Wonder Woman and the era of Butthurt

Wonder Woman and the era of Butthurt

People Online Are Getting Meaner, Which is Just Making it Easier For Us to Justify Hating One Another


Last week, when the Alamo Drafthouse theatre in Austin, Texas announced a Women Only screening of the upcoming Wonder Woman, Twitter became a microcosm of where we currently are as a human race. A lot of men got very upset at the idea of being excluded, a lot of women (and some dudes) chastised their childishness and anyone paying attention (and, most of the time, it was a masochistic practise to do so) to it all was treated to the most accurate barometer of us as a species: how we treat each other, especially those we disagree with. It was beyond upsetting.

By the way, and I don’t wanna make this the core focus here, but I don’t see anything wrong with holding a Women Only screening of a movie – especially one as momentous as Wonder Woman – and those comparing it to civil rights violations are, at best, misguided. Therefore, when conservative blogger Stephen Miller chose to purchase a ticket to this screening as a means of protest, causing a days-long uproar all over social media, I didn’t think it was a great move. No, at this point, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, just for clarity: I thought it was pretty fucking stupid, and childish, and I wanted to see him get slammed for it (figuratively, obviously).

So, against every better instinct I possess, I spent a good deal of my weekend scrolling through his Twitter feed, reading the responses he’d gotten from supporters and detractors alike. I was hoping at least one person would stumble upon the perfect takedown, a resounding “Fuck you” from all of us sensible people, condensed to 140 characters or less. What I got instead was basically a crash course in how we fight these kinds of battles now. The level of animosity wasn’t shocking, or revelatory, but it was… a lot all at once, y’know.

Miller’s feed was, quite simply, a maelstrom of fury from all directions. In this day and age, it’s what would be referred to as “a trail of butthurt”. It sparked long-ranging, circular debates that spread far past his original post, with people decrying one another as hypocrites or sexists, pussies or man-babies, idiots or big fuckin’ idiots. The common thread, though, was that everyone seemed to want to point out how ridiculous and unimportant the other’s perspective was. There was a concerted effort by each party to address the other person’s point of view, not so they could acknowledge and respond to it more thoughtfully, but all the better to tear it down.

Many of the tweets have since been deleted, but here’s a paraphrased exchange I remember that typifies this whole scene:

“Imagine being such a triggered crybaby that you have to invade a group of women’s privacy to feel important”


Followed by…


“Imagine being such a triggered bitch that someone buying a movie ticket sends you into hysterics”

Christ, don’t you people have porn to be watching. (NBC)

That’s basically this situation in a nutshell: someone makes an attack on Miller’s actions as pathetic, which provokes someone who agrees with Miller because it feels like an attack on them personally, leading to a response attack on the original person’s every sentiment as being pathetic itself.

To be sure, the tactics being used online these days are nothing new. You provoke someone, they react, you point out how stupid their reaction is, they double down, rinse and repeat. It’s on the same level as schoolyard bullying: make someone cry and then laugh at their tears. What’s alarming is how it’s been so firmly adopted by both sides of the skirmish. Because, yeah, everything is political these days and this whole deal basically came down to the left versus the right, and the language reflects that. “Libtard”, “cuck”, “snowflakes”, everything you can imagine was employed in the interest of berating and mocking each other, only further widening the gulf that exists between a hugely divided set of ideals.

All that said, I do kinda get it: verbally attacking people you don’t like, based on their physical appearance or views that you find absurd, is fun! I’ve done it at least half a dozen times on Popticon, mostly with Trump, but with others as well, and I don’t regret it. And maybe on a different day, on a piece with a different tone, that’s all I would’ve done, just lambasted Miller’s decision and picked apart his entire existence. But that would’ve run pretty antithetical to what I’m trying to get at here, which is that I’ve reached a point where I concede that, for all the empty snark you can generate, it really achieves nothing except to fire others up by hurting their feelings.

Which… rarely ends well. (DC Films)

And, by the way, that’s what this all comes down to: someone getting their feelings hurt and then deliberately setting out to do it to others to take back their own agency. When someone is slighted by a person or group of people, they might feel as if they’ve been disregarded and made to feel worthless. The base reaction, then, is to turn around and hurt others and then make it sound like their pain is silly or, worse, that it doesn’t matter. It’s a pernicious act of dehumanisation, and it happens in far more severe instances than this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not representative of us as people when Twitter is its largest repository.

A huge reason why this goes unaddressed is that nobody wants to say “That hurts my feelings” anymore, because that seems like such a fucking ridiculous statement in the context of adulthood. So we replace it with “I’m offended”, which to others is derided as being “triggered”. Any expression of concern or distress at something happening is met with being called a “snowflake”, and so on. These terms exist for a reason, to shame people out of their own discomfort and distress. They’re designed to make us reconsider calling out actions and events that we don’t agree with or that upset us, lest we have our feelings reduced to a partisan buzzword.

Of course, no one who actually got caught up in this bullshit would admit to it being about their feelings. It’s a matter of principle, they’d say, but really those are just tenets of right and wrong formed by what we’re swayed to feel, even when it doesn’t seem that way. Pro-life might be a moral stance, but it stems from the belief that a fetus should have the same rights as a child and that terminating them feels like murder. Preventing gay people from marrying can have all the scripture endorsements in the world, it doesn’t change the fact that those opposed to it feel weird when two men kiss. And when Miller read that there would be a screening of Wonder Woman that he implicitly could not attend, he felt excluded.

He felt unwanted. It hurt his feelings. And, honestly, I think all he wanted was an apology. Too bad that’s not how the world works.


Some Additional Thoughts…

In the interest of trying to be sympathetic to both sides here, I’m aware this has gotten pretty reductive. I’ve overlooked the misogynist underpinnings to Miller’s actions, as well as the alarming rhetoric used by some who oppose him (at least one person wrote a now deleted Tweet to the effect of “he deserves to catch a baton straight to his fucking mouth”). Also, I’m well aware that Twitter is an awful place where much more toxic shit than this is sent on a regular basis – largely to women – and I’m not trying to pretend that this is the worst of it. Finally, I don’t want to imply that every time someone is discriminated against or protests an injustice that you should simplify it to them having hurt feelings. The world is more nuanced and complicated than that, of course, but it did fit the narrative of this piece pretty well, so I ran with it.
Also, please try to be nicer to each other.

One Reply to “Wonder Woman and the era of Butthurt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *