by G. Brown
“SNL” star Leslie Jones is pretty much saying enough already with the Facebook flashbacks, Twitter conjuring up years old post to hit you over the head.
“The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah is the latest celeb to catch a lot of backlash for a joke he made while still performing stand up. In the routine, Noah said “All women of every race can be beautiful. And I know some of you are sitting there now going, ‘Oh Trevor, yeah, but I’ve never seen a beautiful Aborigine.” Noah made that joke five years ago and has since apologized and vowed never to repeat the joke again. The furor over the incident initially died down, but can resurface every time somebody retweets about it. There have been many criticisms and angry words targeted at the comedian and a call for Australians to boycott Noah’s show and any concerts he performs there.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen the director of the profitable Marvel’s franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy” fired for posts he made six years ago. Yes, they were tasteless and humorless though intended to be edgy and hilarious. We’ve seen Facebook posts cost government workers their jobs, politicians their elections and singers and actors some of their fans.
Jones has been in Noah’s position a time of two. She temporarily left Twitter after being harassed by racists following the release of “Ghostbusters”, but as a comedian she understands that lines are often crossed in pursuit of comedy. She recently gave her take on the social media backlashes while sitting down to talk with the ladies on “The View”. Jones said trying to slam comedians for old routines and jokes is “…so stupid. It’s just so dumb. I been doing comedy since 1986. You look back, y’all gonna see so much inappropriate … You can’t hold me accountable for what I said in 1987. I wasn’t smart.”
Jones wants to invoke a type of performer privilege that allows comedians a pass on previous posts, comments and jokes. She continued saying, “Stop holding comedians to this standard. Our job is to make the ugliest stuff funny. That’s our job. We are court jesters, we are clowns, that’s what we do. We come out and make this terrible situation laughable. Unless you want to cry for the rest of your life, you want to cry? We can cry if you want to.”
Jones’ point is valid. Part of the job for comedians is to say things that make people uncomfortable and to get us to laugh at some of the hard things in life. But drawing a line between who gets a pass and who doesn’t can be tricky territory. Are actors, comedians, performers all exempt for saying rude, off-color or controversial things while Mike the mechanic, Susie the saleslady and Bob the builder are held to a higher standard. What if a politician tries his hand at comedy by tweeting a tasteless joke, is he/she exempt from repercussions because they’re a public figure?
I get what Jones’ means, just like people calling police on Blacks for every breath they take, getting famous people fired for stuff they said five, ten or 20 years ago is getting out of hand. The push to get the director fired from that Marvel franchise was orchestrated by a right wing extremist said to be angry because the guy criticized Trump. The director apologized for his posts years ago and that should have been the end of it, but they got re-posted by a man on a mission to destroy him. Meanwhile, the man accusing him of pedophilia because of those old posts had actually been charged with rape though later cleared. What if someone pulls his old posts?
This is by no means a simple issue. People can use old posts as a weapon to destroy you, as a political platform to harm you or as a way to shame you. That can happen to anybody. We can’t say some deserve to be protected under a cloak of “famous actor, comedian or singer”, but ordinary folks should know better.