Pietro Boselli has had quite the viral journey since the internet discovered he was both hot and an actual math teacher in 2014. He's been featured in magazine spreads, modeled for the likes of Armani and Equinox, and amassed a mighty Instagram following of 1.9 million.
The problem, however, with viral fame maintenance is you have to constantly feed the beast with new content. Boselli has opted to expand beyond just shirtless beach pics on Instagram into the world of online video. He mostly posts workout videos, which is fine and fully in his lane. But recently, he decided to try his hand at some light comedy.
It didn't go well.
While vacationing recently in the Philippines, Boselli decided to cut a video suggesting it was near impossible to find proper workout equipment on his remote beach. So, he decided to turn The Most Dangerous Game into The Most Dangerous Gain, and hunt a local man down on the beach in order to use him as a human barbell.
"I need to find something to repeatedly lift, for exercise," he says in the video before looking around.
"That Filipino man looks ideal!" he adds.
Yup, you can tell where this is going.
"But I need to be very careful, approach slowly, because he can get scared and start running," he continues.
The resulting controversy has been one not so much of the internet screaming bloody outrage, but rather the internet scratching its head, thinking, It's 2017, what made you think this is a good idea?
Mashable has collected a number of bewildered responses to "the joke."
"The Filipino man is referred to by the white man (Pietro Boselli) as 'that' and 'my weight,' he doesn't have a name, neither do we see his face clearly, nor do we hear him speak, he is purely an object to be used by the white man, and must be approached 'slowly because he can get scared and start running', just like a wild animal?" wrote one concerned follower. "Yes I do have fun and I have a great sense of humour. That's what lets me recognise that this is demeaning and derogatory - not funny."
"I'm sure you mean well but IMHO this video is in poor taste," wrote another. "Reinforces racial stereotypes by using the Filipino island guy as a prop. Sadly good looking people who try to be funny usually fall short."
"While this is cute, slightly homoerotic and clearly not mean-spirited... I also find it somewhat problematic," added a third.
The situation has now escalated to the point wherehallowed British newspaper The Telegraph reached out to Boselli for comment.
"I am so far removed from racism that I cannot possibly see anything racist about a funny video I have made with my friend Danel (the Filipino man in the video)," Boselli told the paper.
"We all have differences but we are all the same as human beings. I have and always will respect everyone... If anyone sees any racism in this video, they probably have racism in their head."
You know, the whole problem may have been avoided if he had simply identified Danel by name and as his friend, rather than a random native man to be hunted. It seems like Boselli didn't mean to upset anyone, but comedy is hard and can easily go wrong even for professionals. Stand-ups, for example, workshop edgier jokes in small comedy clubs for weeks and months before they take them to wider audience. An average SNL episode always includes a few sketches that bomb, and some have been criticized for being tone-deaf and problematic as well. And those are people who are actual full-time comedy professionals, not model-hot math teachers who fancy themselves comedians on the side.
Let this serve as a reminder that that risks of comedy online can outweigh the rewards (see: the problems so many former Vine stars had when old, questionable "joke" videos are unearthed). Jokes aren't for everyone. Sometimes it's best to just stick to what you're known for and give the audience what they want. Just post a video of yourself doing squats on a beach in a speedo with another man on your shoulders. Leave the comedy to others.
"Just post your pic and go" isn't always an insult. Sometimes, it can save you from yourself.
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