by Jason Howard Kelly
British comedian and actor Stephen Fry was hounded off Twitter Sunday after he made a joke during the BAFTA award ceremony that critics considered sexist.
After costume designer Jenny Beavan accepted an award for her work in Mad Max:Fury Road, Fry took to the stage and joked about her outfit choice. “Only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to an award ceremony dressed as a bag lady,” he said to laughter (“bag lady” is British slang for a homeless woman).
At first Fry fought back, tweeting that he and Beavan were friends and tweeting out a picture of them together.
… But in the end, Fry simply suspended his Twitter account.
Don’t make silly jokes about your friends. More specifically, don’t make silly jokes about your friends when you are a celebrity. Even more specifically, don’t make silly jokes about your friends when it is broadcasted to an audience of uptight, sad, humorless, stony-faced keyboard warriors . Is that clear enough?
Apparently that memo did not reach Stephen Fry, nor did it reach anyone else who possesses even the slightest sense of humor. We have become a society that is so incredibly vulnerable that even the smallest of jokes starts a chain reaction of whining and moaning through social media. Twitter has, itself, become the court of public opinion. If you, as a celebrity, do something wrong it will be the number one trending topic on Twitter in a heartbeat. That is exactly what happened to Stephen Fry last night — he was subject to a trial by Tweeters.
Now, was the joke misogynistic? You bet it was. Was the joke made with malice or any intent to blatantly harm someone? No. Have many comedians made even more offensive jokes than that, yet haven’t been attacked like Stephen Fry was last night? Without a doubt, yes.
But by deactivating his Twitter account Fry is forfeiting his right of free speech, as well as his right to defend himself, to the
sanctimonious hounds of social justice concerned citizens of the world. Stephen Fry doesn’t have to quit Twitter. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t have to do anything. He made a joke. Some people laughed and recognized it as merely a joke, and some people did not laugh and voiced their outrage through their keyboards. Boo-hoo. Comedians are going to make jokes, people on Twitter are going to get outraged and fire off a series of ill-conceived tweets in response, and everyone forgets about the whole thing a few days later. Life goes on.
You think this BAFTA thing was bad? Just wait until The Grammys tonight. Let’s set the over/under number of celebrities that will get in trouble with the “PC Police” tonight at 5 — take the over.