"They're all retch and no vomit!" Writer-comedians Catherine Deveny and Van Badham have a warts-and-all battle against internet trolls
Is fighting trolls like ‘choose your own adventure’? Are there multiple ways to take on trolls or do you advocate only one?
Catherine: Personally, my take is "no oxygen". Block, delete, unfriend, ban... or in the case of Andrew Bolt, Channel 9, Today Tonight or any of those shock jocks, switch off, don't buy, disengage. The opposite of love is not hate – it's indifference.
Van: I've been on a journey to come around to Catherine's point of view. I used to be very engaged in trollfighting on Twitter – when a troll sends you explicit porn with the caption "this is what your father thought of you" on the day of your dad's funeral, it can be an emotional struggle to resist unleashing a full arsenal of withering comment. Thing is, you come to realise that those guys are on a hiding to nothing in that kind of warfare – Dev and I are writers and comedians with entire lifetimes of rhetorical experience and all those pricks have at the end of the day is "you're ugly".
Catherine: As far as the show goes – well, there'd be no show if we just went "no oxygen". So "The Trollhunter" is a battle-axe wielding, kamikaze warrior stand-up extravaganza where we use actual materials from our real trolls to reveal the ubiquity of this behaviour. It's not about being a woman with out-there opinions, either – a 15 year old girl talking about her favourite nailpolish will cop it as well. The show is a relentless procession of OMGs, LOLs and NSFWs taking the piss and pricking the pomposity of these tiny, tragic, envious little men – who generally live in Perth or on the Sunshine Coast.
What did trolls do before they discovered how to type?
Catherine: They went to the pub and got together and talked about how "all women are bitches" and controlled them with words like "slut", "too big for your boots, missy" and "pipe down, princess". And if they had any money or power they did whatever they could to shut down anyone who wasn't a wealthy, white, straight or straight-acting, god-fearing or pretending man.
Van: I think they masturbated in cars.
Catherine: They just hatewank over us. That's what it's really about.
What are your favourite weapons?
Catherine: Truth. Happiness. Passion... and the knowledge that no matter how angry, bitter, miserable or envious I became I would never stoop to doing those things or being like those people. And knowing that what they say says nothing about me or anyone they're directing their comments to – but everything about them.
Van: In my brain, when I go to rhetorical war with these people, I'm an acrobatic ninja who uses the weapons of the warrior Guan Yu to fillet them, flesh from bone – that's a small stave with a good blade and some throwing daggers strapped to my thighs. Day to day, I use the "block" and "report" buttons and I am not shy of going to the police when it crosses a line.
Who is the fiercer out of the pair of you?
Van: Well, Dev's been to Afghanistan with Peter Reith and Angry Anderson, which would kill any normal person. She's had cancer and given birth in a bath and pulled the baby out with her bare hands.
Catherine: I worked for Fairfax for five years. That's my biggest triumph.
Van: That's pretty fierce, man.
Catherine: Van grew up in a bogan ghetto and survived extreme partygirl behaviour that made Girls Gone Wild look like the Night Garden.
Van: I put myself in hospital 11 times in five years. That was whacky.
Catherine: If she was born a hundred years ago, she would have been drowned, burnt at the stake or institutionalised. Her searing intellect, supreme talent and awesome rack have survived the cultural and social obstacle course that's being someone who walks the earth with an opinion and a vagina.
Van: I wouldn't fuck with Dev. She's pretty handy in a knife-fight.
Is there one troll that is more obnoxious than any other?
Van: Catherine's taught me this word "boysuck", which describes the saddest kind of troll to me. That's the woman who cheers on or joins in the bullying of other women thinking it will make male trolls like or esteem her. I live by the motto "sisters before blisters" and the pity you have for girls willing blisters all over them is kinda heartbreaking.
Can we win the fight?
Catherine: We've won it. When you're getting up people's noses... when dumb, boring, envious morons are threatening you with rape and death for merely saying something they don't like, you know you've won. The thing is, these guys are anonymous – from the thousands and thousands and thousands of threats that I've had, I've never seen one face... and their promises to protest, turn up to my gigs and make trouble – they've never made good. Toothless tigers. I'm an 85kg, size 16 mother of three – I'm physically large, I'm strong, I'm not an 18 year old girl from the country who still thinks the most important thing is to be nice and kind and placate... I'm just not going to spend any time thinking about them because they're all retch and no vomit.
Van: The nastiness of the hate is the last gasp of dudes who can't rely on being white and male and straight to give them authority anymore. Every negative comment just affirms their fear that they now have to go out and earn the things they used to just be given. It's an exciting time.
ADDENDUM: Catherine suggests you check out Lewis' Law: the idea that the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.