Why do celebrities tweet? It never seems to go well.
One of the emotional highlights of the Emmy Awards Sunday night was Viola Davis’ impassioned speech upon becoming the first African-American woman to win a Best Actress statuette for her role as the ethically challenged law professor in “How to Get Away with Murder.” Nancy Lee Grahn, who portrays attorney Alexis Davis on “General Hospital,” was not impressed.
"I wish I loved #ViolaDavis Speech," she tweeted. "But I thought she should have let (series producer) @shondarhimes write it." Grahn followed that up with, “She's elite of TV performers. Brilliant as she is. She has never been discriminated against."
Only Grahn could not have foreseen the backlash headed her way. “"30 yrs an advocate 4 human rights & now i'm a racist. Color me heartbroken,” she posted. “Twitter can bring out the best & sadly tonight the worst of us."
One of the more thoughtful (and printable) responses chastised her: “You are not the victim here. You are the offender. Get off of Twitter & reflect on your intense racial bias. Grow from this.”
A more formal mea culpa followed: “I apologize for my earlier tweets and now realize I need to check my own privilege. My intention was not to take this historic and important moment from Viola Davis or other women of color but I realize…that is what I ended up doing. I learned a lot tonight and I admit that there are still some things I don't understand but I am trying to and will let this be a learning experience for me.”
Donald Trump, too, still apparently has a lot to learn about Twiiter; or at least a member of his staff does. His campaign launched #AskTrump on Monday to field voter questions. It did not go as disastrously wrong as Bill Cosby’s “Go ahead. Meme me!” challenge, but predictably, many did not take the task seriously. Here’s one we can print: “The whole running for president thing is just a joke, right?”
Tweets almost guaranteed to go viral in the worst way are when celebrities joke edgily about news events. Drake Bell issued an insensitive tweet about Caitlyn Jenner, while “Orange is the New Black” co-star Jason Biggs sent out a tweet making light of the Malaysia Airlines disappearance. Things very quickly went from this (“It’s a joke; you don’t have to think it’s funny”) to this (“I am deleting my previous tweets. People were offended, and that was not my intent”).
I’d say tweeting should be left to comedians, but even those whose job it is to be funny can cross a line. Gilbert Gottfried lost his gig as the Aflac Duck after a series of insensitive tweets following the Japanese tsunami (“Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them”).
Louie C. K. could at least plead drunkenness when in 2010 he unleashed a series of obscenity-laced tweets against Sarah Palin. Five years later at the “Saturday Night Live” 40th anniversary broadcast, he apologized to her in person. She invited him to go fishing with her the next time he was in Alaska.
Seriously, google “apology tweet”; You get some five million hits. (Surprise: Ann Coulter is the lone bastion of defiance, refusing to apologize for a tweet issued on the night of the second Republican debate that many have taken to be anti-Semitic.)
And yet the tweets keep on coming. When will they ever learn?
I get it; Titter is a platform celebrities can use to bypass the media and communicate directly with followers. But if I could offer actors, musicians or politicians one piece of advice, it would be this: When you think you want to tweet about anything other than your upcoming movie, album or campaign appearance, count to 10.