Beloved by some and vilified by others, Cleveland, Ohio insurance analyst, game show champion, public speaker, nerd, and political pundit Arthur Chu is a complex figure. First gaining notoriety and infamy as an eleven-time Jeopardy! champion known for jumping around the board at will instead of sticking to a single category and making outrageous wagers, he became a target of racist attacks and catty observances, leading to his becoming a social media phenomenon. He parlayed that phenomenon into becoming a social activist and blogger, getting involved in squabbles over Gamergate, ingrained societal misogyny, and nerd entitlement. Chu, a self-professed angry man by nature, stands up for what he believes in, but as filmmakers Yu Gu and Scott Drucker suggest, Chu’s anger and lack of self-awareness might come at a massive personal cost.
Who is Arthur Chu? is a mostly compelling character study of a complicated, occasionally unlikable, and passionate human being who doesn’t realize he keeps falling into the same troll baited traps over and over again. Like most controversial human beings, if one digs deep enough, they’ll find something that touches a nerve or makes them appear human. Chu doesn’t seem like he wants to appear human, but his empathy is often what gets him into the most trouble, and if one were to look closely at his relationship to his wife or his father, a different story is told.
A little bit of Chu goes a long way, and I guess that’s my way of saying that Who is Arthur Chu? gets a bit long in the tooth down the stretch. It also has a major, unexplained gap in the story that’s barely touched on going into the climax, but feels like it should be a bigger part of the story. But as a depiction of a very specific sort of internet personality that has become more and more prevalent in recent years – someone who straddles the line between being a fervent Social Justice Warrior while also being an arrogant human being drunk on fame and power – this has the potential to be a film that ages quite well. It’s about Arthur Chu, but between the lines it’s about a lot of other people who never get mentioned but are equally problematic.