'Ghostbusters' Director Paul Feig Is Still in the Fight Against Online Trolls

March 18, 2019

By Spencer Feingold

Hollywood actor and director Paul Feig is no stranger to online trolls.

In 2016, the “Ghostbusters” reboot he directed was subjected to an unprecedented onslaught of online hate for its diverse and female-led cast. The harassment was led by disgraced provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who specifically targeted lead actress Leslie Jones with racist and sexist diatribes on Twitter. Yiannopoulos’ hate-filled attacks ultimately led Twitter to permanently ban him from the platform.

Today, Feig is fighting back and defending other films that draw the ire of online trolls for challenging traditional archetypes.

“There are definitely just a lot of guys that are afraid of movies that empower women,” Feig told Cheddar on Monday.

The latest film to be attacked by bad-faith actors online is “Captain Marvel,” which stars Brie Larson as the lead superhero. Despite an early assault, the film has dominated box office sales since its release earlier this month, grossing more than $760 million worldwide in just a couple of weeks.

Feig said part of the success is due to improved defenses against trolling ー specifically efforts stop “review bombing,” a practice in which online trolls flood film review sites with negative smears to bring down pre-release ratings.

After sexist critiques of “Captain Marvel” emerged on Rotten Tomatoes before the film even hit theaters, the online review aggregator changed its policies. The site no longer allows public commenting prior to a film’s release and hides the "Want to See" percent score, which was being pushed down by online trolls, during a film’s pre-release period.

While the changes were too late to help "Ghostbusters," which suffered at the box office after the negative campaign, Feig said he's gratified that the success of "Captain Marvel" has "finally neutralized these trolls."

“We were the canary in the coal mine,” he said of “Ghostbusters.”

Feig also urged the media not engage with bad actors or cover their lines of criticism about a film. “They shouldn’t be reporting on these trolls. It makes it seem like they have more power than they do, and then it starts to snowball,” he said.

For everyday Twitter users, Feig offered a simple strategy to fight trolling: “Mute, mute, mute. That is the greatest thing that Twitter ever invented.”

As part of his activism, Feig partnered with J. Crew to support STOMP Out Bullying, an anti-bullying and cyberbullying groups for kids and teens in the U.S.

But despite the progress, Feig said the fight against online trolls is an ongoing effort.

“I’m 56 years old now and I get bullied constantly online,” he said.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

FEMALE_1: Joining us now.

FEMALE_1: With us now is actor and director Paul Feig.

FEMALE_1: Great to have you on with us.

Paul Feig: Thank you, Hope. Thank you, Brad.

MALE_1: Absolutely.

FEMALE_1: Okay. So I mean,

FEMALE_1: these movies are great films.

Paul Feig: Yeah.

FEMALE_1: But people love to come in and hate on

FEMALE_1: them because they feel it's not

FEMALE_1: the message that they grew up with.

Paul Feig: Yeah. I don't know. I- I've spent

Paul Feig: the last number of years

Paul Feig: trying to figure out their motives,

Paul Feig: and I- I- there's definitely a lot of

Paul Feig: guys that are just afraid of movies that empower women.

Paul Feig: There's also other people that just are

Paul Feig: mad about superhero movies in

Paul Feig: general or tampering with

Paul Feig: their memories of what they had.

Paul Feig: But the great thing about

Paul Feig: Captain Marvel is that it

Paul Feig: finally neutralize these trolls.

Paul Feig: This is the problem and

Paul Feig: the media has played into this for a long time.

Paul Feig: It happened with me with Ghostbusters.

Paul Feig: They just- they repor- they

Paul Feig: shouldn't be reporting on these trolls,

Paul Feig: because it- it makes it seem like they have more power

Paul Feig: than they do and then it- it starts to snowball.

Paul Feig: Then to the public, the movie going public.

Paul Feig: They go, "Oh, well,

Paul Feig: that must not be a good movie

Paul Feig: because I'm hearing all this,

Paul Feig: you know, that they hate this, they hate that."

Paul Feig: It's like no, but these people haven't

Paul Feig: even seen the movie yet.

Paul Feig: So I really admire Rotten Tomatoes for

Paul Feig: finally getting ahead of it and taking

Paul Feig: down these pre-reviews and these audience reactions,

Paul Feig: 'cause that's really where they would, you know.

Paul Feig: A month before your movie comes out.

FEMALE_1: Right.

Paul Feig: You've got a terrible reaction.

FEMALE_1: Right.

MALE_1: And so the people, the actors,

MALE_1: the actresses that are targeted here,

MALE_1: how should they be reacting?

MALE_1: What- what is the best way to react

MALE_1: without giving these trolls any more life?

Paul Feig: I have one word and it's called mute.

FEMALE_1: [LAUGHTER].

Paul Feig: Mute, mute, mute. That's the greatest thing that

Paul Feig: Twitter ever invented was the mute button.

Paul Feig: The block button provided a victory for

Paul Feig: trolls because of the- you

Paul Feig: block them then they get [OVERLAPPING].

Paul Feig: There you go. I got to them.

Paul Feig: Muting, they can sit there and scream at you all time.

Paul Feig: You have to go through and or get somebody to go through.

Paul Feig: I go through and just see it all and go,

Paul Feig: "Okay. Mute that person.

Paul Feig: Mute that person." What I've been noticing

Paul Feig: recently because- because of Captain Marvel

Paul Feig: and I've spoken out against- against the trolls again

Paul Feig: recently is I always go back and see who they are,

Paul Feig: and so many times I go back and they have

Paul Feig: between zero and 20 followers.

Paul Feig: So what's happening is these- these trolls are

Paul Feig: getting knocked offline

Paul Feig: and they're starting new accounts,

Paul Feig: and knocked offline to start new accounts.

Paul Feig: Again, it just- we just have to start ignoring them.

Paul Feig: We have to stop reporting on them

Paul Feig: like they have any power.

Paul Feig: They don't. And once again,

Paul Feig: Captain Marvel was blewed that out of the water.

Paul Feig: [OVERLAPPING] You know, and so did Black Panther.

Paul Feig: They tried on that, they tried on Star Wars.

Paul Feig: They didn't, you know, sadly

Paul Feig: Ghostbusters got hit a little bit.

Paul Feig: We were sort of the canary in the coal mine, I think.

FEMALE_1: Def no- no definitely.

FEMALE_1: And, uh, and you've been really active in trying to

FEMALE_1: combat this out through

FEMALE_1: your organization to stomp out bullying.

FEMALE_1: What are you doing specifically?

FEMALE_1: And you've got actually an annual gala coming up as well.

Paul Feig: Yeah. We've a big event tonight.

Paul Feig: Um, I've just been lucky enough to sort

Paul Feig: of glom on to stomp out bullying.

Paul Feig: I did a jaw line of clothing for J.

Paul Feig: Crew a couple of years ago,

Paul Feig: and part of our proceeds wanted to support them.

Paul Feig: It's just the- they're a great organization

Paul Feig: that spend 24 hours a day,

Paul Feig: seven days a week trying to

Paul Feig: support students and kids who are bullied.

Paul Feig: They go into schools, they educate students on sort of,

Paul Feig: you know, the inclusion and all that.

Paul Feig: It is just- you have to have a dialogue about this stuff.

Paul Feig: And to me with the most important thing that they do,

Paul Feig: not only in trying to stop bullying, which, you know,

Paul Feig: we're never going to stop bullying,

Paul Feig: is helping kids who are bullied, cope with it.

Paul Feig: Because it's just- happily,

Paul Feig: I'm 56 years old now.

Paul Feig: I get bullied constantly online.

Paul Feig: It just happens, but you just have to be able

Paul Feig: to- to not take it personally.

FEMALE_1: Yeah.

MALE_1: You also develop productions that very

MALE_1: much address those who are bullied,

MALE_1: those who are the victims in many of these cases as well.

MALE_1: Uh, how do you make sure that

MALE_1: your casting, your production,

MALE_1: the entire plot for what you're writing and

MALE_1: producing really goes and addresses this head on as well?

Paul Feig: Well, you- I mean you have to,

Paul Feig: you don't want to ever be preachy with it.

Paul Feig: But for me what this is is about total inclusion.

Paul Feig: You know, my company signed up for

Paul Feig: the inclusion writer, which means, you know,

Paul Feig: that we're making a concerted effort to make sure that we

Paul Feig: are completely diverse across the board,

Paul Feig: behind and in front of the camera.

Paul Feig: But then beyond that, it's just- it's

Paul Feig: telling universal stories and

Paul Feig: it's- and it's showing the world as it really exists.

Paul Feig: I mean, you know, to have, you know, uh,

Paul Feig: a whole cast who, you know,

Paul Feig: aren't diverse, that's not the world.

Paul Feig: That's not the world we live in, and so

Paul Feig: it's really- it- it's breaking

Paul Feig: down the default setting

Paul Feig: of like "Oh, this is what I know.

Paul Feig: So I'm just going to cast that. I'm going

Paul Feig: to hire these people that I know

Paul Feig: all the time and use all

Paul Feig: the time." And just going beyond.