much at the same time. It turns out the @tooturnttony rabbit hole is actually super interesting. Here’s what’s going on.
@tooturnttony, or Anthony D., is a model (I guess) from Michigan. According to this interview he gave in 2020, he was living in New York City and working in film when the pandemic hit. He had always meant to start making TikToks but never had enough free time. He moved back in with his parents and started focusing on TikTok full time. He also raises ducks.
The best way to describe his videos are basically Barstool Sports-ified Tim & Eric videos. Surreal, but also kind of bro-y. Part of the charm, though, is that his parents get involved in them. And in a lot of recent videos he’s begun advertising his OnlyFans. But I actually had trouble finding a link for it, which makes me wonder if he’s worried about advertising it too heavily on prudish platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Luckily, Mel Magazine found a link. Incidentally, it’s free to subscribe, with paid tiers for what part of him you want to see naked.
Which actually moves Tony’s content into a really interesting new territory. He’s a super jacked guy from Michigan making weird and genuinely very funny (and well-shot) comedy skits with his parents and sister, many of which are about the of running his OnlyFans. He’s even done videos making jokes about how his dad is the one taking the photographs of his asshole. It’s kind of a radical conceit. Mel’s Magdalene Taylor compared it to what if the guys from Jackass were also sex workers, which sounds about right.
What On Earth Is Happening With The Los Angeles Chargers?
This was sent to me by a reader named Jon. I know very little about sports, in general, less about the NFL, and even less about the Los Angeles Chargers, but from what I can tell from the replies to this tweet, there are a ton of jokes about the team? In this? References to things? idk. Hilariously, though, I do know anime very well and caught a ton of those references, which include shots from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Naruto, and One Piece. It’s a hell of a video.
Tom Cardy’s Back With A Banger
This came across one of my many feeds this week and it’s great. It’s pretty cool how Tom Cardy has been able to iterate on his particular thing for as long as he has. His songs are verging into an Australian Bill Wurtz direction that I really dig. Also, in case you’ve only ever come across Cardy’s stuff in snippets on TikTok or Twitter, definitely give his YouTube a spin.
Another Good Tweet
Owl City Is Back With… This?
Yeah idk guys. There’s a new My Chemical Romance song. People are excited about a new Doctor Who casting. Tumblr is fun to be on again. Travis Barker is in a reality show. Psy just put out a new song. The Los Angeles Chargers are making their own anime theme song. And now Owl City is back with a remix of Smash Mouth’s “All Star”. It’s like a nostalgia bomb for culture from 2002-2012 has exploded out across the world. Nothing makes any sense. But this song kinda slaps though.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a thought-provoking meme about Dracula.
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