You know that feeling you get when Facebook notifies you that a friend has liked your photo? Usually, it’s a rush of euphoria. What about when you realise the image is from your emo phase in 2004 with about seventeen filters layered on your twelvie face and your greasy side fringe out in full force? It’s usually shame, regret, hate, vengeance and a slight panic as you rush to delete all past embarrassing or incriminating evidence that you forgot you’d been young and dumb enough to post.
Turns out mum was right and I did grow out of it
Recently many celebrities have experienced this exact same blast from the past. But instead of only unveiling embarrassing twelvie selfies; racist, sexist, homophobic and just bloody insulting tweets, statuses, posts and replies have been dug up, too. Yes, people do have that much time on their hands, and yes they are using it to mine celebrities’ social media accounts and nobody is safe.
Well, unless the person in question hasn’t posted offensive content, opinions or comments on any form of their social media. Special shout out to Brian, the cyber safety expert who gave those annual talks at my school and warned me about being catfished, tracked and kidnapped through posting a photo of my school emblem online. He also told me not to post things on the internet I wouldn’t want my grandma to see. Now if I ever become famous I will only have those brace face selfies to be uncovered.
We are a generation who live and record our lives through social media. Due to the attitudes surrounding these platforms, many people feel as though it’s a safe environment to express every single thought or belief they may have. If a celebrity makes a questionable post, even before they became officially famous, there is always the chance it could resurface in the future.
Especially considering anybody is capable of mining celebrities’ accounts. I mean a monkey could do it. No seriously, the only thing needed to scroll back through the years and strike gold (and by gold, I mean insulting and offensive posts) is a sturdy pair of opposable thumbs.
But what happens when the past is brought to the present? This is where is gets tricky. Some celebs have their wrongdoings ignored or forgotten whilst others lose their jobs and social status from these #ThrowbackThursdays.
The most recent and extremely controversial case is that of James Gunn – you know, the Guardians of the Galaxy director – who, whilst working on the third volume of the franchise filled with superheroes and Chris Pratt’s abs, was fired due to the resurfacing of some extremely questionable tweets he made almost a decade ago.
With the entertainment industry in the condition it currently is, with Hollywood taking a zero-tolerance stance towards misconduct, it’s easy to understand why Disney wanted to immediately cut ties with Gunn. But was this the right course of action? It’s hard to say. After he was let go Gunn made a statement in which he claimed “My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.”
Even cast member Dave Bautista insisted he would not return to portray Drax in the third installment of the franchise if Gunn isn’t reinstated. Additionally, the core cast of the first two films signed an open letter offering their support for Gunn’s character and the man he is today.
This was Gunn’s past being brought into his present. The mingling of two potentially completely different worlds. I know there are a lot of things I might have said or thought in the past that I no longer agree with or support now. I’m sure we all do.
For example, if you had asked me who my celebrity crush was eleven years ago around the release date of High School Musical 2 it would have been, without a doubt, Zac Efron: my absolute dream boy. Now, after having the honour of witnessing Noah Centineo in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, that answer has changed.
Many argue that Disney, the owner of Marvel and most other successful franchises, is displaying double standards. Robert Downey Jr, THE Iron Man and the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t always his put together, successful self. Much like the character he portrays, Downey hit a rough patch a few years back. In 1997, he found himself in jail. He has obviously grown and developed as a person since those days but imagine if we still held his past life choices over him now, just like what was done to Gunn. Where would Marvel be now? In the same sinking ship as the DC?
Once upon a time even the almighty god amongst men, Chris Hemsworth – see now I’m already considering changing my celebrity crush again – once dressed as a Native American to a party and posted images of it online. However, the man (read: god) grew as a person, learnt this wasn’t an acceptable costume and issued an apology. Like those inspirational posters stuck up in dull office spaces say, people can learn, grow and change.
I don’t know why a cow is jumping out of the ocean, but boy am I inspired.
Steering away from the Marvel stars, unsurprisingly YouTubers also seem to have their fair share of regrettable online content. Laura Lee, yes the girl who made a jump cut in her apology video to add a tear, had racists tweets uncovered, posted a terrible apology video and then released another apology video apologising for said terrible apology video. Yeah you read that right, apology video inception. She has probably lost a fair few followers but ultimately this will probably all be forgotten by most, like many other things on the internet.
Additionally, hours after Trevor Noah was named the new Daily Show host, a few of his past questionable tweets were unearthed. There was an outcry for Noah to be removed as host. Comedy Central stood by their decision and refused to judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes made in the past. Noah was ultimately forgiven because he was just a comedian “doing his job” who made some tasteless jokes.
The internet is the biggest snitch of them all. It has no loyalty to you.
Admittedly, not all the celebrities in question are attached to multi-billion dollar companies with a reputation to uphold, like Disney. Comparing all these examples is extremely difficult, the circumstances and the tweets found are all different, some are blatantly wrong whilst others can be passed off as “tasteless jokes”. But should there be a blanket ruling and punishment for this situation?
Laws are still well behind technological advancements, so everybody seems to scratch their heads and shrug their shoulders whenever an issue like this arises. If somebody commits a murder but is only caught twenty years later, they are still held responsible. But when old evidence of wrongdoing is brought forward that isn’t necessarily illegal, what is the course of action? Who determines whether the content is insulting? How far back do we hold people accountable? Should an individual even be held responsible for comments made online?
Ultimately, social media sites are no longer places where we can post whatever we want for only a small group of our friends to see. It has developed well past that and people, especially celebrities, need to start treating it as such. With many taking the initiative to go back and delete thousands of posts they believe no longer represent who they are, it’s clear that nobody wants a regrettable post made in their younger years coming back and interfering with their current life.
Although comments made online are posted within seconds they stay forever. Nothing can ever be well and truly deleted once put online. The internet is not a place for quick and questionable comments to be made. The lines between public and private are continuously being broken down and altered. One day there might be no difference at all. Meaning anything you say online will have a direct influence and impact on your career, social status and future.
Maybe it will always remain a case by case trial and punishment. To stay on the safe side and to make society a better place, it might be a good idea to keep Instagram for your breakfast shots, Facebook for your meme tags, Twitter for your reality TV jokes and save your potentially offensive comments and ideas for yourself. Or if you don’t think you can do that, take a page out of the Ron Swanson handbook and just chuck out the entire computer. Can’t make questionable posts if you can’t post at all.