Ginny & Georgia, Netflix's overstuffed crime-thriller-slash-coming-of-age story, has been the subject of scrutiny since it’s release last Wednesday. The first controversy surrounded the show’s depiction of an argument between teens Ginny (Antonia Gentry) and her boyfriend Hunter (Mason Temple), both of whom are mixed-race characters, that devolves into what the characters call “oppression Olympics.” Twitter spent a good chunk of the weekend dragging the clip for its unrealistic dialogue and frankly weird portrayal of biracial identity, but the internet seemed to have moved on by the time Monday rolled around, mostly chalking it all up to bad writing.
But not everyone was done analyzing the show’s dialogue choices. On Monday, Taylor Swift’s legion of devoted fans converged on a poorly written joke that pokes fun at Swift’s dating history. During a frank conversation about dating, Ginny tells her mother Georgia (Brianne Howley) that she has “gone through men faster than Taylor Swift.” The fans who stan the pop star–aka the Swifties–took offense at the sexist joke and trended the phrase “RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” on Twitter. Eventually, the joke got around to Swift herself.
In a viral tweet, Swift described the “lazy, deeply sexist” joke as a relic from 2010, when her dating life was the subject of intense scrutiny and problematic punchlines. She went on to call out Netflix for choosing to air the scene–apparently it “doesn’t look cute” coming from the same company that streams her documentary Miss Americana. She ended her tweet with a pithy “Happy Women’s History Month I guess,” pointing to the irony of a sexist comment coming to light during a month to celebrate the achievements of women. For anyone unfamiliar with stan Twitter, this kind of statement directly from the mouth of an idol is a certified battle cry.
And so, the Swifties took to Twitter and Instagram, protecting their fave at all costs in the name of women everywhere. Or so they thought–as things so happen, their attempt to defend the singer’s honor took a sharp turn into harassment and racist attacks against the Black actress Antonia Gentry, who was the mouthpiece for the joke. In addition to the racist comments, Gentry’s social media pages became populated by the phrase “RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” and “APOLOGIZE TO TAYLOR SWIFT,” as if she sat in the writer’s room with the showrunner and specifically lobbied to include the joke. Not to mention the obvious fact that responding to a sexist joke with racism defies logic.
Although Gentry has not specifically responded to calls for an apology, she has alluded to the situation on her Instagram story. On Tuesday, BuzzFeed reported a series of Instagram posts where Gentry called into question what kinds of stories are the subject of outrage in our society, using the attention to spread awareness about major issues. In two posts, she shared information about the 317 young girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped at school last week, giving people the chance to educate themselves about the abduction crisis in Nigeria.
While Gentry has used the outrage cycle for good, Swift has yet to call off her dogs or acknowledge their racist comments. Yes, the pop star is well within her rights to criticize sexist jokes made at her expense, but it rings hollow in light of what her fans have done to defend her.