It’s difficult to speak about harassment or abuse of any kind but when also coupled with the fear of losing employment, it’s even more daunting. That’s why we were surprised to see one individual make a clear accusation online of sexual harassment. While backlash was expected and did happen, reaction from Cartoon Network was also swift.
The first reaction of many when talk of abuse comes up is to ask for proof instead of showing concern for the person coming forward, and that’s problematic to say the least. Women shared personal experiences with harassment of all kinds recently with #YesAllWomen, and while some do feel comfortable talking about it, others don’t. Some talk about it but not using their real name, some of which we saw when the #thatwoman hashtag emerged. Some do speak under their own name but do not reveal the name the person they’re accusing like when cartoonist MariNaomi talked about being harassed on a convention panel (Scott Lobdell went on to out himself as the harasser in question). Around that same time, Tess Fowler came out, after long consideration, to say comic writer Brian Wood had sexually harassed her. It’s not easy.
So when we saw creators in the animation industry tweeting about Cartoon Network’s Skyler Page, writer for Adventure Time and creator/writer of Clarence, we were surprised. But apparently the issue had been brewing for a while. Maré Odomo tweeted this on June 30th.
Skyler Page, creator of Cartoon Network’s “Clarence”, is known to grope women without their consent. Don’t be left alone in a room with him.
— maré odomo (@mareodomo) June 30, 2014
okay dudes, this Skyler Page Fiasco everybody is talking about happened to me, you can stop hounding my friends for “proof” — Emily Partridge (@empartridge) July 3, 2014
She continued in a series of tweets:
I’ve been encouraged by multiple people I trust that I am safe and supported in coming forward about this, so here I am it’s no secret that I deal with mental health issues. I’m incredibly sympathetic towards mental illness. being “sick”, however, doesn’t – - excuse you from toxic, manipulative, cruel behaviour, especially when these events are repetitive and specific. I had heard rumours about Skyler being “quirky” but nothing about his fucked up behaviour towards women until AFTER what happened to me if I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have let him catch me alone or be near me. I don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else. my friends have been speaking out for me while I was too scared to come forward and I appreciate that a lot. the fact that twitter needs ME to speak is distressing, but I feel responsible to other women in the industry. don’t trust this guy. what’s also distressing is the overwhelming silence from certain parties. you’ve made a lot of people feel less safe this week…it makes me feel fucked up that people are saying how brave it is for me to say something. this is how unsafe we all feel. I immediately regret dealing with this. to people who are saying this should have been discreetly dealt with by HR or something: a) HR is already dealing with it. b) discretion does not keep other people safe.
It’s a tough situation to deal with, one that person can feel pressured to handle in isolation and/or that a whole industry may sweep under the carpet for too long (we’ve seen it happen). Thankfully, in this case, fairly swift action has been taken. A Cartoon Network spokesperson told BuzzFeed “Skyler Page is no longer an employee at Cartoon Network Studios,” and that the show would continue. Others made sure to note this shouldn’t be held against the series:
Let’s continue to support Clarence, which will continue without his involvement. A lot of talented folks work to make this show great! — Megan Nicole Dong (@sketchshark) July 3, 2014
Creator Patrick Harpin also had this to say to those concerned about the show on his tumblr:
Skyler’s asshole behavior (though not yet sexual assault) was the main reason I quit the show more than a year ago. I can’t imagine how fans of the show are feeling right now. But the reason you like Clarence, in spite of it’s creator, is because the “creator” had very little to do with the show. Despite what it says in the credits, Skyler never wrote a single episode of Clarence. It was created by the writers (me and Spencer Rothbell) and the talented board artists (people like Charlie Gavin, Derek & Diana). We took Skyler’s idea of “a fat dumb kid” and made a character out of it. Skyler mostly “kept the couch from floating away”, and read whatever lines we gave him. There’s been enough victims of Skyler Page, don’t punish the talented crew that actually raised Clarence.
Events have rolled swiftly on this story today, and should more be revealed we will bring you an update.
[UPDATE] Partridge has provided the following information on her tumblr:
I want to go curl up in a hole, but I feel like it’s my responsibility to address some things first (some are more important that others):
- I work on Adventure Time, not Clarence.
- I’m a storyboard revisionist, not a storyboard artist.
- I did not personally act to get Skyler fired. Cartoon Network made that decision on their own without involving me, and the situation between Skyler and I was not the only reason for his termination.
- Clarence will continue without him. it hasn’t been canned. nobody should boycott the show, it has a great staff.
- Skyler didn’t rape me. this is a really messed up rumour that needs to stop being propagated. sexual assault does not equate rape.
- I’ve heard a lot about how people just assumed that girls knew to stay away from him. I didn’t. I hadn’t even met him before; a lot of us didn’t go to CalArts, guys, and we need to work harder to keep each other safe. a lot of other women have come to me in private with really similar stories. we need to stop letting this happen.
- that Cartoon Brew article is gross and sensationalist (“exclusive!!! wow!”), it’s a decent compilation of information but please stop spreading it if you have some other option.
- Jeff Rowe made an important post about Skyler’s mental health: http://jeffrowegifs.tumblr.com/post/90700109592/skyler-page
- Emily Quinn tacked some more important stuff onto his statement: http://emilord.tumblr.com/post/90707412751
- despite my anger, I really hope that this dude gets help. I’m incredibly hesitant to lay all of his behaviour on mental illness after hearing (private) accounts of people’s personal experiences with him, but I’m not a doctor, nor do I know him personally.
- no matter what side you’re on or what you believe, please don’t be an asshole.