Looking Ahead to ‘Lightyear’

This is more of a personal post, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Especially since the Lightyear trailer and poster dropped last week.

I spent this past Wednesday – the day the teaser trailer and poster were released – on a total Toy Story high. It had been a long time since my friends and I had something to be so excited about, and we talked most of the day, watching the trailer on repeat and fangirling over human Buzz. It was wonderful, the kind of happiness I needed after the past year and a half. The next morning, I woke up still elated, only to stumble upon a mess of ugliness online, which totally burst my bubble: racism, political rants, and of course the usual petty crap like saying Buzz’s hair looks stupid or the trailer made no sense. My own social media wasn’t safe from it, either. There was plenty I had to delete on the posts I had made about Lightyear, and people I had to block, including one who cussed me out because Warp Darkmatter (Buzz Lightyear of Star Command) wasn’t in the trailer.

Sure, there was a ton of positive stuff, too. Lightyear seems to be very well received overall, and I’m glad, especially after Toy Story 4. I don’t think anybody I personally follow had anything negative or skeptical to say about it at all, I just saw a lot of excitement. But, unfortunately, the haters scream the loudest, and overpower the good. After only 24 hours, I was starting to get a glimpse of how challenging things were going to be this time around. Later that night, when I came across more remarks about Lightyear that made me feel awful, I pretty much reached the breaking point.

I realized I just can’t be a news source for another movie. At least not like I was before.

I’ve written about my love-hate relationship with social media in the past. But as challenging as it was back in the days surrounding Toy Story 4, I feel like it’s gotten even worse since the pandemic. There’s even more hostility and animosity now, with keyboard warriors turning everything into an outrage and trying to stir up arguments wherever they can. It’s overwhelming, disheartening, and emotionally exhausting.

The problem is, in order to find any sort of movie news, I have to dig through the cesspool of the internet. In order to find a great article or interview, I have to scroll past all the others focusing on criticism or mockery. In order to find one tweet with a little nugget of useful information, I have to see all the other toxic ones, the kind of harmful content that made me pretty much quit using the app altogether last year. I had a hard time dealing with all the negativity three years ago, too, but there’s so much more of it now in general, on any subject.

This isn’t strictly a Toy Story problem, or Disney, even. It’s EVERYWHERE. I see the insults and attacks in all the accounts I follow, on a wide variety of subjects. It’s in the cute dog accounts, telling them their pet is ugly or they’re bad owners. It’s in the costuming accounts, telling people the dress they made is ugly or they look ugly in it. It’s in the historic preservation accounts, telling people their houses are ugly – or, again, that they’re ugly themselves. They get off on pointing out every perceived flaw or mistake, and lashing out however they think will hurt the most. No matter the genre or focus, they’re always there: the people who are the truly ugly ones, for the way they treat others online.

The fandom world is challenging enough to navigate, even under less volatile conditions. It’s fiercely competitive. Everyone is out to prove that they’re the biggest fan – they know the most trivia, or have the most extensive collection, whatever the quantifier may be. Sure, we all take pride in the things that we love; there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s good to be passionate about something. But the problem comes when it turns into a game of one-upmanship instead of sharing that love with others. And then it gets to be too much to keep up with.

I’m not an influencer who gets paid for what I do; I’m just a fan, who has shared things simply out of my love for the Toy Story franchise. But it seems like the sort of posts that are expected nowadays – both on blogs and on social media – are becoming increasingly elaborate. Professionally-polished photographs and artistic graphic designs are everywhere, as aspiring influencers vie for fame and recognition. Written analyses are expected to pinpoint the tiniest background detail of every video or image, and prove your encyclopedic knowledge of the series. My perfectionism starts to kick in, as I worry if what I’ve done is good enough, and I often decide not to bother posting at all. But then what happens if you don’t post? Your followers get offended that you’re not providing them with the content they demand, and they leave. It’s a vicious cycle that messes with your self-worth. And I need to break it.

I’m not saying all this to look for sympathy or attention, because I know I’m not alone in this. I’m sure there are others who can relate, and who face similar struggles online. I just value REAL more than anything. I’d rather know where someone is honestly coming from, than see another fake mask of perfection. And I think the world would be a much better place if we stepped back and evaluated how social media is truly affecting all of us.

So, what’s my plan from here on out?

I’m going to enjoy being a fan in the moment.

The day of the Lightyear trailer, all I wanted to do was watch it on repeat and discuss it with my friends. I kept procrastinating as I felt like I had to post something official, but I really just wanted to go back to our private conversations and take some time for myself. So that’s what I’m going to do. First and foremost, I’m going to let myself enjoy the experience, like I was able to enjoy things before social media took over. And I’m going to keep most of my own speculation safely within my circle of friends, who I trust. They look at Toy Story like I do, they don’t judge or compete, and they won’t throw it back in my face if I make a wrong guess, or if something in the movie turns out differently than I predicted.

When I do post something, it’ll be on my time and my terms.

If there’s a topic I want to blog about, or post on my social media, I will. There will definitely be things that I’m excited about, and want to share. But I’m going to cut myself some slack. I won’t be scrambling to get something posted when I’m out with my family, just because it’s the latest news and I feel like I have to do it to stay relevant. I’m not going to be available 24/7, or allow anyone to pressure me into posting something on the spot – I appreciate when people share their finds, but I can’t always stop what I’m doing to act on them immediately. And I’m not going to force myself to scroll through things that will upset me, either. I’m going to allow myself the time and space to find and post about the content I’m most interested in, without exacerbating my anxiety.

I’m not going to let anyone ruin Lightyear for me.

There is no point in arguing with strangers on the internet. Trolls are gonna troll, because it’s a game to them. People will try to force their theories and opinions on others as fact, and will whine and complain about every little inconsequential, nitpicky thing. There’s no getting through to anyone who is dead-set on being negative and narrow-minded. So I’m going to do my best to steer clear of that negativity as much as possible, and not let the unfounded opinions of irrelevant people cloud my perceptions. The important thing is, these characters make me happy – even Buzz in a completely different universe has made me happy, since the trailer came out. And that’s what matters. Nobody gets to steal that.

I’m writing all this down now basically to hold myself accountable. I can’t let myself fall back into the patterns that have burned me out before. I have to learn to be more intentional with what I do online, to protect my sanity.

If you’ve stuck around this long – both for this post and just in general – thank you! I hope it doesn’t get bad enough that I have to leave again, because there are people I truly enjoy connecting with, and accounts I’d miss following. I’ve made some amazing friends through the Toy Story fandom, and I don’t want to walk away from the good out there, and let the bad win. It’s just a matter of balance. Being a fangirl is what brought me here in the first place, and I need to give myself the freedom to enjoy these characters and their world in my own way, so that I can continue to appreciate them… to infinity and… (beyond).

Image © Disney/Pixar.