During a recent interview in support of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Arrow star Stephen Amell bashed TV viewers who have been sharply critical of Arrow and, in particular, of "Olicity."
Over the last two seasons, Arrow has seen its audience deeply divided over the show's central romantic plot. Since Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak started actively courting one another, there has been a vocal contingent of fandom who have complained that the relationship has overwhelmed other aspects of the show.
For much of that time, there was an escalating online feud between Olicity "shippers" and fans who either wanted the romantic elements of the show played down, or who supported a relationship between Oliver and Laurel Lance -- who, as the series' Black Canary, is the TV analogue to Oliver's longtime love interest in the comics.
Frustration with both Olicity and with numerous other elements of the show -- including last year's characterization of Ra's al Ghul and the continued use of flashbacks at a point where a vocal contingent of fans no longer sees their purpose -- has driven an ongoing sense of frustration and negativity, especially on platforms like Twitter and Reddit.
(Note: controversy surrounding the Season Four finale, which aired Wednesday, was not directly addressed in the interview, which was filmed prior to the finale's airdate.)
Amell dismissed most of those complaints, telling Larry King that he believes most fans still enjoy television "the traditional way," meaning that they simply watch it and don't engage with other fans on social media. He called Twitter "overblown" and blamed its often-toxic environment on the fact that the platform allows users anonymity (unlike Facebook, LinkedIn, or other platforms which require a real name and/or a e-mail address).
“If you’re going on the attack for fictional characters, you’re probably not real fans of the show,” Amell said, saying that he believes some fans don't seem to know how to build up their favorite characters without tearing someone else's down.
That's been common among the shipping debates; anecdotally, this writer has firsthand experience with both pro- and anti-Olicity shippers being hostile to other fans, cast members, showrunners, and writers. Marc Guggenheim, who engages with the pro-Olicity fans frequently on his Tumblr and Twitter, was inundated with angry comments and personal attacks following the decision to kill off Laurel earlier this season. Some fans believe that Guggenheim was deliberately provoking them in the episode, by having Laurel's final words onscreen be about Felicity.
Fans have also harassed actors; Amell, being highly visible on social media, gets a lot of complaints but it's (not surprisingly, if you know the internet) the female leads who get the most abuse and threats. Fans have been quick to report trolls who harass Emily Bett Rickards on Twitter frequently enough that it's become part of the narrative and controversy. Katie Cassidy -- who played Laurel -- was also often harassed on Twitter by pro-Olicity fandom.
After Cassidy's character was killed, Olicity fans started a #ByeByeBirdie hashtag to celebrate her death.
Shortly after Laurel was killed, the Arrow writers asked fans who their favorite superhero was and, tongue firmly in cheek, I tweeted that "I've always been fond of Black Canary." The response I got was a Twitter troll who harassed me, accused me of "bullying" actress Emily Bett Rickards (I've met her. She's lovely, and we got along just fine, thanks), and some of whose tweets were ultimately removed, either by the troll or by Twitter after I reported the tweet barrage.
So, with a chunk of the audience exasperated by the prevalence of Olicity and another chunk watching the show primarily for that plot, what does the future hold? Amell was quiet on the subject when King asked him.
Arrow will head back into production in July with an eye on a likely October premiere date for Season Five. Expect plenty in the way of announcements right around Comic Con International: San Diego in the summer.
Arrow airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.