Just hours after hosting the Baftas, Stephen Fry has quit Twitter and deleted his account (not for the first time). He joked that costume designer Jenny Beavan, who collected an award for Mad Max: Fury Road wearing a leather jacket, trousers, scarf and shirt, had come dressed as a bag lady, to noises of shock from the star-studded audience.
Soon after the joke appeared on TV he Tweeted that they were dear friends and she got it. So calling Beavan a ‘bag lady’ was a fun in-joke between them. But how was the audience to know that? He could have established that before throwing an insult, which understandably people got defensive about. Women in the industry have enough to deal with as it is.
Beavan showed up to an awards ceremony in her own clothes and own style rather than a glamorous gown. Good for her! And she won! So without knowing they knew each other, of course it was interpreted as a mean, bitchy comment.
But after receiving Twitter messages saying so, Fry made things a thousand times worse by going on what the papers would call a ‘potty-mouthed tirade’. There were two pretty aggressive Tweets, one with three instances of the F-word. How is that helping anything? In my opinion he lost his side of the argument when he began calling viewers ‘tragic figures’ and swearing at them.
Then of course Fry has every right to leave Twitter. Any celebrity can choose whether to be on Twitter or not. The unfortunate thing about the platform is it is hard for celebrities to filter out the constant noise – you can look at mentions from only those you know, but that inevitably limits the conversation. This bust up was almost certainly just the latest in a long line of uncomfortable messages Fry has received.
Twitter’s problem is exactly this: celebrities (and others) can be bombarded with abuse with no limits and no filter. This must be damaging for their mental health- especially for someone like Fry, who publicly has bipolar disorder.
In conclusion, the joke was not the best idea in an otherwise fairly okay (if not the most exciting) evening of hosting for Fry. Without giving any context, of course it just sounds mean. But then Twitter is more than just mean.
So if Fry wants to delete his Twitter, quit jumping on him and making it worse. The whole system is not healthy at all. Give the man a break (but even more so, celebrate Beavan’s bravery of dress!)