Currently Listening to: Sympathy for Life by Parquet Courts
No, this is not an article about the Marvel or DC movies. Nor is it about the stylish, reality defying, action films that we eat up every summer at the theaters where the villain, usually with skin deficiency of some kind, causes terror among the common people. This is clearly fiction to most people. We like to use the cinemas (or home theaters in the COVID age) to escape from the reality that stresses us and immerse ourselves in the stories the screenwriters and actors have to tell. Other smaller platforms like YouTube and TikTok have also assisted in the avoidance of such goofiness.
TikTok, while definitely a time suck, was definitely my biggest escape this past year or so. However long we’ve been stuck in this pandemic. What is this the third season of Lost? Where the hell is the smoke monster? A smoke monster can’t be politicized, I’d prefer that over a disease. Anyhow, TikTok has slowly become harder and harder to open nowadays. Same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google News… Why is this? I cannot stand these fucking public freak-out videos anymore.
I’ve discussed “Karens” and “Bobs” on this platform before. It wasn’t to shine light on the evil, but to highlight the great ones. Just writing that entry made me really appreciate the benevolence that so many people possess, we just don’t always give them the appreciation they deserve. Positivity is present, but it’s the influences that media presents to us that like to misconstrue our vision. It’s like if a toddler picked up your glasses that you dropped and handed it to you with slobbery, greasy fingers. The intention is good, the algorithm and the toddler mean well and want to give you what you want, but it’s not always gonna be what’s best for you.
So why write about this topic again? Times have changed. The phone has become more of a tool, but also more of a weapon, like a Nerf gun with actual bullets. Just because you have the license or right to carry said weapon does not mean you’re on the correct side of the conflict.
Misjudging the Book by Its’ Head Cover
In 2019, a video went viral with a group of Catholic high school students approached a group of black, Hebrew Israelites who were all shouting at and with the Indigenous people who were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial for Native American rights. Tensions began to grow between either party as many of these students had “Make America Great Again” hats, apparel that was created by Donald Trump to promote his political campaign. This red cap tends to upset certain groups of people who do not side with the former president’s beliefs. In the middle of the conflict, Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, and high school junior Nick Sandmann (clad with the red MAGA hat) stand face to face as Phillips beats his drum in an attempt to create peace between the warring white Trump supporters and the Hebrew Israelites.
This scene happened to be photographed and shared to Twitter where many people criticized and insulted high schooler Sandmann due to the way the picture portrayed him. In 2019, where Trump is still president and many people are triggered by the sight of the red MAGA cap, naturally people interpreted this image as the white man attacking this Indigenous peoples rally. News stations and websites all over villainized Sandmann and dozens called for his expulsion from his school. Jim Carrey, yes that Jim Carrey, even doodled a picture of the scenario entitled “Baby Snakes” and posted it to Twitter where the antagonizing worsened. Normally people would just get upset for a few weeks and then continue to pick on the ‘villain’ casually every time his name would come into conversation. This was different.
Not only did Nick Sandmann not approach the crowds in an attempt to pick a fight, he entered the middle of it to ease tensions. After the picture had caught fire, Nathan Phillips came to the defense of Sandmann saying that he spoke no words and didn’t come to create friction. Sandmann put out a statement bouncing off this news and announcing that he was raised to love and respect despite what many would like to believe. Many celebrities such as Jamie Lee Curtis took to Twitter again to admit that she was wrong and hoped that those two could have a conversation following up that interaction.
Admitting the Truth
When this picture first became viral in early 2019 I was very quick to jump to the hate train. I saw a white guy in a MAGA hat and jumped to the conclusion that everyone else did. When I read Sandmann’s statement I was very much pleased with how well it was worded and what his intentions were. Given he did come from an anti-abortion rally just moments before that scene was documented, which I don’t exactly identify with, but if that is what you believe I respect your beliefs.
I contribute the events that occurred at the Lincoln Monument as the beginning of becoming more skeptical of the ‘woke’ crowds of the internet. When I say woke I don’t mean the ones that retweet a Rupi Kaur poem on Twitter and wear flower crowns to Lana Del Rey concerts. I am referring to the ones who use a headline as the whole story or refuse to refute their own beliefs because giving up what you believe in may be interpreted as weak. I was definitely that person in late high school years. I’m ashamed. but still learning.
Villainizing does not stop at just politics. It happens in every conceivable environment. We’ve all worked with someone that just treats everyone with little to no respect in order to achieve what they want. We have all seen sporting events where someone has played dirty in order to win. People like Manny Machado, for example, is arguably baseball’s biggest villain for the way that he will risk others and their physical health to get on base.
The Clock App Strikes
This woke crowd of people thrive on social medias. TikTok is definitely the biggest hub for people to be blown away by prejudice and judgement. I usually spend at least 30 minutes of my day on TikTok. What can I say I’m a sucker for satire and cooking vids. My algorithm is one that I very much enjoy and is MOSTLY positive. Every once in a while though there is a video of someone being filmed in public freaking out or saying something that may be considered polarizing. Not like the fucking white and gold dress of 2015.
Every day I log in to the former Musical.ly app, someone is being attacked. Sometimes a celebrity and sometimes a random dude. Hell, sometimes it’s even a comedy skit where a fake character is the subject of ridicule and insult. Most of the times one could argue that it is well deserved. The amount of ‘Karen’ video footage that I have seen are nearly all deserved for shame and dismay. Really makes you see how many people put on plus-sized little boy jeans and not big boy pants. Phones have really been a savior for many people when it comes to proving someone or something was a threat to them. It also assists in identifying the racists and sexists of the world. Many people come to the defense of those behind the camera in the comment sections poking fun at these people or saying equally terrible things about the horrible person being filmed.
The big problem with comment sections though is that they are not always right. Groupthink thrives on TikTok. The app has become so toxic that many people get shunned or bullied for thinking differently than the majority. It really is a matter of who is on what side of the phone and who has the most popularity.
A man with nearly a million followers on TikTok put out a vid of a girl getting upset with him because she had rear-ended him. The man behind the camera mocked her and laughed saying “how is a rear-ending my fault?” He even showed footage of her colliding with the back of his car from a nearby gas station security camera after the footage was released. The girl in the video had a more ‘rough’ dialect and was driving a very nice car, so naturally the comment section went bonkers. People made fun of her teeth, her mannerisms, even called her privileged and entitled.
A week later a random user on TikTok took to the platform and posted the same video the man with nearly a million followers had released. This time around saying that we owe the girl an apology. As it turned out the man behind the camera was completely in the wrong. Believe it or not the girl was in front of the famous guy in a turning lane. He didn’t feel like waiting so he went around her into the opposite lane to get ahead side-swiped her car, and braked immediately after getting in front of her when he realized the lane he was attempting to enter was full. So the girl had zero time to react and ended up hitting him. The TikTok user ended up getting his account banned from the app and the girl is suing for defamation after the video garnered 40 million views.
This video was just another reminder to not fully point blame without hearing the full side of the story. A theme that is recurring year after year, but no one seems to take to heart for very long. I have tried very hard to distance myself from these videos and stories for the sole purpose of avoiding this toxicity. It’s very bizarre that we like to create heroes and villains in every scenario just because there’s a disagreement. One doesn’t have to be all right and one doesn’t need to be wrong. No. There’s a reason that we have trials and there’s a reason there are debate teams, to hear both sides of the story out without pre-determined critiques.
As stated before, phones are a great addition to humanity in a handful of ways. I’ve kept up with news, people, and other information at ease thanks to my iPhone. Like a power drill, it can make life a whole lot easier or it can be the biggest present danger. Just because we film someone getting angry on film does not make us the hero of the story and the person filmed the villain.
In the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Barney (played by Neil Patrick Harris), points out that in the film The Karate Kid that Billy Zapka is actually the hero of the story and Ralph Macchio is the villain. For those unfamiliar with the movie, the roles of protagonist and antagonist are reversed respectively. It wasn’t until the popular Cobra Kai show came out nearly 30 years later that the unpopular opinion was explored in more depth. I found myself realizing that maybe he was the misunderstood hero the whole time. Funny how from age nine to twenty-two I thought he was the villain until I saw where he came from and what he intended to do all along.
I feel as though we like to hate on the villains in film and the people seemingly acting up on camera because we aren’t often given detail on what they mean to achieve and why. Look at Joker a few years back. Joker is arguably the most popular villain of all time. We never saw good in him and just viewed him as an irrational psychopath, even prior to his dismay he still had some dislikable qualities. The Joker film that dropped two years ago shed light onto the supervillain and where he came from. He was a mental patient that struggled to fit in with the rest of the world. Many people shit on him because he was ‘weird’ in their eyes and as a result lashed out on people out of anger and misunderstanding. I am in no way justifying his violent acts because that isn’t right no matter how you paint it, however, we are very quick to make villains out of each other because we don’t know where they come from. I came out of that film feeling bad for Joker to an extent. Maybe Arthur Fleck would’ve been a regular Tom Hanks if he was treated with respect. Who knows.
Damn… That’s Me
I recently watched Edward Scissorhands and that case is no different. Everyone in that neighborhood loved to gossip. They had no problem pointing out the problems about each other in order to make their lives more interesting and to create conversation. Every dialogue that the neighbors had with each other is in one way or another putting someone else down or putting themselves above one another.
Edward was a helpful asset to a lot of people in town despite his unique look. People used him as a tool to help themselves out thinking that they were doing good for him. This didn’t mean they feared him any less, but that just that they could use him. Edward barely ever spoke any words either, which means he rarely had time to explain his motives.
There were a few times in the film too where Ed would lash out due to anger, something we all process differently. He tore apart the curtains and broke down the neighboring bushes he had helped shape because people wouldn’t hear him out despite all he had done for them. Edward had accidentally scratched both kids he was living with in an attempt to help them. People didn’t care to hear him out or give him a second chance. The moment he ‘fucked up’ was the last chance he got to live among each other. As a result he gets banished from the town.
How this relates to real life is that so often we think that we are the heroes of our story and like to point out the flaws of others because we don’t like to think that we possess those same traits. Therefore it is bad and should be looked down upon. We all get angry. It’s part of being human. This doesn’t mean we all handle it the same way. Some people remain silent and think things through and some lash out and cry. It varies. You can tell that everyone in that town from Edward Scissorhands thought they were doing good things for Edward, but in reality they were the villains, or at least I thought they were. At least the main antagonist actively voiced how he felt. I’d rather someone be an outright asshole than be two-faced.
I think we live in a very flawed world that has a lot to talk about and to solve. The best way that we can do this is to listen. Instead of someone only being right and someone only being wrong we can try to listen to each other. As someone who majored in communication and minored in journalism, I really see the importance in knowing the full story and all sides. After all that’s why letter to the editor exists. If they miss a side then it’s important to address all fronts. There’s definitely a sense of irony to being a journalist though. People expect them to form an article or spotlight that covers all spectrums or one spectrum that caters to their taste. Then there’s some that act as though they care about being open to both sides but only read the headline and the slug (the print usually following the headline).
In Campbell’s perfect world, we would have healthy debate. Disagreements can be satisfied simply by hearing out each other and even if we disagree, can at least respect someone being different. We would definitely pick out less villains the more that we can fully understand and hear each other out. If you’ve ever read a “Where’s Waldo” book as a kid (or adult) you open the book with the intention of finding the titular character. The most difficult page of the books is the scene where everyone looks similar to Waldo. There’s only one correct one, but it’s hard to find him when he’s surrounded by those that resemble his features.
Picture the perfect world as a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book. With healthy conversation and debate along with respecting each other’s differences it’s easier to pick out the bad apples who don’t wish to cooperate and better the world. This is a page where you can find Waldo easily because nobody looks like him (Waldo being the bad apple). In a world where we don’t care to know the full story, make villains out of each other without context, and continue sticking to hate because people believe different than us it becomes harder to tell who are the heroes and who are the villains. This is the page where everyone resembles Waldo.
I’m not perfect when it comes to to this concept either. I point blame at the ‘bad’ people of the internet, but how could I say someone is bad without knowing them? I’ve been wrong before. Sure, there’s people that say horrible things that speak more about them than explaining themselves ever could. Racist gestures and violence for example. I mean how many movies or TV shows do you see where two people that hate each other at the beginning end up liking each other? They have time to know them better as time goes by. I think the true villains of the world are the ones that can’t admit the flaws of themselves, but are more than willing to point out the flaws of others. We don’t live in the film world of hero and villain where there has to be a bad guy and a good guy, we can just be human.