I vividly recall, from somewhere in the still-functioning recesses of my brain, a cartoon I watched as a kid featuring a blue shark with a bowtie and a top hat named Misterjaw — not to be confused with the equally ridiculous 1970s cartoon shark named Jabberjaw.
Misterjaw’s signature move was leaping out of the water at a most unsuspecting victim, screaming “Gotcha!” and then laughing about the mayhem he caused.
I think of Misterjaw often while grappling with how we have become such a “gotcha” society. There’s nothing we enjoy more than bringing someone down for something they did or said. Or, in 2018, for something they tweeted.
In previous generations, stupid, insensitive, offensive remarks were mostly uttered to one person or a few people and the consequences were limited, hopefully giving the offender the opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
Today, those remarks typically end up on Twitter, sometimes referred to as the cocktail party of the 21st century where blowhards are constantly coming up to give you their inane and unwanted opinions.
With President Trump perhaps the lone exception, all of us are one tweet away from the unemployment line as gotcha means immediate consequences — Roseanne Barr quickly found herself kicked off her own TV show recently after a racist tweet.
But what’s the statute of limitations on stupidity or insensitivity as it pertains to social media posts?
I’m not sure there is one.
I tell anyone who will listen — a group that occasionally includes my kids — to stay off social media and never to post anything about any person or group, no matter how innocuous the post may seem.
Everyone has bad days and blows off steam in a way they shouldn’t. Everyone tells jokes they think are funny that aren’t. In short, everyone makes mistakes.
Just don’t make them on social media. Because you can be sure someone will find a way to use your online history against you at some point. Maybe when you’re trying to get into college. Maybe when you’re up for a job or a promotion. Maybe when you become famous.
Remember Kenneth Bone? He and his sweater got their 15 minutes of fame after the second presidential debate in 2016 and he seemed ready to cash in — until some old online posts were unearthed and America quickly fell out of love and chewed him up.
There have been two high-profile Twitter controversies in the past few weeks, one involving writer-director James Gunn, the other Major League Baseball player Josh Hader.
Gunn, of course, was fired from the third “Guardians of the Galaxy” film when tweets he made nearly a decade ago were “discovered” by someone with a political ax to grind.
The tweets were in horrible taste and are indefensible, some pertaining to child rape. Of course, he was doing comedy material and he disavowed said tweets, noting that he is no longer the type of person who would come up with such indecency, even in the name of comedy.
About five minutes after the furor erupted over the resurrected tweets, Disney got rid of Gunn, the writer and director of the highly successful “Guardians” movie franchise.
That he was making jokes made no difference, either. Forget that comedy is supposed to be about pushing boundaries, often zooming well past the line of good taste. That used to include insults to pretty much anyone. Woe be to the comic who offends today.
Gunn is 51, so maybe it’s a stretch to believe he has changed since he unleashed his tweets. But what about those who sent out offensive tweets as teens? Are they allowed to change?
That question, of course, brings us to Hader, a Maryland native who is pitching so well this year for the Milwaukee Brewers that he made the All-Star Game, played July 17 in our nation’s capital.
It was supposed to be a dream night for Hader, but it turned into a nightmare when some racist and homophobic tweets he made at age 17 resurfaced and went viral. By the end of the game, he was being grilled by a press mob, he was trending for all the wrong reasons and his parents had to change out of their “Hader” jerseys for their own safety.
Again, the tweets seem indefensible, although in his case we’re talking about a kid who was going through a bad time and, seemingly, really has changed.
His teammates have supported him wholeheartedly. Hader has been accountable, explaining he was in a dark place when he made the tweets and that they don’t represent who he is now. None of that stopped him from becoming Public Enemy No. 1 everywhere outside of Milwaukee.
Unlike Gunn, Hader wasn’t fired. While Disney can get someone else to direct the “Guardians” movie and still reasonably expect it to make half-a-billion dollars, the Brewers can’t afford to replace a talented player with a significantly less talented player. (Do that often enough and you have the 2018 Baltimore Orioles.)
Had Hader been a marginal player, however, he’d have been out of a job faster than you can say “Gotcha!” Because that’s what we do.