FOR CREATORS of pop content, the social media reckoning is in full swing.
Right on the heels of Disney firing James Gunn from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” over “indefensible” tweets from as far as a decade back, “Rick and Morty” co-creator Dan Harmon is weathering his own social-media storm.
In 2009, Harmon made a two-part satire — briefly posted to his Channel 101 website — titled “Daryl,” which spoofed the murderous Showtime drama “Dexter.” Last week, video resurfaced online from Harmon’s five-minute parody, in which the title character goes back in time and sexually assaults serial killers when they were younger. In the unearthed video, Vulture reports, Harmon also appears on-screen, playing a therapist who molests a baby doll.
Similar to Gunn’s case, Harmon’s controversy has prompted an apology from the creator; his deletion of Twitter content; and a statement from his employer condemning the source of the uproar.
The key difference is Harmon has not been fired by his current employer for something he created nearly a decade ago.
Adult Swim, which airs the recently renewed “Rick and Morty,” said in a statement the video “demonstrates poor judgment and does not reflect the type of content we seek out.” The network also noted Harmon has acknowledged the inappropriate nature and apologized.
“In 2009, I made a ‘pilot’ which strove to parody the series ‘Dexter’ and only succeeded in offending,” Harmon, who also created “Community,” said in a statement. “I quickly realized the content was way too distasteful and took the video down immediately. Nobody should ever have to see what you saw and for that, I sincerely apologize.”
Gunn deleted many of his past controversial tweets — some of which he had described as “jokes” about rape and pedophilia — after conservative activists re-unearthed them and sparked a viral campaign last week. Harmon, by contrast, has taken the full step of deleting his Twitter account after the actions of the conservative subreddit.
Which raises the question: Will deleting old social media posts be the next step for a swath of Hollywood creators? Each of them must weigh: Is using an online platform to share provocative content or to air political views worth the career risk in the current cultural climate of marked divisiveness, grievance and targeted attack?
(Last January, it should be noted, a tweet by Harmon led to a former “Community” employee alleging harassment while he was showrunner; Harmon responded with an apology.)
Harmon is more fortunate than Gunn in at least one respect: He works for an employer that traffics in edgy comedy, and he is beloved by “Rick and Morty” fans who have come to expect his humor will push the envelope. Gunn might be widely known for somewhat bent humor, but for most of the decade, he has worked for a major studio that mostly tries to burnish its “family entertainment” image. There is a reason Deadpool’s type of R-rated antics have not found traction in the kingdom of Disney, which, meanwhile, is carefully navigating its attempts to acquire the superhero’s studio, 21st Century Fox.
Gunn’s departure followed Disney’s firing of comedian Roseanne Barr from her ABC show after her racist Twitter rant in May.
In this climate, who will be the next Hollywood creative to sign off of online life for good?