Film critic and former YouTuber Lindsay Ellis opened up about living with the trauma of being “canceled” during VidCon, a conference for digital creators, on Friday.
In December 2021, Ellis left YouTube and social media after being heavily criticized online for her tweets dismissing “Raya and the Last Dragon” as a “redux” of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
“I think we need to come up with a name for this genre that is basically Avatar: The Last Airbender reduxes. It’s like half of all YA fantasy published in the last few years anyway,” she wrote in her since-deleted tweet from March 2021.
Ellis spoke as a panelist on “Community Networking: Books That Hook” and “The Ghosts of Pop Culture, Past, Present, and Future” at VidCon, which was held in Anaheim, California, from June 22 to 25 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
During her Friday interview, she said the negative comments and death threats she received online took a toll on her mental health. She also said that running into people at the event made her remember why she had left social media last year.
“I had a bunch of people be like, ‘Why are you here?’” Ellis shared. “I was grandfathered in, man.”
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According to Ellis, the event made her realize how much trauma she has been carrying around since she was accused of racism last year for her comparison of the Disney film and the Nickelodeon show, which both feature Asian characters.
The outrage was further fueled after Ellis responded to her critics with a follow-up tweet saying, “I can see where, if you squint, I was implying all Asian-inspired properties are the same, especially if you were already privy to those conversations where I had not seen them. But the basic framework of TLA is becoming popular in fantasy fiction outside of Asian inspired stuff.”
Ellis’ use of the word “squint,” historically used as a pejorative against people of Asian origin, became a trending topic on Twitter, resulting in even more critics calling her out.
A month later, Ellis uploaded a nearly two-hour video on YouTube titled “Mask Off,” in which she explains and apologizes for the infractions she feels she committed as a public figure online throughout the years. She also reveals in the video that she was a victim of sexual assault.
“Where I feel like an amendment or an apology is warranted, I will do so,” she says in the video. “But where I feel like the criticism is being made in bad faith, is unreasonable, or is flat-out untrue, I shan’t bend the knee.”
When the video failed to satisfy many of her critics, she pushed back against the criticism, leading to a loop of more negative feedback.
“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have done it,” Ellis said during the interview. “I would have become the robot that ignores everything and apologizes for things… I wish I had just apologized.”
Ellis mentioned she is struggling to accept that people whom she thought were her friends had abandoned her following the backlash.
She shared that at the event, she ran into a person she thought she had already made peace with. However, the casual encounter resulted in her crying for hours, according to Ellis.
“So much of our lives are built around social media… whenever I posted that post, people talked about me like I was dead,” she noted.