Who is Arthur Chu? follows a man named…you guessed it…Arthur Chu, a young Asian-American who rose to a certain level of fame after becoming an 11 time champion on the US quiz show Jeopardy!, earning himself just shy of three hundred thousand dollars.
Chu was known for the rather unorthodox and arguably controversial way in which he played the game, having worked out a system for winning and employing tactics that many fans deemed not in keeping with the traditions of the show. Thus, he was dubbed the “Jeopardy! Villain” and as the wins kept coming, so did a torrent of horrific online abuse regarding his race, appearance and other aspects of his life.
Since gaining his somewhat unlikely celebrity status, Chu has tried to use his newfound public persona as a platform to drive positive social change and discussion around such topics as nerd culture and its problems with online bullying, sexism and racism, most notably concerning the #GamerGate controversy. While his strong opinions have gained him a substantial fanbase, they have also brought an onslaught of online abuse and throughout the film we get to see a selection of the actual tweets, which are deplorable, that Arthur has had to endure.
We meet Arthur after Jeopardy! as he is on his way towards becoming a social commentator and Arthur Chu is an interesting subject to watch. He does not come across as the most likeable person, at times seeming arrogant, unapologetic or even self-righteous in his views. Despite his strong support for women’s rights, there are times when he seems neglectful of his supportive wife Elisa, herself suffering from fibromyalgia and struggling with aspirations of her own. Some of the hardest moments to watch are when Elisa is baring her soul to the camera, all the while Arthur sits glued to his Twitter feed.
But this is a great move from #filmmakers Scott Drucker and Yu Gu. We are not asked to like Arthur, but rather understand why he is the way that he is. Raised by traditional Chinese parents, Arthur’s reluctance to adhere to the typical traditions of his heritage such as honour and politeness cause strains between Arthur and his family, and an extremely uncomfortable scene where Arthur meets his father for dinner is one of the most captivating and saddest moments of the film. The film tracks the number of twitter followers Arthur has at a given moment as a decent way of establishing a timeline of events, however there are issues with pace. Home video footage interspersed throughout show us Arthur’s early life but ultimately doesn’t add anything to the film, instead bringing down the overall tempo, but thankfully it is often able to pick itself back up
Who is Arthur Chu? is an honest and frank look at the real person behind a public image and asks us to understand why they are who they are, while also shining a light on the darker side of social media and the effects abusive comments can have on the people they are directed at.
Drucker and Gu have managed to make their uncompromising character engaging even if he is not altogether likeable in a film that raises many important issues that are in much need of discussion.