The cartoon world is in an uproar after Skyler Page, the creator of the popular animated show Clarence was confronted with some very serious sexual assault allegations by Adventure Time storyboard revision artist Emily Partridge. According to The Cartoon Network, Page has already been terminated.
The allegations surfaced on Twitter last week when Partridge began tweeting about someone who had acted inappropriately towards her. The original tweets, which were republished on Cartoon Brew appear vague and do not name any names, although it's clear that Partridge is talking about a traumatic event.
Maré Odomo, an illustrator, posted Page's name the next day and Partridge began to use his name in her tweets about the matter as well.
In the ensuing tweets, Partridge not only gave more specific information about Page's actions, but began dismantling the mental illness defense that she was sure was coming. According to numerous sources, Page allegedly lives with Bi-Polar disorder, and while this in no way excuses his behavior (especially considering that it was repetitive and targeted only towards women), others who know page (friend Jeff Rowe, and Adventure Time production coordinator Emily Quinn made pleas that the public consider Page's mental state, saying that it must be taken into account.
From Jeff Rowe's tumblr post:
On the same day the assault happened, Skyler also walked through the streets shirtless screaming at cops. I saw him try to smoke cigarettes through his nose and drink days old olive juice. He popped in and out of different characters, and answered questions with riddles. And the next day, when me and another close friend drove him to the hospital to get him treatment, I sat with him for hours in the Emergency Room as he sat strapped to a bed singing They Might Be Giants songs and talking like a cowboy. I don't know if he was cognizant enough to see that I was crying.
What happened was horrible, but the tone of the online conversation is painting Skyler as a calculating predator. I don't deny what happened, but based on my experience, his actions were the result of a tragic bipolar (potentially schizophrenic) episode, and don't reflect the thoughtful, considerate, kind hearted person I've always known him to be.
The reality is that regardless of mental illness, Page's behavior was predatory and there's no way to compare any kind of sexual assault to drinking old olive juice. It's unfortunate that Page was going through a manic episode, but putting sexually aggressive behavior into the same category as drinking something unsavory does work to minimize Partridge's experience, intentionally or not.
Quinn's post on Tumblr painted a very different picture. While she made it clear that his mental illness need to be taken into account, she also discussed the fact that no one at the studio knew how to deal with Page's mental illness and their response was to take him off projects. The heads, according to Quinn, made the mistake of believing that just because Page was not in the hospital, he had somehow become cured.
I'm not using his illness as an excuse, I'm not minimizing his actions in any way shape or form. It's still a despicable thing that Skyler did (both this time and times before). However, people need to know what else has been going on. Skyler was put in a position of having his own show, let the power go to his head, and was completely unable to emotionally handle the pressure. He has had episode after episode, and the studio did not know how to handle it. They eventually took him off most creative aspects of the show, but not entirely. The first time he was hospitalized, hardly anything was changed when he came back. They just assumed that since he was out of the hospital, that it meant he was "cured." I was LIVID. No mental illness magically gets "cured." But because there is such a stigma around mental disorders, nobody higher up knew how to deal with it. That's a problem.
Mental illness is certainly a major concern and it's important that Rowe and Quinn are speaking out about Page's mental state, but it also raises the question of why no one spoke out before and why Page's behavior is coming into light now although it's been affecting those around him for years, according to Quinn. Even if that's the case, and even though Page lives with mental illness, Partridge should be applauded for speaking out about her experience. Not only because it's a brave and painful thing to do, but also because it appears that this is the only way Page's behavior will finally be discussed. No one benefits when any form of sexual abuse or assault is kept in the dark. While it's possible to have some empathy for Page's mental illness, it's more important to note that being vocal about this kind of behavior is still necessary to ensure that it doesn't happen again. As Partridge points out in one of her tweets "discretion does not help keep other people safe."
Image via Youtube