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Misbehavior Is Not Okay

I was inspired after reading David Pogue’s February 6th blog post entitled “Why Are People Such Jerks Online?” to put forth my own thoughts on the matter of online misbehavior that, in most cases, we don’t encounter in what I like to call Real Life, or RL.

In Mr. Pogue’s article, he draws the conclusion that the reason people are jerks to each other on the internet, when they aren’t necessarily that way in RL, is because the internet affords something that a face-to-face meeting does not: anonymity.

While I don’t have the status of Mr. Pogue, in that I’m not a well-known columnist, far too often I have witnessed appalling behavior from one person (or a group of people) in the online arena to another.

I have had numerous conversations about this phenomenon with my publishing company owner, Jaimi Sorrell. She herself has been the target of internet attacks, as have several other online acquaintances of mine. Those against me have been few enough, and far enough between, that none of them really tweak a memory profound enough to share.

In addition to running her publishing company, Jaimi also works with me and a few others on a discussion board called Tracy Island Writers Forum. It is on that venue, and on the website fanfiction.net, that I have most often seen behavior that baffles both of us.

In a very small number of cases, we have discovered that the people who post nasty reviews on fan fiction stories, or send ‘poison pen’ emails to their authors, suffer from one or more mental disorders. While this doesn’t exactly excuse the behavior in question, it at least sheds some light on the cause of it. Sadly, we have come to the conclusion that there isn’t very much you can do where that is concerned. You simply have to not let their poisonous intent affect you, like water rolling off a duck’s back.

But in the case of what you might consider to be average, everyday netizens, the question does arise as to why they think it’s okay to do something online that they wouldn’t (in all likelihood) do if they were face-to-face with the person being subjected to their rudeness. (Although for all I know, some of these people are like that in RL too, which ::shivers:: yikes.)

As Mr. Pogue points out in his post, the internet is “a place for the anonymous and insecure to take potshots.” But what I want to understand is why. And for me, the most relevant parallel I can draw to what amounts to internet bullying, is bullying in RL.

There has been an increased focused on bullying over the past several years (you can see bullying statistics for yourself right here). We have all heard the stories of teens being bullied by other teens, which sometimes results in the victim taking their own life or getting their hands on a gun and shooting up their school. We see bullying on elementary school playgrounds all the time. Children, up to a certain age, haven’t really digested the “what’s right and what’s wrong” portion of their moral values (for the most part). I’ve seen children be downright cruel to one another on the playground; in fact, my own son was once bullied because he was “different” from the rest of the children. In his case, “different” simply meant that he was able to complete activities and homework much more quickly than his peers, to the point where he would have absolutely nothing to do for a good half of the school day. He also didn’t want to participate in the cliques they formed, was more interested in reading than being macho, and in general didn’t think the same things were important that they did.

Children always pick on anyone who’s different from them. They often sling insults (many of which they have heard at home) toward others, be they racial epithets or otherwise, and there’s only one reason they do this. Acting out is a way of getting attention, and if you have a group of friends who also are desperate for attention, and desperate to fit in, you get together with them and pick on someone different from all of you. This makes you and your crew feel better about yourselves.

Why do they do this? Because they have one or more problems with self-image, self-love and quite possibly with their home lives. Whether they feel ignored at home, inadequate compared to siblings or are just completely lost trying to figure out their own identity, this behavior is exacerbated in teenagers, whose hormones make every situation life and death. As Vivienne Parry points out, “Teenagers get a rush from intensity, excitement and arousal.” The difference among teens is what the thing is that gives them that rush. All too often it’s behavior that I still haven’t figured out how they get away with.

The same behaviors, however, exist among adults on the internet, both individually and in whatever groups they choose to become part of. Yet adults, unless they suffer from a debilitation that affects this part of their brain, don’t have the benefit of being able to claim their sense of right and wrong hasn’t yet developed. And they don’t have the benefit of being able to blame raging hormones or whatever other factors spur teenagers to act the way many do. So why does one person gather their sheep around them, declare war on another group of people who’ve never said a bad word about any of them, and attack that group so viciously that sometimes it curls your hair?

I agree with Mr. Pogue that a large part of the ‘why’ is that even if people on the internet know your real name, it’s still a largely anonymous environment. Rather than looking a person in the eye and bringing out your verbal weaponry (or putting up your dukes), you are simply sitting there in your living room or office or bedroom looking at a computer screen. Nothing bad will happen to you, at least not physically, for unleashing your putrid internal sludge in blog comments, emails, story/book reviews or discussion boards. Certainly the online community in question may give you warnings or ban you from posting to that place altogether, if that is possible for them. And in retribution you may receive responses from those group members or the friends of the person you attacked, trying to defend their friends/community from your attack.

But by and large, you can do and say whatever you want to on the internet without having to suffer any consequences at all because it is anonymous. And that’s what I think is the true reason people misbehave online: there are no consequences for their actions.

When I was a child, if I misbehaved – whether it was getting into a fight on the playground at school, staying out past my curfew, going to a place I was told not to go or not doing my chores – I was punished in some way. It might’ve been that I had to go to bed an hour earlier. It might have been that I had to stand in a corner for a period of time. Not being able to watch my favorite TV show was a frequent one. It might even have been a spanking or lashing with the belt. Whatever the punishment was, it was designed to teach me right from wrong. To make me take responsibility for my actions. To show me that just because I could do something, doesn’t mean I should.

I’m not going to debate the merits of different types of punishment for children and adults; that’s not what this post is about. What it is about, is the disturbing trend in the United States of children not being held accountable for anything from their actions to themselves. With No Child Left Behind, if a kid is failing their grade it doesn’t matter…they’re pushed along to the next grade anyway. What does that teach our children? That it’s okay if they can’t, won’t or don’t achieve a certain level of education or knowledge, because they’ll get to stay with all their friends and move on to the next class. Which, I should point out, they are ill-prepared for since they didn’t adequately learn the foundational information from previous classes. I shan’t delve too deeply into this, for it is a much broader topic deserving of its own post.

In addition to a broken educational system, there is the strange practice, now, of awarding trophies (be they statuettes, ribbons or gold stars) to every single student who does something, even if the student doesn’t “win.” When I was on the track team in my younger years, I didn’t bring home a ribbon if I lost the race or didn’t throw discus the farthest. When I participated in state and national singing competitions, I didn’t win an award if other singers performed better than I did. I had to work, and work hard, to achieve recognition and success. Actors don’t get Oscars for B-level performances. Olympic hopefuls don’t get a gold medal if they place second in their sport.

Yet nowadays, in many schools, all the children on a school sports team receive all sorts of ‘gifts’ just for being on the team. Even if they never take the field, or even if the team never wins a game, they are treated as though they have poured their heart and soul into playing and as though they have won every single game…when they have done neither. How does this encourage children, then, to strive for excellence? If you know you’re going to be recognized for just being there, where’s the incentive to work harder, do better, surpass your personal best? Answer: there is none.

There are more reasons than just these why we are now being faced with teens and twenty-somethings who carry with them a sense of entitlement that they have not earned and don’t in any way deserve. This issue was recently expounded upon by BabyZone in their article here, in which they talk about how parents allowing their children to do whatever they want with no consequences ruined a play date the author had. As well, Babble.com spoke of Parenting in the Age of Entitlement in their article found here, showing this truly is a modern epidemic. What it boils down to is that children and therefore young adults don’t understand that you can’t have what a fifty-year old has (wealth, family, house, car) just because you want it. You have to earn it just like that fifty-year old earned it.

An example more germaine to my existence online: someone joins a long-standing internet community, and immediately begins telling the owners and long-term members of that community what they’re doing wrong, and that they need to change everything to be the way the newbie wants it to be. If you don’t agree with the newbie, or if you tell them no, sorry, we created this place and it’s run according to our rules, then guess what happens? That person basically throws the internet version of a tantrum, and then sends emails to everyone they know maligning the community members, as well as making blog posts stating as much. They also attack community members individually via emails and by leaving nasty reviews on their fan fiction stories…reviews that have nothing to do with the stories and everything to do with their burning hatred of the author (or the group the author is with).

Why do people do that? Because they believe that they’re always right, that everyone else is wrong, and that you should change everything you do because they told you to. They feel that they are entitled to have things their way because nobody ever taught them the concepts of negotiation or compromise. Nor has anyone taught them compassion, or to think before they speak. In a great number of cases, nobody has taught them that you don’t get to the top by magic. You get there by working for it.

Parents today are faced with an unbelievable challenge. More and more of their time is being hogged by their jobs, their financial worries and the five thousand non-home and non-work activities that for some reason they feel the need to participate in. This has the direct result of their children being sat down in front of the television or video game console, just to keep them out of their parents’ hair so the parents can try to get one-tenth of their unmanageable load of daily tasks completed. And in many cases, children aren’t even being allowed to be children. What I mean by that, is that kids not allowed to just be; to play in the yard alone or with their friends, developing a sense of self, an imagination and social skills. To help their parents around the house, thereby learning responsibility and the consequences of not meeting obligations. They’re largely ignored in favor of the parents’ agenda which, at some point along the way, their own children – the future of this country – stopped appearing on anymore. Or the kids are carted around to dozens of after-school activities because, I can only assume, we’re trying to stress out America’s children before they even become adults, and teach them that taking time to stop and smell the roses isn’t important.

While the behavior problems associated with teenagers and twenty-somethings might be able to be explained by all of the above, what’s the deal, then, with those who truly are old enough to know better? Those from my generation, many of whom had stay-at-home moms, or who were spanked when they did wrong, who were held accountable for their words, their deeds and how they carried themselves? For the misbehavior I have seen online has in no way been limited to the generation after mine, and for me that is the most perplexing part of this entire topic.

How does someone in their 30s…their 40s…their 50s…someone who is definitely old enough to know better, and who grew up in a generation that taught you to know better, attack other people online? I can come up with four individuals off the top of my head who each act as though they have lost any sense of morality and decency, that they had to have grown up with simply because of the time period in question. In one case, I believe it’s because the woman is a very bored housewife who for some reason missed out on a typical youth, and is also a control freak. This person has gathered a following of teenagers around her that praise her every word and deed. And that has given her a sense of “Look how much they love me, that means I’m better than everyone else.” So when she finds another group of people who say, “No, sorry, you’re not our queen, but thank you anyway,” she then goes on the offensive and tries everything she can to rip them to shreds.

Why? Because in her mind she, and those members of her personal “cult” who have allowed her to be their leader, are the end-all and be-all to what is correct. Their opinions are the only right opinions, even if those opinions are highly illogical to the matter at hand. The older community which has stood the test of time, withstanding many attempts to tear it down, won’t bow to her perceived superiority. It’s rather like a king who is trying to conquer another territory. When the indigenous people refuse to convert to his beliefs or give up their land and their freedom, what does the king do? He attacks them with the intent of either forcing them to join him or killing them if they continue to refuse to submit to his rule. News flash for those of you out there who missed out on this: we don’t do that kind of thing anymore. We’re a little more sophisticated now than we were in medieval times. There is no single ruler of anything (let’s face it, these days even British royalty is little more than an homage to days past – the queen doesn’t rule anything), and when you’re talking about things in the public domain, you don’t get to set the standards for everyone else.

This article could easily become five times longer than it already is, but instead of beating a dead horse I’ll circle back around to my own opinion of why people misbehave online. There are no consequences for them doing so. There are no “internet police” to react immediately to their actions, like there would be if you got into a public altercation. Yes, you can be arrested for cyberbullying, cyberstalking and cyberharassment. But since so many online personalities go by pseudonyms, unless you have a lot of money or good hacking skills, prosecuting them for these things is nearly impossible.

We all become angry if we see story about a man who abuses his wife, or a woman who abuses her children. We are upset when one woman kills another woman because she was “trying to steal her man.” We are outraged when a man concocts a scheme to murder his wife because he wants out of the marriage.

But we have a double standard when it comes to online behavior. Because each and every one of the motivations behind the acts I just described, are the same motivations that misbehaving online people have. The only difference is that on the internet you can’t punch, stab, poke, shoot or kick your opponent. The only warfare you can wage there is psychological. And that, as we know from people killing themselves due to maltreatment online, can be just as deadly as a bullet to the brain.

Regardless of the psychological reasons, the rationalizations people try to make or the arguments that misbehaving people use as excuses, the point here is, as Mr. Pogue discussed in the post that inspired this article from me, that you wouldn’t walk up to someone in RL, stand nose to nose with them and begin hurling insults and curses, questioning their ancestry or spewing hateful and spiteful and vicious words at them. Not if you had to look them in the eye (and were sober at the time), you wouldn’t. If you would, then you need to seek professional help, because that is not acceptable behavior on the internet any more than it is in RL.

Stop to consider the one thing that I know all of you who misbehave on the internet haven’t considered: Just because nobody questions or goes after you for your bad behavior online, doesn’t mean you’re getting away with it. It is NOT okay to hurt other people, whether with your words or your actions. I don’t care if it’s online, in person, over the telephone or by making a hate-filled movie to unleash your questionable sensibilities upon a larger audience. It is NOT. NOT okay. It is NOT OKAY to hurt other people.

If they disagree with you? That is their right. If you ask for their opinions and they give them to you, but you hate their opinions? Grow up and deal with it. They have a right to theirs, as you have a right to yours. Doing unto others what you would have done unto you isn’t just an old quote. It’s reality.

Nobody in your house may see what you’re doing…maybe even your online friends aren’t aware of it, or because they are also sick and twisted, they’re encouraging you. But let me point something out: YOU are aware of it. YOU know what you’re doing. And not only your victims, but YOU are being harmed by your misbehavior. There being external consequences for your actions, words and deeds is irrelevant. Because whether it’s online or in person, and no matter how old you are or aren’t, and whether you suffer from a mental illness or are just having a really bad day, misbehavior is not okay.

Where The Hell Does It Come From?

I wonder how many writers out there secretly think they’re nuts.

I’m not one of them, because I already know I’m nuts. In the best possible way, of course. :-)

But seriously, there are times when some of the stuff that goes through my head makes even my own psyche jump back a bit and go, “Whoa, WTF was that?”

(Then I think about Stephen King and the kind of stuff he comes up with, and I feel pretty normal by comparison.)

All kidding aside, I often wonder if I’m the only one who gets sudden – for lack of a better word – ‘visions’ of scenes, or characters, or events that wind up pointing me in the direction of writing it down. My first screenplay, ‘The Healer,’ started with precisely that.

Now, the ‘movie’ that I saw inside my head did not actually feature the characters I wound up writing into the script. What I saw included very real people, but the scenes were so vivid, so detailed, that I just had to write it down. Yeah, that’s the one where I got halfway through writing it as a novel before the muses kicked my tailbone (very hard, I might add) and said, “No! This is supposed to be a movie, not a book!”

My muses tend to be mighty pushy, and because of it, I embarked upon the adventure that was writing my very first movie screenplay. Go figure.

With “TAKERS,” it was a little different.

I’ve heard some writers talk about (under an umbrella of secrecy – Cone of Silence? – lest they be labeled ‘lunatic’) the fact that they see and hear their characters. I must admit, that’s been a staple method for me for years in my writing. I can hear you now, crying, “Oh, my God, do you mean you hallucinate?”


People don’t like to talk openly about stuff like this, but I’m not ‘people.’ I’m the one who’s perfectly happy to stand up and admit to what I know for a fact is true about many writers (because some of them have actually talked openly about it), and that is the audio/visual connection we get to or with our characters.

The lead character in “TAKERS,” Detective Kel Langston, materialized in the exact way he’s shown on the cover of the book…the exact way I describe him within its pages. I could see him standing there with his black clothes, arms folded defensively over his chest, fedora hat lowered over his eyes, one hand shading the rest of his face from me.

And he dared me to tell his story. Well, I took him up on it because hey, no cop with fangs and a penchant for drinking blood and consuming souls is going to intimidate me, right? Right.

Now, when you say things like this…when you describe what I just described…the tendency is for other people to want to call you crazy and shy away from having anything to do with you. But you know, if more writers were open and honest about where the hell everything they write comes from, I can guarantee you there wouldn’t be as much of a stigma attached to the truth.

When I write fanfic for Hawaii Five-0, I can see and hear the characters – helped enormously, of course, by the fact that they’re on my television screen each week – and I just know when I write a piece of dialogue, or describe what one of the characters is doing, that it truly is them and not just me putting words in their mouths that don’t fit who they are. I seem to be pretty good at it, too, if the reviews of my work are any indication.

I’m generally not one of those people who uses something I see in a news story, or gets triggered by something that happens in a TV show or movie. Those types of things don’t tend to inspire me, normally…with one notable exception which I might share one day, depending. *grin*

What does inspire me are the stories that seem to pop into my head from nowhere, fed to me by the Universe, if you will. Either it comes as a movie-type thing that I dream about or see in my mind, or it feels like I’m being ‘visited’ by a character who wants something. I’d like to think writers tap into the collective consciousness of the Universe – every dimension, every possible way that everything exists – and feed off the stories that are out there, the characters that are waiting for their voices to be heard.

That may not be the case for all writers. There may be former lawyers or doctors who are using their real-life experiences to write thrilling novels because they’ve got a fantastic imagination and the know-how to back it up. There may be screenwriters who come up with movie ideas solely because they have a deep-seated need to explore the human condition, perhaps due to their own personal challenges, and writing a screenplay is the best way for them to dig into whatever that challenge is.

But for me, it’s my imagination letting loose and running wild, showing me things that turn into viable stories. Showing me characters that I will never believe I could invent on my own without some sort of Universal input. Showing me ways to get what’s inside of me out, to share it, hopefully to entertain others and definitely with the high hopes that it may even help others somehow – even if it’s only helping them realize they’re not alone.

I’m not sure how telling readers in my novel “TAKERS” that criminals are the result of having part of their souls sucked out helps, but hey, it’s a lot gentler of a reason for criminal behavior than having to face the fact that human beings are seriously effed up in so many ways, right? Basically it makes people who do bad things victims themselves, an idea which I find intriguing!

What I would love to do one day is sit down with twenty writers – whether of screenplays or novels, or both – and point-blank ask them how they come up with their stories, their ideas, their characters…and then see how truthful I think they’re being when they answer.

It’s rather akin to something I said in a previous post, about how we all think we’re the only ones who could possibly be fantasizing about X, or dreaming about Y, or thinking this way about Z. How each and every one of us has something inside us we think other people would run screaming from, or at least would label us as ‘strange’ for.

I think the quote my mind keeps coming back to here, is one from actor Alex O’Loughlin during an interview he was doing for his movie Feed (you can find my review of that movie by clicking Movie Reviews up top in the menu there or by clicking here). Of the relationships between Feeders and Gainers which he studied as he was working with his friend Patrick Thompson on the idea for the movie, Mr. O’Loughlin said:

“And kinky stuff, sexy stuff, some hot stuff, but that’s no different to anything in my life or anyone I know’s life.”

I think that’s the crux of things, is that we all have ‘kinky stuff’ and ‘sexy stuff’ and ‘hot stuff’ – in our own lives and in the lives of people we know, as Mr. O. stated – but rather than unapologetically acknowledging it like he did, in most cases we think we’re the only ones who have this stuff inside of us, so we keep mum.

The same can be said for the less-steamy side of ourselves, though, whether we’re talking about likes and dislikes, what attracts us to friends and lovers, or how it is writers come up with what they write. (I mean, wouldn’t you just love to crawl inside the mind of Stephen King for ten minutes? Can you imagine?)

So, yeah, I’m willing to step up and admit that sometimes I see and hear my characters, and that sometimes my story ideas come to me like pre-packaged movies someone else has already made that I’m just watching on a screen. That I draw upon secrets hidden deep inside to write some of what I write. It doesn’t make me insane, loony, crazy, in need of psychiatric help, off my rocker, on drugs or weird.

It makes me a writer.

Writing: The Cure for Dealing With Things That Hurt

I’m one of those disgustingly upbeat people. You know, the kind you want to just haul off and sock in the jaw for coming across as almost stupidly optimistic all the time. The kind you sit back and think to yourself must have had the most awesome, charmed life ever led.

Yeah, not so much, as those close to me know.

I’m disgustingly upbeat 99.9% of the time, because with lots of hard work on the ever-popular Inner Me and working to look back at my life and why certain things have happened, I’ve been able to stop and say, “Okay, I understand, now, most of the reasons why Life went down Path B when I wanted it to go down Path A…or why Thing C that I thought was the answer to all my prayers didn’t happen, or last very long,” or whatever the case may be.

And on days like today I can truly say I’m not only optimistic but happy, because I’m currently working hard at turning my real love into my full-time career. I know I’m not exactly where I want to be, but hell, half the fun is the journey getting there, as far as I’m concerned!

But there’s also the side of me that’s just as real and human as anyone else on the planet, and that includes not being so joyous all the time. It’s the side of me that knows and understands that as a writer, the thing that makes me write well is being able to not only acknowledge, but tap into and release personal pains that I may have forgotten I even had. Things that may have happened so long ago my conscious self had forgotten, or more recent occurrences that I thought I’d gotten past.

Let me tell you something: just because you understand why something did or did not happen in your life doesn’t mean you aren’t still hurting from it. And lots of people don’t understand why things happen to them or around them, which only makes things worse as they try to deal with the hurt that goes along with it.

But I’m learning something here, and I think maybe Captain Kirk said it best in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier:

“You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”

Yeah, I do need my pain. For all that I want to encourage others to see around, through and over the obstacles in their way – because it’s so worth it if you can – I also need to make sure I don’t act like I don’t have pain anymore.

Although, if what I’m going through with my current project is any indication, I’ll be very glad when this particular pain is released. And I wouldn’t even have known this was something that needed dealing with if it wasn’t for this very challenging screenplay I dared myself to write.

Writing, cathartic? Who knew? (I’m being facetious, of course.)

Being a writer isn’t just about being a storyteller. Even if you’re writing really weird and ‘out-there’ sci-fi or fantasy, you still need to make the subject matter relatable to human emotions. Horror and suspense prey on fear. Adventure is fun and exciting. Comedy makes us forget our own problems…or maybe laugh because of them…and a reality-based drama like I’m writing now? Well, you’ve got angst! You’ve got worry! You’ve got pain by the truckload! You’ve got moments of “OMG, what even?”

When you allow yourself to tap into the hidden recesses of your mind and emotions, you’ve got the crux of good writing at your disposal. And you know what? You’ve also got the ingredients for some damn fine drama. When you’re writing, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) hide from your audience. What comes out needs to be real enough that they can feel it along with the characters they’re watching (or reading about). The only way to make it that real, is to feel it myself, I’m learning.


But I think that’s what makes it all work. Experience. Lots of people can tell great stories. We can even make them up as kids on the playground. But only the people who’ve actually lived – through not just happy times, but also painful ones – can tell human stories that grab other people by the throat and make them relate.

I’m holding out the hope that putting myself through the wringer on this will do that, because as much as people like to try and hide what and who they truly are…what lies beneath the façade we’re always presenting to one another…we all have this stuff roiling under the surface. People believe nobody else can possibly be thinking about or feeling what they are, and that’s just not true.

Am I still a ridiculously upbeat person? Yes. How? Why? Simple: writing.

If I can make a living off it, all the better, but I have to say that writing is probably the best, cheapest therapy that exists for people who are able to use it that way. I dealt with an awful lot of my childhood-related issues when I wrote a novel back in 2005 that, God willing, will never see the light of day. (Yeah, it’s that bad. Yikes. Someone light a bonfire, quick.)

Now, I’m tackling something that’s forcing me to draw on my own very personal experiences…experiences that I honestly didn’t think I  had any remaining crap left over from. I’m finding out, with each and every piece of dialogue and text that’s being ripped out of me, just how wrong I was.

Why am I even bothering to tell you about this? Because above all else, the one thing I wish every single human being on the planet could get is: you are not alone. Whatever it is you’re dealing with or going through. Whatever desires, kinks or fantasies you have. Whatever tears, pain and problems you have. Whatever it is inside you, that you’re convinced no one else could possibly even fathom? You’re wrong.

And you know, even if you “can’t write” (or don’t think you can), you’d be surprised how much it helps getting your angst out of you and onto paper (or into a computer). That’s why people keep diaries, of course, and why so many people take to sites like LiveJournal, I would guess. What you write doesn’t ever have to be read by anyone else, though…it’s the process of getting through it and getting it out of you that counts.

For me, the process of taking on this particular screenplay is dredging up shit I stopped thinking about years ago. It’s pissing me off that this sludge is still there, truth be told. But you know what? I think it being there for me to use is what just might make this screenplay so moving and so real it’ll actually succeed.

Only time will tell.

The Actors Aren’t to Blame

My publisher, who used to be a publicist with NBC a few years back, warned me this was coming. She saw the writing on the wall when I shared certain tweets and posts with her.

Sadly, she was right.

Back in my post entitled “So Much Lip Service – Part 2,”I mentioned that there have been cases where soap opera actors who portrayed villains have literally had fans of the show come up and spit in their faces because of something their character did to another, beloved, ‘good-guy’ character.

Well, I’m seeing this happen (virtually, not physically) right now to someone. She’s being ‘hated on’ for no other reason than because she’s trying to do the job she was hired to do, and it hurts to watch it happen. It hurts because I’ve known actors…lots of ‘em in days gone by…and it’s unfair of fans to rail against them for something they have zero control over.

Actors are people just like the rest of us. They have emotions. They have morals, scruples, quirks, kinks, faults and things they’re really good at. So to see someone get bashed, to the point where they feel like they have to apologize to fans? It’s just not right.

Maybe some of the fans don’t understand how things work. Maybe some of them do, but they’re just taking out their frustrations on the most obvious target – the actor who’s bringing something to the screen that those fan just don’t want to see.

For the benefit of those who don’t know, I’d like to point out that there are an awful lot of things that happen before what you see on the screen in a movie or on an episode of your favorite TV show. Things that the actor has absolutely nothing to do with (unless they happen to have written the script or directed the episode themselves).

Control is an illusion!

Those in control of the show – everyone from people at whatever network or cable channel it’s on all the way to the Executive Producers and Producers – are at the top of the food chain. Sometimes even EPs can’t do 100% of what they want if the network/cable channel says “No.” Sometimes the network/cable channel even makes them do things they don’t want to do, in a (sometimes misguided) attempt to steer the show in the direction they think it should go in.

Then you have the screenwriters. The people who write the scripts. In television, unless that screenwriter is also the Executive Producer who runs the show, the scripts are written to order. Like the EPs, the writers don’t get to do 100% of what they want to do.  And even while scenes are being filmed, scripts can change. Often dramatically. I’ve seen entire scenes completely thrown out in the middle of being filmed because the director said, “No, doesn’t work at all.” Which, of course, sends the writers scrambling to figure out what to do.

So an actor gets a script. And then revisions. And then more revisions. And then even more, sometimes on-the-spot.

Then there are the directors. The actor may try to do what they think is right for their character, whether it’s applying certain facial expressions or body language…figuring out the best way to deliver a line…interacting with those around them within the context of the scene…playing off the previous line or setting up for the next one. There’s a lot an actor can and does do to make a character their own, but there aren’t very many cases where they’re actually allowed to make it all up on their own without being told what to say by the writers, and how to execute it by the directors. Ad-libbing? Maybe, if the director’s generous. But not writing entire story arcs, entire seasons or – unless they happened to write one – whole episodes.

After all the scenes are shot, it goes to editing. Is it too long? What scenes aren’t crucial to the story the producers, directors and/or writers want told? Did the scene with these two characters not work very well? Does a scene not advance the story at all in the precious few minutes lurking inside of an hour that they have to tell it? There are so many decisions an editor has to make to splice together a bunch of scenes shot out-of-sequence into an episode of a television series.

And then music’s added, and anything else they think is needed. Sound effects, getting actors to come into the studio to re-record dialogue because maybe it got muffled or in the end they couldn’t find a recorded way a line was delivered that satisfied the director, producer and editor.

Eventually, an episode gets put together and shipped off to the studio to be aired.

It’s a complex process made up of a plethora of people behind-the-scenes. All fans really get to see – unless the show’s people are willing to expose behind-the-scenes action – is the finished product.

And unless an actor actually wrote and directed and produced and everything else’d on their own without anyone else’s input, you cannot rip them a new one simply because you don’t like a character, or a story arc, or the way something on a show is being handled.

It’s not the actor’s fault.

Let me repeat that.

It is not the actor’s fault.

This is another thing I have referenced in previous posts that I’ve really started to see becoming hurtful: people’s ability in recent years to immediately post everything they’re thinking and feeling on the internet without any sort of filter or time lag.

Back in the 80s – which was my favorite time period  for television shows until recently, when the new Hawaii Five-0 reboot appeared – if there was something I didn’t like on a television show and I had felt compelled to complain about it, I would have had to hunt down the network’s mailing address, spend time handwriting (or typing) a letter, find a postage stamp and an envelope, and mail it off.

(No, I never did that, by the way. I was between the ages of 8 and 18 inthe 80s, and while I loved to watch the TV shows of that decade, I never felt the urge to brain anyone over anything they did on them.)

Nowadays, you can tell the entire world in the space of a few seconds how much you don’t like something or someone, without any sort of brain-to-fingers filter required.

Actors take it personally, just like writers.

This one is important. Even if you’re careful to say you hate the character, the actor portraying that character tends to take that personally. Just like writers take it personally when you say you hate the stories or the books they write, even though writers themselves obviously aren’t their creative works.  If you think about it, pretty much any worker would take it personally when someone tells them they suck, especially if that worker’s just doing what their boss told them to.

The job an actor is hired to do, is bring a character to life. A character created by someone else. The actor can’t help it that the people who are in charge are having that character do or say things that the fans don’t care for.

Should I say it again? Yeah, I should.

It is not the actor’s fault.

Hate is a very harsh word.

It’s also sad that so many fans will actually come out and say they “hate” a character or “hate” an actor. Hate is such a strong word, and you’ll only ever see me use it loosely when referring to phrases like I did in a previous post. (I will always always hate the phrase ‘team player’ – too many years spent in cubicle farms! But that phrase can’t get its feelings hurt like a human being can.)

The bottom line is this: If you do not like something that’s happening on a TV show, send a well thought-out email to the network, for starters. Explain what it is you don’t like rationally and intelligently. Spitting out things like “We hate X!” or “Y is horrible!” or “Go home, X!” really doesn’t help anyone. Those types of comments are too vague and personal in nature to explain what your problem with the whole thing is.

Second, if you have a way to contact the production company – either by snail mail or email – do the same thing. Write the letter rationally and intelligently, and explain your grievances like a grown-up. Not like a six year-old who’s throwing a tantrum because they’re not getting their way.

Third, if you have access to the show’s producers, especially the Executive Producers, do the same thing again. Explain yourself. Tell them what you don’t like about the story, or the character(s) you have problems with. Above all, tell them why. And for crying out loud, don’t threaten them! (I can’t believe I actually have to say that, but it’s already happened in this case. WTF?)

You also have to remember that there’s an unfortunate side effect of publicly establishing yourself, via tweets or other methods, as favoring one of the actors, or a particular real or potential pairing in a show.  Those in charge will then dismiss your quickly tweeted “hate hate hate” messages not just because they sound infantile, but because they figure, “Oh, he or she is just not happy because I’m not giving their favorite character or actor more screen time/doing it the way they want me to.” That’s why it’s really important to state your case logically, rationally and intelligently.

I know I keep repeating those words. But I kind of have to, because a lot of people seem to have lost their common sense. But that’s a rant for another day.

Give them a chance to fix it, already!

Just as you are able to instantaneously tell the people in charge of a show that you don’t like something, you have to remember that dozens, maybe even hundreds of other unhappy viewers may be doing exactly the same thing. Therefore, the show runners may very well be thinking, “Oh, oops, my bad. Shouldn’t have done that, shit!”

But here’s the problem. The actual filming of a show is usually four, five or six episodes ahead of the one that you’re sitting there watching. So even if the producers or the networks want to “fix” whatever they’ve done that the fans are screaming about, the fact is that you won’t actually see those “fixes” until maybe four, five or six (or more!) weeks down the road. There’s nothing anyone can do about that.

Breathe. Give it time. Express yourself kindly by making your points without attacking. Then sit back and wait to see if you were listened to.

And please try to remember, in the spirit of the television show that actually got me interested in television shows again, that ohana means family. No matter what, we shouldn’t be hurting each other like this.

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    The book series "Takers," the screenplays contained on the "Screenplays" page and the screenplays discussed and contained on this website are copyright Chris Davis. Novels are published by Plotfish Press, and screenplays are registered with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) West.
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