Rian Johnson, writer-director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and helmer of a new trilogy set in the Star Wars universe, has purged his Twitter account of 20,000 tweets.
Coming right after the firing of James Gunn from Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3 following the unearthing of some offensive tweets, it’s hard not to connect the two events. Marvel and Star Wars are of course both owned by Disney.
There seems to be a movement going on among the far right to dig through the archives of high-status people they dislike to try and find something they can create controversy around. Dan Harmon of Rick And Morty has deleted his Twitter account following the unearthing of a decade-old offensive sketch. Both Harmon and Gunn are outspoken critics of Donald Trump, something which hasn’t endeared them to the right wing.
Anyone who’s posted 20,000 tweets is bound to have said something which could be taken out of context and presented as problematic – a jokey reply to someone that both parties know is meant in jest, a sarcastic message that if one pretends to not understand sarcasm could be read as offensive, even an endorsement of or interaction with someone who later turned out to be a bit dodgy – which sadly, over a Hollywood career, is a near-inevitability. Is Rian Johnson just ditching the whole lot so nobody can find something to claim they’re horrifically offended by and campaign for him to be sacked from Star Wars or is there something else? Johnson is a writer, and as such sometimes uses literary devices like “jokes”, “irony” and “sarcasm”, all of which can be wilfully misinterpreted.
It’s worth pointing out that in both Gunn and Harmon’s cases, the offensive material in question was incredibly hard to find. Harmon’s video was long deleted and Gunn’s tweets were ten years old, although obviously their content is pretty gross.
Whether or not something being a misguided attempt at humour should be blown up into such proportions is open to debate, and indeed it is one that a lot of people are currently having, what does make the whole thing more divisive however is where these offensive discoveries are originating from, and largely, they appear to have political motivations.
The man who brought to light Gunn’s controversial tweets is the far right personality Mike Cernovich, a noted misogynist who has previously claimed that date rape doesn’t exist and once tweeted “Who cares about breast cancer and rape? Not me.” He regularly accuses politicians and celebrities of being paedophiles, and claims that diversity is “code for white genocide”. He was once charged with rape, a charge that was later reduced to misdemeanor battery, and offers advice to men on his blog as to how to avoid rape charges. Despite his rampant misogyny, Cernovich owes his living to the hard work of a woman – his ex-wife was a powerful Silicon Valley attorney, and he received a large settlement when they divorced. Cernovich’s unearthed tweets by Gunn’s led to the directors firing within a matter of hours.
Clearly the fact that Cernovich has some incredibly questionable opinions doesn’t negate the fact that Dan Harmon’s sketch was incredibly crude and unecessary or that Gunn’s disgusting peadophile jokes are incredibly uncool, but it does make you wonder if the motives behind ‘rediscovering’ them are entirely for the moral good.
But why would the Far Right target Rian Johnson? Well, he made different decisions in their favourite space puppet film than they would have made, including giving too much screen time to characters who were neither white nor male, and giving some of these female characters what they perceived as too much power. It’s unrealistic, they said especially in the dainty hands of small women. Ok, they might not have said it just like that, but the sentiment was fairly clear. The previous films, with the slug warlord, physics-defying light that stops after two feet and archery gorilla were grounded in realism, and giving an Asian woman lines apparently ruins that.
Campaigns of varying degrees of stupidity were launched against him and his work by individuals and groups upset that concepts like diversity have been brought to the Star Wars films. There was a petition, a campaign to “hack” Rotten Tomatoes, and a fan-made edit of the film where they got rid of all the women, and similarly laughable efforts. Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose in The Last Jedi, was also bullied into closing all of her social media accounts after racist, misogynistic targeted campaigns.
And now, two prominent creative figures, left-wing Hollywood voices and outspoken critics of Donald Trump have had genuine damage done to their careers by this “dig deep and find offence” MO, so you can’t really blame Rian Johnson for deleting his tweets. While it’s unlikely there was anything in there comparable to Gunn or Harmon’s jokes, you can see why he’d be paranoid – one long-forgotten in-jokey tweet could be used to take him away from his dream job.