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Last week, Scream star Melissa Barrera took to Instagram to voice her support for Palestine and call out the media coverage of Israel’s siege in Gaza. On Tuesday, Variety reported that Spyglass Media Group, the production company behind Scream, fired Barrera because of these posts, alleging they were antisemitic and crossed “the line into hate speech.”
The following day, we learned Jenna Ortega would also be leaving the series. Though Variety suggested her departure was not the result of Barrera’s firing, many have found the timing suspect, and rumors circulated that Ortega asked to be let out of her contract due to Spyglass’ decision.
The fan response to Barrera’s firing was immediate and decisive. Fans all across social media voiced their support for Barrera, using the #JUSTICEFORMELISSA hashtag in solidarity. Though the exact details of Ortega’s departure remain unclear, fans cheered on Ortega as well. “so proud of her and melissa for putting their feet down,” one X user wrote. “jenna ortega and melissa barrera have to be the coolest mfs in the industry right now. i respect them DOWNN,” another wrote.
Despite their love for the franchise, many fans are no longer willing to support the series going forward. “As a lifelong scream fan, i hope scream 7 flops. F*** those spineless cowards,” one fan wrote on Reddit.
Some are cheering for Spyglass’ demise, unfollowing official accounts, and boycotting the studios’ current film, Thanksgiving. Fans on Letterboxd have been giving the film half a star in support of Barrera. When Scream 7 director Christopher Landon wrote “Everything sucks. Stop yelling,” on X, fans immediately took him to task, and he deleted the post.
Though they were both popular before, Spyglass has unintentionally turned Barrera and Ortega into heroes. The two women gained a combined 500,000 new Instagram followers in the two days following Barrera’s firing. Many fans are putting their moral principles above their desire to see a new film, and this beloved horror franchise now has unexpected political resonance. Could Wes Craven have ever predicted fans would create Ghostface art in the colors of the Palestinian flag?
If it wasn’t already clear, there is a vast disconnect between the people who make movies and those who watch them. The current iteration of the Scream franchise is aimed at smart, culturally aware young people, much like Jasmin Savoy Brown’s Letterboxd-loving character in the two most recent films. This is precisely the audience that Spyglass has alienated with their decision to fire Barrera.
Though some have questioned whether TikTok is somehow brainwashing young people into being pro-Palestine, TikTok claims that’s not the case. Indeed, Gallup polls indicate that young Americans were more likely to support Palestine than older folks long before TikTok existed. Polling from November suggests that the majority of voters under 35 sympathize with the Palestinian cause, and Scream fans are shoring up this data in real time.
Spyglass is already trying to remedy this PR disaster, hoping that Neve Campbell and Patrick Dempsey will return to the series. But Campbell opted not to return for the last film because her salary was too low, and fans now see that as another instance of Spyglass fumbling the bag. Indeed, many fans are hoping Campbell won’t return to the franchise, both out of respect for her worth and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
Why it matters
We can never truly separate fandom from politics, but the line between the two has become even more tenuous as of late. Recently, Harry Styles fans created the #HarrySpeakUp hashtag to urge Styles to make a statement and stand with Palestine. Certain Swifties have begun using the #SwiftiesForPalestine hashtag to encourage Taylor Swift to do the same.
Will these fan movements gain enough momentum to create real change? That remains to be seen. But Spyglass’ failure to account for the righteous anger of these Ghostface-loving fans may have been a fatal error.