In a world where people seem to be offended by anything and everything, it can be a daunting task for a creative person to navigate the choppy waters of what will and won’t evoke controversy hour-by-hour. No matter the topic, it seems like someone can find a way to twist it into their own meaning pretzel with plenty of negative connotations. And when the world seems to be backfilling with these types of oftentimes innocuous offenses, many creative types may be afraid to truly express themselves.
The solution: Don’t allow hashtags and comments on social media to dictate what you want to express in your story. If you have an idea for something a character does or says, then you start to think about how Twitter or Facebook of Reddit will react, the trolls have won even before you’ve expressed yourself.
You can’t let that happen.
You have a story to tell. And you cannot let anonymous people online dictate what you want to say in your story. You just can’t allow that type of false pressure to squelch your creativity. Even before the internet there were people who hated and were offended by things they read or saw. Just because those people have a larger more vocal platform now doesn’t mean you should allow them to get into your head and beat down your ideas.
Maybe your story has controversial elements or themes. Maybe you explore domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or other hot button topics. Maybe you have a character who is a racist or sexist; who uses language that you wouldn’t use but they do. As a creative person, you need to do what’s best for your project. If it evokes anger, offense, or hashtags against you and your work, so be it.
Hey, you can’t please everyone.
And that’s the main thing you have to remember. More people when they dislike something are likely to comment on it than those who like or enjoy something. And what is odd is that usually when reviews or comments are negative, people tend to want to find out the truth for themselves instead of just going off of what some person has posted online.
And example: Joker. Here’s a recent film that was maligned in the press, by many critics, by people online, and other groups for weeks prior to its release. The star and director were hounded with questions about the film’s violent content, the red carpet premiere did not allow the press to ask questions, and the fear of the film spawning violence led to the U.S. military issuing a warning, and some theaters adding extra security.
All pretty negative things against the movie, and yet it was the highest grossing film for an October release and is set to break other R-rated film box office records. There’s also Oscar buzz around Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joker.
The filmmakers didn’t hold back. They didn’t listen to the critics and edit the film down to a safe PG-13. They stuck to their vision of the film and released it as is. And the results were effective and the negative outcry probably had a positive outcome for the film overall.
Joker is the perfect example of how as creative individuals we need to do what’s best for our story. We need to tell the story we want to tell. Tell the story you want to tell without the fear of social media backlash churning in the back of your mind.
Tell your story. Not theirs.
Do you find yourself editing and toning elements of your story down due to fear of what may be said about you or your story on social media? Leave a comment and let me know.