Musk secured a $46.5 billion takeover of Twitter on April 20, 2022, but the deal has stuttered in recent days as he demands proof of the number of bots on the site. The move was met with a mix of emotions from Twitter users, with some celebrities claiming they will leave the platform once Musk takes over. Others stuck around and vowed to continue to fight for free speech.
Apatow, the filmmaker behind hits like Superbad, Knocked Up and This is 40, has expressed no such desire to leave the platform, and continues to tweet to his 2.4 million followers. Reflecting on what Twitter used to be, he admitted he misses the days of comedians just trying to be funny on the site, though that all seems long gone.
While speaking to Newsweek about his new HBO documentary, George Carlin’s American Dream (read the full article here), he shared his thoughts on the future of Twitter, and why he’s not worried about being canceled over the odd rogue tweet.
“Well, it couldn’t get any worse than it already is,” Apatow told Newsweek, when asked about Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Reflecting on the early days, he said: “It was much warmer and more inviting, and that’s really disappeared almost completely. And I don’t know if you ever can get it back.”
Despite being active on the site, Apatow acknowledges Twitter’s flaws. “It’s a lesson in bad manners. It’s not a community which makes you want to reach out to people, or to people with a different point of view. It is the definition of division and polarization.
“I am addicted to reading articles, I’m fascinated by people’s opinions. And I love soaking in all the information on there,” Apatow added, explaining why he’s still on Twitter despite its shortcomings. “But I really don’t know what you would do to make it a less toxic space. It really evolved into that quite organically. So I have no idea what he [Musk] wants to do.”
Musk has confirmed that he would allow former President Donald Trump to return to Twitter, which has yet again caused division amongst Twitter users. Apatow doesn’t like the idea of Trump returning to Twitter, but he does acknowledge that Musk can make his own rules.
“I don’t think having Donald Trump have an enormous bullhorn to spout his madness will do anything but hurt the country more. And I think once you are part of something like January 6 , it makes sense that you lose your ability to speak on a platform that is not owned by the government.
“But if Elon Musk owns it, he’s allowed to put him on there, because it is a private company. It’s not about freedom of speech. You know, this is this is now someone’s toy. But I hope he finds ways to make it a place that is less damaging to all of our psyches and to the country.”
The last decade has seen a rise in “cancel culture” on social media, with comedians often joking that they may get “canceled” for certain jokes. Prominent figures like J.K. Rowling and even historical figures like John Wayne can claim to have been “canceled” by certain groups.
Apatow himself, while not being at risk of cancellation, has certainly had brushes with controversy via his Twitter account. In March 2022, he received a backlash for tweeting about Will Smith’s mental state, though the tweet was immediately deleted.
“I think I’m too boring to be canceled,” Apatow mused. “Not enough people care about me and I don’t really see many people actually canceled, I mean there are people who commit crimes who’re canceled, but very few people are canceled for their thoughts and comments. I think that’s really overblown.”
Apatow states that the things to be worried about are things like book burnings, and the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Cancel culture is just a distraction.
“I think that there’s a different force in the country that uses cancel culture as a smokescreen to then say: ‘Let’s not teach children about the history of our country because we’re embarrassed about it’. But when I was a kid and I learned about terrible things our country had done, I thought ‘Well, I’m glad we’re not doing it as much now’ and I hope we keep getting better.
“I don’t think kids are feeling guilty because of the the crimes of the past. It’s important to know so it doesn’t happen again,” Apatow said.
“it’s only more of an argument to teach people the honest history of the country and that’s much more important than the conversation that’s just a distraction, which is cancel culture.” He reiterated: “They are banning books. That’s that’s much scarier.”
Apatow was speaking to Newsweek to promote his new HBO documentary George Carlin’s American Dream. Episode 1 of the two-parter airs on HBO on Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Episode 2 airs on Saturday at the same time. Both episodes are available to stream on HBO Max now.
Apatow’s new book, Sicker in the Head: More Conversations About Life and Comedy, is also out now.
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