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‘Black Mirror’ Creator on Toxic Fans: ‘I Don’t Understand the Rage’

“Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker weighed in on the rise of fan toxicity as Netflix held an FYSee panel for the “USS Callister” episode at Raleigh Studios on Wednesday.

In the season four opener of “Black Mirror,” a group of video game characters rebel against Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons), a malevolent gamer that tortures the virtual beings. At the event, Brooker likened the episode to gamers who torture their virtual families in “The Sims” games. He also shared that the story didn’t come to the show’s writers all at once, but started with a simple idea.

“We knew we wanted to do a story about space, it was as simple as that, and we knew we wanted to do a story about a tyrant,” Brooker told Variety in an exclusive interview. “That was where the story came from. And then as you do it, there’s other thematic things that come in like fandom, workplace politics and abuse of power that comes in second.”

Nerd fandom has intensified within the past few years, most recently with “Star Wars” fans hounding actress Kelly Marie Tran off of Instagram after months of harassment for her performance as Rose Tico in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Brooker said he thinks the reason why fans have seemingly become so rabid and aggressive may have something to do with a connection they have with a franchise, generally something they may have connected with as children.

“These properties have been around so long that they’ve been in people’s childhoods, they remember dressing up as these characters at Halloween,” Brooker said. “I don’t understand the rage. I do understand people identifying with something and it be very personal to them, and that’s fine.”

Brooker said he believes certain fans have lost sight of the people behind the characters and they aren’t thinking about the impact harassment can have on actors and creators.

“I sometimes wonder if when people are interacting online with people, there are some people who just don’t see [them as people] unless they’re literally walking around in front of them, if they don’t see them as human,” he said. “Everyone’s got an insecure voice in their head. If it’s being personified by thousands of people screaming at you, that’s just awful.”

During the panel discussion, Brooker and “USS Callister” actress Cristin Milioti said the internet’s anonymity may also act as fuel for a toxic fan environment, which was displayed in the episode.

“The fact that no one watches Daly gives him free reign to act as violently and horribly as he can, and there is something about the internet that for all of its wonders and all the great things about it, it allows this separate level of plexiglass where you don’t have to be human,” Milioti said. “Because no one’s watching, and everyone’s watching.”

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