Dan Harmon is a renowned comedian and artist, the creator and producer of NBC’s sitcom “Community,” and co-creator of Adult Swim’s popular cartoon franchise, “Rick and Morty.” While he has received much praise for these shows, he has also been met with intense criticism lately for a sketch that he created in 2009.
The skit meant to satirize the show “Dexter,” which features a forensic technician who works for the police but is also a serial killer that focuses on murdering the “bad guys” who have escaped justice. The parodied show, titled “Daryl,” is centered around Harmon’s character who travels back in time and sexually assaults future-murderers when they are small children to prevent them from actually becoming murderers.
To put it frankly, the sketch shows Dan Harmon undressing and “raping” a plastic baby doll multiple times. Another man named David Seger, who is also featured in the sketch, actually promotes the sexual assault of his own child by Harmon.
Harmon jokes about the pleasure that he receives from these exchanges and expresses his relief that he will not feel any guilt about them since, after all, the babies were going to grow up to become serial killers if it weren’t for Harmon.
Understandably, Harmon has since released an apology for the extremely grotesque and appalling video. He stated, “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. Nobody should ever have to see what you saw and for that, I sincerely apologize.” Harmon also deactivated his Twitter account after the video resurfaced.
Adult Swim has also issued an “apology,” stating, “At Adult Swim, we seek out and encourage creative freedom and look to push the envelope in many ways, particularly around comedy. The offensive content of Dan’s 2009 video that recently surfaced demonstrates poor judgement and does not reflect the type of content we seek out. Dan recognized his mistake at the time and has apologized. He understands there is no place for this type of content here at Adult Swim.”
This whole situation resembles the James Gunn scandal, but contains a different ending. Multiple tweets of James Gunn’s, the former director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” had been unearthed and revealed to contain jokes about pedophilia and sexual assault.
Gunn, like Dan Harmon, released an apology after the tweets were dredged up from his past, saying that, “I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies,” and, “I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore.” However, Disney allowed no room for any sort of tolerance on the matter, and Gunn was quickly dealt with: They fired him.
So the question remains: Why does Adult Swim refuse to offer any sort of consequences for Harmon? Why not follow Disney’s lead, especially when the two cases are so similar? Some might even argue that Harmon’s actions were much more deplorable and outrageous than Gunn’s.
After all, Gunn never released a video of himself physically assaulting a baby doll, nor explicitly advocating for the sexual assault of children — satirical or otherwise.
The answer could be that Disney and Adult Swim are two wildly different companies. One is tailored toward children, while the other promotes a more grimy sense of humor toward young adults.
It would make sense that Disney would not allow any space for a creator to make inappropriate jokes about children. No one wants to take their child to a movie if they believe one of the directors of said movie is a possible pedophile.
It could also be the success that Dan Harmon has contributed to Adult Swim through his efforts on “Rick and Morty.” He is currently working on the show’s fourth season with co-creator Justin Roiland. Of course, Adult Swim wouldn’t want to fire one of the creators behind this insanely popular show, especially while he is continuing to produce more episodes.
Is this any sort of excuse, though? Can there be such allowance of creators and artists to avoid any sort of consequences for their actions simply because they garner so much revenue for their companies? These are the people creating and circulating highly-respected media.
Sure, “Rick and Morty” is an adult cartoon show full of fart jokes and nonsensical activities, but it would be foolish to assume that impressionable children aren’t watching these shows as well, whether they are hiding it from their parents or not.
Many of these same children also know how to navigate the internet and are simply one google search away from viewing this truly, terrible sketch that Harmon created in 2009. Realizing that nothing negative has happened to Harmon since he released the video, the children can only assume that there must be nothing wrong with the video.
They will discern that this same man helped create one of their favorite shows, and they will believe that they are meant to find the video hilarious and entertaining. Their sense of humor will become skewed and sexual assault will continue to be taken lightly and not treated with the seriousness that it deserves.
This cannot continue. It does not matter that Dan Harmon created the video nearly a decade ago. Adult Swim should have researched Harmon more thoroughly before hiring him. It is through no one else’s fault but their own that they now employee him.
Because that is the case, and they are responsible for his actions, they should provide some sort of negative repercussions for this video that he created. Adult Swim needs to show that this sort of behavior should not and will not be tolerated.