Philadelphians Heckle Another Minor Celeb into Liking Our City

Mara Wilson (yes, the woman who was in Matilda as a child) tweeted disparaging things about Philadelphians. Then the usual happened.

Mara Wilson headshot

Photo by Ari Scott/Penguin Books

Mara Wilson is a writer whose recent debut for Penguin, Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, was well-reviewed. A regular on the New York storytelling scene, she is best known as the child actress who starred in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda in the 1990s.

Yesterday, she tweeted something mean about Philadelphians.

Later, she added: “Everyone I know from Philadelphia is either the nicest person is the world or the biggest asshole.” Even worse, she disparaged our fair city in relation to New York: “It’s not the same kind of passionate, impulsive, get out of my way ‘Hey, I’m walkin’ here’ New York assholitude. It’s unearned.” As if Philadelphia assholes are some sort of lesser species than the brand of asshole that brought us President-elect Donald J. Trump.

The kicker to her initial Twitter rant was what you might expect if you follow these things: “Lot of Philadelphia people in my mentions proving my point, by the way.”

Who knows what happened to Wilson that precipitated her anti-Philadelphian tweet (she declined comment to media outlets). But it almost does not matter. It is a strange thing when someone disparages Philadelphia on the Internet. If you are of any notability at all, or you have a lot of followers on Twitter, within an instant of your slander of Philadelphia you will be immediately attacked from all sides. Or, as Wilson puts it:

She seemed to take it pretty well, at least. Plenty of the replies to Wilson’s original tweet were over-the-top, disrespectful and/or inappropriate. Philadelphians take offhand insults to Philadelphia seriously. I get why. Philadelphia is generally unfairly maligned by national media that is largely based in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles. This gets grating after a while. I’d like to say we should just ignore it all, but I’m the one writing an article about what the girl from Matilda said about Philly on Twitter.

And so sometimes we’re babies about it, like the people whining about how Philly sports fans are perceived every time there is a tragedy at a sporting event that’s not Philadelphia. (As you might’ve guessed already, some of those replies to Wilson’s tweet involved references to throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, an event that took place before man had walked on the moon. More seasoned veterans of the Philadelphia hate genre will know some people also recalled it as “booing Santa” or “throwing batteries at Santa.”) I mean, the Inquirer and Philly Voice beat me to this story.

During the Democratic National Convention, media members complained constantly about Philadelphia and the Wells Fargo Center’s distance from Center City. Philadelphians responded in force. And then a funny thing happened: Some people were shown the error of their ways, and recanted. I wrote about several instances where journalists recanted and decided, “Wait, actually, I like Philadelphia, whoops, please leave me alone.”

That’s right: She even walked back her comparison of Philadelphians to New Yorkers. As we’ve seen in the past, a bunch of people with Eagles avatars yelling at you does make you say nice things about Philadelphia. I don’t know how this works. I don’t know if it should work.

Civic pride is a weird thing. Philadelphians are so famous for hating their own city that there was an ad campaign that said “Philadelphia isn’t as bad as Philadelphians say it is.” But Philadelphians also tend to act like they’re the only ones who get to criticize the city.

It’s really silly to get all worked up and heckle a writer and child actress from the ’90s over a random tweet she wrote. But Philadelphians are silly people. This type of thing will never end. I guess one could avoid it by not calling Philadelphians assholes, but maybe not even then.