Gina Carano has been fired by LucasFilm after yet another “social media scandal,” if one can define “social media scandal” as very deliberately posting blatant anti-Semitism on a public account, including a meme comparing experiencing any sort of pushback on her own conservative politics to being Jewish and living in Nazi Germany. These posts were just the latest in a long line of public aggressions, both micro and macro, from Carano, who has had a long history of making deeply inappropriate and downright offensive posts against vulnerable minorities, and then immediately falling into defensive self-victimization: It’s not the groups she’s mocking or blatantly attacking that are being hurt by her actions, it’s her, and actually, the people reacting to her posts in a negative way are the real bullies here.
If this sounds familiar, it should. By now, we all know the words to this song.
It’s a pattern we’ve seen before, time and time again. Even outside of the pop culture bubble, the endless cycle of abusive, abhorrent public behavior and then crocodile tears and feigned ignorance has become an entire “brand” for many people on social media–and it’s a lucrative one. This particular style of engagement relies on the tried-and-true bad faith argument wherein a case is made full of blatant and obvious falsehoods and misrepresented facts, dressed up in such a way to bait arguments from people who spot the issues and try to push back against them. The argument then serves as a social megaphone, boosting the falsehoods and deliberately misrepresented facts to bigger and broader audiences, stripping them of context, creating straw men for others to argue against that derail the issue even further. Petitions get made. Youtube videos are filmed. The cycle continues.
Pearl-clutching fans and commentators will cry out about “cancel culture” and “conservative politics” being the root of Carano’s excommunication when the reality is that Carano is experiencing the consequence of flagrantly inappropriate public behavior. This isn’t a secret, nor is the concept all that difficult to grasp–anyone who’s had a job with any sort of public-facing component from minimum wage customer service to actor has had some experience with the idea of expected behavior and conduct to represent an employer. Even high school athletes are subject to consequences for misrepresenting their school’s values, and they’re not on anyone’s payroll.
Carano’s firing was the only correct move Disney could have made following her behavior–and it’s one that was a long time coming. As much as it would be great to say the corporate juggernaut is actually extremely socially conscious and has a strong moral compass, that simply isn’t reality. The bottom line is that having someone on their payroll who is, apparently, ready and willing to disregard any sort of professionalism is a liability, full stop.
But the extremely obvious logic–that maybe, just maybe, a public-facing person shouldn’t post memes about the Holocaust (to name just her most recent offense)–doesn’t matter. What matters is that from now until the end of time, we’re going to keep having this conversation.
The most insidious part of this cycle we seem to be stuck in is the fact that it works. The bad faith argument scheme has a payoff. Carano has already spun her “cancelation” into a movie deal. Countless influencers and politicians have used the same tactics they always use to boost their own platforms and garner themselves a bigger audience by suddenly having a very emotional and passionate response to the loss of a “strong female hero” in the Star Wars universe. The theater of websites like Twitter and Instagram is in full effect, letting the conversation fuel the algorithm which fuels the conversation, and so on and so forth.
And suddenly, it’s no longer a simple matter of a hired professional behaving badly and being canned for it, it’s an attack on “free speech,” a devastating blow against pop culture, a soapbox to stand on to help boost and amplify even more bigotry and hatred.
The only way to win in these scenarios is by not playing. But until then, we’ll keep doing this dance, hearing this song, and watching the play performed the same way it’s always performed with a rotating cast of characters over and over again.