About a month ago, I published two pieces relating to sensitivity- one reminding people to learn how to take a joke and what to expect from a comedian who thrives off controversial humour and one about when sensitivity should take prevalence over viewer ratings or humour. I was hoping not to have to do another piece like this for a while; that maybe, just maybe humanity would finally get its act together and go back to focusing on real issues, like how funny Deadpool is or the amazing Premier League title race we are getting this season, or how cheap fancy Valentine’s Day chocolates are now. Obviously I was wrong.
When Jenny Beavan stepped up to collect her BAFTA for costume design last night (Sunday 14th February) at the lavish ceremony, Stephen Fry made a funny quip about her appearance after she collected her award, joking “only one of the great cinematic costume designers would come to the awards dressed as a bag lady”, in reference to Beavan’s perhaps inappropriate attire of a black leather jacket, white t-shirt and dark trousers. After all this is the BAFTAS! And clearly the audience saw the funny side of the comment, erupting into peals of laughter for several seconds.
But of course, the social media anti-humour army had to take offence. Despite Fry’s ‘cutting wit’ being a mainstay of the event for 11 years, twitter users were quick to criticise Fry for his ‘crass comment.’ I have three words for people like this: TAKE A JOKE! It heartened me somewhat to see the majority of responses to these tweets echoed this line (albeit with more colourful linguistic choices) as to most it is blatantly clear- it was a joke, designed to cause humour. But as Matt Lucas ominously joked; “no-one is allowed to do jokes anymore.” In response to the criticism, Fry defended his action calling Beaven ‘a close friend’, and then later posted a picture of himself and Beavan at the after-party, under the caption: ‘Jenny Baglady Beavan and Stephen Outrageous Misogynist Swine Fry.’
This morning, we all woke up to Fry’s startling absence from social media, after he de-activated his twitter account following the backlash. So I would like to offer my hearty congratulations to every person on twitter who sent inflammatory angry messages to Stephen Fry. Your petulant failure to understand humour in our modern society has led to a great personality and frequent tweeter leaving a loyal fan-base who no doubt will also care about his welfare, having seen him battle depression previously.
You have also proved the point of many that social media is an effective tool for bullying and harassing people when they don’t deserve it, or simply because their viewpoint differs from your own. And finally, you have probably started a chain reaction which will lead to a new BAFTA presenter, who will be so scared of a similar backlash that they will stop trying to have a rapport with the stars and instead become an on-stage robot who will have no personality whatsoever and cause the ceremonies to become tediously unwatchable. What’s that? I’m over-reacting? I should focus on my life and not someone else’s? Oh the irony.