Once upon a time, a boy named Milo decided that what he wanted more than anything was to be famous. The best shortcut, he decided, was to find the little monsters inside of people that make people hate things and feed them. Luckily, he knew of a small clubhouse full of very angry people with a long list of things they hated. So he knocked on their door. "Hello!" he said. "I hate all the people on your list too. You are right to hate those people! And you can trust me because I am on your list myself!"
This surprised the clubhouse. Milo liked other boys, and these very angry people had a mean rule that they hated boys who liked other boys. Milo thought that saying he liked boys would make the angry clubhouse feel especially right, because when someone you hate says you are right to hate them, it makes that part of you that hates things feel very, very good, and you end up loving them on accident.
Milo was right. The clubhouse would do whatever he said now.
One day, a comedian named Leslie Jones acted in a movie with the same name of a movie some children back in the 1980s loved. The movie was about four funny people who fought ghosts.
Milo and the clubhouse gang hated the new movie because the comedians were women and the clubhouse's number one rule was that women are not funny.
Black people were on the clubhouse's list too. Leslie Jones was black. "Perfect," thought Milo.
The boys in the clubhouse sent Leslie Jones hundreds of balloons. But they weren't nice balloons. They were mean balloons.
They sent her balloons with messages that said she was ugly and stupid and a girl and black. None of these were really bad things, though, so they tried again.
"Why do you think you are funny?" they wrote in big capital letters. "We are the only ones who know what is funny!"
But that wasn't good enough either. So they scribbled every one of those words they weren't allowed to say in school on the balloons and sent them to her. They sent her pictures of a dead gorilla, because they thought it was very funny to say that gorillas look like black people. They cheered. They were funny and Leslie Jones wasn't!
But somehow they still didn't feel good. It wasn't enough. "Maybe we will hurt you!" they wrote. Why not? It made them feel very strong and it was very, very funny!
Leslie Jones had worked hard to make a funny movie with some other funny people. She hoped people who watched the movie had a good time, and many did. Some people even cried from laughing so hard! But when she opened her door one morning, she found her house filled with hundreds and hundreds of balloons from the small angry clubhouse telling her every terrible thing she could imagine. She closed her door. She grew sad. Maybe she shouldn't have made that movie if it meant angry people wanted to hurt her.
She stopped sending out balloons.
By now, the balloon store had warned Milo that he needed to stop telling the clubhouse to send angry balloons. "You are hurting people," said the balloon store. "Nonsense," said Milo. "They are just balloons."
But other people cared very much and complained to the balloon store. They loved Leslie Jones and it made them sad to see someone who made them laugh in a silly movie about ghosts having to live in a house full of hate-balloons.
"You have broken the rules too many times," the balloon store told Milo. "We are not going to give you any more balloons."
The angry clubhouse got much, much angrier.
Soon Leslie Jones was sending balloons again. She went to the Olympics and sent joyful balloons about the athletes, praising them for their strength and talent and dedication. Her balloons were full of silliness and compliments.
Nothing made the angry clubhouse angrier than this. Milo had no balloons! How dare Leslie Jones be happy and funny and famous!
So someone in the clubhouse stole all of her secrets. He took everything she might not want other people to see and put it up on balloons all over the city so everyone could point and laugh at her. It would be the funniest thing! He wanted her to learn some lessons: The first was that it is wrong to be a comedian in a movie that some children in the 1980s loved. The second was that it is very bad to be a woman and black. The third was that only the clubhouse knows what is funny. The fourth is that it is wrong, if an angry clubhouse fills your house with balloons, to say this is not right. And the fifth is that if an angry clubhouse decides you are not funny, you must never, ever come back.
I will be a hero, the thief thought. And the funniest person ever!
Sadly for him, the angry clubhouse turned out to be much smaller than its members thought.
"It's okay," parents said to children who asked about the hate-balloons. "The clubhouse got confused along the way; someone told them being funny means hating things in a very loud voice. But that's just not right."
To show them what is right, when the world saw the thief's balloons with Leslie Jones' secrets, good people sent thousands of beautiful balloons to cover them up. "We love you, Leslie Jones," the balloons said. "Thank you for making us laugh."
What was happening? The angry clubhouse was still waiting for everyone to laugh at their funny joke. Where was Milo?
Milo finally appeared and told them what they wanted to hear, just as he always did. But they couldn't help noticing that he also told the rest of the world, in a loud nervous voice, that he did not have anything to do with all this. The world's greatest detectives started looking for the person who stole Leslie Jones' secrets. This is wrong and cruel, people said. We must do something about it.
The angry clubhouse grew nervous. If the balloon store hadn't taken Milo's balloons, they said, Leslie Jones might still have her secrets. It is her fault! If she hadn't had secrets, she wouldn't have had them stolen! "Maybe," the angry people said, "Leslie Jones stole her own pictures! Everyone knows she loves having her house full of balloons!"
But the world is big, and no one was listening.