When I woke up this morning one of the first things I read was a story on Buzzfeed about the racism Caleb McLaughlin (Stranger Things) was encountering from the series’ fandom and while none of that should have been a surprise – he’s a darker-skinned male in the United States, racism/sexism/nativism/whatever -ism you want – are virtually pastimes there was in some ways a more disturbing aspect of the story, namely McLaughlin was apparently using social media (“In fact, Caleb has the least amount of social media followers of the young cast, and he has also said that lines to meet him at conventions have been markedly shorter than his peers.”) as an indicator of personal worth.
This is a dangerous thing apart from the racist tendencies of some of his fan base because social media isn’t strictly speaking, real in the sense that very few if any of those people know who McLaughlin is, yet they somehow think that they’re in a position to comment on who he is as a person.
And that’s certainly a problem, though what’s even worse is that Caleb McLaughlin seems to be taking it to heart, if the Buzzfeed story is any indicator.
And let’s be clear, I’ve never met the actor though if he cares at all about his own mental health and well-being – and I think it’s safe to assume that he does – he need to stop equating ‘Likes,’ be they on Twitter or what passes for approval on Instagram or lines at fan conventions or whatever as things that really matter because racism isn’t going anywhere any time soon and he needs to stop allowing things that don’t particularly matter to dictate how he feels.
And I know, he’s a young man though the thing is the behaviors the article mentions aren’t going away any time soon, so the better he learns to navigate the schizophrenia of ‘race’ relations in the United States, the better off he’s going to be.