John Green

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Name: John Michael Green
Also Known As:
Occupation: writer, youtuber
Medium:
Works: The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All The Way Down, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Vlogbrothers
Official Website(s): John Green Books
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages

John Green is an American young adult fiction author and YouTuber. He works a lot with his brother Hank Green. Together, they form Vlogbrothers channel on Youtube, and helped to create Vidcon. Fans of the Green brothers are called Nerdfighters; the fandom is Nerdfighteria.

Beside the content he has created, John Green became very notable in fandom for his use of Tumblr, URL fishingboatproceeds, and his interactions with fandom from roughly 2011–2015.

Presence On Tumblr

Green maintained a Tumblr blog, fishingboatproceeds, from 2011 to 2015. He enjoyed a wide level of wholesome popularity in his early years on the site, but slowly fell victim to subsequent public hyper-scrutiny amongst rapidly shifting community attitudes and the rise of callout culture, eventually leading to his exodus.

He was prone to writing highly verbose answers to questions and criticisms from other users, as well as making personal interjections on popular posts. These quirks led to both positive and negative attention from users on the site. He attributed this behavior to his socially awkward persona.

2011-2013

For a few years, riding on the crest of TFiOS's explosive success, he was very active and a beloved presence on the site and often interacted with fans - even leading to memes like "make John Green find the thing", said when Tumblr users wanted him to see a post, or "is that John Green/yes that is John Green" when he interacted with a post. He was given the unofficial title of the "den mother" or "adult supervision" of tumblr.

He did attract a number of small controversies and criticisms, mainly centered around his defenses of capitalism and alleged usage of the "manic pixie dream girl" trope in his books (despite his strong insistence that he was subverting and refuting the trope) as well as a number of other miscellaneous statements, including a vlogbrothers video where he facetiously said that nerd girls were "the world's greatest underutilized romantic resource".[1] He received criticism for defending YouTube sex educator Laci Green, who habitually made Islamophobic comments, from death threats in 2012, particularly surrounding him quoting the transphobic slur she'd used in an old video without censoring it.

Your Fave Is Problematic Callout

These controversies were compiled in a 2013 Your Fave Is Problematic post [2], including an unfounded isolated accusation that he "stroked" a fan during a signing. At the time, however, the YFIP blog was already being criticized for its lack of nuance in defining different degrees of bigoted beliefs and behavior as generally "problematic." The original post:

JOHN GREEN

On April 19, 2013, Green responded to an ask about the post:

anonymous: Thoughts on the 'yourfaveisproblematic' tumblr?

1. In general, I think it’s good not to worship those you admire. It’s important to understand that all people are flawed and make mistakes and say stupid/cruel/hateful/inappropriate things. And it’s good to hold those people accountable. But it’s also possible to like someone who is flawed. In fact, it is more or less necessary.

2. While I’ve certainly said a lot of things I’ve regretted on the Internet over the years, I’ve tried very hard to be an ally to the GLBTQ community, and not just on tumblr, but also in places where it is less convenient (by, for instance, not granting interviews to transphobic or homophobic news outlets.)

3. I have apologized (repeatedly) for the fat-shaming cited in that tumblr. I’ve apologized a lot for a lot of things, and I hope to apologize for many more things in the future, because that will mean I am still growing and changing and learning.

4. I’ve never sexually assaulted a fan. That’s a very serious accusation, and it is completely, unambiguously untrue.

5. It’s unfair to attribute things said by my characters to me. It’s especially unfair to attribute something written by Shakespeare to me, unless you are going to attribute everything Shakespeare ever wrote to me, in which case I’m cool with it.

p.s. Paper Towns is devoted, in its entirety, to destroying the sexist lie of the manic pixie dream girl. I’m not sure how I could’ve made it any clearer.

p.p.s. Obviously, I do not think women are a natural resource. It was a joke. It was a bad joke, and I’m sorry I made it, but in context, it is pretty clearly a joke.[4]

On the same day, he responded to another ask:

anonymous: You didn't really respond to a lot of the concerns brought up in the yourfaveisproblematic post. Why won't you apologize for the "nerd women" comment or the racist (Hanko de Mayo, Islam related) stuff mentioned on there? I agree that mistakes are fine, but you as an influential person should try harder to publicly address mistakes when you make them. And if you don't think these things are problematic, you should learn more about racism, sexism (and other things) and examine your own privilege.

I did respond to a lot of the concerns. I didn’t respond to all of them because I didn’t want to appear overly defensive, but okay:

1. I am sorry for the jokes I made in that video where I said nerd women were an underutilized romantic resource. I thought it would be clear from the purple prose that I was kidding in the video, but I also said a bunch of other stupid things in it, and I would not say them now, and if I owned the video (which I don’t) I would take it down. I regret it, and I’m sorry.

2. I have addressed the H*** d* M*** issue endlessly and never to anyone’s satisfaction. We’ve stopped using the term, even though many in the Mexican American nerdfighter community have asked asked us to keep using it.

3. Most of my college career was devoted to studying Islamic thought and practice. I created [an introduction to early Islamic history and theology] that thousands of Muslims around the world have recommended. I have reviewed and sang the praises of hundreds of good books written by Muslims and/or about the Islamic world. I have read the Quran and collections of hadiths. To my knowledge, no one has ever accused me of being Islamophobic. If they have, I don’t know why.

3a. As for the word kafir, you cannot attribute something a character in my novels says to me. Hassan and Colin have a very specific relationship with the word kafir that does not make sense out of context.

4. I talk about my privilege as a cisgendered white guy living in the US a lot, and I try my best to be conscious of that privilege.

5. In addition to never having sexually assaulted a fan, I have never (at least that I can recall) “stroked” a fan. (I don’t really know what stroking is in this context?) I don’t really touch strangers, to be honest, because of my anxiety disorder.

6. Every single time I have ever told the story of the horrid way I first asked Sarah out, I have added that it was horrid. That’s the whole point of the story.

7. This can go on and on and on and on and on and on, so I’ll stop now. Also, please don’t send mean or threatening messages or whatever to the person who runs that tumblr. That’s not nice. kthxbai.[5]

The original YFIP post was edited with the header "EDIT: John Green addressed (parts of) this post here and here" and linked his responses to some of the accusations.

2014

Green maintained a good reputation across the site during the following year, but met some tension as the community increasingly focused on social justice. In the fallout of an extended series of public accusations of sexual misconduct leveled toward popular YouTubers like Alex Day, him and his brother Hank Green attracted criticism for their perceived negligence in condemning the incriminated YouTubers and taking measures to prevent future abuses. At the time, however, the Green Brothers were busy putting together the Uplift coalition behind the scenes, which was dedicated to preventing sexual abuses within the YouTuber community.

John was also observed acting friendly towards disgraced former YouTube musician Ed Blann (eddplant) - who had admitted to sexually abusing his partner in 2013 - on his alternate sports twitter account, which led to accusations of being "in solidarity with an admitted rapist" [6]; he curtly apologized for the tweet on his tumblr.

Perceived Egotism

In the weeks leading up to the TFiOS film release in June of 2014, he posted enthusiastically about the movie and praised the director and cast for their work on the film, which led some users unenthusiastic about the film and his popularity to accuse him of egotistically praising his own work. Green made clear disclaimers that his praise was directed towards the film alone.

Of note was an incident in which Green reblogged a gif from the film, calling attention to character Hazel Grace showing agency by kissing love interest Augustus Waters instead of the other way around. His exuberant praise for the scene[7] ("when was the last time the girl kissed the boy in a teen romance? Ever? I seriously think it might not have happened ever") led to intensified accusations of ego-stroking[8][9] and became a small meme around the site. The GIF post and its responses accumulated over 200,000 notes. This led to Green issuing another disclaimer and apology, A Note on Yesterday’s Posts. He explained that he was praising the movie, not the book (Hazel doesn't kiss Augustus first in the book), but "All that noted, it was an incorrect thing to say, and I apologize. In my exuberance for the film, I said something that was both flatly wrong and offensive, and I appreciate being called out on it, and I’m sorry." This response didn't have the same reach as the original post, and afterwards charges of an inflated ego had permanently tarnished his community reputation.

The book's big kiss scene, which takes place in the Anne Frank house, also began to attract criticism from people, both from social justice bloggers and in general, who thought the scene disrespectful or anti-semitic. Green's comments that Anne Frank had died of disease, which were later publicized by the YFIP callout, were criticized as insensitive and minimizing of the struggles of Jewish people and those affected by the Holocaust, and even led to accusations of Holocaust-denial. Others pointed out that while it was right to criticize those comments, he had not actually denied that the Holocaust happened and was serious.

In the uproar surrounding the Ferguson decision in November of 2014, he attracted some criticism for his public announcement that he would send signed copies of his books to the Ferguson library. He sent personal asks to the specific users who had criticized him, trying to clarify the specifics of his decision; these asks were publicly shared and heavily scorned, further cementing accusations of being narcissistic and obsessed with his own image.

2015

By 2015, he had fully outstayed his welcome in a post-Dashcon tumblr landscape and failed to maintain a relevant position in the community.

Text Post Editing Scandal

In 2015, due to a NSFW post that would become infamous, it became popular to reblog Green's posts and edit the text to create the appearance of him saying outlandish and questionable things. This was done to mock him, to attempt to incite a defensive reaction from him, or simply as a joke.

In the most notable instance, which may have started the trend, on April 11 2015 John Green made a Tumblr post titled "On Discourse,"[10] addressing that he had been contacted about a person who had "a really hateful ask sent to them from someone identifying as a 'nerd fighter' that included racial slurs and was generally tremendously hurtful," and denouncing this type of behavior in the nerdfighter community and on the internet.

Tumblr user katara[note 2] reblogged the post, editing it and replacing all of Green's text with a sexually graphic copypasta which began, "Cock is one of my favorite tastes. Not only that, but balls smell amazing," and described a love of oral sex with penises. @katara's edit circulated, with some expressing shock and confusion as to why Green's account had posted this and some enjoying the joke at Green's expense. On May 6, Green reblogged the edited post to respond to the edit. He did not delete the edited text, but edited the title to say "NSFW NSFW NSFW NSFW NSFW" as a warning. The full response:

10,000 notes, so I guess I should comment.

On tumblr it’s really easy to make it look like people wrote things they did not write. (Needless to say, I did not write the above text.)

I find false attribution annoying in general, but here’s what I find particularly offensive about this post.

I get that I’m not the sort of person who seems likely to register a public opinion on the smell of balls, so I understand the joke in associating me with these words. But there’s something else going on here: The editor here is trying to shame me by saying that I like to give oral sex to people with penises. But that’s NOT SHAMEFUL–there’s nothing wrong with people who like to give oral sex to people with penises.

So I just want to say to anyone who saw this post and may have felt like their sexuality was being used as a way to humiliate me: I’m not humiliated, and you needn’t be either. The only person who should be embarrassed here is the author, who has a lot to learn about how to insult someone.[11]

Some fans of Green approved of his response. However, it was also was misinterpreted as "angry" or "upset" in tone by many spectators.[12] He was also mocked for interpreting the edit as making a joke of homosexuality and an act of homophobia (the user responsible for the edit was himself a gay man, and had not written it himself) and seeming sanctimonious in his assurances that there was nothing wrong with gay sex.[13] Somewhat predictably, Green's response was edited as well[14] and continued to circulate, becoming an even larger joke far beyond Green's typical following. By January 2016, it had over 120,000 notes.[15] As of 2019, the post had over 190,000 notes. The original post and the response on Green's account were not deleted until the majority of the blog was cleared in late 2017.

Later posts of Green's continued to be edited, sometimes with other text[16] or the same same copypasta that @katara used. Users would also dig through Green's archive to find sufficiently "cringeworthy" posts, both to use for the editing meme and to spread around.

When the ability to edit text on Tumblr posts was removed around August 2015, many users joked that this was because of the community had done to John Green.[17] This was after some supporters of Green had expressed anger with Tumblr staff for allowing such edits,[18] and it seems that the joke was repeated until many believed it was the truth. The saga of the "cock is one of my favorite tastes" post, Green's being "bullied off Tumblr", and the lost of text editing is still joked about today. In July 2018, Green responded to a comment on Twitter about the incident, saying he had never been in contact with Tumblr Staff and had no involvement in the change to text editing:

I never asked tumblr to change any of its features, including that one. I don't know how that rumor started, but it isn't true. I've never talked to anyone at tumblr about how to make their web site better. If I did, I'd ask them to make video work, not to change reblogging[19]

Self-Defense & Departure from Tumblr

Coinciding with this growing scandal, by that point Green had attracted a new wave of scrutiny - largely negative and mocking in manner - from users who had grown tired of his presence and wanted to push him out of a space they felt he no longer belonged in. In a post from June 2015, Tumblr user virjn wrote about Green:

i bet john green thinks people don’t like him because he’s a “dork” or a nerd or whatever

when in reality it’s because he’s a creep who panders to teenage girls so that he can amass some weird cult-like following. and it’s always girls who feel misunderstood, you know, and he goes out of his way to make them feel important and desirable. which is fucking? weird?

also he has a social media presence that is equivalent to that dad of a kid in your friend group who always volunteers to “supervise” the pool parties and scoots his lawn chair close to all the girls.[20]

Other users tagged Green's account in reblogs so that he would see the post. virjn received criticism for the comparison of Green to a sexual predator, even if it was an analogy rather than an accusation, and later deleted the post.

Green reblogged and responded to the post on 11 June 2015, defending himself and stating that he would be limiting his use of Tumblr.[21]

You want me to defend myself against the implication that I sexually abuse children?

Okay. I do not sexually abuse children.

Throwing that kind of accusation around is sick and libelous and most importantly damages the discourse around the actual sexual abuse of children. When you use accusations of pedophilia as a way of insulting people whose work you don’t like, you trivialize abuse.

I’m tired of seeing the language of social justice–important language doing important work–misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully.

[...]

But this stops being a productive place for me to be in conversations if I’m not allowed to be wrong, if my apologies are not acknowledged alongside my misdeeds, and if I’m not treated like a person.

I think at this point it’s impossible to continue to use tumblr in the way I’ve used it since 2011. My life is different (in ways that are both good and bad); this community is different (in ways that are both good and bad); the world is different (in ways that are both good and bad).

So if this blog begins to look more one-way, with more original content and less reblogging/commenting/answering asks/etc., that’s why.

I want to emphasize that I am ridiculously lucky to work on stuff I love, from Crash Course to The Art Assignment to writing books. And I trust that many nerdfighter communities–whether vlogbrothers or Dear Hank and John or the Wimbly Womblys or the kiva group–will continue to be open and collaborative and constructive. Also, I’m not angry or anything like that. I just need some distance for my well-being.

[...]

The initial post, Green's response, and discussion surrounding it have led to more cold feelings or even active dislike of Green on Tumblr outside of his own fandom: see the "john green hate" and the "anti john green" search terms on Tumblr. Some users felt he had shown no acknowledgement of the power he held as a famous white man on the site and had not given due attention to the fact that some young women were uncomfortable with his public presence.[22] A significant number of other users, including other YA authors on Tumblr, came to his defense. Some even felt the allegations against him were the work of a smear campaign generated by hearsay; while they didn't deny that some things he'd said could annoy people, they pointed out that all he did was exist on a public social media platform usable by anyone, regardless of how many female minors and twentysomethings proclaimed it was "their" space.

By August of 2015, Green, perhaps due to the harassment and disillusionment with how the community had changed since 2011, departed Tumblr for good to work on a new book (which turned out to be his 2017 novel Turtles All the Way Down), leaving the blog to his social media manager, Rosianna Halse Rojas.

Aftermath

Rojas would continue to quietly maintain the blog for the years to follow, occasionally posting about new videos or news about the new book. However, posts of Green's began to gradually disappear from his archive; first to go were a number of "controversial" high-profile posts that generated the most harassment, but then the entirety of his pre-2013 posting history disappeared as well. By the end of 2017, all of his posts were gone. As of now, the only remaining post on the fishingboatproceeds blog is an embedded vlogbrothers video of him reading the first chapter of Turtles All the Way Down.[23] It is unclear if it was Rojas or Green who removed the posts, nor is it known if the posts were removed outright or simply made private.

Resources

Notes

  1. "k***r is an racial slur used against Black Africans
  2. "katara", a URL based on the character Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, was the Tumblr account of Jovan Hill, who would later launch his own career as a social media comedian and influencer off of his Tumblr origins. "Cock is one of my favorite tastes" has become an inside joke among his fans.

References

  1. Video: "How To Make Guys Like You" (timestamp 2:54) [1]
  2. YFIP post [2]
  3. archived Apr 20 2013
  4. archived Apr 22 . 2013
  5. archived Apr 22 2013
  6. [3]
  7. JUN 08, 2014
  8. response by buchannybarnes, which gained much agreedment
  9. Sorry, the ‘TFIOS’ kiss isn’t as groundbreaking as you hoped by Aja Romano on The Daily Dot, 2014-06-09. "A friendly reminder about movie history."
  10. On Discourse byfishingboatproceeds (archived)
  11. NSFW NSFW NSFW NSFW NSFW by fishingboatproceeds, May 6 2015 (archived)
  12. A popular post that popularized the misinterpretation of Green's response [4]
  13. 2016-05-31 by nerdfighterfighter: "Oh my god, John. You made roughly 5 million gay jokes about being attracted to Ansel Elgort during the filming of TFiOS. Please."
  14. "sweetie, you are literally so out of line it’s fucking unbelievable."...
  15. archived November 2015
  16. "My neck my back." - edit on an interaction between Green and Taylor Swift
  17. 2017-02-26
  18. Nov 5th, 2015 by crookedpwnguin: "@staff, this is why being able to change things in what you’re reblogging is bullshit. Way to turn a really good article about trolling and anon bullying into slander.
  19. Jul 25, 2018 by @johngreen
  20. preserved in whitegirlsaintshit's reblog, here and archived
  21. (archived)
  22. What John Green Needs to Learn About Having a Dialogue With Female YA Readers By Teresa Jusino, Jul 2nd 2015 on The Mary Sue: "Am I supposed to just tolerate all of the older men in my life who make me uncomfortable?" - Camryn Garrett
  23. John reads the first chapter of his new novel, Turtles All the Way Down. (Sep 5th, 2017)