WARNING: This post contains graphic language, because there’s no point in sugar coating anything in regards to this subject.
2014 seems to be the year of scandals popping up out of nowhere for public figures, and we learned Degrassi isn’t immune to this after what went down yesterday.
A master post on tumblr (which can be viewed here) reveals a bunch of insensitive and offensive comments made by Andre Kim online. The tweets posted are from 2012, before he was on Degrassi, and show him providing rude commentary about females, “fat” people and liberal usage of the word “retard.”
There’s also video of him livestreaming League of Legends on Twitch, where he frequently uses the word “retard,” jokes about “getting raped” in the game, and in a direct quote, says “time to bring them out like a bunch of little niggers.”
Damn. The response has been angry and swift by Degrassi fans, and Stephen Stohn had no choice to respond to all of this.
Now what? There are people who think Andre should be fired immediately for this, and that if Degrassi doesn’t fire him it means they support derogatory and racist language.
The more I think about this situation, the more I think firing Andre would be the easy way out. For everyone…Andre, Degrassi AND fans.
Yesterday I kept seeing people say that Andre should know better because he’s 17-18 and in university. In a perfect world, that’d be true. Adults would behave like they’ve got some damn sense. When you get to be my age (I’m 31), you realize that being a legal adult and being in a more adult setting such as university or the workforce means little in terms of someone’s maturity. He’s still a kid. When you’re 20, you’re still a kid…older and maybe a little bit more mature than a 16-year-old, but to us older people you’re still a kid who doesn’t know shit about the world.
Honestly, it rubs me the wrong way that even with Andre’s deplorable comments we’d basically want to take some kid, crush him into nothing and walk around with his head on a stick. I want this kid to learn a lesson, not have his future obliterated.
But do not confuse that statement with me justifying his actions, believing he shouldn’t be punished or thinking people should just forgive and forget today. A very clear message needs to be sent that this type of behavior is not okay under any circumstances, ever.
And that’s why I lean toward Degrassi not necessarily needing to fire Andre. If they do, then so be it. But for over 30 years, Degrassi is a show that’s thrived on presenting real-life situations involving teenagers. The teens on this show are programmed to make mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them. Here we have a real-life scenario that presents an opportunity for Degrassi to provide a real-life learning lesson for its viewers, who are actively involved in this “plot.”
My question is, what exactly do we learn from the show just firing Andre, besides delivering social justice that everyone will forget about in a week?
*Degrassi comes out and says what Andre said is wrong, fire him, then their hands are washed free of the situation. But when companies do this, sometimes it feels like it’s a PR move and not because they’re making a statement about their values.
*Andre loses his job, but all he has to learn is to not post stupid shit online. Remember, “There is no reality, only perception.” People complain about Munro’s lack of tweeting and social media presence, but the smart ones know how to run a tight ship on their rep.
And most importantly, what do DEGRASSI FANS learn from all of this? Sure we’re outraged, and if Epitome fires him we’ll be happy and mindlessly move onto the next thing. But outside of the unspoken concept that if you say something rude and offensive publicly you could lose your job, where is the blunt, reflective message to a fandom who (past and future) won’t hesitate to say rude, hurtful and offensive things to EACH OTHER on a regular basis? Ironically, I spotted it even happening yesterday while people were discussing THIS very situation!!
When it comes down to it, Andre’s moronic behavior displays a lack of respect for others, and this fandom (as well as many other online fandoms) can be a breeding ground for the most pointlessly hateful behavior on Twitter and Tumblr.
This needs to become more than just fans being angry and demanding Andre be fired. It needs to become a situation about awareness, championed by Epitome challenging every viewer to self reflect on their own behavior, not just online, but in real life. There are so many layers to this that I’ll address below. The funny thing is 99% of this is common sense, but people still do it anyway.
*Andre made jokes about fat people, referred to a girl as a bitch and thumbed his nose down at feminism. It never, ever feels good when people make hateful comments about you, or a group you belong to. “Do unto others…” is a really simple concept. Also, I’m old school and don’t believe in referring to a female as a “bitch.” Ever.
*He clearly uses the word “retard” a lot. There are A LOT of people out there (young people in particular) who don’t understand that term is considered offensive. This is one that people have to be active in telling people it’s not an appropriate word to use in casual conversation.
*Ahh yes…nigger. It’s 2014: this word shouldn’t still be in anyone’s vocabulary.
*FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. This is a crucial point that I hope soaks into the young fans of this show. Even on my own timelines I see people acting a fool because they think they can say and do whatever they want online. “It’s my account, I can post whatever I want.” There’s this false idea that no one is watching what you do, and that’s just not true. Andre’s tweets were from 2012, when he didn’t have the eyes of a fanbase on him. There are millions of people who aren’t famous who engage in shitty online behavior on a daily basis. You think privacy settings make you slick, but Spinner Mason said it best: “There’s no such thing as privacy on the web,” and just like people are making judgments about Andre and his awful behavior, people (potentially those in a position of power) will be making judgments about yours in the future.
*TREAT PEOPLE WITH RESPECT. As I said before, all of this comes down to a lack of respect. Andre thinking he’s being cute and funny, and in reality saying stupid shit that’s offensive and hurtful…the kind of stuff he (and many people) would never, EVER say to someone’s face. I don’t care how famous he is, if we’re going to hold him to a high behavioral standard, then as a fandom we’d damn well better be holding ourselves and each other to the same standard of basic respect for others. And I say that knowing you’ll be able to look online after tonight’s new episode, and there will be people going at each other over stupid Triles/Matlingsworth/Zaya bullshit and the like.
What should Degrassi do?
They know the seriousness of this, so they’ve gotta do more than just address it in 140 characters. They owe it to their young, primarily female fanbase to reinforce that the type of behavior Andre displayed is unacceptable, but also that people need to understand why beyond the threat of shame and/or punishment. Andre’s behavior is front and center here, but it does little if those of us watching this unfold don’t receive a blunt reminder that OUR actions and level of respect toward others is just as important. Too often people simply don’t think about what they’re saying or how it affects others before it comes flying out of their mouth.
If it were up to me, Andre would be delivering a live apology via one of Degrassi’s long-lost google hangout sessions (no edited bullshit)…get a few people from the fandom in there to sound off and let him have it. And if he’s to continue being a part of the show, his new job would be working tirelessly to repair the damage he’s done.