Why Some Fans Are Giving Animation A Black Eye – Animation Scoop

Why Some Fans Are Giving Animation A Black Eye

Fandoms in general constantly contend with a minority that makes the majority look bad. If it isn’t long-term fans belittling newcomers, it’s one faction squaring off against another over some trifle disagreement. Fans arguing amongst themselves is nothing new, but when the anger gets directed towards creators or those on the creative team, the results make everyone look bad.

Fans serve an important role in many forms of entertainment, even more so today than in the past. The vast majority maintain a positive attitude, and realise that their fandom forms a part of the healthy relationship between creators, fans, and casual viewers. Many fans also realise and appreciate that a lot of hard work and effort goes into creating a show, and that sometimes decisions are made that they don’t necessarily agree with or support, but which they can get over and move on.

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The traditional complaining nature of fans is natural and beneficial because it allows them to vent some steam. It’s been a part of fandoms since day dot, and is present in all sorts of fandoms from novels, to sports, to obscure music scenes. Argument and debate amongst fans keeps fandoms healthy, alive, and provides casual fans with an incentive to become more involved; provided everything is kept civil. Loud, aggressive, immature fans are as inevitable as the tides, and their management within fandoms comes down to the ability of the majority to dilute their influence and ostracize them if need be.

For all the upsides of the internet in bringing fans together and providing a multitude of platforms and social networks in which to engage and converse, there are downsides, and Twitter in particular is at the center of the latest controversy.

Lauren Zuke is a storyboard artist on Steven Universe who felt compelled to delete her twitter account after a barrage of abuse. The nature of the abuse and why it was directed at her are irrelevant; not because of their subject matter, but because there is never any basis for fans to direct their anger towards an individual for any reason.

Such bullying can never be condoned, but the fact that it exists and is being conducted by fans of an animated show (aimed at kids by the way!) is deplorable. Animation fans are renowned for the general upbeat positivity and welcoming nature. Many groups of fans are more than happy to see another person sharing an interest in what remains a niche sector of the wider entertainment industry, and will often spend a great amount of time helping them become an active member of the fandom.

Yet the broader changes in fandoms and their relationships with creative teams cannot be ignored. Fans are becoming more demanding, and when teams do interact with fans, some of the latter create the illusion that because they are being listened to, their opinions are entitled to merit. Worse yet, some see a failure to accede to demands as a clear revocation of the implied creator/fan contract and a betrayal of ‘trust.’

When fans of animated shows engage in this type of behaviour, they lower the esteem that animation fans in general hold. They reveal that animation fandoms are not deserving of their positive image, and prove that they are just as capable as any soccer team of harbouring abusive and aggressive idividuals.

Such people and groups need to be kept in check lest our business descends to the level of some sports teams whose fans are tarred with the same brush regardless of their individual behaviour. Badly behaved fans reduce the appeal of shows to casual viewers and ultimately hurt the very thing they love. They also give the entire industry a bit of a black eye. We need to be vigilant going forward, and ensure that an angry minority do not ruin the fun for all of us.
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Charles Kenny

Charles Kenny

Being tall, Irish and a civil engineer by trade, Charles stands out in the animation crowd, hence his position as the Animation Anomaly.
Charles Kenny
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  • Ryoga Kazehino

    Steven Universe fanbase on Tumblr giving rants of this article in 3…..2…..1…..

  • Milo

    Where do I begun with this? I almost wasn’t going to say anything, but my gosh man how can I not?!

    First off, articles like this, which I like to call the “shut up and get in line” posts, are, in their very nature, anti-American. Our culture is such that every voice has a place, and the kind of badgering you speak of is just as protected under the First Amendment as kind complements. Fair enough, you nor I are the government, which the First Amendment is directed to, however it sets the tone for our culture, and while (ironically) you have the right to say these things in this post, I also have the right to call you on them. Isn’t freedom fun?

    Second, there seems to be a fever in Hollywood these days that some how fans or critics are lesser than the people who make up the film industry. Let me tell you right now, just becuase you have the luck to have a really cool job making cartoons or writing about them doesn’t somehow mean your “opinions are entitled to merit” anymore or less than anyone else’s. The fact is, if a creative, especially one with a wide audience, is going to push certain ideas, especially controversial ones like in “Steven Universe,” you should expect a lot of backlash. Honestly, I would have been surprised if there hadn’t of been some backlash. You and every other Hollywood person have a job becuase the people you are talking about spend their hard earned money on the very animation they criticize. Please, let that fact sink in.

    Listen, I know very well that writers, voice talent, directors, animators, etc. work very hard on your typical animated or live-action show. I get it. But guess what? So do your average police officer, teacher, sale associate, architect, etc. and so on. Some how people, even people in high place, seem to find the time to criticize these people and their jobs and very publicly. Why should you be any different? The kind of feelings like the one in this article that a lot of modern Hollywood personalities seem to hold, that some how they should be free from fan backlash and everyone should be supportive of them at all times, only serves to further push the ideals of elitism in Hollywood.

    You also incorrectly assume that every time fans are unfavorable to creative talent that those fans are part of a vocal minority, or that they are even fans. Both ideals are false. Sometimes, the people that don’t like the way something is going do in fact represent the majority. Also, sometimes, it’s not “fans” that are upset. I personally am not a fan of “Steven Universe,” and would theoretically not have any issue criticizing the show. Once or twice in the past, I have. Don’t feel bad about it at all. It deserves the criticism in my opinion. It goes both ways however. Things I like also receive criticism from others and if I were to write a book or produce a cartoon, I would expect that some people would not like it and say as much.

    Now, all of that said, do some people on the internet go too far? Yes, they do. Frankly, that is the culture of the internet, and all of us have helped to foster it. Does that make it right? No. If it were up to me, all critics would show more respect and kindness when sharing their feelings about something. However, much like Hollywood needs to wake up the reality that not everyone is always happy with what they produce, I have to wake up to the fact that the world does not run they way I wish it to. It’s far easier for many to just call something or someone “stupid” or worse, and be on with their day instead of writing as much as I just did in this comment.

    I will finish by put your troubles and the troubles of your average Hollywood creative in context. You probably live in the LA area or spend a lot of time in it as most entertainment folks do. Go down some day to skid row and spend some time there. Those people are the ones who have REAL problems, not some Hollywood writer making good or amazing money working all day making cartoons, let alone cartoons were they get to push their ideals and world views on others. Can it be annoying or difficult to listen to some fan tear you apart? Sure, but at least you have a bed at night. At least you have the money to eat out and wear nice clothing. Let’s keep some context here, please.

  • Elaine Tenkuji

    you’re acting like she deleted her accounts cause she couldn’t handle criticism when that wasn’t the case at all, she was harassed over twitter because she agreed with a fan ship, that is it. also that little tangent at the end of your essay was really pathetic, “people in lower income areas have it rough so you have no right to complain” you are an idiot who thinks just because some one has it good means they have no “real” issues, when that is never the case at all

  • ben yohanan

    Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that we have to pretend speech doesn’t have consequences, or that speech can’t cause harm.

    Pointing out the harm caused by toxic fanbases is not suppressing their right to free speech.

  • P89

    I don’t have the time or energy to go into how absolutely skewed most of your views are, but for the record, let’s break this statement down.

    “Let me tell you right now, just becuase you have the luck to have a really cool job making cartoons or writing about them doesn’t somehow mean your “opinions are entitled to merit” anymore or less than anyone else’s.”

    First of all, luck has nothing to do with it. It’s a great job, sure, but it’s one that also requires hundreds if not thousands of hours of intense practice to achieve. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that working in animation is by any means easy or that anyone got there by luck. And yeah, I get that you didn’t specifically state that, but the tone of your entire response is so chock full of sarcasm and condescension that it’s implied. Moving on.

    Second. Let’s talk about the value of opinions. Man, it’s downright offensive that you’d insinuate that just because you’re a fan of a show that your opinion about its creation is worth as much as someone that works on it. They CREATE the show. Do you get that? Do you get that it’s not an opinion- it’s a work of art- it’s a decision by the artist to make something look or work a certain way. It’s not their opinion- it IS the final product. You can have all the opinions about it you want, but your view of the art is nowhere near as relevant as the decisions of the artist creating it. And the second creators start letting the direction of their vision become dictated by some anonymous 12 year old’s flaming twitter rant, man, have we lost all hope. At the end of the day, Lauren Zuke’s “opinion” about steven universe is worth way more than any given fan’s because she’s making the show. She’s pouring her heart and soul into boards, into characters, into this world that she’s creating. And when you create your own world, great, pour your soul into it- but don’t for a single second think that some outsider’s opinion of it should in any way influence the way in which the story goes or how and why you make the decisions you do as an artist. Man, the fact that you think that some random fan’s OTP is more relevant than Lauren’s freedom to draw a story how she wants is downright offensive as hell. That’s a level of arrogance rarely achieved by most people. So congrats on that, champ. A+. And this is all besides the fact that Lauren has a background in art and storytelling, so yeah, her opinion DOES hold more weight than the average person’s because, guess what, she actually knows what she’s doing. Do you get surgery performed by someone who isn’t a surgeon? Do you hire someone who isn’t an architect to design a house? Of course not. She’s an animator. She animates. She does this professionally- you know- for a living. As in “she lives to do this.” Yeah, at the baseline, her opinion is worth a LOT more than yours because guess what- it’s her LIFE.

    Let’s go over this last bit now, shall we? (Hey look, you’re not the only one that can take a condescending tone via text!)

    “You and every other Hollywood person have a job because the people you are talking about spend their hard earned money on the very animation they criticize. Please, let that fact sink in.”

    Shit man, better get a bandaid because I just cut myself on how edgy this insight is. Let me lay this down for you. I worked on a show that lasted for about one and a half seasons. It was created to give the fans what they wanted, and nobody watched it. Hollywood (by the way, it’s hilarious that you think the animation industry is part of hollywood. Really shows how much research you did.) can try every trick in the book to make something that fans are going to love- pull on the threads of nostalgia, throw in familiar characters, do reboots, re-imagine worlds, cater to every social group on the planet- and at the end of the day the product can STILL suck. It’s been done. When everything is said and done the Steven crew is doing their best to just make a good damn show. Oh, you spent your hard earned money on a show? Great. They put their blood, sweat, and tears into it. Kinda fucked up that you think your money is somehow worth more than that, isn’t it? Simply put, your money isn’t worth shit compared to A. what the network wants and B. (and vastly more importantly) what the artists working on the show have it in their hearts to draw. You want a show dictated by what the fans are willing to spend on it? Well get ready for a billion reboots, because that’s what you’re gonna get. You’re talking about creating a system controlled by consumers when the average consumer has NO idea how to animate, much less tell a captivating story. Additionally, because so many fans are afraid of new stories and IP’s, we keep seeing these large companies foster environments that encourage creating the same safe, boring material we’ve seen re-skinned and presented so many damn times. Yeah, the fans support the industry, but DAMN do they also play a huge part in holding it back, and all of that stems from how you all vote with your wallet. So I’m glad I guess I have a job because you bought a vinyl Pop figure of Batman at your mall’s Hot Topic (again, you have NO idea how this industry works do you?), but don’t you ever dare compare the importance of your opinion of a story to the creative choices of the person making said story. That’s about as arrogant as it gets, buddy. And we’re not talking on a corporate scale at this point- we’re talking about one person choosing to tell THEIR story. We’re looking at the work on a personal level. The creator’s view of their own art will ALWAYS be more important than the opinion of the people viewing it. That’s how art WORKS. Let THAT fact sink in.

  • @disqus_FakmBrOPhx:disqus: Seeing as how you offered your “critique” on @disqus_cQsW9EzkU7:disqus’s original comment, I am going to do the same for you, (sir or madam):

    Now for the first half:

    “Let me tell you right now, just becuase you have the luck to have a really cool job making cartoons or writing about them doesn’t somehow mean your “opinions are entitled to merit” anymore or less than anyone else’s.”

    First of all, luck has nothing to do with it. It’s a great job, sure, but it’s one that also requires hundreds if not thousands of hours of intense practice to achieve. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that working in animation is by any means easy or that anyone got there by luck. And yeah, I get that you didn’t specifically state that, but the tone of your entire response is so chock full of sarcasm and condescension that it’s implied. Moving on.”

    I don’t recall Milo ever saying that the work put forth by animators is something that just anyone can do automatically nor did this person say that the reason for most people gaining jobs in the field of animation comes down to sheer luck and luck alone.

    In fact, he (or she) never mentioned anything closely related to that at all. Heck he even acknowledged that yes, animation is a time consuming process as evidenced by this: “Listen, I know very well that writers, voice talent, directors, animators, etc. work very hard on your typical animated or live-action show.”

    You yourself implied that this person was “tricking him or herself into thinking that working in animation is by any means easy or that anyone got there by luck.”

    “And yeah, I get that you didn’t specifically state that, but the tone of your entire response is so chock full of sarcasm and condescension that it’s implied.”

    Exactly, how can you sense sarcasm or condescension through text via a computer screen?

    Now for the rest of your statements:

    “Second. Let’s talk about the value of opinions. Man, it’s downright offensive that you’d insinuate that just because you’re a fan of a show that your opinion about its creation is worth as much as someone that works on it. They CREATE the show. Do you get that? Do you get that it’s not an opinion- it’s a work of art- it’s a decision by the artist to make something look or work a certain way. It’s not their opinion- it IS the final product. You can have all the opinions about it you want, but your view of the art is nowhere near as relevant as the decisions of the artist creating it. And the second creators start letting the direction of their vision become dictated by some anonymous 12 year old’s flaming twitter rant, man, have we lost all hope.”

    Hmm. I’ve seen this kind of opinion from you and others like you buzzing about on the Internet for quite some time. I’d like to ask this in response:

    1. What exactly was offensive about Milo’s post? There was no indication of an attack on Ms. Zuke’s character at any point within the original statement being made.

    All that was said was: “The fact is, if a creative, especially one with a wide audience, is going to push certain ideas, especially controversial ones like in “Steven Universe,” you should expect a lot of backlash.”

    2. How and where did this conclusion come from?

    3. Why would you even come to such a conclusion?

    “At the end of the day, Lauren Zuke’s “opinion” about steven universe is worth way more than any given fan’s because she’s making the show. She’s pouring her heart and soul into boards, into characters, into this world that she’s creating. And when you create your own world, great, pour your soul into it- but don’t for a single second think that some outsider’s opinion of it should in any way influence the way in which the story goes or how and why you make the decisions you do as an artist.”

    I won’t ignore the fact that Ms. Zuke put in a lot of work into what she does.

    That said, it does not excuse her work from being criticized, especially considering that she is in an industry where works like hers are open to the public.

    “Man, the fact that you think that some random fan’s OTP is more relevant than Lauren’s freedom to draw a story how she wants is downright offensive as hell. That’s a level of arrogance rarely achieved by most people. So congrats on that, champ. A+. And this is all besides the fact that Lauren has a background in art and storytelling, so yeah, her opinion DOES hold more weight than the average person’s because, guess what, she actually knows what she’s doing. Do you get surgery performed by someone who isn’t a surgeon? Do you hire someone who isn’t an architect to design a house? Of course not. She’s an animator. She animates. She does this professionally- you know- for a living. As in “she lives to do this.” Yeah, at the baseline, her opinion is worth a LOT more than yours because guess what- it’s her LIFE.”

    So, being proficient at your job gains you automatic immunity from the critiques of people who aren’t professional critics, themselves.

    Okay. Let’s go with that.

    Are you honestly trying to say the very idea of critiques coming from John Q. Public are not worth listening to and that there should be nothing but praise coming from said “public”, whatsoever?

    Are you also trying to say that critiques in general should not be given and in no way will actually help an artist to improve upon his or her work if said criticism hurts the feelings of that artist?

    Why do you think that?

    How does one’s background in art and storytelling keep them from being critiqued?

    Moreover, where did you get the idea that everything that Milo was saying equates to him or her telling people like Ms. Zuke how to live their life?

    Where did the discussion of “some random fan’s OTP is more relevant than Lauren’s freedom to draw a story how she wants” come from?

    Why did you feel the need to mention that?

    Furthermore: how does any of what you’re saying relate to Milo’s statement?

    “Let’s go over this last bit now, shall we? (Hey look, you’re not the only one that can take a condescending tone via text!)”

    “You and every other Hollywood person have a job because the people you are talking about spend their hard earned money on the very animation they criticize. Please, let that fact sink in.”

    Shit man, better get a bandaid because I just cut myself on how edgy this insight is. Let me lay this down for you.

    I worked on a show that lasted for about one and a half seasons. It was created to give the fans what they wanted, and nobody watched it. ”

    On that note, I’ll ask this:

    Did you create a pilot episode that was able to capture and hold the attention of the audience?

    Did you take the time and effort to create well-rounded, fleshed-out and well-developed characters?

    Did you also take time to create an engaging character / story arc and build a world that us as an audience can get engaged in?

    Did you make the effort to promote using advertisements that people could actually see on sites and networks that people actually watch?

    Was your show publicly available on a major television network (be it over-the-air broadcast or on cable?

    Did you actually take the time to listen to the fans, ask them what they wanted to see and engage said fans so that an actual community / fanbase can be built?

    Finally, is your show being talked about / or at least fondly remembered even today?

    “Hollywood (by the way, it’s hilarious that you think the animation industry is part of hollywood. Really shows how much research you did.) can try every trick in the book to make something that fans are going to love- pull on the threads of nostalgia, throw in familiar characters, do reboots, re-imagine worlds, cater to every social group on the planet- and at the end of the day the product can STILL suck. It’s been done. When everything is said and done the Steven crew is doing their best to just make a good damn show.

    Did it ever occur to you that the reason why Milo spoke about the animation industry in Hollywood has to do with the fact that this particular article is entirely focused on a show that is produced by an animation studio owned by a film studio located in Hollywood / Los Angeles?

    Are you also saying that the animation industry isn’t worth talking about unless the conversation includes all animation studios from all 7 continents?

    Also, if you think that a consumer’s money matters so little when it comes to a film and television series’s success, could you explain to me how it was that other shows like Star Trek and films like the Star Wars series have become so successful 40-50 years later?

    (Hint: it wasn’t just because of the fact that the stories were good. There was something else that helped propel it to the heights that it did. I think it begins with an “M”).

    So far, the only person showing condescension, sarcasm and arrogance here is you.

    You’ve also shown zero respect for the audience as consumers and how little you value the impact that they have on the industry that you work in.

    Let’s look at these posts, shall we?

    “You want a show dictated by what the fans are willing to spend on it? Well get ready for a billion reboots, because that’s what you’re gonna get. You’re talking about creating a system controlled by consumers when the average consumer has NO idea how to animate, much less tell a captivating story. ”

    “Additionally, because so many fans are afraid of new stories and IP’s, we keep seeing these large companies foster environments that encourage creating the same safe, boring material we’ve seen re-skinned and presented so many damn times. Yeah, the fans support the industry, but DAMN do they also play a huge part in holding it back.”

    According to you, the entire reason for why there are so many reboots and remakes in existence is all the fault of the fans.

    The fact that you have a dry well of creativity coupled with idiot executives who seem to think that it would be so much easier to just tell the same story from the first movie over again in a poor manner, just with different actors in Hollywood is due to the fans buying tickets because they want to see them and anything new in terms of ideas will just scare them off?

    Where are the data and facts to prove this?

    What do you have to support this claim?

    How exactly do you have the capacity to know what each audience member thinks in terms of their choices in what they buy and what movies they watch?

    “don’t you ever dare compare the importance of your opinion of a story to the creative choices of the person making said story.”

    “Oh, you spent your hard earned money on a show? Great. They put their blood, sweat, and tears into it. Kinda fucked up that you think your money is somehow worth more than that, isn’t it? Simply put, your money isn’t worth shit compared to A. what the network wants and B. (and vastly more importantly) what the artists working on the show have it in their hearts to draw.”

    “The creator’s view of their own art will ALWAYS be more important than the opinion of the people viewing it. That’s how art WORKS.”

    Question: Do you honestly think that every consumer behaves like what you’ve tried to describe here?

    Let me guess this straight: The fact that a consumer voluntarily gives money to you as part of a business transaction in order to make sure that they can come away with a product without feeling like they’ve been ripped off or had their wasted their time while showing their support to you and making sure that you can pay for your groceries, electricity, gas and other utilities needed to survive means nothing to you at all?

    Here’s what was actually said:

    “You also incorrectly assume that every time fans are unfavorable to creative talent that those fans are part of a vocal minority, or that they are even fans. Both ideals are false. Sometimes, the people that don’t like the way something is going do in fact represent the majority. Also, sometimes, it’s not “fans” that are upset. I personally am not a fan of “Steven Universe,” and would theoretically not have any issue criticizing the show. Once or twice in the past, I have. Don’t feel bad about it at all. It deserves the criticism in my opinion. It goes both ways however. Things I like also receive criticism from others and if I were to write a book or produce a cartoon, I would expect that some people would not like it and say as much.”

    “Now, all of that said, do some people on the internet go too far? Yes, they do. Frankly, that is the culture of the internet, and all of us have helped to foster it. Does that make it right? No. If it were up to me, all critics would show more respect and kindness when sharing their feelings about something. However, much like Hollywood needs to wake up the reality that not everyone is always happy with what they produce, I have to wake up to the fact that the world does not run they way I wish it to. It’s far easier for many to just call something or someone “stupid” or worse, and be on with their day instead of writing as much as I just did in this comment.”

    In these posts, all Milo actually said was that if you’re going to produce entertainment and put it out there for the world to see, you have to be willing to expect and accept the fact that not everyone who consumes what you produce is going to like and support everything that you do.

    Some people will go so far as to say that they do not like you.

    There will be times where they’ll explain why they don’t like you and sometimes you’ll have people who’ll just say that they don’t like you and then leave.

    To wit, this statement also applies here:

    “Just as you (and others who create content like you) don’t owe the audience a video, a comic or anything else you produce, the audience / fanbase / consumers don’t owe YOU anything either.”

    “What praise you do get will be because you’ve EARNED it by creating something that people like and enjoy.

    It is not something that you’re owed nor is it something that you deserve. You have to give people a reason to support you.

    If they really like what you do, they’ll continue to support it even more.

    Otherwise, they won’t and said consumers are under no obligation to show you financial support or anything else just because you think it should be so.”

    If your work is garbage-tier level and you don’t put in the effort, time, care, and love towards improving it, you will only get support from your most hardcore fans (and that’s if they haven’t already decided to jump ship and go towards another for art commissions, comics or whatever else).

    This also applies to how you treat those around you, especially if you decide to talk down to them.”

    “Hold on, you just asked me: “Exactly, how can you sense sarcasm or condescension through text via a computer screen?

    How can YOU sense this with ME”?

    Your choice of words and how you chose to express them through self-righteous indigence and misplaced anger.

    Your entire response to Milo’s original post can be summed up with the exact statement that you made at the start of it: “I don’t have the time or energy to go into it.”

    What is it about a difference of an opinion that bugs you, so much?

    @ben_yohanan:disqus It’s true that freedom of speech does have consequences. There are times where what you say can get you in trouble and yes. you will be accountable for the thing that you say.

    If you want to talk about toxicity, that’s fine. However, said toxicity isn’t just limited to fanbases of any media franchise. It’s something that many see coming from the very entertainment industry you’re willing to defend.

    What makes you think that anyone who works in this industry should be relieved from being criticized?

    Why do you think like this?

    @ryogakazehino:disqus, @elainetenkuji:disqus What is it about Milo’s statement that you disagree with and why?