Robert Downey Jr. is Cancelled

Or so some people on Twitter think.

Fans of Ben Stiller’s classic 2008 action-comedy Tropic Thunder will probably be pleased to know that the film is trending on Twitter – because quite a number of users are allegedly up in arms about Robert Downey Jr’s alleged use of ‘blackface’.

If you haven’t watched Tropic Thunder, here’s the lowdown. In the film, Robert Downey Jr. plays a white actor called Kirk Lazarus, who ‘blackfaces’ himself with makeup in order to play a black character in the fictional war film the movie is based on. This meant to be a critique on how Hollywood often whitewashes minority characters – but people who haven’t actually watched the movie may not understand this.

Also – you haven’t watched Tropic Thunder? Shame on you. Do yourself a favor and watch it right now. If you’ve already watched it, grab some popcorn and watch some highlights of the newest ‘scandal’ to hit the interwebs:

You can find more of these tweets by searching #tropicthunder or #cancelrobertdowneyjr on Twitter.

Are you now annoyed? Shaking your fists at the ‘stupid SJWs’ or ‘woke Twitter’ for being stupid and unnecessarily outraged at what is obviously a piece of clever satire?

Now, answer this question: how many tweets embedded above are of actual SJWs getting enraged at Tropic Thunder?

That’s right. Just one. The rest of the tweets are reactions of people getting offended by SJWs being offended.

If you search #tropicthunder or #cancelrobertdowneyjr on Twitter right now, chances are you’ll realise that most of these tweets are fans of Tropic Thunder defending Robert Downey Jr and the movie itself, or people getting offended at ‘millenials’ allegedly misunderstanding the movie. It took me a full 20 minutes of scrolling to find even one tweet of an actual person being offended by Tropic Thunder.

As far as we can tell, this trend on Twitter started from the following tweet (tweeted 20 hours ago as of the time this article was written) which has been embedded in most of the news articles covering this ‘scandal’.

Here are the tweets used as examples of the user’s ‘favorite twitter genre’. Please note the dates they were posted.

The most recent tweet, made by user @MarijaToleska, was made on 12 March – that’s almost two months ago. One of the tweets was even made last year, in May 2019.

So what evidence is there to prove that ‘woke millenials’ have recently discovered Tropic Thunder and are actually getting offended by it, as this new Twitter trend seems to indicate? Zero.

We trust that many of you are familiar with the term clickbait , where content creators like ourselves use attention-grabbing headlines like Robert Downey Jr. is Cancelled in order to get users to either click on or share their content. This method is so effective because many content creators are aware that their target audience – people scrolling through Facebook or Twitter – have low-attention spans and will most likely scroll past their content if it doesn’t immediately grab their attention by the throat and refuse to let it go.

It also works because many content creators know what topics are currently trending in the public consciousness, and seek to create narratives that they know a large portion of their audiences will support, and therefore share.

For instance, think about how this article was structured.

  • I got your attention with the headline Robert Downey Jr. is Cancelled.
  • I proceeded to give you some basic information about the Tropic Thunder Twitter scandal.
  • I embedded some example tweets to plant the idea in your head that people were offended by RDJ’s satirical blackface role.

This structure works because I sold you a story you will most likely be interested in – that ‘woke millenials’ are getting upset over a movie beloved by many people. If you share this story with the intention of making fun of ‘woke millenials’, you get a chance to sell your own narrative: that you are smarter than the social justice warriors getting upset about Tropic Thunder, which is okay because everyone likes to make fun of triggered, oversensitive millenials. Right?

Remember kids: if a story on the internet is too good to be true, it most likely is. Take a few minutes to look at where it comes from before hitting the ‘Share’ button.