I wanted to write a little bit about so-called “Cancel Culture” since it’s such a hot topic at the moment. What I find frustrating is that so many people, no matter what their perspective on the matter is, seem to write about the subject inaccurately. I thought I’d go over different points related to it and what my own perspective is.
The first is the notion that this concept is anything new. People no longer wishing to consume media from a certain creator after they are revealed to have done something bad or after revealing that they have negative views is nothing new. For example, when Gary Glitter was arrested for paedophilia in 2007 interest in his music took a sharp decline and people on both the left and the right of the political spectrum can agree that it’s reasonable to not want support someone like that. It’s only natural that people would be less interested in something if they consider its creator to be a bad person. You can’t force someone to like something (or someone).
The second is the idea that anyone has really been cancelled at all. J. K. Rowling is an example of somebody who claims to have been cancelled due to her attitudes about trans-women. The reality is that she still has an enormous platform and most publications will happily print whatever she wants to say. I’m also sure no publishing house would turn her down if she wanted to write a book about trans-issues, because she’s just such a big name. She hasn’t been ‘cancelled’ in any sense – all that has happened is that people have asked her to apologise after she has said things which have been deemed as offensive. Her voice has not been oppressed in any way whatsoever. It’s all about her ego.
The third point I want to address is the idea that “Cancel Culture” is a behaviour exclusively exhibited by people who hold on to left-wing beliefs. This is not true. I’ve been involved in the Doctor Who fandom for well over ten years. I can remember people responding to LGBT representation in the show by saying that they would no longer be watching it due to the clear “gay agenda” behind it. More recently, people claimed they would not watch due to the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor in the TV series. This is exactly the same mentality. I don’t think these people were wrong to do this – they’re entitled to watch whatever they want.
My fourth point is with regard to certain episodes of old sitcoms (or entire series) being removed from streaming sites. This is not what any modern day social movement is asking for. Yes, there is a minority of people within these movements who call for things like this, but ultimately the action is being taken by large corporations in an attempt to give solidarity to current social movements. I think this is unproductive as it shifts the conversation on to something which it was never about to begin with. For reference, I think that this kind of thing is harmful. I do think attitudes in certain older shows can be harmful as well, but we mustn’t forget about them, that would be white washing history and acting like these things were never problems to begin with. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with people watching and enjoying this older shows in spite of these issues – you can enjoy something while also acknowledging that parts of it are problematic. Indeed, something can be simultaneously progressive and problematic at the same time – just look at 60s Star Trek: progressive on issues of race, but uncomfortably sexist at times.
An example of this harmful censorship is the way that some schools in America have banned To Kill a Mocking-Bird due to featuring the N-word. This was an accurate representation of the time and the novel was actually written to raise awareness of the problems of racism. A simple note about historic context should suffice in nearly all situations where peopled are worried about content like this.
So, in conclusion, so-called “Cancel Culture” is nothing new, just a flimsy moral panic created by the media. It’s only natural that people would choose to not to watch things which come from people they dislike and, though usually politically motivated, it’s something that occurs across the political spectrum. It’s a complete non-issue, if you ask me, but I feel that it is being used to avoid talking about more serious problems, because this is ‘easy’ for the average person to understand and take a stance on. People can watch or not watch whatever they want. They always have done and they always will do.