Jodie Comer has made a point of using her Instagram Stories to voice her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. She recently participated in Pride Inside, an online festival set up by Amnesty International, UK Black Pride, ParaPride, Gendered Intelligence and Stonewall, too. And, of course, she plays an LGBTQ+ character in Killing Eve (Villanelle sleeps with both men and women throughout the series).
On paper, then, Comer is not the sort of person you’d typically expect to be “cancelled” in the current climate of social media call-out. However, the hashtag #JodieComerIsOverParty recently went viral due to rumours the actor is dating a man called James Burke. And Burke is, in turn, rumoured to be a Trump supporter.
“It appears she’s probably dating some guy called James Burke,” explained one person on Twitter. “A guy called James Burke is also a Republican who has made some racist and homophobic comments, and they might be the same person so Jodie Comer is now cancelled.”
It is worth noting here that rumours of a relationship between Comer and Burke remain unsubstantiated. Neither party has acknowledged the rumours or the controversy – it is all the whispers and hearsay of amateur armchair detectives. It remains similarly unclear as to how the name ‘James Burke’ has been ascribed to the “mystery man” Comer was photographed sitting outdoors with, or why some social media users are sure that the person Comer is allegedly dating is the same Burke they’ve discovered with right-leaning political affiliations.
Indeed, as noted by The New York Post, “several people named James Burke exist, including an 83-year-old science historian.”
For a moment, though, let’s say it’s all true: Comer’s new boyfriend is a Republican. What then?
First things first, let’s consider the fact that politics is one of those taboo topics – like crazy exes, money, and pineapple on pizza – many unconsciously swerve on a first date, in order to get to know one another without arguing over the table. With that in mind, then, who are we to say that Comer was aware of Burke’s past behaviour and voting record before they began dating?
Secondly, if you vote for a racist, sexist bigot, then you are indeed – to quote Time – “supporting a racist, sexist bigot.” If your boyfriend voted for a racist, sexist bigot, though, you are not necessarily a racist, sexist bigot yourself – rather, you are dating someone who has pledged their allegiance to a racist, sexist bigot.
And that is an important distinction.
Of course, it’s common for people to judge and demonise women in the public eye for their dating choices. Florence Pugh, speaking on the Sue Perkins: An Hour Or So With… podcast, explained that she is constantly made to feel “like shit” over her relationship with Zach Braff.
“I’ve always found it funny, how I can be good enough for people to watch my work and support my work and pay for tickets, and I’m old enough to be an adult and pay taxes, but I’m not old enough to know who I should and should not have sex with,” the Little Women star said.
“Yet again, once again, it’s making a young woman feel like shit for no reason.”
Pugh added: “People want to have a say on who you go out with, where you go to lunch. I’ve just always found that weird, how people have a say over your private life.
“The fact is, I’m not a reality TV star, I don’t let people into my life like that. Since when has it been OK for people to shout at someone for their relationship? It’s crazy to me.”
It should go without saying at this point that women should be defined by so much more than what their partner believes in and does with their life. Blaming Comer for the alleged actions of a man she may or may not be dating, then, feels incredibly regressive – particularly as she has yet to address the situation herself.
Comer has a handful of grainy paparazzi shots linking her to a man who maybe, possibly is a Republican. Maybe. She has not spoken out in support of his beliefs: instead, she continues to use her platform to shine a spotlight on the matters that mean most to her. As such, she cannot be blamed for her rumoured partner’s words and transgressions – although there’s no denying that, later down the line, there is a debate to be ahd about complicity in relationships.
For now, surely we can agree that it’s up to Comer – and no one else – to privately take stock of the rumours swirling about her love life. To reconcile her beliefs with Burke’s. To decide if that’s even possible. Because, until we have some actual facts, the #JodieComerIsOverParty seems akin to sentencing a woman without any evidence of her wrongdoing.
And, in 2020, we can and must strive to do better than an online witch hunt.