If there was ever The tragic story of Hellena Taylor, Bayonetta’s voice actress and a reminder of the dangers inherent in viral social media activism was timely. It was a lesson in waiting for the truth to emerge amid controversy. However, social media completely short circuits this prudent impulse. The dangers involved in launching mobs through social media are also exposed.
Japanese video game developer Platinum Games announced earlier this month that Taylor would no longer be the voice for the third installment in the Bayonetta series. Taylor uploaded a YouTube video on October 15 in which she claimed that she was offered $4,000 and asked her followers to boycott the game. Fans were up in arms, and it appeared to be the latest episode in the gaming industry’s exploitative attitude to voice actors, which had caused a yearlong strike by the SAG-AFTRA trade union between 2016 and 2017.
Taylor was the epitome of this exploitation. A woman whose voice made this franchise an international success was denied residuals and paid less than a daily wage. Except, according to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier and his sources at Platinum Games, Taylor wildly misrepresented her proposed compensation; instead, she was offered $4,000 Per recording sessionThe union rate is $15,000 for each session, but this amount exceeds the average wage. Andy Robinson from VGC News confirmed the same.
Taylor’s torches-and-pitchforks rallying cry was heeded by many angry gamers and fans who saw a clear case of injustice unfold before them. There were signs to be cautious about. Jennifer Hale (legendary voice actor) was chosen to portray Bayonetta. Taylor is also in the running. in a subsequent Twitter video from the same thread, said of Hale: “I wish her all the joy in the world, I wish her all the jobs, but she has no right to say she is the voice of Bayonetta. That voice was my creation. She has no right to sign merchandise as Bayonetta.” This weirdly possessive remark was not widely noted by the mob Taylor had summoned up—perhaps it was politely ignored. Or perhaps it was heard all too well, because, as has been widely reported, Jennifer Hale was put under tremendous strain from angry and harassing comments on social media responding to Taylor’s allegations.
It was in many ways a result of the social media campaign. As the mob seeks out a villain or someone to blame for harassment, such things nearly always result in harassment. Clearly some of Taylor’s supporters found one in Hale, who, at any rate, is under an NDA and could not speak publicly about the affair in the way some were demanding (she has since put out a very even-handed statement). It didn’t need to happen this way, but it’s just the latest in a long line of episodes in which people who want to do the right thing are weaponized for purposes that are far less noble.
A Twitter video that was impulsive got in the way of an important story. Social media demands that all participants respond within a certain time frame. This is a pressure on many people to do so too fast.