“Fan-Baiting”: Purposefully Making People Angry with Diversity Casting to Cover Up Bad Writing

Yesterday, I wrote about the recent controversy of casting a very gross black woman as Juliet in a new British production of the (currently) most popular William Shakespeare play. She is cast alongside that gay kid from Spider-Man. Having a handsome white boy next to this objectively unattractive black girl has led to a backlash on the internet.

The media is focusing on how mean it is that people are saying they don’t like this, and how it is hurting the feelings of the girl. I noted that no one is specifically trying to hurt this girl’s feelings. What the media is doing is bypassing the entire discussion around using black casting in white productions, particularly focusing on race-mixing, in order to attack white people as a group.

In 2022, a Twitter account called “Dr. Thala Siren” (this appears to be a pseudonym) coined the term “fan-baiting” to explain this phenomenon of movie studios casting blacks and women in traditionally white male roles in order to cover up for bad writing and force critics to claim their productions are better than they actually are.

The essay the tweeter wrote relates a lot to what I wrote yesterday, and is worth sharing.

“Fan-baiting” is a form of marketing used by producers, film studios, and actors, with the intent of exciting artificial controversy, garnering publicity, and explaining away the negative reviews of a new and often highly anticipated production.

Fan-baiting emerged as a marketing strategy in 2016/17, after fans of beloved franchises such as Ghostbusters and Star Wars objected to what they saw as poor writing choices, sloppy scripts, and cheap alterations to plot lines and characters for the sake of shock value.

Along side these critics, there was a small group of bigoted but vociferous commentators who objected to the inclusion of black and female actors in roles traditionally held by white male actors. Some of these individuals began publicly harassing actors.

Bigots have always attacked diversity on screen, but in a highly polarized political climate, instances of harassment on garnered disproportionately massive media coverage, which provided production studios with both free publicity and a new defence against actual critics.

Studios seized the opportunity to discredit criticism of poor writing & acting, insinuating that these, too, were motivated by bigotry. What used to be accepted as standard critiques were increasingly dismissed as part of the ignorant commentary of a “toxic fandom.”

Soon, it became standard practice before release to issue announcements specifying diverse casting choices, coupled with pre-emptive declarations of solidarity with the cast whom they now counted on to receive disparaging and harassing comments.

Actors who are women and/or BIPOC became props & shields for craven corporate laziness and opportunism. The studios save money both by avoiding expensive veteran writers as well as by offloading publicity to news outlets and social media covering the artificial controversy.

“Fan-baiting” works. It brings in a new sympathetic audience whose endorsement is more about taking a public stance against prejudice than any real interest in the art. “Fan-baiting” also permits studios to cultivate public skepticism over the legitimacy of poor reviews.

“Fan-baiting” also compels reviewers to temper their criticism, for fear of becoming associated with the “toxic fandom” and losing their professional credibly, resulting in telling discrepancies between critic and audience review scores.

The true nature of “fan-baiting” is never so clear as when a script is well-crafted and audience reviews are accordingly positive, exposing the announcements, declarations of solidarity, & grooming of skepticism for what they really are: cynical corporate marketing tactics.

Put another way, media corporations have found a way to monetize the racism that they set their actors up to receive.

Amazon knows exactly what it’s doing. One of the first images released was of Disa. On cue, a couple bigots said the predictable, allowing a giddy Amazon to release its pre-prepared scripted statement denouncing the “pushback”. It’s the new business model.


Fan-baiting isn’t “black people getting cast”. Rather, it’s corporations banking on black people getting harassed to inflate publicity. Hence, diversity casting is in part motivated by the hope that the corporation can maximize harassment and, consequently, $$$.

Racism and sexism are the main issues. A secondary issue – one that is being overlooked – is corporate monetization of bigotry. Even while a studio purports to be “challenging bigotry” it is also counting on bigots being bigoted, and doing its best to direct them to the actors.

Solution: Media corporations should (a) hire experienced writers and give them the time required to write great characterization and plots for these actors, (unlike Amazon and Disney) and (b) accept critique rather than suggest all critique is motivated by bigotry.

As evidenced by the success and great reviews of HBO’s “House of the Dragon” in comparison to Amazon’s Rings of Power, both of which feature a diverse cast, the problem is the quality of writing, not the complexions of the actors.

For those of you who like this thread on #fanbaiting, know that it is an example of structural racism: the individuals involved may not be personally racist, but the profit motive of the corporations who employ them orients them to make decisions that harm racialized peoples.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of that, but I agree in general.

This essay is primarily about films and shows such as Captain Marvel and Amazon’s Rings of Power that were very bad and yet deflected all criticism by claiming anyone who doesn’t say they are good is a hater. What the Romeo & Juliet production is doing is slightly different, but along the same lines: they are creating a situation where “good people” are morally obligated to go see this production to show solidarity against the evil Nazis who do not think that gorilla bitch is attractive.

Further, while I agree that this is a financial strategy used by Disney and the streaming services to prop-up bad writing, there is also definitely an agenda to attack and degrade white people. It just so happens that this agenda is also exploitable by people who want to rush through poorly written productions and then demand good reviews under threat of accusing critics of being haters.

It is also true that most of us (even me, to some extent) will ignore a certain amount of diversity casting if the production is otherwise solid. I’m hearing good things about the new Fallout show that was released yesterday. I plan to watch it and write a review. A lot of right-wingers liked Dune, despite the diversity. I think Dune was boring as all hell, regardless.

What I have previously argued is that creative people tend to be intellectually honest, much more so than the average person, and it is therefore hard to get creatives to work on these diversity propaganda projects, as they are so intellectually dishonest by their very nature.

Frankly, there is really no reason that a diverse production can’t be of good quality. After watching the first episode, I thought that the feminist version of True Detective was going to be good. It turned out it was horrible, but the problem was definitely bad writing.

See: After True Detective Season 4, The Hunt for the Great Woke Whale Continues

The whole society is intellectually bankrupt, which is why nothing is good. This is not necessarily a direct result of diversity. It is simply that this forced diversity agenda is a parallel result of intellectual bankruptcy.

Having black characters is not a problem in itself. Black people exist and they buy movie tickets. However, we all seem to understand the difference between “oh, they put these black characters in so black people could relate to the movie” and “they put these black characters in as an attack on white people.”

This Romeo & Juliet casting is obviously the latter, and it is very obvious that this was done to hype up a play that otherwise, no one ever even would have heard about.

The former looks like this: