Oscar Isaac’s cold welcome into Tumblrland


Oscar Isaac plays pilot Poe Dameron in the Star Wars franchise. He was recently discovered in a 2009 photo wearing an Atlas Shrugged t-shirt.

Oscar Isaac’s career has taken a Cinderella twist. Previously a lesser known actor appearing in minorly successful films, such as the title role in the Coen brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis, his major breakthrough has finally come with his portrayal of pilot Poe Dameron in the box office record breaker Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was released last December. Isaac has taken social media by storm, becoming, as the New York Magazine calls him, “the internet’s new boyfriend.”

That is, he was the internet’s new boyfriend, until a 2009 photo of Isaac wearing an Atlas Shrugged t-shirt surfaced on the social networking and blogging website Tumblr. Atlas Shrugged is a novel by writer and philosopher Ayn Rand. Bloggers were outraged to learn that Isaac at one point seven years ago was supposedly a supporter of Rand’s philosophy of capitalism and rugged individualism. His image of allegiance somehow undermined his Hollywood populism.

Sophomore Becca Schaefer has a Tumblr account. “People on Tumblr are very anti-capitalism, pro-socialism, which most of the time I agree with,” she said. “But Tumblr also has an issue where we’ll dig up old photos and judge a person based off of the pictures.” Schaefer is familiar with this kind of overreaction online. “I’ve been on Tumblr for at least three years and I’ve sort of learned the feel of the land.”

The “land” is a place that I like to refer to as “Tumblrland,” where people are free to hammer out their unfiltered and uncensored thoughts. There are no limits to Tumblrland, and it appears that Oscar Isaac is one of the many unfortunate people who have crossed its borders. “The kind of people [on Tumblr] have very strong opinions on pretty much everything,” Schaefer said. “If you say, ‘hey, capitalism isn’t that bad,’ you might get twelve anonymous messages telling you that you are a moron who hates poor people.”

With these negative comments being spoken in Tumblrland, one may wonder what the original point of Tumblr was at its inception. Founder and CEO of the website David Karp posted on the company’s blog in 2013 that their mission was “to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve.” According to this philosophy, a Tumblr user’s best work is a criticism of a t-shirt in a forgettable photo taken seven years ago.

“You’re talking about Tumblr as if it’s a hive mind. It’s not,” Tumblr user Helen Sawyer said. A hive mind is a collective consciousness on social media where a set of similar beliefs unifies a society. “Tumblr is a lot of people with a lot of opinions. I know that sometimes things get swept over the top, but that isn’t because Tumblr users overall are stupid or overdramatic.”

This may be the opinion of Sawyer and perhaps other Tumblr bloggers, but not everyone on the site agrees. There is a small minority of blogs on Tumblr that take a completely opposite stance.

“I think [what is ridiculous about Tumblr] is mostly the hive mind factor,” one of these opposing bloggers, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Anyone can post anything, even completely made up lies, and that post can turn viral with people believing and reposting it. It’s become one of the top sources of misinformation on the internet.” She also considers Tumblr less of an accepting culture than it is made out to be. “The level of vindictive bullying is something I’ve never encountered elsewhere in my whole fifteen years of being on the internet.”

According to this blogger, “vindictive bullying” is clearly evident in the case of the Oscar Isaac issue. “There are far more important things [Tumblr users] could be spending their energies on. It’s another demonstration of the way Tumblr one, takes things too far and too personally…and two, Tumblr seems to think that if someone disagrees or holds different opinions they must be punished for it.”

Oscar Isaac has, perhaps wisely, not commented on his controversial, or as they say on Tumblr, “problematic” t-shirt. The inhabitants of Tumblrland have since calmed down about the incident, and Mr. Isaac has begun to turn up in people’s Tumblr feeds once more, a sign of the hypocrisy of Tumblr and of social media in general.

Becca Schaefer is still active on Tumblr, although her skepticism is evident. “Sometimes I wonder if the people of Tumblr are looking for reasons to hate people.”