There is no such thing as redemption in the politically correct age
22 July 2018
One moment you’re helming the third entry in a billion-dollar franchise under the Disney corporation, the next, you’re out of a job and being called a paedophile by strangers on Twitter. Internet justice is a funny thing. Nowadays, it is as swift as it is devastating. Our culture of naming and shaming, combined with your inescapable social media rap sheet, has imbued internet sleuths with more power than ever.
It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Despite my criticisms of it, I am glad that the general atmosphere of the #MeToo movement has allowed victims the ability to share their stories, be heard, and perhaps bring dangerous men and women to justice. However, that’s the idealised version of how Me Too and PC (political correctness) are supposed to work.
Innocents have gotten swept up in the mix. Those who aren’t exactly innocent, but not guilty of anything substantial, have also found themselves struck by the tide.
The recent firing of James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 certainly gave me pause. The film was to be the final entry in the wildly popular trilogy that Gunn had written and directed. It’s not the first time someone has been sacked from their own creation. It hasn’t even been two months since Roseanne Barr found herself booted from the series that bore her name.
The two cases are disturbingly alike.
Both involve influential Hollywood figures falling from their studio’s good graces due to offensive tweets. Both sets of tweets were meant to be jokes. A seemingly genuine apology had been received from both Barr and Gunn for their tasteless humour. A few years ago, the apologies alone would’ve been enough to secure their positions. Nowadays, no expression of regret will help you in keeping your head.
When Roseanne was cancelled and its eponymous celebrity disgraced, I didn’t think much of the wider implications at play. I sided with ABC’s decision to remove the star after she made a racist (unbeknownst to her apparently) comment about a black woman who had worked under the Obama administration.
I care deeply about the preservation of free speech, but I also believe companies should be able to fire individuals whose behaviour and antics reflect poorly upon the brand and company they represent. Roseanne was the star of a family-friendly television show, and she had just made a statement that mockingly compared a black woman to an ape.
I would’ve fired her as well.
But in light of the recent situation concerning James Gunn, I’ve become worried about the extent to which someone can be fired due to conduct outside of their work. Gunn’s tweets, his jokes about paedophilia and a range of other viciously offensive topics, were from years ago—some from over a decade. It was only when individuals purposely went through his social media history to find damning information did these tweets come to light.
By firing Gunn, Disney has set the precedent that time and role do not matter in these situations, as not only were his tweets from many years ago, but the man himself works behind the camera and is barely in the limelight of Hollywood. Gunn is not an onscreen superhero like Robert Downey Jr. is for Iron Man, whose image is sold to the masses through toys and media.
If we were able to let Downey come back to our screens after years of drug abuse and arrests, surely we can now let this director get back behind the camera after a handful of tasteless jokes.
In this day and age, however, it’s not surprising to me why people aren’t quick to let Gunn pass this off as old behaviour. For the left, that would vindicate President Trump’s notion of locker-room talk and any other past indiscretions of his that took place over a decade ago. For the right, this is their chance to use the progressive mob against itself, as they blindly ravage one of their own.
As much as I would love the leftist mob mentality to destroy anybody who chooses to partake in it, I know that the collateral damage will be too much for all of us. The man who was apparently responsible for digging up Gunn’s old tweets is now having his own Twitter history sifted through.
At its heart, this is not an issue about how easy it is to get fired by companies wanting to protect their brand. Ultimately, the businesses respond to what we, the consumers want. And right now, we are a culture obsessed with outrage.
When a right-wing or moderate figure crosses the politically correct boundary line, the progressives are quick to seize the opportunity and bring that person’s life crashing down. Now, members of the right have realised they can use that same trick against their opponents.
Soon enough, we’ll be living under the constant fear that our livelihoods can be put in jeopardy if we ever speak or have spoken out of line.
The only way to beat this is for all of us to disengage from the cycle, regardless of which side does it first. Because if history has taught us anything, the executioners eventually become the executed. The Revolution devours its children.