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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

The Real Social Network

There’s been some interesting debate going on over that trailer for The Dilemma that used the word “gay” in a derogatory manner, and catching up with all that reminded me of this piece I started on last week about related topic: cyber-bullying.

I was an early adopter of the Internet — not quite as early as some of my geekier friends who were trying to make soup-can-and-string versions of email even before it became more generally available, but long enough that my earliest social connections with folks around the world via this wondrous thing called The Internet were through IRC channels. Certainly long before there were such things as blogs, and people who were frequent commenters on them.

Having worked within the realm of the Internet in various capacities for over 15 years now, I’ve learned a couple of things about the cool side of the Internet as a social tool, and some not-so-cool things about how it can also bring out the worst in people. Somewhere, someone is probably creating a graduate degree program on the social anthropology of the virtual world. It’s about at the point that we have enough evidence to study it now. Certainly any serious study would have to take a hard look at the way in which the Internet creates a wall of sorts that makes people think it’s okay to act in ways that, for the most part, they would never dream of doing in face-to-face interactions.

There are the cases we’ve seen in the past couple years of kids bullying each other through Facebook and other sites — even of adults bullying kids, which is hard to believe but true. There are shocking cases like this family of a 7YO girl dying of Huntington’s disease who have been bullied both online and in real life by neighbors who posted a picture of the girl’s mother (who died last year of the same disease) in the arms of the Grim Reaper and of the child herself over a skull and crossbones (no, I am not making that up, though I wish I was).

And, of course, there’s the cyber-bullying that happens all the time on blogs, including (seems like a lot lately, actually) the Hot Blog, which used to be a place of engaging discussion about film and the film business, but too often these days feels like a place for people to lob insults at David, or at each other. David certainly doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend him, but a few people have asked me offline why I’m not jumping into conversations over there anymore. I read the Hot Blog daily. I no longer engage in discussions there — or at least, I’m not right now. This is why.

And you could file this under “well, people are assholes, deal with it” and you’d partly be right, they — we — can all be assholes at one time or another. But after so many years of writing on the Internet and participating in discussions on everything from parenting blogs to political sites to The Hot Blog here on Movie City News … I’m just tired. Tired of the arrogance, tired of the self-aggrandizing jerks. Tired of the childish behavior. Tired, in particular, of grownups who act like petulant children from behind the relatively anonymous safety of their computer screens.

I engage in other ways now. I make use of the MCN Twitter feed. I use Facebook quite a lot, both to engage in the kinds of intelligent discussions about film I would have once looked to certain blogs for, and as a social tool for staying in touch with far-flung colleagues in between fests. Facebook is nice because if you think someone’s jerfk, you don’t have to friend them — the whole “exclusivity” thing that Mark Zuckerberg “got” when he realized the potential of putting the social experience online.

When I have something longer to say, I say it on Film Essent, or in a column. When I get the occasional bullying comments there, I mostly try to ignore them. This is all partly an experiment of sorts in de-stressing my life and trying to surround myself more with positive people. Which is not to say “people who agree with me” — on the contrary, I love engaging in spirited intellectual discussions about film, philosophy, books, whatever. I just don’t have the patience anymore for dealing with hateful people, and I’m consciously trying to be less of an asshole myself, and it’s more conducive to living that ideal if I don’t let myself get sucked into ugliness. I’m trying to model for my kids how to be responsible in their own social networking, how to deal with bullying when they encounter it, but mostly, how to be good people, kind people, compassionate people. Treat others how they would like to be treated, as my great-grandmother might have said.

I don’t have any answers for dealing with online bullies, other than to try to ignore them, and to try not to be one. If you have a different perspective — an argument that, say, the anonymity of the Internet is a good thing because it allows those who might not otherwise speak up to have a voice, I’d love to hear your point of view.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon