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'The Flash': Hartley Sawyer and the Consequences of Abhorrent Online Behavior

By Mae Abdulbaki | TV | June 29, 2020 |

By Mae Abdulbaki | TV | June 29, 2020 |


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Hartley Sawyer was officially fired from The Flash for tweeting out racist, misogynist, and just generally disturbing and disgusting tweets all around. He would not be returning to The CW superhero show in Season 7, though there’s still no word on whether his role as Ralph Dibny/Elongated Man would be recast or thrown out altogether.

It all started with a reply made to an Instagram post. Sawyer posted a tweet about his white privilege and how he hadn’t “used his platform to advocate for POC.” He then apologized and basically implied that he would do better, etc. etc. The actor then posted a screenshot of his tweet to his Instagram. A fan commented about his previous silence, but that they were “glad” he was finally saying something about Black Lives Matter. This was his response:

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To put this in context as to why it pissed people off is because Hartley is the literal definition of this Community gif:


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He once had the audacity to respond to a tweet about the mistreatment of children in detention centers by basically saying that dogs in cages had it just as bad. So, despite whatever intentions he had, his response about Black Lives Matter and his privilege was essentially confirming that he stanned dogs and other animals first, but he could also find it in his heart and make room in his schedule for this too. How kind and thoughtful of him. That was the last straw, as it were. Several of his old tweets were dug up and began making the rounds online. Racism, misogyny, tweets about pedophiles, writing about sneaking a peak at women’s breasts during auditions, and tweets about date rape resurfaced. It was bad. Really, really, really bad.

As you can imagine, fans were horrified at just how bad it was and took him to task on Twitter. Instead of responding, he just deleted his whole account. But, hey, screenshots last forever. It was too late. He had years to take that sh*t down, but the clown thought he was being funny. The tweets were all screenshotted and actress and YouTuber Skai Jackson, got a hold of the tweets and exposed his ass to a larger platform outside The Flash fandom.

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Maybe a day or so after all this went down, he posted an Instagram apology and basically confirmed that he was trying to be funny and get attention. He was joking, even though these jokes were in poor taste, he sees that now. It only took him, *checks watch*, several years and being publicly called out over his trash behavior for him to see the error of his ways. Whoops.


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My words, irrelevant of being meant with an intent of humor, were hurtful, and unacceptable. I am ashamed I was capable of these really horrible attempts to get attention at that time. I regret them deeply. This was not acceptable behavior. These were words I threw out at the time with no thought or recognition of the harm my words could do, and now have done today. I am incredibly sorry, ashamed and disappointed in myself for my ignorance back then. I want to be very clear: this is not reflective of what I think or who I am now. Years ago, thanks to friends and experiences who helped me to open my eyes, I began my journey into becoming a more responsible adult - in terms of what I say, what I do, and beyond. I've largely kept that journey private, and this is another way that I have let so many down. I still have more work to do. But how I define myself now does not take away the impact of my words, or my responsibility for them. I am very sorry.

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A week later, on June 8, it was announced that Sawyer was fired. The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace released his own personal statement, in addition to the official Berlanti Productions/Warner Bros. TV/CW statement regarding his firing.

I was surprised because white men face so little consequences for their actions in general, but pleased that it happened. Looking back now, Season 4 Ralph must’ve been easy for Sawyer to play considering they were a lot alike. To be clear, Sawyer’s firing was no one’s fault but his own. It wasn’t just a one-off tweet, either. Sawyer’s behavior was clearly a pattern made public over the course of several years, from 2009 until at least 2016/2017 at the latest. That’s a long time to be using your public platform to tweet “jokes” that weren’t at all funny and grown enough to know better.

For those who are so quick to defend his tweets and want to say that he’s changed. This took place over the course of several YEARS. Even his pinned tweet, which I wish I’d screenshotted, was something to do with Frosty the Snowman being a sex offender. So, he was still making these “jokes” up until at least 2017, which coincidentally was around the time he booked The Flash

We’re used to white guys getting away with sh*t and going back to work per usual. James Gunn, for example, has two directing gigs right now despite being fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 after his own problematic tweets resurfaced. (He was back to directing the film in no time.) Meanwhile, Sleepy Hollow’s Nicole Beharie was blacklisted and portrayed as difficult for wanting to be respected and treated as an equal to her white co-star. Instead, she was edged out of her own show. F*ck that.

Firing Sawyer was the right move and proved there are consequences to one’s actions, whether they happened a few years ago or not. Honestly, there’s a lot to be said about this but I will say that if Eric Wallace, the Arrowverse’s first Black showrunner, wasn’t in charge when these tweets surfaced, I guarantee nothing would have happened. Hollywood is only now reckoning with the fact that it’s enabled sh*tty behavior for decades and it’s about time that it stopped.

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