Dan Harmon has apologized for a lot of things in recent years, but on Thursday some online started demanding an apology for a topic he’d already covered. The Rick And Morty and Community creator drew new ire on Thursday for something that had already garnered an apology: a parody of Dexter that many deemed inappropriate because he simulates the rape of a baby doll.
The clip, which circulated anew this week along with a “save the children” hashtag, is the latest attempt to “cancel” something related to Adult Swim, apparently with regard to child safety. Last month, a woman went viral for apparently discovering that the late night adult animation block exists in the first place. But Harmon’s video was something that already went viral years after its 2009 creation that parodied the Dexter series on Showtime.
As Deadline noted in 2018, Harmon apologized for the “distasteful” video he made as part of a comedy festival that saw Harmon delete his Twitter account when the decade-old clip surfaced.
The video featuring the scene from Daryl, which debuted in 2009 during a monthly comedy sketch festival called Channel 101, surfaced on conservative/right-wing blogs, which is also where information of decade-old tweets about rape by Guardians of the Galaxy writer-director James Gunn first got out before spreading online and leading to Gunn’s firing by Disney. Harmon, who was at San Diego’s Comic-Con, promoting Rick and Morty, deleted his Twitter account in the immediate aftermath of the appalling video’s release on Sunday.
Harmon issued an apology as the video spread, and both he and Adult Swim distanced themselves from the attempt at comedy that was not well received in 2009 or 2018.
“In 2009, I made a “pilot” which strove to parody the series Dexter and only succeeded in offending. I quickly realized the content was way too distasteful and took the video down immediately,” Harmon said in 2018 according to Deadline. “Nobody should ever have to see what you saw and for that, I sincerely apologize.”
Still, clips of the Daryl bit apparently were online in places in 2020, and they were circulated by a number of accounts that have focused in recent weeks on child trafficking and sexual abuse. The video, and calls to “cancel” both Harmon and Rick And Morty, circulated with the #savethechildren hashtag, which as Snopes has reported, that hashtag had been co-opted by some sharing misinformation about pedophilia rings and conspiracy theories. The hashtag, in fact, was reportedly temporarily disabled as the social media site had to remove content that actually depicted child abuse and conspiracies rather than rallying support against it.
All of that, as well as the reason Harmon’s video regained viral appeal, is a complicated issue in and of itself. But what’s clear is that Harmon has already publicly attempted to own up to what was a joke that definitely fell flat and hasn’t aged well. But apologizing for something does not erase it altogether. And the list of Harmon controversies is certainly long as well. Harmon has apologized for a number of things deemed insensitive to fans over the years, as well as the very serious alleged sexual harassment of former Community writer Megan Ganz.
Still, the latest controversy seems to be an old one, something that’s already been addressed and one that may have been reignited for a dubious reason. The campaigns to “cancel” people and things have evolved swiftly in recent years, and in some cases their rationale and ideology have shifted wildly as well. Considering the conspiracy-minded nature of this one, it seems unlikely that it actually does what it hopes to: cancel Rick And Morty.