Social media is awash with stupidity, cruelty and wrongheaded political opinions passed off as deep thoughts and intellectual acuity.
Three years ago, the actor Gina Carano, of “The Mandalorian” fame, became an exemplar of the trend when she reposted a particularly inane meme on her Instagram story page.
It featured a famous, sickening image of a terrified half-naked Jewish woman running from a pursuing mob, including a child menacingly brandishing a stick. The photograph was taken in 1941, during the Lviv pogroms in Ukraine.
"Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors … even by children,” said the post. “How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?"
Carano has said that the message behind the meme was simple: “Do not demonize your neighbor.” In her own naive way, I actually think she believes it.
But if I need to explain to you the difference between deadly antisemitic purges and getting into a fight on Facebook with someone whose politics you despise, you probably should not be posting this stuff in the first place. And you deserve the criticism that follows.
But do you deserve to lose your livelihood?
The social media mob decided that Carano was unfit to be employed and digitally descended on Lucasfilm, and its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., demanding it #FireGinaCarano. The entertainment giant did just that.
“Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future,” Lucasfilm said in a statement on Feb. 10, 2021. “Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”
That’s really not what she did, but that did not stop Disney from canceling a "Star Wars" spinoff series, “Rangers of the New Republic,” that she was to star in. Nor did it stop UTA, her talent agency, from dropping her. Nor did it stop Hasbro from scratching the line of action figures that was based on her “Mandalorian” character, Cara Dune.
“I was distraught,” Carano told Glenn Beck last week. She said she briefly lost most of her hearing, as well.
And then, she said, she got an email from a lawyer who works for Elon Musk, the impulsive billionaire who owns X.
Last year, Musk offered to fund lawsuits for anyone who believes they have been subject to employment discrimination because of their posts.
Carano, with Musk’s backing, filed her employment- and sex-discrimination lawsuit last week.
“After two highly acclaimed seasons on The Mandalorian as Rebel ranger Cara Dune, Carano was terminated from her role as swiftly as her character’s peaceful home planet of Alderaan had been destroyed by the Death Star in an earlier Star Wars film,” the lawsuit alleges. “And all this because she dared voice her own opinions, on social media platforms and elsewhere, and stood up to the online bully mob who demanded her compliance with their extreme progressive ideology.” (Kudos, by the way, to the attorneys who drafted the brief, which is a fun — if cheesy — read.)
Carano, 41, maintains that she was unceremoniously canned because she dared to express her conservative political views on social media. Hard to disagree with that. In a March 2021 call with investors, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek implied that Carano did not share the company’s values of respect, decency, integrity and inclusion. He didn’t mention free speech, which is ironic since Disney would later accuse Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of violating the company’s free speech in retaliation for Disney's opposition to the state’s 2022 “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
In her posts, Carano has also ridiculed California mask mandates, embraced conspiracy theories about voter fraud and mocked demands by trans activists that she state her preferred pronouns, which, alluding to R2-D2, she declared were “boop/bop/beep.” That is not transphobia; that is refusing to be cowed by people who demand you do something you don’t feel like doing. (I don’t put pronouns on my signature card, either.)
Carano also alleges that she was treated differently from her male co-star, Pedro Pascal, the Mandalorian himself, who once posted a meme conflating former President Trump with Hitler and Nazis, and suffered no blowback, even though, as the lawsuit alleges, “some would find their statements ‘abhorrent.’ ”
Carano was a celebrated mixed martial arts fighter before being tapped, out of the blue as she has described it, by Steven Soderbergh to star in his 2011 thriller “Haywire” with an A-list cast of co-stars: Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan MacGregor, Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender.
“I expect her to become a considerable box-office success,” Roger Ebert wrote in his “Haywire” review, “because the fact is, within a limited range, she's good. She has the no-nonsense beauty of a Noomi Rapace, Linda Fiorentino or Michelle Monaghan.”
That Carano's movie career has been derailed is clear. That it happened because she embraces ideas that are out of step with Hollywood’s liberal orthodoxy is also clear. It's not fair, but she became a target for rabid "Star Wars" fans and a headache for Lucasfilms — which is not required to put up with headaches.
In 2022, she starred in "Terror on the Prairie," a movie produced by Ben Shapiro and the Daily Wire as part of the conservative media outfit's attempt to do battle with, as Shapiro put it, "a culture that despises conservatives." The movie bombed.
With Disney and Lucasfilm, Carano took a stand on principle, and she lost. She is asking for damages, of course. And she also wants her job back. In the end, she traded stardom for a star turn on conservative talk shows. I wonder if she thinks it was worth the price.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.