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Boys will be boys: The 2 Johnnies and why impact matters more than intention


By Lauren Heskin
02nd Mar 2022

@the2johnnnies / Instagram

Boys will be boys: The 2 Johnnies and why impact matters more than intention

2FM will reinstate “Drive It” with the 2 Johnnies following an investigation into sexist remarks but there are so many lessons yet to be learned

“I didn’t mean it like that.” “He was only having a laugh.” “Would you relax?!” 

How many times have those words been uttered in your direction when a flicker of discomfort ripples across your face at some passing remark, whether aimed at you or another woman.

We regularly get trapped in the etiquette of intention versus impact. I didn’t intend to insult you, therefore your feelings were not justified. It matters more what I meant than how it made you feel. But as we’re all learning, and probably nobody faster than the Two Johnnies this week, intention does not, in fact, supersede impact.

The 2 Johnnies controversy

If you’re not caught up, comedic duo John McMahon and John O’Brien who have a successful podcast, The 2 Johnnies, launched their new radio show Drive It on 2FM in February. After the first show aired, a member of their team posted a snippet from their latest podcast on social media. In it, the duo read out sexist bumper stickers with a call to action to check out the new 2FM show. 

Now, when I say sexist, I mean “Tyres are like women, no good unless they are squealing” and “She’s not a princess, she’s a sl*t”. Yeah. 

On the podcast, they discredit the stickers as “scandalous” and wonder who thinks they’re funny, but this is excluded from the 2FM promo snippet. The promo was quickly condemned and removed, and 2FM put the show on hold while they investigated the matter. The pair later apologised, saying that they didn’t condemn the stickers in a strong enough fashion and that the promo video, which was not seen or approved by 2FM prior to publishing, lacked the context of the episode.

Today, 2FM said it would reinstate the show after engaging “intensively with The 2 Johnnies in respect of the breaches of our social media guidelines, the standards expected with RTE content and the challenges of moving from an unregulated space into one where regulations apply.”

Boys will be boys

I don’t bemoan them getting their slot back and their excuse certainly has some merit. Anyone who has listened to their podcast will know there is no malicious intent in them or in the segment and their aim is to be funny, not vulgar.

However, they were vulgar. And doesn’t excusing their behaviour based on their intentions start sounding a lot like “boys will be boys”?

If they found the slogans so insulting, as their subsequent apologies suggest, why air them at all on their comedy podcast? The reality is they had to find them humorous on some level, even if just in their salaciousness, and it’s a sad truth that many men (and some women) in Ireland would agree with them. The fact that they were “repeating” them and not creating them doesn’t alter that. We’d scold a child for saying a bad word even when they had no idea what it meant.

That’s because intent matters, but it’s nowhere near as relevant as impact.

Priyanka Chopra and Rosie O’Donnell

Take the recent cringe-worthy moment between Priyanka Chopra and Rosie O’Donnell. Approaching them in a restaurant in Malibu recently, O’Donnell, who have never met Chopra or her husband Joe Jonas before, told Chopra she was a big fan of her father. When Chopra asked how, O’Donnell responded with “Deepak Chopra”, the alternative medicine advocate who is not related to Priyanka. Chopra’s father was Ashok Chopra, a doctor in the Indian Army and he passed away in 2013. Awkward.

But then O’Donnell went on to dig a deeper grave for herself, taking to social media to publicly apologise for the incident, only to refer to Priyanka as the “Chopra wife” without ever including her actual name. Now, did Rosie O’Donnell intend to insult Chopra? I doubt it, but nonetheless, her comments were still crass, in poor taste and frankly a little racist. As Priyanka pointed out afterwards, “not all Chopra’s are related to the great Deepak, just as not all Smith’s are related to the legendary Will Smith.”

Did the 2 Johnnies intend to insult women by reading aloud incredibly sexist bumper stickers? No, but the reality is they did and being granted a radio show on national airways comes with responsibilities and consequences. What you say matters more than what you meant to say. 

It’s certainly a steep learning curve, but frankly, it’s one you’d have hoped the 2 Johnnies (and anyone with a fully formed frontal lobe) would have learned before now. And for those who feel 2FM’s temporary suspension and investigation were harsh, why not “repeat” those bumper stickers to your female loved ones and see whether they find them humorous… on any level.