I’m not writing this post to “get attention” or “increase traffic.” I don’t expect many to sift through the rest of the content being posted about this today and find this near the bottom. Writers have feelings. They are entitled to share those feelings. This, of course, is a major theme and inspiration for the post itself.
I must confess, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt strongly enough about a current event to double up on posts in a day. I’m actually sitting here almost “speechless” because of how deeply I have been affected by what I have been seeing.
So the quality of the writing that follows won’t be great, but I have something to say and I hope you’ll take note, even if you don’t agree.
Let it be known: I am a Nerdfighter. I am a writer and a long-time reader of books of all kinds. I have an English degree and write, unofficially, in the young adult genre. I have been a fan of John Green’s books since I was in high school and have a growing respect for all the work he does outside of his role as a young adult author.
But I want to focus just on that right now—on the fact that Green is an author, a very successful one, but he is also a person. He is a person who, though not perfect (who is?), has never done anything publicly to deserve being thrust into a negative stream of publicity the day he leaves for the Paper Towns tour.
This started out with someone on Twitter calling him out for using the “r-word” in Paper Towns. This was enough to send me on a few rants (which I am prone to do, and if you’d like to hear more, let me know) but that had more to do with the reader’s response than how Green handled it (I think he did the right thing, even though using the r-word once in a book is not that big of a deal).
Then this article was brought to my attention, in which Green is quoted as deciding to use his Tumblr account to post “more original content and less reblogging/commenting/answering asks/etc.,…” from now on, because of unnecessary accusations against his morals and character.
Here’s why this bothers me so much.
I have always praised Green for the dedication he has shown to his readers and followers. His responsiveness and involvement in the online community represents the type of interaction all modern authors really need to have with their readers (see this post for more thoughts on this). His posts and replies are authentic. You know it’s him when you read his Tweets, not just a behind-the-screen PR pro. If he makes a mistake—which he has, who hasn’t?—he’s been known to acknowledge it.
He was right to respond to the Twitter follower who wanted to know why he had one of his characters say the r-word. He respects that follower’s feelings and has made a decision not to use the word in a book from here on out.
He was right to respond to these terrible accusations on Tumblr, written by who-knows-who for who-cares-what-reason, saying he needed to take himself out of the conversation for a while in order to avoid being treated so terribly again.
But he shouldn’t have had to do it.
Do you know what’s worse? People on Tumblr, or any social network for that matter, are treated this way 24/7, and basically forced to stop participating in their own communities to avoid more hurt, and no one ever talks about that.
At least with the “r-word” situation, there is a positive in that it brings to light how offensive the word can be to some people and how, in the real world, we shouldn’t use it without expecting consequences.
Green received support for his response to the Tumblr accusations. But do you know what? The Tumblr users who posted the message, they got the attention they wanted in the first place. And that upsets me more.
Authors have a specific obligation to their readers. They should be allowed—they should want—to engage in conversations on the same social networks everyone else uses, to remind their readers there are real people behind the books they read, and they’re often times nothing like the characters they write, and that’s a beautiful thing.
No matter who you are or what you do (or don’t do) for a living, you’re going to come in contact with people who are only there to hate. That’s reality and if you can’t accept that, you just can’t handle a presence online. That’s the truth.
And for the record, Green handled this situation well, and remained very transparent, which is what his followers admire so much about him. I’m glad he did. Even if it brought even more attention to the situation, his lack of a response would have done even more damage.
Why do we have to push people into that trap?
As a writer you’re going to tick people off, and make them despise you and your family, and say all the things no one thinks you should say, and some people aren’t going to be happy, and no one is going to be happy with you all the time.
But look how down-to-Earth Green has proven himself to be. You can’t win. Either you’re too fake or you’re too real. Thankfully, his honesty is getting him a lot more positive attention than otherwise. It’s also no coincidence that this news came out at the exact same time the “r-word” articles started circling.
We’re so bored with our Internet-based lives, we can’t hold ourselves back from latching onto the subject of an Entertainment Weekly article and ripping them apart.
BUT MEG, YOU’RE LATCHING ONTO THE SUBJECT OF AN EW ARTICLE TOO.
Well if you’re going to do it, say something nice. It’s enough someone had to make him feel bad for using one offensive word in an otherwise phenomenal book. Now this is going too far, and if you ever wonder why I’m not on Tumblr, now you know.
Haters will be haters, but John Green hasn’t done a thing to deserve this kind of negativity. Did anyone else see all his Tweets about his kids this morning? COME ON.
This was my Facebook response to the EW article. Some people liked it.
Use your words. Remind your favorite authors how much they mean to you, and kill the trolls with kindness and a major boost in book and movie ticket sales. The end.
Image courtesy of John Green [Facebook].
A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.
6 thoughts on “Dear John: I Will Always Stand Up for Your Words”
As John would say, these giants quids of anger who were looking for attention did not attempt to imagine him complexly. Your point is very well made. Writers are people, and he’s spent his career trying to spread the understanding that everyone deserves that basic modicum of respect from others. I couldn’t agree with your post more profoundly.
Tentacles are flailing but your comment made my day! I’m so glad I’m not alone in the direction of my thoughts.
I’m so glad to hear that as well. Nerdfighters! Do you know of any other proclaimed nerdfighters on WordPress? I’m new to WordPress, but I’ve found it generally to be populated by lovely and responsive people.
I don’t……..but now I am determined to find them. So glad you are here!