William Shatner, legendary actor and pitchman, is up to what he does best: Inserting himself into internecine disputes between factions of fans of the Starz historical-romance series Outlander. Oh? What’s that? You didn’t know Shatner had a storied history of battling with Outlander fans online? Well, buddy, welcome to the internet.
Yesterday’s story, which went from Shatner picking fights with Outlander fans to the actor calling them “Snowflakes” and “SJWs” is intricate and fascinating in a way that only fandom beef involving an internationally famous cultural icon can be, but to get the full picture, we’ve got to take a trip back in time — how very apropos — to spring 2016. To oversimplify, there’s a group of shippers (fans of a show who want to see two characters in a relationship) who believe the two stars of the show, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, should date in real life, and a particularly hard-line group of fandom Bolsheviks that believes that they already are dating in secret.
Shatner, who is acquainted with Heughan, waded into the fray, labeling those shippers as bullies and calling them out on Twitter. It was a move many fans also saw as its own kind of bullying, with Shatner “trying to kick a group out of the fandom.” (For a more nuanced walk-through, try this explainer from Aja Romano.)
Fast forward to July 2017. Shatner is still going at it with Cait/Sam shippers on Twitter. Here’s a photo he tweeted of Heughan with his actual girlfriend, Mackenzie Mauzy. (Some fans believe Mauzy is just a cover for Heughan and Balfe’s relationship. Or even that Mauzy is a beard because if Heughan and Balfe aren’t together then Heughan must be gay. There’s a lot happening on here before you even get to the fact that James T. Kirk is involved.)
And a different tweet from Shatner calling another shipper, who has since deleted their tweet, a snowflake and bully. The tweets only seem to devolve from there, with Shatner going off about misogyny and “feminists.”
Shatner’s Twitter ranting seemed to reach a fever pitch when someone called him out for labeling himself “not political” in his Twitter bio but using terms like “social justice warrior” and “snowflake” — language that, frankly, makes more sense in the context of his recently revealed 4chan habit. This Twitter fight seems to be happening in parallel with the Outlander beef, but the line between the two gets fairly blurry, especially when you bring in Star Trek fans who are upset Shatner’s real life/Twitter persona doesn’t align with the values of his role on such a historically liberal show.
Shatner’s preferred method of dealing with people fighting him in his mentions seems to rely heavily on blocking people. Which, as noted by Gizmodo, seems like a real “snowflake” thing to do. When a Twitter user compared Shatner’s penchant for blocking to Donald Trump’s — “It seems like @WilliamShatner is in a blocking duel extravaganza with @realDonaldTrump” — Shatner replied saying this wasn’t true and that he was only blocking people who “decided to ignore the warnings on my header & bio.” “Warnings” meaning his insistence that his Twitter is “not political.”
It all comes down to whether or not you believe that talking about SJWs — 0r rather, labeling people as such — is an inherently political discussion. Shatner clearly doesn’t, but we’ll let you decide for yourself. Beam me up, snowflake.