They are out there lurking around the Internet waiting for the right opportunity to strike you down with malicious criticism. Yes, I mean the trolls. The online bullies. The ones who look for any excuse to ruin your day or your whole life. They love to linger on YouTube so they can dislike your videos and post cruel comments. And when you succeed at something they post taunts and in some cases death threats just to unnerve you.
It happens in every profession but in the arts and entertainment industry it is prominent.
Ok, bear with me. Remember Star Wars: The Phantom Menace? If you do you probably know where I’m going with this. That’s right, Jar Jar Binks. I wholeheartedly agree his character was… not good. It just didn’t work at all. A handful of people liked him but more didn’t and voiced their opinion anywhere they could.
Last year the actor, Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks wrote an article about the time that all took place. There was a picture of him with his son as they were looking at the water far below from the bridge they were standing on. What bothered me was when Ahmed Best said that years ago he contemplated jumping off that same bridge because of the backlash he received from his work in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. He still received work in voice over and occasionally on film. However, he would forever be known for a character most audiences hated. The criticism was severe enough that his presence was incredibly short and forgettable in the other two films. I understood his pain right away. I’ve known 3 people in my life who committed suicide, one of whom was a very close friend. What stopped Best, he says in the article, was the birth of his son. Ahmed Best isn’t responsible for the malicious reactions of the Star Wars prequels. It was the writing, direction and maybe a few misled casting choices. Yet the franchise solely belonged to George Lucas at the time (way before Disney bought it) and therefore he created what he felt worked. All Ahmed Best did was his job as a character.
I can tell you without a doubt that there are projects I sometimes wish I hadn’t been part of. But acting is acting and work is work. The scripts/stories were the main reasons. When a script is poorly written our job as voice overs is to make it sound beautiful when spoken or bring it to life.
What you have to expect is that people will like it, love it, hate it, or really hate it. Then you decide how to handle the situation in a professional manner.
Remember the infamous song “Friday” by a 13-year-old girl named Rebecca Black? She was a teenager, well behaved, had a nice smile and a good attitude despite the thousands of horrific insults flung at her. Ms. Black not only received verbal attacks, she received death threats, and a number of talk shows made fun of her.
Yet no one wanted to acknowledge that it was the song and the production that caused the problem, not her. The lyrics were amateurish. The songwriter even included a section where he rapped with no purpose for it in the song. Rebecca’s voice had been auto-tuned way, way too much. The producer was to blame for that part.
She received instant fame but also tremendous infamy, and for what? Singing a poorly written, poorly recorded song. Despite the verbal abuse, online bullies, and more, she kept a positive attitude which should be commended for someone so young entering a cutthroat industry.
Fame has a shelf life of 15 minutes, but infamy lasts a bit longer. Without a thick skin, infamy big or small can tear your soul to pieces.
Strangely though, there are occasions when a thick skin can backfire. Some celebrities are caught in the spotlight these days due to their horrible behavior, some of which has been going on for many years. And a few have destroyed their careers because of a single post, picture or video on social media that even when deleted still remains on the internet forever. When you look at a famous face who’s been in great movies, won awards, and who has done great charity work, everything changes when you find out the person committed crimes or made hateful comments online. Suddenly those movies aren’t enjoyable anymore because you see the actor in a different light, and there’s no going back. It’s especially hard on people who look up to celebrities and in some cases consider them heroes and mentors. And yet with all this drama, those big names play it cool in front of the camera. They’ve put up with criticism left and right throughout their careers. Perhaps over time the attention numbed them so much that their thick skin became a massive shield. As a consequence they think nothing can stop them with their millions of dollars, powerhouse lawyers, etc.
As performers we’re going to have admirers and, no matter what, we are definitely going to have haters. The question is whether or not you’re going to let it affect how far you’ve come.