Last week we retweeted Jessica Lucas’s Input article “How TikTok heartthrob William White’s thirsty fandom turned toxic” and got some curious replies and DMs from women in the Will White fandom with the general sentiment of “her article is just the tip of the iceberg.”
So, we did what any scandal-curious amateur reporters would do, and put out a call for details/info and gosh, was that a journey down a rabbit hole.
P.S. If you haven’t already, definitely read Jessica’s article so you have full context for the piece below.
While it’s true that a lot wasn’t necessarily covered in Jessica’s article, it’s best staying that way because at the core of this piece is a 22-year old, very real guy. He has, like myself, been very candid about his struggles with mental health so none of those topics are ones I feel comfortable covering for the aforementioned reason.
While Will White reminds me a bit too much of the lacrosse bros that broke my heart in college or ghosted me in my early 20s, I can objectively see the appeal for why these fans love him. It digs up some embarrassing memories of being a huge Clay Aiken fan when I was a freshman in high school (💀😂) and attending some CD launch parties where it was myself and a bunch of women in their 50s-60s. They’d knit him scarves, send him birthday cards, etc.— it was all very wholesome. There was also a group that called themselves the Claymates (again 💀💀💀) and there were also a few fans that got called out for doing inappropriate or extreme things (I can’t for the life of me remember what they were, though!).
So now, ~18 years later, while reminiscent of the Clay fandom, the Will White fandom also exists in the world of TikTok, Twitter, OnlyFans, and just generally 💫 the Internet 💫, which makes for more opportunities of connection and mischief. And from what I’ve seen, the majority of Will’s fanbase are very lovely women who really appreciate him for a myriad reasons—this one being one of the most beautifully articulated, saying Will “helped us remember a time in our lives before we were buried under the weight of a global pandemic, parenthood, work, health issues, trauma, or loss."
As mentioned above, all the women have incredible reasons for why they’ve connected so deeply with Will’s content and many are happy to show their appreciation by sending physical or financial gifts but they do get heat on the internet for doing so. And while I won’t be sending Will any longboards or tipping him on TikTok, it’s actually not weird that they’re deciding to do so. We at The Wreck List also financially support our favorite creators— paying monthly for the Cheap Old Houses and the Small Town Murder Patreons. So tipping creators isn’t lame or sad, it’s actually pretty cool. Besides, women being generous cougars online actually is straight-up-boring when remembering that people bought fart jars from 90 Day Fiancé’s Stephanie Matto.
But this is where things really start to get a bit tricky. While tipping and supporting creators isn’t a new concept, it’s generally done in appreciation for the creator’s craft, rather than as part of an expectation for something in return. Unfortunately for some in the Will White fandom, their gifts seem to come with strings attached, which seems to make for some arguably uncomfortable dynamics between Will and his fans (this video is interesting).
This strange dynamic is only part of why the Will White fandom ended up getting the Internet-exposé treatment and we experienced the full extent of the madness firsthand. And as a result, I’d argue that the reputation comes from overzealous fans that while appear to be a minority, are aggressive and loud enough to cause a significant disruption across the fandom.
So everything I’m about to speak to below applies to to that small segment of Will White’s fandom.
The trolls come from both sides with pitchforks out (the tips are probably poisoned too). And yet while “sides” of the trolls were identified in Jessicas’s article, I personally struggle to identify which side each troll belongs to, unless it’s in the context between the alliances they’ve formed with other trolls. It’s also sort of tough to understand the motivations of each side. It seems the two sides are split because of disagreements relating to: sexualizing Will, the level of criticism for Will, and whether or not Will is exploiting the community for financial gain. You can hear more history about the fandom via the GenXtemporaneous podcast.
I offered folks on the side that felt like their story hadn’t been addressed in the Input article to contact The Wreck List to share their truth. And it was because of this that I got to fully witness first-hand the irony of why Will White’s fandom has such a bad reputation, even with the few dozen trolls. Let me tell you, it’s because this very small group is very, very, loud and appallingly aggressive.
I tuned into Twitter Spaces on Friday night (I know, I’m cool) and let me tell you, it was like Hatfields and McCoys on the internet. I was absolutely riveted during the 4+ hour online argument because IT WAS INSANE. About 100 people tuned in and listened to about a dozen trolls from both side of the aisles rehash the terrible behavior of the other. Whether downloading someone’s nudes from her OnlyFans and forwarding them to her son or threatening to blackmail employers this behavior is done all in the name of being fans of and “defending” a 22 year-old-guy.
And the trolling and incendiary vitriol isn’t reserved to insiders within the fandom. Right before the Twitter Spaces, a woman who’d engaged with my tweets was clearly a passionate fan of Will’s so I invited her to DM me and the following unedited conversation ensued. A note: I’ve reconfirmed several times that this conversation is properly ordered, it’s just chaotic. Also, while we’re not ashamed to publish receipts, we’re classy and protect identities.
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And there you have it— the handful of fans like this woman, my friends, is why Will White’s fandom has such a bad reputation. Not because of the majority, but because of the painfully loud, obnoxious few that insist that their torch-wielding, threat-slinging is in defense of a 22 year old guy. So as also wondered by the woman in my DMs, I’d like to end this piece wondering, “how middle aged women become vile internet trolls.”
Huh. If only there were someone who could speak to this. 🤔
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This is CRAZY! And sadly why I am addicted to this social experiment.
His fans are NOT destroying him. I feel this is just a small amount of Wills fans that get seen. I feel he has fans on many different spectrums that are just there to support him in their own way while he is trying to decide what to do with his life. Everyone feels they know what is right or wrong for him. Only William can make those decisions. As for the fighting its gotten out of hand and I feel that you are either a fan or not. We are not his mothers we are fans and we love him for who he is whether people understand it or not We are called old crazy grannies but most of us are older yes but we are professionals and respectable women who enjoy how this young man has shown us love and respect and has made us feel young again. I'm not complaining but noone told me about this article and just wanted to tell my story Thank you 😊