Adult Swim Is an Unexpected Battleground for Fighting Hate in Trump’s America


One of the many, many problems with Donald Trump’s election is how it has already affected our social norms. The bully won, on the tide of a backlash against “PC culture” — thus, the spate of verbal abuse, Twitter hate and racist graffiti following the election. This explosion can be attributed to an instant change, and many perpetrators have acknowledged this: Behavior that was once socially taboo is now considered acceptable, enabled by the guy soon-to-be in the highest office in the land who groped, race-baited, and bullied without consequence.

On the Adult Swim segment of the Cartoon Network, consternation about a show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace exemplifies the way the noxiousness of Trumpism goes beyond politics. Somehow an alt-right show, hosted by internet provocateur Sam Hyde, found a foothold on cable. As BuzzFeed reports: “There’s really only one thing that separates @Night_0f_Fire — real name Sam Hyde — from the many other members of the angry, pro-Trump internet movement that grew out of Gamergate into a force capable of roiling American popular and political culture: Hyde has his own television show on Cartoon Network.” Indeed, Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace has featured such delights as a blackface bit. It’s also rather popular, and the network is sticking by it despite grumblings from staff.

But the election has made some people wake up. In the face of the network’s embrace of the show, as well as numbers that reveal an appalling lack of women creators (and a somewhat sexist creative director) at Adult Swim, comedian Brett Gelman — who has appeared in several Adult Swim programs, most recently Brett Gelman’s Dinner in America — has cut ties to the network.

He spoke to Paste magazine about his choice:

So, I don’t think this is a network who is white supremacist—they employ a lot of people of color—but you kind of get into your own bubble and are not aware of a lot of the hiring practices. It wasn’t until I read the BuzzFeed article that I realized. And maybe I was in denial, I’ll admit that. You think, “well, I’ll make a difference.” But I was so disgusted with the hiring practices of women and that [ Million Dollar Extreme ] was greenlit and was on the air, and I can’t work on a network that is so mindless about these things.

Buzzfeed reports that other talent as well as Gelman have spoken out, and that more of the network’s talent is now in conflict with leadership. This is good. Pushing back against Trumpism is going to have to involve every facet of our lives, from the shows we watch to workplaces to our commutes. And sometimes, yes, we may have to do as Gelman did and give up on lucrative or successful opportunities in order to make a stand. As he told Paste, he’s not a hero. But his choice is an example of the kind of principled sacrifice we have to make to push the norms of decency and respect that are now being so openly flouted.