Comedian John Cleese is catching heat on social media after doubling down on his support of J.K. Rowling with tweets that many have called transphobic.
The 81-year-old star, known best for “Monty Python” and “Fawlty Towers,” sparked outrage after previously signing a letter in solidarity with the “Harry Potter” author. Rowling was accused of making transphobic remarks over the summer and continues to defend herself amid heightened criticism.
On Sunday, Cleese’s name began trending on Twitter after followers noticed he responded to some of his own detractors with a remark that some deemed as transphobic as what Rowling had said in the past.
“Deep down, I want to be a Cambodian police woman,” he joked in response to one irate user. “Is that allowed, or am I being unrealistic ?”
Almost immediately, the tweet drew anger from his followers.
"Oh, man. I've been a fan of Monty Python & some of your other work for years and it's so disappointing to see you take such a hurtful stance on this issue.
Trans people are being attacked & invalidated from every angle, & instead of being supportive & uplifting? You say this," one user wrote in response.
"I think you're too old pal," someone else noted.
"Do you remember your youth John when old fogies balked at Python? Do you remember debating Life of Brian with the clergy? You are now the clergy of that scenario. Open your mind," another user wrote, referencing his past films.
Undeterred, Cleese attempted to take the high road by explaining to one critic that he finds “woke” culture irritating and said that he has bigger concerns than transgender people.
“I'm afraid I'm not that interested in trans folks,” he explained. “I just hope they're happy and that people treat them kindly.
“Right now I'm more focussed on threats to democracy in America, the rampant corruption in the UK, the appalling British Press, the revelations about police brutality…”
He continued: “...Covid19, the incompetence of the British government, China's complete disregard for the necessity to abandon fossil fuels, the developments in France between Macron and Islamicists, diabetes, and the recent deaths of several of my close friends. Does than sound hard-hearted ?”
Despite seemingly trying to put an end to the debate, Cleese continued to mock “woke” culture and trans people in further responses to his critics.
“It's the complete lack of perspective that bothers me. Of course, that goes with a complete lack of a sense of humour,” he wrote. “Heard a woke joke yet?”
The actor then attempted to write a “woke joke” that seemingly referenced the outrage people often react with when an actor or actress who does not identify as transgender is cast in a role that does.
“A production of 'Macbeth' may [be] cancelled because the man playing the lead revealed that he had never actually killed anyone Convicted murderers are now being sought,” he wrote. “Otherwise they will have to stage Chekhov's Three Sisters, who will be Inuit, Thai and Samoan.”
Later, he responded to another user who accused him of outright transphobia.
“Yes, my understanding is superficial,” he wrote. “One thing: When a woman who was once a man is competing against women who have always been women, I think she has an advantage, because she inherited a man's body, which is usually bigger and stronger than a woman's Does that prove phobia?”
The actor explained that cancel culture “misunderstands the main purposes of life, which is to have fun.”
“Everything humorous is critical. If you have someone who is perfectly kind and intelligent and flexible and who always behaves appropriately, they’re not funny. Funniness is about people who don’t do that, like Trump,” he told the outlet in July.
Meanwhile, the once-revered "Harry Potter" author has been repeatedly slammed on social media for her comments about trans people in the past. In June, she posted a tweet mocking an article that made reference to "people who menstruate," urging writers to use the term "woman."
"If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction," Rowling wrote at the time. "If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth."
Rowling then penned an essay on the matter, attempting to explain her perspective and revealed she was “worried about the new trans activism.”
The situation prompted many in both the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” franchises to speak out against the author’s anti-trans views.