Recently, a trend has emerged where celebrities and public figures are called out and ‘cancelled’ in the public sphere and on social media. I have at times, enjoyed watching careers crumble as the social media machine tears down its next victim for questionable decisions they have made in the past or the present. Watching Harvey Weinstein’s long overdue public shaming felt like a small kernel of justice served cold and I only wished it had lasted longer.
We’ve seen it in the form of documentaries and Podcasts, and most recently in social media attacks. However, I’m not here to discuss the Harvey Weinstein’s and R Kelly’s, that’s not my place. No, what I want to talk about it is the so-called “Cancel Culture” where the public are removing any support of the individual in order to deprive them of their livelihood for mere comments or jokes in poor taste.
This means in essence, the public refuse to buy their products, watch their films or support them in any financial sense in order to punish the person for the indiscretion. While some may bounce back, others may find there is no limit to the lengths in which these people will go in order to ensure the individuals are never forgiven for their actions. Or God forbid anyone tries to give them a second chance, like the case of Justine Sacco in 2013 (I would recommend Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve been Publicly Shamed’ for reference.)
Before I delve into my thoughts on this particular topic, I thought I would start by saying I certainly am not defending any of the comments of individuals who I have mentioned here. I am simply raising my thoughts on why we as a society feel the need to bring down these figures in such a public manner and remove their chance of redemption.
Sure, I’m all for calling out abusers and sex offenders for their actions and holding them accountable for their choices. But as I said, this post isn’t about them.
What I do not agree with is our society reverting back to lynch mobs and pitch fork prosecution for public speech. But it’s not limited to the individual. No, we must also attack anyone who is willing to support these people.
A recent example is the attempted cancellation of James Gunn, the director best known for the Guardians of the Galaxy film franchise. I say attempted, because thankfully Disney/Marvel saw the light and re-hired him, but the back flip should never have been required in the first place.
The Caffeine Challenge
I love coffee in the morning. When the caffeine hits it feels like a warm hug, and I truly feel that this is the best…
Mr Gunn had sent out tweets over 10 years ago making jokes about pedophilia and rape, using a social platform to further his fledgling career. For anyone following him, this type of provocative, crass humour is exactly what he was known for, just delivered in the wrong platform. Thankfully he chose a different path in the years following.
Yet somehow these surfaced last year, and subsequently lead to his sacking from the post of the latest Guardians film. Let me stress I do not condone these tweets and believe this to be a terrible subject to make light of. My issue is with the way this played out in the court of public opinion and not that he got into trouble for saying it.
He has admitted great shame that they were even made and profusely apologised for his past self, as anyone would.
Yet he was public lashed and anyone associated with him felt the burn. He was forced to resign from his next job due to the overwhelming hate directed at both him and Jessica Chastain (who was involved in the project). Chastain, an outspoken feminist and advocate for abuse victims. This is who the public decided to tear down next during this ‘scandal’. Yes, this amazing woman. Great choice.
Learning to skate: A quarter life good-time story
Ok, so the title might sound like a strange topic at first, but hear me out. Context matters.
Why as a society, must we destroy a person’s life for one simple mistake? Yes, they live a life most of us could only dream of, but does that give us the right to light them on fire and watch them burn?
Don’t get me wrong, calling out poor behaviour and tasteless humour is the right thing to do. I don’t deny this.
If someone genuinely is racist or homophobic and has been their entire life, such as Paula Dean, then they need to be removed from a position of influence. Take those people down all you like because hate speech should never be normalised.
But there is a distinct difference between a person who preaches hate, and someone who makes a poor decision in the name of attempted humour. I don’t believe the latter deserve to be stripped of their chance of redemption for one simple error they regret.
What James Gunn was really being punished for was being a bad comedian. The kind of humour stand ups like George Carlin and Sarah Silverman perfected over years of trial and error, he thought he might give a go in 10 minutes of thought on twitter.
Let them have a chance to redeem themselves before sending the hounds.