Duana and I will be unpacking the Constance Wu (bad) work situation on Show Your Work this week. I get it though that it was a big story all weekend so here are some thoughts before we get into a more robust discussion about her on the podcast.
Much of the conversation around Game of Thrones lately has been about whether or not the way certain characters have behaved this season is true to character. Tyrion, for example, is the one that bothers me the most. He was supposed to be the most intelligent of all the people we care about – because his mind, as he has said over and over again, is all he had. Where has that mind been though? All greats can take an L once in a while but it’s been hard to believe that Tyrion’s losing streak has run this long. This is what’s been on my mind all weekend thinking about Constance Wu. Part of the reason your eyebrows went up when she started tweeting on Friday is that she was never on your list of Celebrities Who F-ck Up. We all thought she was smart, right? Smarter than this, at least.
If you missed it, here’s a quick summary: Friday was the day broadcast networks announced, ahead of the upfronts this week (when networks roll out their fall schedules), which shows have been renewed and which shows were being cut. The Hollywood Reporter compared it to the Red Wedding. As you can imagine, for some, it’s relief, they still have a job. For others, well, it’s sh-tty, because they no longer have a job.
Constance Wu’s show, Fresh Off The Boat, which was on the bubble, was renewed for a sixth season. Around the same time the news came out, she tweeted:
Followed by this:
And then when someone responded to her all like, hey, your show got renewed, that’s great news! This is how she answered:
“No, it’s not.”
If that wasn’t clear enough, she also left this comment on Instagram – like an actual typed comment:
Because this is social media, people picked up on it right away. Because this is 2019 and not 1999, she couldn’t bury it, everyone was talking about it on Friday, right at the end of the work day. So then she tried to backtrack, pretty much by pulling out the “fake news” card:
That was not a rampage, it was just how I normally talk. I say fuck a lot. I love the word. Y’all are making a lot of assumptions about what I was saying. And no, it’s not what it’s about. No it’s not..what this is all about. Stop assuming.— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) May 10, 2019
Todays tweets were on the heels of rough day&were ill timed w/the news of the show. Plz know, Im so grateful for FOTB renewal. I love the cast&crew. Im proud to be a part of it. For all the fans support, thank u & for all who support my casual use of the word fuck-thank u too😘— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) May 11, 2019
This is, obviously, a bad look on so many levels. Let’s start with the most basic: if Constance Wu were of the Justin Bieber generation, we wouldn’t be WTFing her outburst. It’s almost expected of those who are younger, raised on social media, who haven’t developed the hesitation muscle before reacting. A few weeks ago on The Social, we interviewed Lisa Damour, about her book Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. Lisa is an award-winning psychologist who writes a column for the NYT and her description of the teenage brain was one of my major takeaways from the segment. According to Lisa, teen brains, obviously, are still developing. And the back of the brain, where the emotional center lives, develops first. The front part of the brain, the rational, decision-making center, develops later. So, in theory, teens act first on emotion. Lisa compared the teen brain under stress to a snow globe, or a ball full of water and glitter, that’s been shaken. The glitter is everywhere, it’s flying around with no pattern, a mess of confusion. But if you set the globe down for a few minutes, the glitter will settle, the snow will start to calm – and the point here, especially as it relates to parenting teens, is that more often than not, it’s better to wait them out, to wait for their glitter to settle before engaging them. As we get older, naturally, because we are more experienced and mature, we’re better able to control the glitter, to handle our stress and confusion. In theory.
Constance Wu is 37 years old. She, clearly, did not have a handle on her glitter. But that’s where fame comes in. Fame is amazing, isn’t it? It’s amazing the effect it can have on a personality, it’s amazing how it can f-ck you up. The younger you are, certainly, the more damage it can cause – but adults are susceptible too. Constance has just come off the best year of her career: she was the lead in the most successful romantic comedy in a decade, she’s the star of a sitcom on a major network, she’s working alongside Jennifer Lopez in another highly anticipated film. There are more and more opportunities coming her way. She’s been on the climb. And she’s just made her first major career stumble… and on social media which, ironically, has been where she’s accumulated so much capital. Because Constance was the one on Twitter calling out inequality, privilege, quite rightly criticising The Great Wall movie for its white saviouring, using her platform to advocate for chance.
Now here she is on Twitter pulling a classic celebrity tantrum: the “poor me” pose followed by the “stop gossiping about me, that’s not what I meant” fingersnap.
What’s hard to ignore, though, is that it wasn’t just ONE outburst – it was a series. It was two tweets, and a reply tweet, AND a comment on Instagram. Constance’s glitter was flying all over the place proving, predictably, that fame doesn’t discriminate. Not even after the glitter had time to settle. Because the next day, after Constance had some time to think about it, she posted a longer explanation.
These words are my truth. I hope you hear them pic.twitter.com/l6SvbFcUlj— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) May 11, 2019
The middle paragraph? The one that ends with “trying my best to use [my privilege] well”? That’s good. What’s not good is much of the rest of it. What’s not good is the way “easy and pleasant” start to feel dirty in your mouth when you read her statement out loud. Especially since, for the people whose shows were cancelled, for those who have been rejected and deprived of opportunities in their careers because of inequality, for those who’ve had to walk away from opportunity because of harassment, for anyone who has to continue to work in environments that are fraught with toxicity, what they wouldn’t give for the chance at an “easy and pleasant” work experience, you know? To say nothing of what FOTB means for representation, five seasons and counting of representation on a major American network.
And then, there’s the breathtaking audacity at the end to remind people, almost chidingly, to “believe women”, which as we all know by now is an expression applied to NOT THIS SITUATION but situations much more traumatic, which was then mocked on Weekend Update on SNL by Heidi Gardner...
Well, now Constance Wu has become a joke. Perhaps the worst part is, she’s a joke among other celebrities:
Oh fucking goddamn hell fuckfuckdickshit! https://t.co/9sB3UgUze0— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) May 12, 2019
Fucking hell. We have a trailer! I’m literally crying! We also have a time slot! Thursday nights at 9:30PM. Ugh. Fuck. I’m so lucky. Happy Mother’s Day. pic.twitter.com/sYJWe63uwh— Joel Kim Booster (@ihatejoelkim) May 12, 2019
So… all that said… should Constance Wu be cancelled? Spoiler alert for Show Your Work: of course not.
Yes, she made a mistake and doubled down on it. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But also, it makes her more interesting. I’m interested in how she comes back from it. How she will WORK to come back from it. IF she will work to come back from it. If we cancel her, we don’t get to observe that, study it, hopefully learn from it.
And there’s already so much to observe and study and learn from Constance’s situation. Like this:
What would have been the best case scenario for Constance? To be able to do both, right? To continue with Fresh Off The Boat AND be in this new project she was excited about. For whatever reason, she can’t do both. That’s just one reason why she’s upset. Underneath the surface of that reason though, is WHY she couldn’t do both. Timing? Sure. Timing, though, is a privilege too. Timing is afforded to some stars and not others. The unnamed project that Constance wanted so badly presumably can’t or won’t wait for her to be clear of her FOTB schedule to go into production. Would Jennifer Lawrence be in the same position? Would Scarlett Johansson? Would Nicole Kidman? Or do their projects schedule to accommodate them?
Constance Wu isn’t just hurting because she’s had to give up an opportunity. She’s hurting because in giving up the opportunity, she’s also facing the realisation that, as successful as she’s become in the last few years, she’s still not successful enough to have a project wait for her. And that’s the added layer of complication we’ll be getting deep into on Show Your Work. Wednesday!