Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon deleted his Twitter account after far-right conservatives on the website 4chan dug up an offensive sketch he wrote and produced in 2009. Harmon is the latest in a growing line of Hollywood creatives whose tweets have attracted the attention of internet communities like 4chan, the pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald, and the greater alt-right movement as a whole.
In the wake of James Gunn’s firing by Disney last week over offensive jokes he tweeted over a decade ago, Patton Oswalt and Michael Ian Black – both outspoken against the Trump administration – have also come under fire for what some right-wing influencers - like conservative media personality and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich - insist is similarly distasteful material.
The sketch of Harmon’s causing a stir is a two-part parody of the Showtime series Dexter that aired during his monthly comedy sketch festival Channel 101. “Daryl” stars Harmon as a child rapist with a "heart of gold," and at one point features him mimicking sex with a baby doll. Harmon had long since taken the sketch down, but the video still recently found its way to 4Chan, and was ultimately spread around by the same right-wing sources that targeted Gunn. After the video gained traction this weekend, Harmon deleted his Twitter account, and provided a statement to Polygon regarding the sketch:
In 2009, I made a ‘pilot’ which strove to parody the series Dexter and only succeeded in offending. 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.
Adult Swim has also released a statement distancing themselves from “Daryl,” but simultaneously confirming its existence would have no effect on their professional relationship with Harmon:
At Adult Swim, we seek out and encourage creative freedom and look to push the envelope in many ways, particularly around comedy. The offensive content of Dan’s 2009 video that recently surfaced demonstrates poor judgement and does not reflect the type of content we seek out. Dan recognized his mistake at the time and has apologized. He understands there is no place for this type of content here at Adult Swim.
Adult Swim's handling of the situation stands in stark contrast to Disney's lightning-fast decision to fire Gunn after his old tweets received attention. Adult Swim has instead refused to bow to pressure, which makes sense, since Harmon both created and removed the video well before he began working with Adult Swim, and has created nothing similarly offensive since. While Gunn's situation is more high-profile due to his former status within Marvel Studios, he was also targeted for jokes made before he worked for Disney, and according to most has only changed and grown as a person since.
It's those facts that have fans and peers of Gunn's coming out in droves to support the director, despite how unlikely it is that Disney will reverse its decision. Now that the strategy has proven successful, it's doubtful the far-right will cease trying to weaponize the past behavior of celebrities who stand in opposition to the conservative agenda anytime soon. If this trend continues, it'll be interesting to see which studios and networks follow Adult Swim's example and which follow Disney's - or if creators simply start preemptively deleting their social media accounts to head-off potentially career-ending scandals.