Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard recently drew the ire of a few vocal fans after he failed to say hello to a crowd waiting for him outside of a hotel. In a video posted and later deleted by fans watching for Wolfhard’s appearance, he can be seen walking into the building without acknowledging those waiting. A fan can be heard calling him “rude” in the video, and later, a tweet deemed him “heartless.”
There’s a recurring harmful notion that actors are obligated to engage with fans at all times and in any ways the fans want, since they owe the fans for making them famous. Young actors Shannon Purser (Barb on Stranger Things) and Sophie Turner (Sansa on Game of Thrones) disputed that idea online, pointing out that child actors need breaks, too and should be allowed space. “No actor is under any obligation to stop for anyone,” Purser said.
More recently, Wolfhard addressed the event on his own Twitter account. “I don’t want to ex-communicate anyone from this fandom, but if you are for real you will not harass my friends, or co-workers,” the actor said. In a follow-up tweet, he added, “Anyone who calls themselves a ‘fan’ and actively goes after someone for literally acting and doing their job is ridiculous.”
Wolfhard’s exasperation is understandable. Fans should be embarrassed at publicly attacking someone and needing correction from a 14-year-old. But fan expectations and entitlement are commonplace, and celebrities are starting to get more comfortable with vocally resisting it. Last year, Justin Bieber fired back at fans with threats of privatizing his Instagram for disrespectful comments about his new girlfriend. In September, Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon went to bat against fans harassing the show’s female writers. Although its creators have publicly, loudly disavowed bad behavior, the show retains a notoriously toxic fanbase.
Social media and the internet make it easy to keep track of stars. Personal pictures, tweets, and videos from a celebrity account can help fans feel connected to their favorite creators on an intimate level, but that familiarity also breeds contempt when viewers feel they’ve been ignored. Toxicity among fan communities is inevitable, but the normalization of it is not. When creatives in positions of power, like Wolfhard or Harmon, disavow these actions, they’re sending an important message: they won’t allow bad behavior, and neither should fans.