INTERVIEW: Felicia Day takes on Internet trolls, gets real about Gamergate
Supernatural star Felicia Day is the queen of the Internet, but even she has faced bullying simply because she dares to be herself. In her new memoir You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Day slays trolls and empowers everyone to own their best superpower: being weird.
Both on the page and in conversation, Felicia Day is charming and self-deprecating, but never apologetic about owning her myriad of interests. Her fans may know her from her work on fantasy series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and Eureka, but Day is also a certified Internet star. Her company Geek & Sundry produces some of YouTube's best entertainment, and Day is always pushing into new realms, whether it's talking online gaming, hosting a romance novel book club, developing web series like the hit The Guild or her most recent venture, sharing her story via a wry, deeply relatable and heartfelt memoir, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).
"Writing a book was something that was unfamiliar to me, although I've written in a lot of formats over the years: comics, web series, screenplays — but certainly taking on a whole book is a monumental task, especially when you are expected to talk about yourself for up to a year," Day confessed during our phone interview. "It's a little bit intimidating, but I was always able to leave myself out of those feelings of anxiety by remembering I'm telling this story not for myself, but to help other people. Because that's why I wanted to write this in the first place: to see how the things that I do and make affect people in a positive way, whether it's inspiring somebody to make their own web series or go to film school, or to do something small like picking up a board game and enjoying a family night, or deciding to play a video game when you thought it wasn't for you."
Day is, above all, a positive force, which makes it all the more frustrating to see how closely Gamergate affected her. For the uninitiated, Gamergate was a campaign of hate driven by the harassment of many prominent women gamers at the hands of a group of bullying male gamers. Even before Gamergate, Day had written a chapter in her book discussing how to deal with online negativity, but once Gamergate hit, she was moved to revise the chapter to include the harassment she and so many other female gamers were subjected to by the gaming community.
"It was sad and misguided," Day said of Gamergate. "I don't care what you want to accomplish, but bullying and shaming someone is never the way to do it."
In true Day fashion, she turned the tables on the trolls. For Day, the Internet is a place of inclusivity for all, and she refuses to let anyone ruin the safe haven for herself or others. "I think in general, a deeper, more positive message that can be taken out of it is that representation is extremely important," Day said, the passion evident in her voice. "When you are trying to change the fabric of how people perceive you, you have to break those clichés and show people there is a different way to think about something or a type of person. Being in the entertainment industry, I am hypersensitive to some of the limitations imposed on women in many different areas that are based only on history and just patterns of behavior that people aren’t disrupting."
The Gamergate chapter is perhaps the most powerful chapter in Day's book. Her life has been so full of self-discovery via the Internet that it is clear that seeing angry bullies try to dismantle what should be a safe place to explore yourself was heartbreaking for her. Day knows the importance of Internet culture and while it would be easy to focus on the negatives, she fully embraces the wonderful experiences being part of a community of like-minded people across the globe can be.
"I think we're definitely entering a time when people's online lives are equal to or as important to our offline lives in our work and in our social spheres," Day said. "I think part of my book is you are never weird on the Internet because I do believe the Internet has let people be who they are without fear of judgment, because the place you are physically and the people who are around you physically do not necessarily all the time mesh with who you want to be. I think the greatest tragedy is when someone is made to feel ashamed about themselves. You are who you are and the Internet has made distance irrelevant in this world. If you can feel like you belong and you have a community who can support you in what you do or enjoy regardless of where you are, I think that's a great thing. The only thing you have to offer this world is yourself, and if you are limited by the place you are physically, the online world can let you soar in that world that you want to be in."
For more on Day's extraordinary story, pick up her memoir, now available in bookstores everywhere, or check out the official site, feliciadaybook.com, for more information.