Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom's Troublesome Twitter Tale

Sorry. Got a bit carried away with the alliteration in the title there. But alliteration (actually, I think that's consonance) is fun.

This recount of current Tumblr phenomenon is not so fun. In light of all the posts on Moffat, this event for the most part is now several days old and seems to have died down reblogging-wise on Tumblr. But it involves Tom Hiddleston, social networking, and fangirls.
This is Tom Hiddleston. You might know him from the movie War Horse. Or Midnight in Paris. Or as Loki in Thor/The Avengers. He seems to be a nice, kind, courteous guy. He also actually seems to be in charge of his Twitter account, rather than having an intern or public relations person handle it. However, being a nice guy - a nice famous guy - who handles his own Twitter account has led to unfortunate turmoil.

According to this Tumblr post, Mr. Hiddleston was contacted by a woman and her sister on Twitter, the former whom he presumed to be his personal stylists on the set of The Avengers - they had the same names, at least. The two women said they had a friend moving to London and wondered if he could show her around. Mr. Hiddleston agreed and began following this woman on Twitter. The woman's user image, however, was that of a famous Philippine model. These Twitter users were not who they said they were. The actual stylist was outraged and contacted Hiddleston, letting him know that she did not have a Twitter. Apparently, these accounts were created by three girls trying to find a way to meet Hiddleston. And now fans are terrified that Mr. Hiddleston will become jaded and cynical of his fans and delete his Twitter account.

It's not been a good past couple of weeks for celebrities on Twitter.

Fans reactions have been interesting as well. The original poster of this wants to do something to prove to Mr. Hiddleston that "real fans" are not that overly obsessive, while furiousdee, the blogger I've linked this from, flatly states that leaving him alone would be the best option. Though if you read through the comments, furiousdee is the only one to state this; other bloggers seem to be much more favoring doing something. So what's be done in a situation like this?

Don't ask me; I'm not a celebrity.
No, seriously; I don't have a clue. I do have a Twitter - I mostly use it to post my blog links out there in the hopes that someone will click on it (they don't) and I continue to use it because for some reason Yoko Ono follows me out there and I can't believe that happened (I think it might have been a mistake. But I don't care; it's an awesome mistake). But I can't imagine being famous on that interface; the number of messages would be so overwhelming. Imagine someone trying to express to you how much they love you and your films in 140 characters or less... it's be mad (of course, I think messaging works a bit differently. But whatever. Still, limited expressive interface).

Well, he was in Miss Austen Regrets (
And let's face it - this goes back to the whole searching for Mr. Darcy thing - people believe Tom Hiddleston is male perfection incarnate and enjoy reminding him they think that. Avoiding any argumentation on that level, I do think the constant messaging from fans must be tiresome. But this isn't the first time strange stuff has happened to Mr. Hiddleston on Tumblr, by any means. I had a screenshot of a Tumblr post (which I appear to have deleted - crap) in which the man was sent an image of a tattoo a girl got of his autograph, an image she sent herself to show how much he meant to her. His reply was clearly shocked but courteous (which I think is pretty commendable). And he continued to interact with fans like the generous, level-headed person he seems to be.

So I doubt that there is any real concern as to whether or not he's going to delete his account over this or start hating his fans; methinks he knows that all fans would not act like this and he wouldn't hold it against them all. But I'm not sure how to feel about this need to prove this is the case. Showing your support, I can definitely understand. Given the issues with Moffat's Twitter (which apparently escalated into Amanda Abbington and Caitlin Blackwood, a young actress from Doctor Who, getting Twitter hate - what the heck?!) and the motivation for fans to show that they still support him (they're making a card, it seems), I definitely lean towards the idea of sending support. But then again, I'm hesitant of it. Maybe right now what all these individuals need is space. Or maybe not; maybe they do need a friendly reminder that fandoms are immense, complicated things and that not all people usually react that way.

I don't know. But what I do know is that the fandom's reactions to the fans who conned Hiddleston and who sent hate mail have been... interesting, as you can see from some of the links I've included here and in the Moffat post. It's a sort of blacklash against those who make the fandom look bad, an out-cry that these individuals are not "real fans" and that they are "pathetic" and "creepy." They speak to the pathology that lurks in fandoms, the parts that often get high media attention despite significantly low representation and perhaps frighten fans because of how close to the chest it is. People, presumably not so different from us, sent hate mail or decided it would be okay to plan a way to meet Hiddleston. The hate mail situation I feel is harder to understand - I simply can't fathom how angry you'd have to be with a human being to send them death threats. However, the Hiddleston scheme makes slightly more sense to me, in the sense that it's not uncommon for people to come up with ludicrous ways of meeting celebrities (been there, done that). The difference, though, lies between thinking it and doing it. Most of us would never go so far as to try and put our ideas in action, mainly because we'd think it'd never work and would probably never voice the thoughts we have about this out loud or to anyone other than our most intimate friends. Usually. But let's say said friends are convinced this idea will work. Let's say your plan sounds really legitimate. Let's say you've done your research and you know exactly how to make this (mostly) fool-proof, all just to honor the person you respect most in your life.

Sound a little less bizarre? I think so. Except we know what ends this took, what the final results were, what was necessary to make it happen. And we distance ourselves from it. Understandable, totally understandable. But in playing devil's advocate, I can begin to see how an idea like this could take hold and sound convincing. The mind is a powerful thing and, if you believe in something enough, it can become utterly sound in your head. I'm not saying what these fans did is okay; I'm just saying it's not so far out there that Stephen King could write a horror novel about it. (Okay, so he did write a horror novel about fangirls. But he went to extremes. I don't think any fangirl has ever been this extreme.)

Kathy Bates in Misery, or: why fangirls have a bad rap (

Anyway, the thing is that I see a lot of things on Tumblr that blur the lines between "doing" and "thinking." I see many, many posts about sexual desire, intense longing for celebrities, "real life fan fic" that creates elaborate stories of meeting celebs. I've seen some pretty strong out-lash towards people certain Tumblr users are upset with. I see a lot of stuff that is just flat-out confusing. Sometimes I can't tell if people are being serious or sarcastic, fantastical or realistic, in a persona created only for online use or act as they are in their day to day lives. I don't know and I can't know. Tis the way of the internet.

This isn't always such a bad thing. The nice thing about Tumblr is that it does decrease the stigma of certain issues - sex, GLBT concerns, celebrity obsession, general emotional issues - and creates a platform with (generally) a supportive community to discuss. However, because the community tends to be supportive and of like-minded individuals, there's an added push that legitimizes certain ideas and strains of thoughts. I'm not saying that the fans who planned this did so on Tumblr, but certainly using a social networking interface and being able to hide behind different identities allowed for a support and confidence that wouldn't have been there otherwise.
The push back from the internet community is also interesting. In part, it is a reflex - a sort of disgust and awe that anyone would actually do this. But there's also a sort of vibe of "purity," of trying to keep the idea of a fandom inclusive and positive and having negative vibes and representations of people like this dampens the feeling of community. But also, in my - and only my - personal opinion, I think there's a sense of fear, a worry of getting in too deep, of becoming like them. Generally, fans take pride in their obsession and devotion - it's something to be celebrated and they do so frequently. In this instance, they cannot do so - it has caused harm, so they shun it, denounce it, lambaste it in order to distance themselves from it. Being a fan carries a certain stigma and this is what we face - the idea that fans are merely obsessive, pathological people who latch onto something and cannot let going because there is something missing in their "real" lives. While aspects of this may be true to some degree for fans, this does not mean that they are truly deeply unstable people. Fans are a far more diverse group than this and this shows in the sort of posts I see online. However, nearly every fan I see shows some sort of discontentment with the present state of their lives, whether in their personal state, on the scale of their local environment, a general atmosphere in their country or culture, or in the world as a whole. This is where I think the actual pathology might lie, not in the people but in the world around them.

Which is why I feel rather bad about the people saying the fans who created false Twitter accounts are not "real fans." If anything, they are the most "real" in our general usage of the word, as they took their ideas off the internet into a physical action to make their dreams come true. The difference between them and others is that other fans merely say they would do anything to meet their favorite celebrities while these fans actually tried to do it.

Again, I am NOT saying what they did was alright; I'm just saying that ostracizing them for what they did doesn't help matters. It is not easy to accept that sometimes, fans do crazy things and have crazy thoughts. Considering that the human mind has thousands of thoughts a day, the odds are that many of those are pretty strange and possibly inappropriate are pretty good. But the difference between having these thoughts and expressing them and putting them into action is an interesting boundary - and something about the internet seems to aid the expression of these thoughts while our current state of affairs seems to bring about the need to voice these thoughts. Why else would there be so many people confessing their feelings and ideas online to a bunch of people they haven't actually met?

Brilliant question, I'm so glad you asked. But I appear to have written a much longer post than what I'd bargained for again, so I'm afraid that query will have to wait until next time. thank you for your input, Moriarty. I will keep in mind that not reaching an actual conclusion is sexier. I don't think that's going to fly with my schoolwork, though.


  1. Your posts are so elaborate, well thought-out and quite clever! I completely agree with what you've said (even though it was a while ago) these fans were a bit delusional and did something that could have gotten them in deep trouble, but to some extent, they qualified themselves as more 'real' fans in their dedication to meet their idols!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad you mentioned the idea of being dedicated as a fan, as I think that's something I don't always give a lot of consideration to. It's different from how I tend to view my actions as a fan and thus unfortunately gets overlooked. So thank you greatly for bringing that up!