I’m sure most of you are familiar with Christian Weston Chandler, otherwise known as Chris Chan. If not, consider yourselves lucky!
In all seriousness, Chris Chan is the infamous creator of a poorly-drawn webcomic known as Sonichu, the main character of which is a combination of Sonic the Hedgehog and Pikachu.
That would be bad enough as it is, but what makes this individual all the more infamous is the amount of internet and real-life drama he’s been involved in—the least, and most recent, of which was pepper spraying a GameStop employee after protesting the game Sonic Boom because Sonic’s arms were blue rather than their normal tan. (I wish I were making that up!)
I could go into detail of Chris Chan’s misadventures and internet antics and the amount of drama, trolling, and hate he’s received because of it, but I don’t have to. Just last year, an hour-long documentary was released chronicling both his life and internet infamy—albeit providing a more neutral and nuanced view than most other “credible” accounts (*cough* ED *cough*).
Even if you’re familiar with the internet “sensation” that is Chris Chan, I’d highly recommend watching this documentary, if not for any other reason than to get a more clearer view of him from another light. Even if you “hate” him, you might end up gaining some sympathy for him and start seeing him as the human (albeit flawed) being that he is:
There was a time in my life when I, like everyone else, viewed Chris Chan as just another source for “lulz”, as someone deserving of ridicule and shame; but after watching this documentary, I can’t help but feel guilty for having even thought of making fun of him.
If anything, I can’t help but see a little bit of myself in him.
Like Chris, I too am diagnosed with autism (Asperger’s Syndrome, more precisely), and I have a similar background to his: having grown up in a rural town, being raised and somewhat sheltered by my parents, and picked on and bullied throughout school. So who knows: if fate was not as kind, I could have easily turned out exactly like him.
As someone with autism, I can relate to the awkwardness of social interactions that Chris experienced throughout his life and which still plague him to this day, and I can also understand the sense of security that can come about through an obsession with something you enjoy, which in Chris’s case would be Sonic and Pokemon. When the world seems like a harsh place, it’s comforting to know that there’s at least one or two things you can find enjoyment and solace in.
So when I see Chris Chan say or do something that others would consider inappropriate, I can’t help but feel that it’s the result of him not knowing any better because of his social disorder and the sheltering by his parents. As someone on the autism spectrum, I can attest that it is somewhat difficult to determine appropriate social boundaries even with plenty of social experience.
And I also can’t help but feel that some of his more embarrassing moments and outbursts were simply triggered and instigated by the trolling (and I would even say outright bullying) from his haters. One has to wonder if Chris Chan would be in the situation that he is today if not for some random jerks on the internet having nothing better to do than pick on a random person suffering from mental issues and making fun of the low-hanging fruit that is his artwork.
And no, this is not to absolve Chris Chan of all of his actions. He has done plenty of abhorrent things for which his autism is not an excuse—and even despite his autism making it all the more difficult for him to pick up on social norms and boundaries, there have been plenty of inappropriate things he has done that even someone with autism should know is very well inappropriate behavior—again, the least of which being pepper-spraying a store employee!
And yes, before you inform me, I am very much aware of how Chris Chan views people with Asperger’s Syndrome such as myself. And yes, that is very much inexcusable and unacceptable!
Even then, I cannot help but feel bad for the guy. There may have been a time when I would have hated or ridiculed him; but now, I simply feel sorry for him. I can’t help but feel that, had he not received the trolling and hate that he has received, and thus have become wrapped up in this internet drama, that he could have gone on to live a more normal life.
I really hope more people watch this documentary and learn from it. Perhaps then more people will realize that, yes, the internet is indeed serious business, and what we do on there has the potential of ruining other people’s lives. Because when you make fun of someone on the internet, you're not just making fun of random zeroes and ones, but a real-life flesh-and-blood human being, and the pain inflicted on them is real and lasting.
To quote Fairy Oddparents, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words leave psychological wounds that never heal!”