Women in sci-fi are perpetually bullied off of social media, and it’s the internet’s fault. Trolls went after Leslie Jones; they bullied Kelly Marie Tran off Instagram; and now, 14-year-old Millie Bobby Brown has deleted her Twitter. The reason? Twitter has seemingly seized on a recycled meme about Millie Bobby Brown being homophobic.
In an effort not to give any of the people who spend time making those memes free press, Inverse is not going to link to any of them here. But to summarize, they altered Millie’s photos and Snapchats to make it look like she says and supports violent homophobia, along with racism and xenophobia. A lot of them include slurs targeted toward LGBT people. (It’s worth noting here that she’s openly supportive of the LGBT community.) It’s a sad underscoring of the darker side of internet culture.
Why the Meme Started
Understanding why people think the homophobic Millie meme is funny requires a passing knowledge of absurdist meme culture. Originated on Tumblr, the idea of combining two things that have no logical connotation, often with surrealist, dark undertones, has led to some of the world’s funniest memes. With the rise of stan Twitter, though, it has in some instances led to blatant homophobia, sexism, and racism masquerading as woke irony. And unlike on Tumblr, a laboratory for underground meme-making, Twitter often exposes absurdist memes to the mainstream.
KnowYourMeme cites the anti-Millie meme starting back in November of 2017, with a recent resurgence in popularity over the last several months.
In short, the meme blew up, Millie got attacked on social media, and now her account is gone. So what may have started as an inside joke among LGBT millennials about Millie being homophobic turned into a popular meme. And that’s dangerous because it not only hurt Millie and led people to think she’s actually homophobic, but it gave others a platform to openly use LGBT slurs and insinuate violence toward the community.
What It Says About Internet Culture
Once Millie deleted her account, people started to take notice. Discourse on Twitter has been deeply divided, with some accounts casting shame on the meme, and others doubling down on defending its comedic merits.
Inverse reached out to Millie’s PR representative for comment, but no known official statements from her team have been made at this time. It’s unclear if Millie will return to Twitter, but as of now her official Instagram is still functioning, albeit with a newly disabled comment section.
The stubbornness of stan Twitter to apologize, or at least stop spreading homophobic Millie memes, is a sad, sharp reminder of internet hypocrisy. We’re so quick to call out problematic celebrities and shun, dox, and harass others for noncompliance with arbitrary social justice standards. But when an actual child is experiencing the negative consequences of “irony,” stan accounts plead innocent.
To say it’s disheartening would be an understatement. This isn’t what fandom is supposed to stand for.