Stephen Amell and 'South Park's' Attack on Aggressive PC Culture
Who among you can admit to disliking Stephen Amell? Who among you thinks he’s a bad person? I only intermittently watch Arrow, but even I can admit that Amell is literally one of the nicest guys on the planet. He’s brought more joy and positivity to the world — and the Internet — than maybe any other celebrity around outside of Dwayne Johnson. The man uses his celebrity to push for social causes, and he’s not afraid to guilt his followers into donating to charitable organization, and he has the sway and the charm to pull it off.
With a guy like Amell, you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, right? A little bit?
Yesterday, while many on Twitter were coming to the defense of Ahmed Mohamed (in ways that actually made my heart grow three sizes) and rightfully calling out the Texas school districts for racial profiling, the people of Texas — fairly or not — were being insulted with one broad paint brush.
In response, Amell tweeted:
“Stereotyping Texas isn’t any better than stereotyping Ahmed. Just so we’re clear.”
Was it a little too AllTexansMatter? Absolutely! Do Texans need defending? No. Did it minimize the the actual racism that Ahmed Mohamed suffered? Perhaps! Was that Amell’s intention? Oh God no! Stephen Amell is Canadian — he doesn’t even know how to intentionally offend. The problem with Amell is that he cares too much about everyone. He probably has a lot of Texan friends and fans who were feeling both ashamed of what came out of their state and unfairly attacked for the bigoted actions of others. Amell was just like, “Hey! They’re not all bad,” which felt parallel to the AllLivesMatter idiocy.
For that, Stephen Amell experienced his first real dose of heavy backlash. Even as he was rushing to apologize, Twitter and Facebook continued to heap shame upon him.
“Wasn’t trying to equate things that are very, very different,” he said in a video. “Was simply trying to say that two wrongs don’t make a right … I happened to read a series of tweets pronouncing that this is a systemic problem in Texas, which is also profiling …. It’s profiling in a much less hurtful / destructive way… but it is profiling.”
He’s right, but he also badly missed the point. Even still, he’s Stephen Amell! He visits sick kids in the hospital. He’s literally responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars going toward cancer research. He’s not exactly a bigoted boogeyman.
Nevertheless, after the dust settled, Stephen Amell felt sufficiently shamed enough to back away from social media. “The best thing to do in these scenarios is just go away for a little bit. So be well. I’ll be back,” he said, removing his pictures from his Facebook and Twitter profiles.
Good job, Internet! You shamed away one of the best guys on the planet.
That very herd mentality of the PC Culture is precisely what South Park took on last night in the 19th season premiere of the series. In the episode, South Park’s school principal Victoria was fired for referring to rape as a “Hot Cosby,” and she was replaced by PC Principal, who was basically a ‘roided up bro who punished anyone who dared to say anything impolitic. But it wasn’t just the PC Principal calling out political incorrectness. The principal assembled a group of other white, meathead bros and started a PC Fraternity, whose job it was to go out and call out political incorrectness, check privilege, and stamp out “microaggressions.”
It was Cartman and Kyle who become the targets of much of the the PC Frats’ outrage. In Kyle’s case, it was because he refused to admit that Caitlin Jenner is a “hero.” (“I didn’t say she wasn’t a ‘hero!’” Kyle argued. “I just meant that she wasn’t a hero to me. I didn’t like her as Bruce Jenner, and I don’t suddenly like [her] now!”) Cartman, meanwhile, literally got the shit beat out of him for not feeling sufficiently shamed by the PC Police.
The episode — at least the way I read it — was not a total indictment of political correctness so much as it was a critique of the disingenuousness of our current outrage culture. The PC Police — Matt Stone and Trey Parker seemed to be saying — is less interested in righting social wrongs than they are in using political correctness as a bully stick. It’s not about the end game, it’s about racking up cool points for calling it out.
That’s part of what I think happened to Stephen Amell yesterday. Some of it may have been a genuine call asking Amell to check his privilege (which is understandable), but the disproportionate ire suggested something more insidiously oblique. Many weren’t trying to raise awareness or correct a wrong; they were trying to be the first to take him down a peg, and there was a kind of competition to see who could shame him the most.
There’s a place for outrage, but when the outrage starts to overwhelm the message, it loses its power, and when you gang up on otherwise well-intentioned people who had a bad day on Twitter, you end up doing more harm than good. Stephen Amell is not a bad guy. Yesterday, he was treated like one.
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