The Long Winters’ John Roderick Apologizes For Becoming “Bean Dad”
John Roderick, podcast host and frontman of indie rock band the Long Winters, has the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first person to go viral in 2021 for really, really dumb reasons. On Saturday evening, Roderick posted a long Twitter thread, telling a story about his daughter attempting to open a can of beans. In Roderick’s telling, his sobbing, hungry daughter spent six hours trying to figure out how to work a can opener, while he pointedly refused to help. The story quickly made the rounds and infuriated a whole lot of people, and Roderick, in the eyes of the internet, became “Bean Dad.”
Roderick’s story took a darker turn when Twitter uses found old posts in which Roderick used racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic terms. Roderick’s podcast co-host, the Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, defended him, but others distanced themselves from Roderick. The podcast My Brother, My Brother, & Me, which had used a Roderick song as their theme music, announced that they would no longer use Roderick’s music. Roderick deleted his Twitter account, and it remains inactive.
This morning, Roderick posted an apology on his website. In his lengthy note, Roderick says that the whole bean story had been “a bit” and that his daughter wasn’t really crying the entire time: “My story about my daughter and the can of beans was poorly told. I didn’t share how much laughing we were doing, how we had a bowl of pistachios between us all day as we worked on the problem, or that we’d both had a full breakfast together a few hours before.” He also acknowledged that his story had painful resonances for people who’d experienced child abuse, which Roderick hadn’t anticipated.
As to his use of offensive terms, Roderick wrote, “I can say only this: all of those tweets were intended to be ironic, sarcastic. I thought then that being an ally meant taking the slurs of the oppressors and flipping them to mock racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry… It was a lazy and damaging ideology, that I continued to believe long past the point I should’ve known better that because I was a hipster intellectual from a diverse community it was ok for me to joke and deploy slurs in that context. It was not.”
Here’s Roderick’s full apology:
I deactivated my Twitter yesterday in a panic. I had to reflect on what I’d done and the hurt I’d caused and my mind was clouded by an unprecedented flow of new information. I want to acknowledge and make amends for the injuries I caused. I have many things to atone for. My parenting story’s insensitivity and the legacy of hurtful language in my past are both profound failures. I want to confront them directly.
My story about my daughter and the can of beans was poorly told. I didn’t share how much laughing we were doing, how we had a bowl of pistachios between us all day as we worked on the problem, or that we’d both had a full breakfast together a few hours before. Her mother was in the room with us all day and alternately laughing at us and telling us to be quiet while she worked on her laptop. We all took turns on the jigsaw puzzle.
I framed the story with me as the asshole dad because that’s my comedic persona and my fans and friends know it’s “a bit”.
What I didn’t understand when posting that story, was that a lot of the language I used reminded people very viscerally of abuse they’d experienced at the hand of a parent. The idea that I would withhold food from her, or force her to solve a puzzle while she cried, or bind her to the task for hours without a break all were images of child abuse that affected many people very deeply. Rereading my story, I can see what I’d done.
I was ignorant, insensitive to the message that my “pedant dad” comedic persona was indistinguishable from how abusive dads act, talk and think.
I woke up yesterday to find that I had become #BeanDad. I was a locus for a tremendous outpouring of anger and grief. It took me hours to fully grasp. I reread the story and saw clearly that I’d framed it so poorly, so insensitively. Bean Dad, full of braggadocio and dickhead swagger, was hurting people. I’d conjured an abusive parent that many people recognized from real life.
I am deeply sorry for having precipitated more hurt in the world, for having prolonged or exacerbated it by fighting back and being flippant when confronted, and for taking my Twitter feed offline yesterday instead of facing the music. I wish the parents I modeled didn’t exist; I wish no one had to grow up with a parent who tortured them physically or emotionally. I would never intentionally make light of those experiences and I’ll never underestimate again the pain I can cause with some poorly chosen words and by acting defensively when challenged.
As for the many racist, anti-Semitic, hurtful and slur-filled tweets from my early days on Twitter I can say only this: all of those tweets were intended to be ironic, sarcastic. I thought then that being an ally meant taking the slurs of the oppressors and flipping them to mock racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry. I am humiliated by my incredibly insensitive use of the language of sexual assault in casual banter. It was a lazy and damaging ideology, that I continued to believe long past the point I should’ve known better that because I was a hipster intellectual from a diverse community it was ok for me to joke and deploy slurs in that context. It was not. I realized, sometime in the early part of the decade, helped by real-life friends and Twitter friends too, that my status as a straight white male didn’t permit me to “repurpose” those slurs as people from disenfranchised communities might do. They were injurious regardless of my intent, because the words themselves have power and because actual violence is often prefaced by people saying, “I’m not racist, but…”
That was wrong, so I stopped.
Yesterday those old tweets resurfaced and hurt a lot of people anew. People who are close to me, people in my community who couldn’t square those words with the person they know me to be. And people who don’t know me, going about their business yesterday, had to see those awful slurs and feel the hurt those words inspire. They had to suffer this asshole #BeanDad casually demeaning them and their friends. I deeply regret having ever used those words. I do not want to spread more hate in the world. I want the opposite.
My language wasn’t appropriate then or now and reflecting on that has been part of my continuing education as an adult who wants to be a good ally. That education is ongoing, and this experience will have a profound effect on the way I conduct myself throughout the rest of my life.
I’m a middle-aged, middle-class straight white male and I try to be cognizant of that and of the responsibility my privileges entail in everything I do. In this case, it was precisely my privilege of not living in an abusive family, of not being a member of a community that routinely experiences real trauma, that caused me to so grossly misjudge the impact of the language I chose.
I have a lot more reflecting to do in the coming days so I’ll be taking a hiatus from my public life to let some of these lessons sink in. I apologize to my partners, my friends, and to all the people affected by my words for the hurt I caused.