A fan speaks out in the aftermath of Newsies fandom ‘cyberbullying’

Never say something to someone on the Internet that you would not say to someone in real life. It is advice that Internet trolls (people who post inflammatory or unrelated posts online, usually to cause harm) could take to heart. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the web has made it frighteningly easy to hide behind our computer screens, especially when talking to strangers.

In the Newsies fandom world “cyber bullying” messages were apparently sent through the social media website tumblr.com. The trouble began when a fan group went a little too far in their comments about actors in the current Broadway production. It ended with anonymous death threats.

The Broadway fandom is a small place and Newsies fandom is even smaller, but bullying is unacceptable everywhere. It becomes complicated when fans feel as strongly attached to the show as to, say, their best friend. Someone says an actor is miscast while another says the actor was born for the role and accusations fly. Differences of opinion are a part of being human, but it is unacceptable to threaten someone who has a different opinion than your own.

Live theatre is something that is magical, whether it is local, regional, a national tour, off-Broadway, Broadway, or the West-End. It can be a personal experience that impacts your life or it can be two and a half hours of entertainment. But it is alive. Theatre is different from other fandoms because it involves direct contact with characters and the actors that bring these characters to life.

Whether these fans were right or wrong to criticize is not really the issue. The problem is anonymously threatening fellow fans, or for that matter, insulting the actors. Actors are people too, with real lives and feelings and experiences outside the stage door. They are not oblivious to what is posted on the Internet. In fact, they probably search themselves more than one might think.  This cyber bullying affects them too.

People are seriously afraid to talk about this subject on the Internet or in person. But anonymous death threats, serious or not, are bullying. The Internet has yet to invent a sarcasm app and it is too easy for someone to take something written on the web seriously and personally. So if you choose to bring your personal feelings and opinions into the fandom, do it in a way that does not degrade others. Like we learned as soon as we started school, treat others the way that you want to be treated and others will do the same.

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