As a group, Twitter feeds are the new 16th century courtyard. With the rise of technology, the internet has become the proverbial stage, and as we have seen today, hashtags are the rotten tomatoes with which we throw.
When I first saw the #AskELJames hashtag, I chuckled to myself and liked a few statuses. Much of the sarcasm rang true, and though I have never read the Fifty Shades series, I have heard enough to know that it perpetuates harmful portrayals of abuse with incorrect notions of BDSM. But as I sought out the hashtag and continued reading, I felt a pinch in my conscience that didn’t resonate well with me.
Instead of using this hashtag to ask legitimate questions that may have prompted thoughtful discussion, the restless crowd raised their pitchforks and threw the rotten tomatoes in the form of snark and sarcasm and ironic abuse.
Yes, EL James, as an author, is not the most professional — name-calling and blocking all those who dare criticize her work. And yes, her PR made a horrible decision to create this Q&A in the first place.
EL James is a victim blamer and rape apologist and does not seem to be a decent person. But where is the line drawn? What makes the backlash and online abuse okay?
But what really irked my conscience is that, while these 140–character tomatoes were slung her way, they weren’t attacking her work. They were attacking her — as a writer, as a human being.
And most of those throwing the tomatoes were those who disagreed with the abuse she unleashed into the world in the form of her books.
By all means, literature is meant to be criticized. It is meant to be torn apart by workshops and analysis and thought. But to attack an author after her books are already out in the world is just a cruel show to jump on the metaphorical haystack to get a higher perch from which to throw the tomato.
Instead of these hateful words, try to educate someone on why these books are harmful in the first place. Write your own books. Try to change the world for the better, instead of throwing tomatoes.