As connoisseurs of comic-related media, we’re all aware of the satisfaction that comes along with the triumph of the underdog. There are few stories more inspiring than those that focus on the most unexpected of achievements. The underdog element allows the average reader to place themselves in the shoes of their favorite superheroes. It makes the characters more relatable. For example, we may not all be able to relate to an overpowered alien who shoots laser from his eyes, but we can relate to the working-class boy from Kansas who often finds himself at odds with the ego-maniacal billionaire. Probably one of the best examples of this dynamic lie within the X Men mythos, where an entire pantheon of characters regularly faces off against oppression and discrimination simply because of who they were born to be. These stories have planted seeds of activism within the average human being for decades. Now in the age of the internet, that activism has been harvested in a major way.
We’re living in a time when the weight of the spoken word has shifted the balance of power from corporate entities to individual voices. All it takes is one clever, thoughtful or emotional post, and anyone’s words have the possibility of going viral. In a matter of minutes, billions of people all over the world will rally behind a single person’s idea. Before the advent of social media, this type of activism would take months or even years to garner a movement. As we put these developments into perspective, it becomes clear that the internet is truly undefeated.
Ellen DeGeneres has long been America’s sweetheart. According to Syndicated Daytime Television ratings, The Ellen DeGeneres show averages upwards of 4.2 million viewers per episode. Since the premiere of her sitcom in 1994, Ellen’s brand has garnered her an estimated net worth of 330 Million Dollars. That’s nearly half a billion dollars. Ellen’s squeaky clean and kind image has undoubtedly created billions of dollars for Warner Media. After so much success, many would have deemed Ellen’s brand as untouchable. Those people clearly haven’t met the internet. In early July, Buzzfeed published an article online based on the complaints of 1 current employee and 10 former employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The article highlighted various claims of racism, fear and intimidation from the show’s producers. This article was sparked by years of rumors regarding the show. In March of this year, comedian Kevin T. Porter started a twitter thread about rumors speculating Ellen DeGeneres to be mean behind the scenes. The twitter thread ended up amassing over 2,600 replies from people alleging mistreatment at the hands of the popular talk show host. Variety reported on Monday, July 27, 2020 that Warner Media had launched an official investigation into the claims of workplace abuse.
The effect of the Black Lives Matter movement on popular US Food Brands has served as another example of the dominance of internet voices over corporations. Jim Crow era images have long been a source of contention for black people in America. The subservient caricature of the “mammy” has been used to paint the slave woman as a happy servant. Her wide grin, exaggerated laughter, and obese shape all served to embolden a racist narrative. Then there was the Sambo stereotype. Sambo was often depicted as an overly content slave man with black skin and large, red lips. He was often goofy and happy. Similar to the “mammy” trope, Sambo was used to spread the narrative of the content slave. In the wake of the civil rights movement, many Americans have attempted to move past such negative imagery and racist stereotypes, but popular brands have still held firmly to the branding use of these images. That is until they encountered the wrath of the internet. During the month of June, black twitter mounted its attack. Various social media posts started to circulate, condemning the Aunt Jemima brand for its use of the “mammy" image. After the criticisms went viral, Aunt Jemima was officially retired from all retail shelves. Within hours of Aunt Jemima’s shelf removal, Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth and Cream of Wheat all followed with announcements that they’d be altering the image of their brands as well.
Television media was once the undisputed champion of trending news. Ill-intentioned studio heads and executives have wielded this power for decades over the heads of the everyday man. In the age of the internet, a new media titan has risen to balance the scales. Social media gives its users the opportunity to both perform and express themselves without the hindrance of film and television’s gatekeepers. We’ve seen the development of this power shift as fans have begun to regularly champion movements for their favorite television and movie personalities. During JusticeCon, the Cyborg actor, Ray Fisher, doubled down on claims that Director Joss Whedon abused the staff of the theatrical cut of the Justice League film with the help of executives, Geoff Johns and Jon Berg. Fisher’s statements went viral within minutes of the online comic convention. Fisher has been quoted as saying, “We’re gonna get to the heart of everything. And if anything, I said about that man is untrue, I invite him wholeheartedly to sue me for libel, to sue me for slander.” Just 3 years ago after the film’s 2017 release, Ray Fisher would not have been able to make his claims public without the threat of retaliation. It’s only after the internet’s #ReleaseTheSnyderCut victory, that Fisher has been able to stand on the support of millions of fans and demand justice against the director who terrorized him and others on the set of the DC Comics film.
The internet is a mighty warrior. In the relatively short time of social media’s dominance, the world wide web has proudly touted its flawless fighting record. The billions of underdogs behind this infallible record of change are proof that the Internet is, in fact, undefeated. Let us discuss some more examples of triumphant internet underdogs in the comment section below. There’s no mightier sword than the letters of your keyboard, so wield your power and Keep It Konkret!