Twitter is a toxic wasteland where niches within already niche fan communities can c*rclejerk amongst themselves until they're convinced that their view on the day's drama is objectively correct.
Twitter mobs are rarely capable of distinguishing between shades of grey. They're prone to generating conspiracy theories and swarming hashtags until they believe they have facts and insider information that they have no way of actually knowing. Worst of all, they genuinely believe that whatever they're mad about within their niche community is actually important, even though it very rarely matters, and they use their conviction as justification for bullying and harassment campaigns.
Twitter outrage is a plague. I've said this before. I'll certainly say it again. Whenever I do, I get lots of hate from cartoon avatars who think they hold any sort of real world power outside of their niche fandom. Inevitably, they pile into the comments to prove my point, arguing about why the target of their hate really does deserve it and how dare I defend someone who *insert wall of text nobody actually cares to read*. But today's drama is all about Dragon Ball, so at least this time I'll know the characters screeching at me.
For anyone completely out of the loop, Dragon Ball is a Japanese action series about beefy aliens punching each other. It's wonderful. While the show was originally voiced in Japanese, many Western anime fans grew up with (and oftentimes were introduced to anime by) the show's English dub, which was produced by a Texas-based anime entertainment company called Funimation. As such, Funimation and, more specifically, the English dub of Dragon Ball, holds a very special place in the hearts of many anime fans.
So imagine their surprise when audio leaked of Dragon Ball's English voice actors making crude jokes in their character's voices. This is truly end-of-days stuff right here. This is "ruining my childhood" type of sh*t.
Except...it's definitely not, and people on Twitter are having a big tantrum over a few voice actors making edgelord jokes in footage that was probably recorded almost twenty years ago. You can listen to the leaked audio here:
Funimation Leak - DBZ Audio #funimation #funimationleak www.youtube.com
To be clear, the intent of this article is not to defend the voice actors behind these recordings. The intent is to defend reasonable measured reactions, of which the Twitter community currently seems entirely incapable.
Upfront, it's not hard to see why the audio is offensive. Nobody wants to wake up to their favorite childhood hero saying "f*ggot." Reading bad fan-fiction erotica in-character is significantly funnier, but I digress. It's completely understandable that a lot of people would not want to hear beloved anime characters saying such grotesque things.
HOWEVER, they were clearly joking. That's not an excuse, but it is an incredibly important distinction to make. The voice actors were not going on some sort of hate screed reflective of their real life views. They were making purposely offensive jokes, privately amongst themselves, in the voices of their typically PG-oriented characters (a common pastime for the animation industry)––well over a decade ago, when that sort of edgy humor was a lot more commonly accepted. Was it homophobic? Absolutely. Does that mean the voice actors are genuine homophobes or terrible people now, over a decade later? Probably not.
That being said, if people were just upset because they thought some voice actors they liked were homophobes, that would make sense. But the Twitter community seems to have jumped onto hashtags like #Funimation and #FuniLeaks and #FunimationExposed not only to express sadness about their "ruined childhoods," but to call Funimation out for hypocrisy over firing another voice actor earlier in 2019 over a multitude of sexual misconduct accusations.
Goku is too pure for this sh*t.Toei
Here's where things get muddy.
Back in January, an extremely popular voice actor named Vic Mignogna became the subject of a whole slew of claims ranging from verbal sexual harassment to unwanted kissing and groping. The allegations came from fans and co-workers alike, including two prominent Funimation voice actresses, Monica Rial and Jamie Marchi, kicking off the hashtag #KickVic. Meanwhile, Mignogna's incredibly vocal fanbase began rallying behind the hashtag #IStandWithVic, attempting to discount his accusers as liars.
While Mignogna maintained his innocence (kind of), Funimation launched an internal investigation and cut ties with him in February. Then in April, Mignogna launched a massive lawsuit against Funimation, Rial, and Marchi for defamation, interfering in business, and civil conspiracy. The case is ongoing.
A lot of information on the subject is incredibly biased (this is a very niche community, after all) but these two posts (1 and 2) from popular Dragon Ball fan blog, The Dao of Dragon Ball, provide an especially nice breakdown of the details. Most relevant to the larger discussion here is that in Mignogna's lawsuit, he claimed that one of the main reasons Funimation fired him was a joke he made about a jellybean.
The allegation concerns "an investigation into an anecdote provided by Monica Rial, who alleged that 6 years ago she wrote her name on a jelly bean, gave it to Vic, and Vic ate the jelly bean and, "joked that he 'ate Monica.'" Monica's allegation implies Vic's words were spoken with a sexual implication, but according to the suit, Vic denies this was the case."
Again, the case is ongoing and this information comes directly from Mignigna's lawsuit claim. We have no evidence as to the legitimacy of this story one way or the other, or how it factored into his firing. But that hasn't stopped Mignogna's fans from deciding that the entire reason Funimation fired him, after a long, incredibly prominent career as one of the biggest stars in his industry, was this jellybean joke. Why? Because Mignogna said so. Somehow, this take seems disingenuous considering their entire rallying cry all along has been that the many women who have come forward against Mignogna should not be believed without solid evidence.
Unfortunately, the #IStandWithVic crowd seems to have spread into the larger Dragon Ball community on Twitter, because many of the Twitter posts related to the Funimation leak seem to think it's incredibly hypocritical that one voice actor was fired over a silly jellybean joke while a bunch of other voice actors got away with making legitimately offensive jokes.
Except, again, there's no evidence to suggest Mignogna actually got fired over a jellybean joke. The only things anyone knows for sure is that a bunch of Mignogna's co-workers said he made them sexually uncomfortable, Funimation investigated internally, and Mignogna was fired.
It's fine to say that a separately released audio leak offended you. It's even fine to want the people behind that audio leak let go from their roles as your favorite characters. Heck, it's totally valid to want Funimation to lose the Dragon Ball license over this debacle. But it's insane to suggest that a clearly, intentionally joking audio leak is somehow equivalent to multiple women coming forward and saying that the same guy sexually harassed them.
Essentially, the current Funimation drama boils down to people failing to distinguish between firing people for inappropriate jokes and firing someone after an internal investigation into co-workers' claims of sexual violation. These two instances should not be treated exactly the same, regardless of what seething people on Twitter might think. The world is not black and white. Shades of grey exist. Bad behavior does not mean worse behavior didn't happen.
Oh, and Twitter is trash.