Harley Quinn Smith’s harassment and how Kevin Smith can help change minds

08.16.16 1 year ago

[UPDATE] Added Kevin Smith's comment and my own response at the bottom of the article 8/17/2016, 2:22 p.m.]

I've been harassed online. A lot. So much so that when I go to visit my parents my dad will ask, “Are you still getting those bad comments online?” He's not the only one. Kevin Smith has penned a note about his daughter's harassment.

Leslie Jones, Daisy Ridley, too many of the women of the Olympics, and too many others to count. Online harassment has been getting worse and worse.

Harley Quinn Smith has always been in the spotlight thanks to her famous dad but now more than ever since she starred in his film Yoga Hosers. But a recent comment on her Instagram account compelled him to respond publicly. He wrote on Facebook:

What it's like to be my daughter: 17 year old @harleyquinnsmith_ received this message simply for the heinous crime of posting a pic of herself on @instagram. I have zero clue what the reference to ?#?TheMatrix? is all about but, wow – way to unload on a teen girl because YOU have nothing to do in life. But even though I should be apoplectic about it, my kid thought it was funny. “I'd be mad if I had a tiny dick and anonymous voice too,” she said, bemused by the bitterness. But here's a nickel's worth of free advice for folks like this Troll: if you hate me (or my kid) this much, the better use of your time is to make YOUR dreams come true, instead of slamming others for doing the same. The best revenge is living insanely well – so if you wanna get back at a 17 year old girl for the grievous crime of enjoying her life, the best way to do it is to succeed in your OWN existence. Show the world WHY we should be paying attention to you instead of anyone else. Because randomly attacking others merely communicates how creatively and emotionally bankrupt you are. You think you have something to offer the world but others are getting all the attention? Don't b–ch or punish the world: just create. Create something nobody's ever seen before and there is a good chance the world will notice you. Attacking teen girls on the Internet is the saddest form of masturbation that exists and requires no discernible skill or talent. You want attention? Don't make yourself mad, make something original and fun. Because if you're not being useful in this world you're being useless. Don't be useless: go make stuff that makes people happy!

He included a screenshot of one comment that got him going:

Note Smith's first reaction is anger while Harley's is apathy. She's 17-years-old and she's already used to this. I'm used to this. Managing Editor of HitFix Harpy Donna Dickens is used to this and so many others who exist online whether they're in the spotlight or not.

Do men get harassed online? Of course they do. But when women are harassed it's almost always gender-based. It's because they're women. It's misogynistic. It's downright dangerous. Whatever you might have experienced comes nowhere near what the women you know probably have and it becomes even worse when we talk about women of color.

Too often the discussion surrounding harassment is – how can someone with a mom, sister, daughter, say these vile things? I can't tell you how many times I've blocked someone on Twitter only to find his profile picture is him holding his young daughter. Yes, there's a cognitive dissonance there but having a woman you love in your life doesn't mean you don't hate women. While a lot of harassment is excused as “trolls” who “want attention” it can also be much deeper than that. While Smith's reaction was praised by most of his fans, it's an oversimplification of the problem and a perceived solution. I much prefer the tactic he took a few years ago.

A little background first. I was harassed by some of Kevin Smith's fans back in 2012. Why? Because I said I didn't like Comic Book Men. That's it. No personal attacks, just didn't like it and for that reason a swarm of people attacked me for over a week. The block button is all well and good but when these things don't stop, when they're more serious than simple name-calling, it starts to affect you. But in 2013, Smith asked his fans to “lose the fu–ing misogyny” after they harassed another woman writer he spoke about on Twitter. “If you like me or my stuff at all, then NEVER express yourself to ANYONE – woman or man – in misogynistic terms. This is important to me. Even before I was married and had a daughter, this was important to me,” he wrote at the time, “If my movies have made you feel it”s okay to reduce another human being by labeling them a “b–ch” or a “c–t”, then I was an even worse filmmaker than I thought.”

That was a really important message to send out to his millions of fans. Including women in the narrative is a big part of how women are treated and perceived. It's why we talk so often about diversity on screen and off. Smith has a new talk show coming up on AMC called Geeking Out! Just as I was with Comic Book Men all those years ago, I was disappointed the show appears to be targeting the same audience – dudes – and including the same voices – dudes. Smith has said there will be female correspondents, calling it “an all-inclusive genre jam” yet the premiere episode featured him, co-host Greg Grunberg with guests Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and J.J. Abrams. That's a lot of white men.

Is Kevin Smith our savior? No, of course not. He's one person and there are some people out there who will always hate and want to hurt women. But he wields some mighty power with his place in fandom and the entertainment industry at large. I wish he would use it more often. And for more than just his loved ones.

[UPDATE follows]

Here's Smith's comment in full from our comment section below:

In the article, the author writes “Smith has said there will be female correspondents, calling it 'an all-inclusive genre jam' yet the premiere episode featured him, co-host Greg Grunberg with guests Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and J.J. Abrams. That's a lot of white men.”

True: the JJ ep was a dude-Fest. But it also wasn't the premiere episode. The premiere of Geeking Out did, indeed, feature a non-white male: Tiffany Smith did the ComicCon cosplay piece in the middle of the show. The episode you described was actually the second episode aired on AMC.

For a second while I was reading the piece, I felt bad that I had somehow “disappointed” the author. But since the criteria for not disappointing the author was fulfilled… Then I guess now I'm the one disappointed by the author's misrepresentation of our show. *sigh*

But to avoid disappointment in the future, may I suggest making the show you want to see? That's all I ever really do: instead of being let down by shows that don't show me exactly what I wanna watch, I just try to make the stuff I, myself, wanna see. Anybody can do that. You don't have to be me.

I wasn't me once. Living in the Jersey 'burbs, I was about as far removed from making media as one could be. But I got tired of not being represented. I know that sounds weird because, as the author points out, I'm a white male. However, to be fair, when I made Clerks, I did so because there were no movies about MY particular world back then: there were no stories about the comic-devouring, movie-obsessed lower, lower middle class kids that consumed pop culture as an antidote to the politics, sports or religion of the day.

See, I loved the John Hughes movies. But I couldn't relate to those kids too deeply because they all seemed to come from wealthy or well-off families. As much as I loved the Hughes movies, the rich kid problems of the characters were not mine and their non-food-stamp world was alien. So I made a movie I wanted to see about the world I lived in then. Then I made another (Mallrats) and another (Chasing Amy). And after Judd Apatow popularized the “bromance” genre I'd made my bones in, there were LOTS of stories about my world and characters I can identify with because of our similar passions: comics, movies, pop culture. But this all only came to be because I wanted to tell stories about the place I came from and the people I knew who were never celebrated or represented on the big screen (people like Jay, or Alyssa from Chasing Amy).

So don't be disappointed in what others aren't giving you. You'll never be satisfied if you're always waiting for someone to do what you'd like them to do. Might as well try making what you wanna see.

And you have no excuse not to at least try. I don't wanna hear “I don't have contacts or skills.” So what? I've been making the stuff I wanna see for 22 years now and I'm regularly told my strangers (both paid professionals and movie buffs alike) that I have no discernible talent. You don't need skill to do the things you wanna do, you just need will. And when you can will stories and stuff into existence you're rarely ever disappointed: because you're making exactly what you'd wasted so much time wishing others would create for you to see. Watching stuff is fun, I grant you that; but making stuff is far more fun and way more fulfilling than simply being disappointed in what others are doing.

Fair warning: if you make stuff you run the risk of leaving people disappointed that you didn't do what they'd hoped you do. But I'll be honest: that's a small price to pay for the satisfaction of self expression.

Kevin, thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate that. I'm actually glad I saw it, I normally avoid the comment sections of my posts because of, you guessed it, harassment.

First off, I apologize to Tiffany Smith for erasing her contribution to Geeking Out, I did not see there was a special Comic-Con episode of the show. I think we can all strive to be better all the time and I'm excited that there will be lots of representation to come in subsequent episodes, to represent the wide spectrum of people in fandom.

That said, your solution of me creating my own TV show is a bit of a deflection in my opinion, not to mention the same advice you gave the troll, and misses the point of my article which was what YOU as an individual can do to help curb online harassment. But I want to address what you said because I hear it a lot.

Too often I get the “you don't like, it make your own” argument (from regular folks but yes, from trolls an awful lot). It's a derailing tactic to avoid talking about what those with privilege can do to help progress and it bothers me to see you do it. Not to mention it ignores the fact that there ARE people out there making the content they wanted to see for years but was missing. That's why we have things like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder from Shonda Rhimes, blackish, Fresh Off the Boat, Transparent, Orange Is the New Black. Creators like Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler are pushing every day. David Ayer made Suicide Squad an amazingly diverse movie. It's why we have comic books like Lumberjanes, the recent Batgirl run, Jem and the Holograms, Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan – Fun Home even went from a graphic memoir to Broadway! I'm a guest at Geeks OUT's FlameCon this weekend to celebrate the amazing creators already out there working to diversify media. I know people in just about every industry trying to do their part.

Greg Berlanti recently said at the TCAs he was glad journalists were “keeping people honest, and keeping up the conversation” for increasing diversity on the DC television shows. You don't have to be a content creator to want diversity. And even those who do create content (check out our show She Said/She Said here on HitFix) can be working toward progress while asking others to do the same. It's not an either or situation. You talked about creating your particular world, I'm working towards making sure others see their world by asking creators to simply think about what they're putting out there. Too often we all fall into the trap of creating only what we know.

Now that I've addressed what you took from my article, I want to remind you of the crux of the matter – rampant misogyny and harassment online. Something that is directly affecting your daughter. Something I'm honestly surprised you ignored entirely in your comment to me here. Diversity in Hollywood is just one part of the solution in my mind, that's why I mentioned it. But people in power using their voices, like you did back in 2013 to shut down this type of behavior, is the bigger solution. We all need to work towards it but me speaking out and you speaking out are two different things and you know it. You have a choice and the ability to make a big difference for women online, your daughter included.

You don't have to listen to my mild criticism of your show and you certainly don't need to defend yourself against me, those conversations are ones I hope people behind closed doors in Hollywood are having every day now. And I'm sure you get a lot worse, I get a lot of regular criticism in my line of work too, but I do hope you were listening then and now about what you can do to open everyone's eyes about online harassment. After all, what does it say that you took the time to write a lengthy reply about how I shouldn't bother asking more from creators but refused to address the actual message of the article? It's important. I know you know it is. Please don't forget that real people are being hurt and driven out of creative spaces every day because of harassment online. We all have to shrug off criticism but we shouldn't be asked to shrug off concerns about our mental health or ignore death threats.

(A source with knowledge of Kevin Smith”s social presence confirmed that this was posted from his account.)

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