Pulling Back the Lens on #TeamElanKelly Wickham
I was honestly too busy to have watched something unfold in real time on Twitter the other night, but I have to admit to something: if I were following it as it happened I would have thought it was funny. At first. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t want to become enraged, let me do a short breakdown for you even though it’s on his Tumblr: man on plane notices an irritating woman named Diane. Diane is insufferable and is worried about missing her connected flight. Man, Elan, decides to live tweet her horrible behavior, sends her a glass of wine with a note, ends up telling her (via his followers on Twitter) to “eat (his) dick” and then she slaps him. Diane, a fictional character to me since she has no voice, ends up missing her flight. Thus, the hashtag #TeamElan is born with many people cheering on his bad, misogynistic behavior.
Except, not really. I was thoroughly delighted to see that many of my friends and people on the Internet that I don’t know (I know, right? I am not familiar with all of you.) were horrified by his actions and not just hers. Liz Dwyer, AKA @LosAngelista, wrote a piece titled “Since When Is Telling a Woman to Eat Your Dick Standing Up For Service Workers?” that is spot on in her analysis of what Elan intended to do. I’m with Liz on wanting to know Diane’s side of the story even while Elan is gloating about not being able to talk because he’s seeking representation.
And that’s precisely where I’d like to pull the lens back on this “story” to analyze the herd mentality that went into dissing Diane. Since she has no voice in this story, we all have to guess what she was experiencing. Who knows why she was wearing a mask in the first place? Was she sick? Is it possible that she had enough compassion to make sure other passengers weren’t going to catch her cold? Again, we don’t know.
But it’s the behavior of the bully in this scenario that leads me to believe we’re not really serious when we talk about bullying in schools. Oh, sure, I hear it a lot and I am expected to respond to it by demanding parents of victims. How, then, will children take us seriously when this behavior is lauded and rewarded online (a place where kids can absolutely view it)?
If you want to see a great example of a funny exchange (or, non-exchange, as it were) then you might remember Jenny Lawson AKA The Bloggess and her faux battle with William Shatner a few years back. Her self-deprecating humor and ability to draw in the crowds is masterful. That was funny and that was calling someone out right. At the very least, Shatner had his own Twitter account and, presumably, some people monitoring it.
So, maybe Diane was sick. Let’s pull back the lens further. Maybe Diane has an anxiety disorder. It’s possible that she’s high strung already and wasn’t being kind in her treatment of the flight attendants. I can see that. But, if she (and, sorry to be diagnosing you, Diane) suffers from something so serious and gets put on display on the internet then what’s her next response going to be? Some of the people following the debacle were begging for a picture of her which Elan says he took. When you compound this with the aggressive bullying on the part of the notes sent her way maybe you can imagine the panic setting in and, for me, understand why she slapped him at the end of his “tale”.
If we pull back even further, it’s really a tale about abuse and the gloating of it. It’s a tale, one-sided as is often the case in American history and Elan is playing the part of the White male protagonist well. It’s his story. He’s going to tell it. He’s going to make it funny and amusing and he is going to reap the benefits for telling off the Diane’s of the world.
Wait. Since when did you have that sole right and responsibility to save the rest of us? From Elan himself:
And it’s OUR job to tell every Diane to shut up.
It’s OUR duty to put the Dianes of the world in their place.
We need to REMIND them about the way of things.
There is so much wrong with this and it’s a perfect example of how he twisted the events to come out the conquering hero. Look! He saved us! He loves the lowly workers!
I call bullshit.
This righteous attitude of “saving” people by shaming them and being in charge of the collective soul doesn’t sit well with me. I’m good, Elan. I don’t need saving from you. Nor do I require your backwards Thanksgiving advice:
Be nice. It’s Thanksgiving. Be nice.
I’m not sure if he’s living in the same country as I am, but I’m pretty sure that the first Thanksgiving in 1637 where White colonists celebrates the safe return of their murderers who massacred 700 Pequot Indians isn’t being “nice”. If we pull the lens all the way back, we don’t just see the closeup of White, powerful men like Elan who make proclamations and determine the arc of the story. We bring the camera back to see Diane, the flight attendants, the other airline workers, and the rest of the passengers subjected to being included in HIS story about how we should be nice. We pull that lens further back still to show the characters in full display, warts and all, and even their vulnerabilities. I think of the many people in my own travels who are horrid on the outside, but broken and weak on the inside and that colors the lens very differently. I consider the White feminists who, upon ignoring this story and the sexual implications contained within, making excuses for men when they do that. Especially when so many of them use a broad brush to paint specific anti-Black misogyny. Why, then, do so many of them give White men like Elan a pass? Because of this, I consider the very complicated history of this country and how we burn down truths to fit our own narratives when they seem more entertaining.
I’m not entertaining men like that. Hell, I’m not entertaining people like that. I’m more interested in the Diane’s of the World and getting to the root of their behavior and how being nice from the get go and not sending her a mean response would have made this whole thing turn out differently.
And it would be a more honest telling of the story.