Scott Cawthon, creator of the Five Nights At Freddy’s series, went viral over the weekend after his political donations were publicized on Twitter. The donation list was a who’s who of homophobic and transphobic lawmakers including Tulsi Gabbard, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump. Fans reacted to Cawthon with a mix of anger and feelings of betrayal, while others left messages of support on social media trending the hashtag #istandwithscott on Twitter.
Scott Cawthon created the Five Nights At Freddy’s series back in 2014. Since then, his horror franchise about being stuck in a pizza parlor with murderous animatronics has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, books, and a movie. The latest FNAF game, Five Nights At Freddy’s: Security Breach, is being made by Steel Wool Studios and is expected to be released sometime this year.
Cawthon responded to the backlash with a lengthy post on the Five Nights At Freddy’s subreddit expressing love for his LGBTQIA+ fans and shock at the angry responses he received.
“I’d like to think that the last seven years would have given me the benefit of the doubt in regards to how I try to treat people,” Cawthon wrote in the now-locked Reddit thread.
Cawthon also stood by his decision to donate to Donald Trump and other anti-LGBTQIA+ Republicans, saying,
“Even if there were candidates who had better things to say to the LGBT community directly, and bigger promises to make, I believed that their stances on other issues would have ended up doing much greater harm to those communities than good.”
Cawthon wrote that in the aftermath of his donation disclosure, he and his family had been doxxed with people threatening to come to his house.
I unequivocally agree that Cawthon should not have to suffer threats to his family’s safety because of his political affiliations. And of course Cawthon is entitled to support whatever candidates he pleases. But his insistence that he loves his fans and that his personal actions regarding whom he’s hired, worked with, and befriended over the years should speak louder than his political donations makes no sense.
I’ve never met Cawthon. I’ve played and enjoyed his games, and from the fan testimonies I’ve seen online, I’ve no doubt that he is every bit the genuine and kind person people say he is.
But none of that excuses the irreparable harm he’s done to the people he purports to love.
There’s an unfortunate but prevailing sentiment among non-marginalized people that in order for one to be racist, homophobic, or transphobic, one must be an active and malicious participant in racist, homophobic, or transphobic actions, or shun the people racism and homophobia affects. It’s the “Black friend” defense. Cawthon can’t be homophobic or transphobic, look at all the LGBTQIA+ people he’s befriended.
“I’ve never cared about anyone’s race, religion, gender, or orientation,” Cawthon wrote. “I just treat people as people, everyone the same, and because of that, I’ve ended up with a very diverse group of people that I’ve worked with over the years.”
But like racism, the rampant homophobia and transphobia in this country is systemic. It is a vast network of laws and practices that work together to oppress marginalized groups. And because it is systemic, only systemic action can reverse it. That means passing laws that protect the rights of people of the LGBTQIA+ community. It also means not supporting the kinds of people that vote for laws that disenfranchise these communities. It doesn’t matter that Cawthon has so many diverse friends, because his donations enabled the continued oppression of those friends.
Here’s some greatest hits from his chosen candidates:
This is Republican Mitch McConnell. He’s the Senate minority leader, and the politician who received Cawthon’s largest donation, $5,000—almost twice as much as the next-highest recipient. Just last week, McConnell said he opposed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—a bill that seeks to expand voting access and to stop states like Georgia and Florida from imposing voter restrictions that predominantly affect people of color. He’s also responsible for the confirmation of a number of anti-LGBTQIA+ judicial nominees.
This is Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard is the lone Democrat on Cawthon’s list, receiving $2,500. In 2020, Gabbard introduced a bill that would make it illegal “to permit a person whose biological sex at birth is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.” The bill would effectively ban trans women and girls from participation in high school or college sports.
This is former Housing and Urban development secretary Ben Carson. In 2019, he and President Donald Trump tried to impose a rule critics said could have prohibited trans women from seeking refuge in federally funded women’s homeless shelters.
And here’s Donald Trump. The former president who:
Oh, he’s responsible for this, too:
So while Cawthon could be the loveliest person that walked God’s earth, the fact that he willingly enabled, with thousands of dollars, the people directly responsible for making queer peoples’ lives objectively worse undermines whatever his personal feelings are for his queer fans.
Cawthon was unapologetic, and seemed unbothered that he might suffer negative consequences for his actions.
“If I get cancelled, then I get cancelled,” he wrote. “I don’t do this for the money anymore; I do it because I enjoy it.”
He also expressed that the outcry against him has made him consider retiring from video game development.
“If people think I’m doing more harm than good now, then maybe it’s better that I get cancelled and retire.”
He ended his statement by reaffirming his love for the Five Nights At Freddy’s community, writing, “I have always loved, and will continue to love, this community and this fanbase, even if someday it doesn’t include me anymore.”
But Cawthon’s declaration of love for his queer fans is in direct opposition to his actions. As such he can’t really claim to love them at all. That he does is a fundamental misunderstanding of how hate works in this country, and his own culpability in it.