Yes, yes, there is a lot of almost deafening, headline-grabbing culture wars hype surrounding The Mandalorian actress Gina Carano’s wrongful termination lawsuit against Disney, which materialized last week, a few years after the studio fired her for comparing the U.S. political climate to Nazi Germany on Instagram. On a superficial level, this is one of those everyone-hates-everyone-else situations: Carano’s allies have painted her as a defender of free speech while others suggest that she’s a hate-stoking idiot who authors juvenile tweets about her pronouns (“boop/bop/beep”), critiques of Covid lockdowns, and worse. Naturally, the hype around the case was magnified after it turned out that Elon Musk was bankrolling her complaint.
From a legal perspective, however, L’Affaire Carano isn’t really about free speech so much as it is about political speech, and how her politics may have conflicted with Disney’s carefully cultivated image. For starters, Carano is seeking to leverage an obscure provision of California’s labor code that safeguards the right to engage in political activity without interference from one’s employer. Although this law has been on the books since World War I, it’s rarely been tested, save for a few instances in the 1970s, when the state’s biggest telecom fired employees advocating for gay rights.