Friday, March 11, Japan’s Pacific shore was hit by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, which tilted the Earth’s axis and moved the entire island closer to North America. Aside from an estimated 300 aftershocks and a tsunami, Japan is also currently facing a possible nuclear crisis. Officials have even estimated that the death toll could be as high as 18,000. While most people may already be aware of these tragic events, many may not be aware of the fact that Japanese earthquake and its effects were also the comedy event of the year.
Regardless of what one’s opinion of social media may be, there is wide consensus that great caution should be taken (and common sense used) when making public remarks, especially when the author is someone under constant scrutiny. Apparently, a few celebrities have yet to learn this lesson.
A few stars have recently come under fire for their responses to the disaster, which ranged from tasteless to simply stupid. Among them was Gilbert Gottfried, better known as the bird Iago in Disney’s Aladdin. Gottfried has found himself persecuted for his multiple tweets poking fun at the Sendai earthquake and tsunami. In one he remarks, “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.” In another, he said, “I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said ‘Is there a school in this area.’ She said ‘Not now, but just wait.’” I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said ‘is there a school in this area.’ She said ‘not now, but just wait.’” Sorry Gottfried. Guess the world wasn’t quite ready for your humor. The longtime voice for Aflac Insurance (the guy obviously has an obsession with birds) was fired despite repeated apologies and removal of the messages from his Twitter account. Aflac pledged to donate one million yen to the relief efforts. [Editor’s note: Sounds like the net outcome was good—less squawking on TV and more aid for Japan.]
Joining the ranks of this brave comedian was the loveable 50 Cent. His remarks may not have been as numerous as Gottfried’s, but they were a little more ambitious, taking a stab both at Japan and the feminist community. “Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoe’s from LA, Hawaii and Japan. I had to do it. Lol,” he tweeted, complete with a “laugh-out-loud” to indicate just how funny he thought it was. 50 Cent later admitted he had acted “ignorantly” in making the remarks. At least we can commend him for one thing: he finally stopped whining about being shot.
Then there’s Family Guy writer Alec Sulkin, who tweeted, “If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google ‘Pearl Harbor death toll.’” Many Americans took this to heart, following suit as they, too, tweeted or updated Facebook statuses with comments like, “I still ain’t forgave Japan for Pearl harbor lmao . . . [sic]” and, “Apparently God hasn’t forgotten about Pearl Harbor either.” Sulkin has since apologized, but many continue to follow and praise his patriotism.
These are only three out of a fairly large group of celebrities who have been less than responsible with what they publish on social networking sites. While it is true that stars are constantly at risk for looking insensitive and, well, dumb (Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift anyone?), social media adds another ingredient into the mix. These are statements publicists have no control over. Moreover, they are immediately public. Unlike candid real-life moments which require paparazzi or other witnesses present, the entire Internet is present for screw-ups on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Stars may argue that it brings them closer to their fans, but it is a double-edged sword.
Still, some credit must be given to the famous who aren’t so insensitive—at least in this case. Justin Bieber, Alyssa Milano, Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, and even Paris Hilton are among those who responded with condolences and prayers for the devastated country. Lady Gaga designed a wristband, and 100% of the proceeds will go to Japan. Finally, and perhaps best of all, Charlie Sheen plans to donate a portion of ticket sales for his “Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option” tour. This announcement he accompanied with a tweet that read, “Curveball; Warlock edict; pain & devastation in Japan demands us all to dig deep & LOVE THEM VIOLENTLY Dogspeed my cadres of the Far East! C.” In a time of incredible heartbreak and rampant idiocy, at least we can be comforted by the fact that even Charlie Sheen can take time out from his antics to help.