(Subtitles reworked by KimonoFlareonGX and News Idol)
(Chapter titles added as well) Prologue In online circles, the name “Sonichu” has become synonymous with delusional artistry, creative unoriginality, and poor drawing ability. And its creator is closely associated with the practice of trolling. Though most remain uncertain as to precisely why any of this is true. In fact, Sonichu has reached such levels of recognition that Sega’s marketing team has acknowledged the character. “Uh… This is on its own?” “Sonichu?” -“No.”
-[chuckles] At first, it’s difficult to understand how the comics came to receive so much attention. Especially when they are of such poor quality. It features artwork that looks like it was created by an elementary school child. And the panel structure is confusing. Sometimes relying on numbering the text blocks so that the reader can determine what text goes where. Even then, it’s difficult to follow. The writing, which often takes up so much space that Alan Moore is put to shame, uses and misuses college-level vocabulary, but then confusing grammar structures. The plot is nonsensical, the characters are shallow and one-dimensional, and the main protagonist is a self-insert of the author whom every other character loves and respects. Even the setting, CWCville, is named after his initials. So what about it garnered so much attention? What sets it apart from other terrible self-produced media? And how did it become such a popular social phenomenon? The answer has little to do with the comic itself, and much more to do with the person behind it, as well as the internet denizens who first discovered him. Chapter 1: Person of Interest On the Something Awful online forums, there’s a group of people who enjoy learning about, and communally teasing strange and often mentally handicapped people from a distance. Similar to the way that reality shows will gawk at people with strange, unique hobbies. In October of 2007, while discussing one person in particular, the topic was entirely derailed when a user off-handedly brought up someone else. They wrote their own real-life account of the person, stating quote: “This guy used to leave ‘business cards’ at my school’s library where he would hang out for hours looking for a ‘boyfriend-free girl’.” “This is how I first learned of him.” “From here, I developed something of an obsession, culminating last summer when I made a special trip to a gaming store and local hangout where he had posted he would be.” “He was every bit as aspergic as I had imagined.” “I present to you… Sonichu.” This statement was followed by a link to a website hosted on Tripod. Though the archived version of this website is mostly filled with broken JPEG images and seems largely lost, the posts from some of the forum members paint a bleak picture. One comments: “Well, I think that link gave my computer HIV. Don’t visit it if you value your sanity.” Another states: “His page reminds me of a grand mal seizure.” Likely referring to dazzling and mismatched colors common to personal websites of the time. This website was filled with hand-drawn Sonichu branding, as well as the first seven issues of the Sonichu comic. It was here also the interested party’s discovered the name of the man behind the creation: Christian Weston Chandler. In fact, it was difficult to miss. His name and his initials, CWC, were plastered all over the website in as many places as he could fit it. The forumites were quick to notice his embarrassing entry into a PlayStation PaRappa the Rapper contest. Which he had ungraciously lost, calling out the winner as “stupid” and “no-good” while parading a website of his own creation, declaring himself the winner. Chris [off-key]: Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind. Chris [off-key]: If you wanna test me, I’m sure you’ll find that all the things I teach ya… A couple of the members gave their own personal accounts of him as well, discussing how he got kicked out of a college one of them attended and that he “wears that Sonichu necklace everywhere he goes”. Some of the members, however, seemed unconvinced of Chris-chan’s authenticity. One states that, quote: “I’m pretty sure this is a relatively elaborate joke.” This disbelieving attitude continued, even when information was pulled from his completely public MySpace page, where it was learned that two years beforehand, he had been kicked out of Target for loitering. He describes this activity as, quote: “Hoping to find an 18 to 23 year old, boyfriend-free girl, like I usually do.” His demands for an eligible bachelorette were also on his MySpace page. They included that they be white, under 230 lbs., between the ages of 18 and 24, and smoke-free. The things he could not tolerate in a partner included the person being a smoker, an alcoholic, “real ugly”, low-functionally mentally-handicapped, seriously physically deformed, medium or dark chocolate, and autistic. Despite the dubious ethical nature of this list, the last point stands out especially, because he admits himself to being autistic. He closes these demands by saying, quote: “I apologize if I have touched any nerves that may cause sadness.” “I’m just being honest.” “But don’t fret. If you fit under any of these conditions, you can still help me by spreading a good word about me among the 18 to 24 year old boyfriend-free set.” “Thank you for your consideration. Have a nice day.” One user expresses sympathy, stating: “I know this is Something Awful, but at the end of the day he does have a disability.” “I took a quick glance at this and felt immediately sorry for the man.” These misgivings, however, couldn’t dissuade the interest that had set in. Chapter 2: Deluded Fantasy Inevitably, Christian was discovered by a different forum, 4chan, which had been popularized due to the way that all the users remain outwardly anonymous when posting. They began researching Christian on their own, and pored over his comics. It didn’t take long for them to discover that these comics served as less of a creative outlet for Christian, and more of a fantasy fulfillment. The first two issues seemed to focus on the eponymous Sonichu. A mashup of Sonic and Pikachu fighting Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic franchise. But by the third issue, the main character had effectively become Christian himself, with the villain being a woman named Mary Lee Walsh. This villain’s name and rough likeness are drawn from real-life sources. While Christian was in community college, he had posted signs around the main campus about his, quote: “Love Quest”, which included his stringent demands for a romantic partner. When Christian refused to stop posting these signs, as well as holding a similar sign while loitering in public, Walsh attempted to talk him down in her office. But this only resulted in Christian mailing a threatening drawing to Walsh’s house. He was then banned from the campus for a year, and required to take anger management classes as well as receive psychiatric help before being readmitted. Christian internalized this by demonizing her in his comics as a stereotypical Saturday-morning cartoon-style villain with the same name. Due to frequently being thrown out of malls and stores for loitering with his, quote: “Attraction Sign”, offending security guards and store managers are similarly demonized in the comics as villains for Christian to defeat, calling them “jerkops” and “manajerks” in a childish portmanteau involving the word “jerk”. Playing off of Christian’s hatred for homosexuals, members of 4chan began crafting crude, lewd drawings of the characters from his comics engaging in homoerotic situations. Along with this, a few candid photos of Christian were revealed from his favorite hangout, a game store called “The Game Place”. On November 3rd, only seven days after the original threat on Something Awful was written, a page about him was created on a website called “Encyclopedia Dramatica”. It’s difficult to describe the site itself. It functions very similarly to Wikipedia and even uses the same tools, with anybody able to edit or add to its entries. It often serves as a repository for information about online phenomena, albeit with a vulgar and purposefully insulting twist. On this page, the information discovered about Chris-Chan was collated, along with a picture of him at The Game Place and some of the homosexual fan-drawings of his characters. This page very quickly became one of the most popular on the website, and set in motion the exponential growth of interest in Christian Weston Chandler, as well as the efforts to tease and harass him. Chapter 3: False Praise It wasn’t long until Christian was alerted to the page made for him on Encyclopedia Dramatica. He initially seemed to misconstrue the attention, taking it to mean that his comics had increased in popularity. He also seemed to think that those talking ill of him on the Encyclopedia page were not malicious, merely misinformed. He proceeded to give a short autobiography about his life through a YouTube video, talking chiefly about his elementary school and middle school years, as well as what he calls his “high-functional autism”. Chris: And… one teacher in particular… Chris: …at Thomas middle school who I would like to give much kudos to… Chris: …who wa- who was… who I let- who not- would not only let me… who was a good… He closed the video by asking the viewers to edit the Encyclopedia page to be more positive towards him. Chris: Take them down. Please? I’m asking. Chris: …as an innocent victim of misunderstanding, just take down your webpages? Chris: Or edit them to positively, better reflect my feelings as an individual, as a person. Predictably, this attempt failed. And so he began editing the site himself. However, these edits were quickly outed as being his own, in part due to how out of place the writing was, but also because he referred to himself in the first person in these edits, and… …in some places, signed his name. The details he provided were numerous, and often extremely personal, including his failed attempt at romancing his friend Megan, poetry, diary entries, and his ownership of a sex doll named Officer Nasty. In time, all of the edits he made to the page will be confirmed by himself with testimony, and sometimes video evidence. He later would explain that he gave so much information away in a nonsensical attempt to force what he calls: “An Information Overload” Though what he meant by this is unclear. As far as the fascinated readers were concerned, they had struck gold. As a perplexing response to the homosexual imagery, he drew his own pornography and uploaded it to his page. Four were of his characters, but a fifth one was of him performing sexual acts on an unnamed girl as he gave a thumbs up. Some users thought this was one of Christian’s fantasies and not based on any real person, but he made it extremely clear that this subject was supposed to be one of his only friends: Megan. Chapter 4: Horde of Data The people reading Encyclopedia Dramatica, unsurprisingly, began to torment and tease Christian with the information he had provided to them. As long as Christian was reacting, they would continue poking. This began to bleed into his real life. He was summarily kicked from the church he attended when the pastor was alerted to Christian’s Encyclopedia Dramatica page. The other person alerted to his antics online was Megan in March of 2008, who noticed the lewd artwork Christian had drawn of her. Deeply disgusted by his actions, Megan had told him in an email that she believes that Christian, quote, “defiled her”. Christian’s tone-deaf email response has attempted to downplay and excuse what he did. Yet only served to reveal something even more repulsive about himself. He wrote: “Megan, I am sorry for uploading the drawing, and I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from making the mistake.” “Yet I do not regret drawing the drawing, because if I hadn’t released my frustrations in the creative sense,” “I might have actually done something really dumb and stupid.” Megan replied by asking: “What does that mean? Abducting me and raping me?” Chris also attempted to make her feel guilty, writing: “Megan, I really want to remain your friend, but I feel like growing more difficult with the emotional feeling of long distance between you and me.” “I feel sad, lonely, and rejected when you don’t allow me to be socially close to you, or even when you won’t talk to me.” By the end of April, Megan had seemingly cut all ties. Shortly after losing Megan, Christian was banned from his last bastion of socialization, The Game Place, for shouting at a child, and numerous other offenses. With The Game Place barred from him, Christian was left with very few ways of interacting with others. Meanwhile, people online began harassing Christian in strange and novel ways in order to elicit reactions from him, as well as to obtain more embarrassing information. Chris: [unintelligible] For example, one person pretended to be Christian, dressing similarly to him and making a Sonichu medallion similar to the one Christian wears, then produced videos in a reasonable facsimile of Christian’s stunted way of speaking. Many others went along with this, giving Christian the impression that this doppelganger was succeeding. In response, he began making videos himself giving out personal information as proof that he was the real one, including his phone number and home address. Chris: …that I am, indeed, the real Christian Weston Chandler. Chris: And that I am not that damn fucking impostor in BROWN! The most prevalent method to retrieve information, and arguably the most successful, was to pretend to be a woman interested in dating Christian. After easily winning Christian’s trust, they would leak the conversations and pictures they received on the forums to grow the ever-mounting horde of data on him. These conversations often had swaths of personal information freely given and often unbidden. Sexual information, photographs, and videos were often the most prized because of how ubiquitously embarrassing they were. One of these false girlfriends was able to convince Christian to mail his Sonichu medallion to him, whereupon he made a video of himself destroying it. Sometimes, however, Christian would simply give away information, such as his tendency to soil himself. Again and again, he would fall for the self-branded trolls. And as time wore on, he grew more and more embittered. This bitterness began leaking into his Sonichu comics, for which he believed there was now a wide fanbase thanks to all the attention he was receiving. He began inserting the trolls as villains in the same manner he had done to Mary Lee Walsh. Some even receiving their own arcs. Christian’s self-insert character also pushed farther into the spotlight, to the point that Sonichu only rarely would make an appearance anymore. Chapter 5: The War on Trolls The more information that was learned of Christian, the crisper the image of the man became. Christian’s existence was very childlike, with his parents, Bob and Barbara, caring for almost all of his needs and providing little incentive for him to be independent, while he wiled away his days creating things out of LEGOs and playing video games. Though he went to public school, he still seems to be socially maladjusted, likely due in part to his autism. Christian’s grasp on reality was tenuous, and he seemed to believe, at least in part, that the fictitious town of CWCville was real, and that he had the power to “curse” people. He lived in squalor. His parents were hoarders, with junk of all kinds piled up to the ceiling, eventually spilling out onto the front lawn. The Christmas tree stood in the same corner of the living room at all times of year, due to the amount of trash in the way, and video that Christian took of the shower showed it covered with bacteria and mold. One person remarked that he smelled of rotten watermelon, while others said he smelled like, quote: “Body odor masked with gallons of AXE”. His psychiatry papers from 2004 note that, quote: “He has been on anti-depressants for many years”. The psychologist went on to say that he may benefit from therapy, though it seems unlikely that he received it. The more these online bullies probed and teased, the more paranoid Christian became. He and his parents began to see everyone as a potential troll. And they seemed to sequester themselves off further and further from the outside world. Chris: I will hu- I will hunt you down, you damn, dirty trolls. Chris: This is war. [weak ululating] Despite his paranoia, he continued to fall for ill-conceived pranks while jumping from one false girlfriend to another for years. The more information he gave, the more persistent the pranksters became, which only fed the paranoia. When his father passed of a heart attack, Christian obliquely blamed it on the trolls and the stress they cause. Christian’s comics grew increasingly more vindictive. Death became a far more common theme as time wore on, and his fantasies turned from power to excessive violence. This grew worse and worse until Issue #10, where his most hated trolls are placed in a kangaroo court where they are immediately found guilty for somehow slighting Christian. Each of them is individually given their own torture scene. One is delivered an excruciatingly drawn-out death by electric chair, one is hung against the wall and shot by three different people, one is telekinetically twisted and deformed before his heart has exploded, and one has holes drilled into him by two other characters. One of whom is an extremely young child. The cycle of harassment came to a head on the 28th of October 2011, where he and his mother Barbara assaulted Michael Snyder, the owner of The Game Place, where Christian had been banned three years prior. Over the years, the Chandlers had come to believe that Michael Snyder was somehow behind the trolling attacks. Bob: …they threw him out.
Police officer: [inaudible] Bob: Mike’s been persecuting him for years, and I don’t like Mike… Bob: I’d like to speak to the owner of the place. Bob: I think he lives up there up the road from me… from Madison, or somewhere. Bob: This whole town is [inaudible] from the very beginning.
Police officer: Well, sir, the point is that… Bob: …with my son… Bob: I didn’t like him (Mike) to be honest, and I still don’t like him.
Police officer: Sir, I… Though the details are unclear, what is certain is that Christian and Barbara drove to the store and began taking photos of the interior and its owner, who was outside the building when the photos were taken. The two hit Snyder with their van and then began driving away. They were quickly stopped by the police, however, and were sent to court where, in April of the following year (2012), they were indicted. Barbara with failure to stop after an accident and assault on an officer, Christian with failure to stop, trespassing, and assault. Likely against Snyder. Each of them were put on probation and required to perform community service, along with paying Snyder’s medical bills. After this, Christian curbed his online presence, and focus on him dwindled. Over the next three years, Christian’s mental state continued to wither away. While both he and his mother grew more sedentary, junk continued to pile higher and higher while their physical health declined and their funds began to run dry. Much of it frittered away by Christian’s compulsive credit card spending. Chapter 6: Rediscovery On January 10th of 2014, interest in Christian increased again when his house caught fire. Though the cause of the fire was reported as unknown, Christian later revealed that it was caused by a cord plugged into a socket in the first floor bathroom. The insulation had worn away over time, and the heaps of junk had proven good fuel, spreading the flames. The firefighters were kept from the blaze for much longer than they should have, due to the amount of garbage piled in front of the doors and house, forcing them to use the windows. But this renewed online attention was short-lived. Even when he returned later that year to come out as a “lesbian identified male”, “intersex” and “cross-dressing tranny” (who still detested homosexual men), the consensus seemed mostly to be mild amusement rather than enraptured interest as it once had been. His delusion seemed to have not left him, as he had begun to campaign against Sonic’s arms being changed to a flesh tone to blue in the franchise’s most recent game, “Sonic Boom”. This eventually led him to pepper-spray the clothes of a GameStop employee, but even this couldn’t revive the fervor. There is still a section of internet denizens labeling themselves “Christorians”, who keep track of his activities and collate them, but the tone seems to have shifted from that of bullying to a distant fascination. The output of comics has reached a sluggish pace, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll make more or not. Though he still lives with failing health, the heyday of trolling has come to an anticlimactic close. The phenomenon that is Christian Weston Chandler now serves as a case study of online harassment, while the man himself stands as a symbol of delusion and spite. His story is a lesson: The internet does not forget. Hey, guys. Thanks for watching. It is… 2:08 AM. I’ve been working on this for the better part of the last… two or three days. And I am tired. I am going to sleep as soon as I am done with this. But… if you missed the first “Down the Rabbit Hole” video, you can click on that video right there. …and that’ll take you to it. It’s about Digital Homicide studios. This… delusional game studio, it’s fascinating. And if you want to follow me on Twitter, you can click on that button right there and get updates… …on when I’m making new videos, like the process of making new ones, like where I am on the process. Um… I have decided that… two weeks between videos is way too long. I, I don’t want people, like, waiting. Y’know, wondering, y’know: “Oh God, is Fred dead?” “Did he get bored of making videos?”, I gotta… I don’t wanna do that. So… I wanna make unscripted videos, ‘cuz I’m working with these… …ideas for, y’know, 30 hours total. and I have a lot of ideas, and I wanna share those in sort of an unscripted format. And… I- I- There’s so much I have to gloss over, so much that’s also worth sharing and talking about, and so I wanna do in between… …the “Down the Rabbit Hole” videos I want to do, um… …sort of opinion pieces, personal thoughts on the subject matters, ‘cuz… “Down the Rabbit Hole”‘s so clinical about it. Anyways, that’s gonna be coming up next week. And until then, I will catch you later.