After her Netflix special The Leather Special tanked, Amy Schumer took to Instagram to express her displeasure. According to TIME, Schumer took a good 250 words and change to carefully explain that people had actually liked her show, but that “the alt right organized trolls attack everything I do.”
Schumer explained that her bad ratings were due to brigading — the practice of online trolls ganging together to artificially influence things online, and it can’t be denied that this tactic has been used to good effect in the past. As reported by Polygon, GamerGate trolls brigaded the Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear expansion because it featured a transgender character, tanking its ratings. The expansion still has 2.5 stars out of 5 on Good Old Games, compared to a 75% positive community rating on Steam – unlike GoG, Steam requires reviewers to actually own the game. More recently, the so-called alt-right used brigading tactics to influence online polls during the presidential election, as reported by ThinkProgress.
So we know that brigading tactics work, and we know that internet trolls use them, and it’s probably fair to say that some of them gave Schumer’s show a poor rating for no good reason.
But it’s more likely that most of them didn’t care; there was no organized effort to attack Schumer’s new show; at least, there wasn’t, before she explicitly called them out. It’s a safe bet that five days later, she has become correct retroactively.
“I am embarrassed for the ‘journalists’ who report on trolls activities as if it’s news. It’s indicative of administration right now. Anyone who reported that ‘viewers aren’t happy’ with my special, it would have been cool if you did a moment of research before posting.”
Here’s the problem, though. The progressive left audience that Schumer performatively courts doesn’t actually much like her either.
Caroline McNally on Medium, speaking about Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence, writes that they “are problematic.”
“More people are realizing that their brands of ‘quirky’ are actually tasteless, discriminatory and self-centered. They both try way too hard and end up crossing every line trying to be ‘unfiltered.'”
She discusses Schumer’s homophobic, stereotypical jokes on Ellen about the time she tended a lesbian bar. She notes that Schumer went on to make self-disparaging remarks about her own weight. And as the Establishment notes, Schumer has never been plus-size — but she paints herself as plus-size and makes an appeal to actual plus-size women which ends up backfiring.
And whether you agree with those sentiments or not, that’s how a lot of Schumer’s target audience, one she specifically and deliberately courts, sees her. What she’s selling, most progressive Millennial women aren’t buying. At best, they’re indifferent to her politics, but don’t think that she’s very funny – and that’s the general takeaway on The Leather Special coming from both sides of the aisle; this one was just a swing and a miss.
“I am the first female comic who is selling out arenas all over the world,” she says in her post. Maybe? I’m not sure where she’s getting that information. It’s true that she’s sold out shows plenty of times – but she joins the likes of Shazia Mirza, Miranda Sings, Heather Jordan Ross, NeNe Leakes, and more.
But let’s put that aside; even more concerning is her repeated attacks on the media for reporting on the actual ratings that her show has received.
“I am only alarmed by the people printing their organized trolling as “news” this is what the current administration wants.
“Journalists do better it’s embarrassing.”
Although you’d hardly know it these days, responsible journalists can’t actually report on things that didn’t happen – like Schumer’s show getting good reviews. They can’t make up numbers to account for alleged trolls; they can only, in this case, look at what Netflix displays, and it doesn’t provide a helpful “troll counter”. Even more to the point, it’s more than a little hypocritical to repeatedly claim that reports of her reviews were essentially fake news made up by a lying press – something which has become a rallying cry of the so-called alt-right and the Trump administration – while claiming that it’s “indicative of administration,” “what the current administration wants.”
I don’t think the Trump administration much cares about reports of Schumer’s ratings, to be perfectly frank; they have enough ratings issues of their own to deal with.
Schumer closes by talking about how strong and powerful the attacks by trolls make her feel, and invites them to continue the attacks.
It all feels a little circular, performative, and self-serving, in the long run. Schumer repeatedly alleges an attack by trolls, and then responds to her own straw men by talking about how “strong and brave” the attacks make her feel. And one would think that with all of those fans, she’d have some positive reviews to balance out the negative if it were entirely due to trolls.
Ultimately? Maybe she’s right. Few women online are strangers to harassment, and Schumer is at least peripherally progressive. There’s no doubt that she has been targeted before and will be again. And that’s never acceptable, and I don’t want to be complicit in it.
But wild allegations, lashing out at journalists for reporting on the facts available, suggesting that it’s driven by the Trump administration, and ultimately inviting the trolls to do their worst aren’t exactly helping her. At the end of the day? Troll brigading and harassment isn’t right. But you can’t turn around and blame it for your show just not being very good.
[Featured Image by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images]