If there’s one thing pop culture fandom loves, it’s hate. People can’t get enough hate watching, hate listening, hate whatever else you can think of. Just look how people react to any new installment of Star Wars, Star Trek, the MCU, or the DCEU. Sure, there’s lots of love but there’s plenty of negativity to go around. It’s been that way for years, too. And it’s not always limited to people posting angry messages on social media. Let’s take a look at some of the most shocking examples of pop culture hate pushing the envelope.
10. Richard Donner Got Death Threats for Superman
People losing their minds over comic book movies is by no means a modern phenomenon. Way back when Richard Donner was putting Superman on film for his first blockbuster in 1978, your grandparents were just as angry as some fans are today.
Donner spoke in 2020 about his experience making Superman back in the 1970s. Part of that involved dealing with “fans” who didn’t want to experience the Christ allegory which is fairly obvious though not overly involved that takes place in the film. Basically, Donner acknowledged that a powerful being from afar sending his only son to live among humans and maybe save them from themselves could be regarded as a Christ allegory and people were not having it. A woman even told him his blood would “run in the streets.”
Keep in mind, this is 1978, so this was not an off the cuff, anonymous missive Tweeted to a filmmaker in a moment of passion. This lady had to get a pen and paper, write it out, find Richard Donner’s address, get a stamp and then send it to him. That’s commitment to a death threat.
Also of note is that, in telling the story, Donner mentions threats and multiple people, so this lady was not alone.
9. Gene Siskel Doxxed Friday the 13th Filmmakers
Before the internet made one million people into film critics, there was only Leonard Maltin and Siskel and Ebert. Gene Siskel and Robert Ebert were both intelligent men, but they managed to distill film criticism down to a thumbs up or thumbs down, the prototype for our modern Fresh or Rotten rating over on Rotten Tomatoes.
The two men did give more in-depth film reviews and sometimes they became shockingly off the tracks. Though Ebert was more often known for going on wild tangents and ripping apart films and filmmakers he disliked. Gene Siskel may have taken the cake with one of the earliest examples of doxxing in film critic history.
Back when Friday the 13th came out, it was not a critical darling. Gene Siskel didn’t just dislike the movie, he hated it with enough passion that you’d think Jason Voorhees and his mother may have killed Siskel’s own family. In his review of the film, he devotes space to telling readers the address of the parent company of the film studio and advising people to send hate mail.
In addition, Siskel ruins the movie’s twist ending in the second paragraph of the review and then gives the hometown of the actress recommending people send her hate mail as well. It’s hard to imagine something like that working out for a film critic today but if it happens, you know there’s precedent.
8. Pro-Hitler Fans Threatened to Makes of Captain America #1
Captain America is one of the longest running and most well-known comics in history. The first issue of the comic came out back in 1941, smack dab in the middle of the Second World War, and the cover of the book featured Cap socking Adolph Hitler square in his Nazi mug. You’d think people back then would have been as happy to see that as they are today and you’d be right. But just like today, there were also a few people back then who were really into the whole Nazi way of life and they were less than amused.
Writer Joe Simon once shared in an interview that he and artist Jack Kirby had to field death threats from Nazi supporters state side in the form of both letters and phone calls. And while those may have been easy enough to ignore at first, things went from bad to worse. Men started showing up at the office and it became bad enough that they had to call the police to report it. An officer took up a regular patrol of the halls to guard the Marvel office against the angry Nazi element who had become enraged by a comic book.
Of course, this would not be Captain America’s only brush with an angry public. More recently, in 2016, Cap switched allegiances and became a Hydra agent for a storyline that sent fans into a fury, some of whom sent writer Nick Spencer a number of death threats as well.
7. Sherlock Holmes Fans Greatly Overreacted to The Character’s Death
Further proof that overreactions aren’t new to pop culture comes from the world of Sherlock Holmes. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed his famous detective, the fans revolted. The tales, which were printed in Strand Magazine, came to an end and so did the subscriptions of 20,000 readers who dropped the magazine in anger. Others wore black armbands and sent hate mail to mourn their hero, and all of this back in 1893.
Rumor has it that Doyle received hundreds of pieces of hate mail, Strand received bags of it, and people were even seen crying in the streets as they read the final story.
6. White Supremacists Sent Death Threats to Johnny Cash
In the history of music, few singers have the reputation of being a tough guy that Johnny Cash has. The man was an outlaw. He was reckless and had run-ins with the cops and sang the “Folsom Prison Blues”! Though he never actually did hard time himself, he was arrested a few times and spent the night in lockup. But he did have the air of a dude you don’t want to mess with. Despite that, white supremacists were not fans of the man in black and he was threatened, boycotted and was forced to cancel shows in the 1960s, all thanks to hate.
After one arrest for drug smuggling, Cash was photographed leaving the courthouse with his wife Vivian Liberto. Vivian, an Italian with a dark complexion who had one African-American ancestor several generations back, was deemed to be Black by racists and that, in turn, made Cash a target. Shows were canceled, and the couple endured a number of threats as a result.
5. The Clown Lives Matter Organizers Got Death Threats
Not so long ago in much simpler times, one of the biggest things people worried about from day to day was clowns. There was a general clown panic based on nothing, but it did generate some headlines. And for real life clowns it seemed to be a bit of a nightmare thanks to all the hate that came their way.
With unfounded rumors of clowns trying to abduct children coming from many states, people were angry and scared. It didn’t matter that the stories weren’t true; the flames were being stoked by people who would just walk around in public dressed like creepy clowns and the internet did the rest.
So bad was the backlash that a planned Clown Lives Matter walk, in which real clowns wanted to have a walk to show they’re just normal people who want to entertain you, was shut down amidst threats.
People took issue with the name of the walk, a parody of the much more serious Black Lives Matter, but when the organizer started getting death threats, the whole thing was shut down making you wonder who was the real danger.
4. Bridget Loves Bernie was Canceled After Protests and Threats
In 1973, CBS aired a sitcom called Bridget Loves Bernie. It depicted a Catholic woman married to a Jewish man and Jewish groups in America hated it. There was some reference to negative Jewish stereotypes but the main reason was they disapproved of the interfaith marriage. Both Conservative and Orthodox rabbis spoke out against the show claiming it “mocked the teachings of Judaism.”
Boycotts of the network and sponsors were organized, but things got worse. Meredith Baxter, mom from Family Ties and star of the show, said the show got a bomb threat one day and members of the Jewish Defense League showed up at her house. The producers received threatening phone calls which led to at least one arrest as well. The show, despite being highly rater by critics, was canceled after a single season
3. The Creator of Attack on Titan Received Numerous Death Threats
If you’re a fan of anime, you’re probably aware of Attack on Titan, a series based on the manga of the same name that dates back to 2009. In 2013, creator Hajime Isayama was getting buried in death threats on his personal blog, reportedly as many as 1000. And these weren’t just “I wish you’d die” threats, they were explicit “I’m going to kill him on this specific date and get away with it” threats.
It was guessed that the threats stemmed from a character in the series being based on a real figure from the Imperial Japanese Army. Years later a voice actress from the show also got death threats, though the perpetrator in that case was at least arrested.
2. Rebecca Black Was 13 and Getting Death Threats Over a Song
In 2011, the biggest thing on the internet was a goofy music video made by a teenage girl. Rebecca Black’s “Friday” was not a good song, and that’s okay. And people online made fun of it and, to some degree, that’s okay too. The song was very simple and childish because of course it was; it was made by a child. Black was an aspiring singer and her parents had funded the video to help make a dream come true. Sadly, it turned into something of a nightmare.
The internet, as it is wont to do, took things way too far. The song was huge, and it was viewed millions of times and people deluged Black with hate. Her parents shielded her from some of the threats but police had to get involved. People told her to cut herself or they hoped she’d get an eating disorder. She was bullied so badly her parents began to homeschool her.
The tale does have a happy ending, at least, as Black persevered and spoke out against bullying while continuing to pursue her musical dreams even today.
1. Malcolm McDowell Got Death Threats for Killing Captain Kirk
Star Trek: Generations was supposed to be the greatest of all the Trek movies, merging the cast of the original series with the cast of the Next Generation. Fans got to see Captain Kirk and Captain Picard on screen as the baton was passed and the original cast finally retired from the big screen. Part of that involved the on screen death of Captain Kirk.
The film fell a little flat. It has a 47% of Rotten Tomatoes and is generally considered a pretty middle of the road and forgettable entry in the pantheon of Trek movies. But at least one actor walked away with more death threats than the average Trek movie engenders, and that was Malcolm McDowell.
McDowell played the movie’s villain and the man responsible for the death of Kirk. According to McDowell his nephew, who played Dr. Bashir on Deep Space Nine, called him to tell him the news – people on the internet wanted him dead. He didn’t take the threats seriously, but the studio still gave him security.