As soon as Gina Carano saw one of the world’s richest men post this message on X, formerly known as Twitter, she knew the time had come to take her fight to court:
If you were unfairly treated by your employer due to posting or liking something on this platform, we will fund your legal bill. No limit. Please let us know.
If you were unfairly treated by your employer due to posting or liking something on this platform, we will fund your legal bill.
Please let us know.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 6, 2023
Almost no one in the country has a clearer or higher-profile claim to Elon Musk’s offer than the actress who became a breakout star on Disney’s hit Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian.”
In 2020, when Carano began sharing political opinions criticizing COVID mask mandates and poking good-natured fun at online bullies who demand others state their preferred pronouns, the studio forced her to undergo reeducation training. But when she suggested that Holocaust-era hatred might provide a cautionary tale for America’s increasing atmosphere of intolerance and division, the company fired her.
“They just dehumanized me,” said Carano.
“Basically, what Disney and Lucasfilm said to the rest of [the industry], is, ‘Hey, don’t work with this person.’ And, you know, who’s not gonna listen to Disney, the most powerful entertainment company in the world?”
Ironically, the 2021 post that proved to be Carano’s undoing was a screenshot of a meme meant to encourage acceptance of one another’s differences. Below an historical image of a gang of Nazi youngsters attacking a bloodied and fleeing Jewish woman, the caption read:
Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…. even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different than hating someone for their political views?
Disney wildly mischaracterized the post, calling it “abhorrent and unacceptable,” claiming Carano had “denigrat[ed] people based on their cultural and religious identities.” But worse, Carano says news outlets like The New York Times dutifully spread the company’s false narrative.
“When I was going through it, I was like, ‘These people are telling such lies. How are they getting away with this?’” the former MMA fighter wondered. “The media was sick at that time. They would just try to twist everything that I posted into something racist. And it’s really been kind of humorous now, because people are waking up, and they’re like, ‘wait a second, what did she say?’”
Yet, for three years, Carano, who starred in the Daily Wire’s “Terror On The Prairie,” lacked the resources to counter the destructive message Disney had peddled about her, making it next to impossible for her to find work in mainstream Hollywood.
“I had to, you know, completely move my life out of California and [the question] was, where am I going to put my funds? In trying to battle Disney for years and years? Or am I going to just try to restart my life? I had spoken to some lawyers, and they said how expensive it was going to be. And I was like, oh my gosh, well, I need to get stable and in a safe place first.”
Musk’s willingness to foot the legal bill for anyone who had a legitimate discrimination claim changed her timeline.
As soon as she saw it, she reached out to X executives and almost immediately heard back from lawyers asking for more information. Carano sent over her story, including a detailed timeline, email records, and text communications she’d kept from her time working on “The Mandalorian.” Then she held her breath for the short time it took them to reply back, “Yes, we want to take this on.”
If successful, Carano’s suit, filed February 6 in a California federal court, will force Lucasfilm to recast her and compensate her for lost wages. And she doesn’t believe she’ll be the last wrongful termination complainant Disney will face, especially given that Musk put out a second call urging other current and former Mouse House employees to come forward if they believe the company has discriminated against them.
“I think [the lawyers X has provided to pursue cases against Disney] are probably getting flooded,” Carano says. “There’s needed to be a reckoning in that company, I believe, for a long time. Because for a long time, it’s been like, ‘Well, we’re Disney. We’re Lucasfilm. You should just be honored to be here. And that kind of mentality really led to disrespect of people from every single department, not just actors … And everybody who’s worked in that company knows that there’s a problem, and it needs to be fixed.”
So far, Disney executives are staying as quiet as mice about Carano’s allegations, with CEO Bob Iger saying he has no comment.
But X is making it clear it’s in the actress’ corner for the long haul. The same day Carano filed her suit, Joe Benarroch, the platform’s head of business operations, made this statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “As a sign of X Corp’s commitment to free speech, we’re proud to provide financial support for Gina Carano’s lawsuit, empowering her to seek vindication of her free speech rights on X and the ability to work without bullying, harassment, or discrimination.”
One thing is certain: If Musk and Carano are successful, it could have huge implications for the entertainment industry. And for the First Amendment rights of all American workers.