I need your help, loyal readers. I’m confused, and I’m once again trying to figure out how my mind works.
The Folly of Cancel Culture
I hate cancel culture. And I despise others imposing on the world this silly and overbearing version of political correctness that forces people to bend to their desired speech at all times.
And that’s why I’ve been really good at separating art from the artist for most of my adult life.
One of my favorite movies is Braveheart. It’s action-packed with a great story and fantastic acting. I loved every minute. Later on it would come to the surface that the movie’s director and lead actor is a rabid anti-Semite (allegedly, anyway). Now, modern world behavior would dictate that I boycott this and all of his films. I lead a protest telling everyone to cancel Mel Gibson. And I never watch any of his movies again, since they should make me shiver with anger.
(In silent protest, I stopped watching What Girls Want… but perhaps that’s for different reasons.)
But no, I still love Braveheart and I’m happy to watch it again. Lethal Weapon also. They’re great films, and the fact that the actor is a sleaze doesn’t bother me at all. Not in theory, nor when watching the movies.
And the same goes for Louis CK. I loved his comedy and still do. I think the man is hysterical, and that hasn’t changed despite the world’s discovery that he might be a tad on the grotesque side. Again, I’ve separated the art from the artist. What a person has said and done does not change my opinion of their accomplishments that I will continue to thoroughly enjoy.
And I thought I held this view consistently.
Until I noticed another pattern.
There do exist celebrities whose words or actions caused me to lose a great deal of respect for them. And even if I might still enjoy their art, I feel I look at the artist differently now.
Cancel Ben Affleck?
For example, Ben Affleck. He’s been in some incredible films, from Good Will Hunting to Dogma. I love these movies and could watch them dozens of times. However, I’ve come to think of one of their main actors as a childish, unintelligent, douchebag, ever since his infamous appearance on Bill Maher. During this appearance, he shouted “racist” at others on the panel, like a 9-year-old, thinking he was making a decent, intellectual point; whereas, all he accomplished was using his celebrity “credentials” to make people look bad, despite being much smarter than he is.
And I’ve never really looked at him the same since.
And I feel it when I see him on the screen. I might not hate the movie (although I might… if it’s Justice League), but I feel a certain displeasure at seeing the success of someone I find so repellant.
And then there’s Jim Jefferies, a comedian I’ve enjoyed countless times. He’s not only hysterical, he’s borderline authoritative on some subjects!
But then I watched as he used his platform to humiliate people for whom I have a great deal of respect, like Jordan Peterson. And he did it in the most intellectually void manner possible, through creatively editing videos to produce an effect like the person sitting in front of him is an imbecile. When in truth, Peterson is probably infinitely more intelligent than Jim Jefferies.
And his “technique” and obvious biases were exposed by an Australian YouTuber who was able to definitively prove his pathetic methodology.
What happened? I stopped wanting to listen to his comedy. I didn’t want to be a click on his YouTube videos. I even basically convinced a friend not to go see him live after all of these shenanigans.
Why the discrepancy?
I want to stress that I am not calling for the cancellation or de-platforming of any of these people. I think that’s modern nonsense and a dangerous way to run the world.
Everyone should have the right to freedom of speech and expression… even if they’re an asshole who says terrible things.
But I’m perplexed by my relationship with those who have done inappropriate or disgusting things. It’s not based on levels, since I think I can say that Mel Gibson’s actions were objectively worse than those of Ben Affleck. So what is it? What exactly is the pattern?
My first instinct was that it was connected to time. How strong was my connection to this individual before things went awry? However, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all, since I was enjoying Ben Affleck films long before he decided to shout “racist” like a 19-year-old college kid taking Philosophy 101 at Oberlin.
Is It Personal?
I thought next that maybe it had something to do with whether or not I had a personal connection to the celebrity’s actions. Ben Affleck’s actions were antithetical to a core philosophy of how I think we should relate to one another, and Jim Jeffries deliberately attempted to humiliate someone I greatly admire. But then I realized that made no sense either. Mel Gibson’s comments were directed at my people! He displayed a vile attitude toward the Jewish nation… and yet I would happily sit down and watch Braveheart today if the opportunity arose.
The thought has occurred to me that my reactions are random. We like what we like, hate what we hate, and react the way we react not always based on consistent logical patterns, but based on wherever our heart happens to pull as at any given moment. There’s little control. All the philosophy and contemplation in the world might not make me stop loving Louis CK’s routine on divorce, or make me think Ben Affleck was cast well as Batman. Because how I feel is just how I feel.We like what we like, hate what we hate, and react the way we react not always based on consistent logical patterns, but based on wherever our heart happens to pull as at any given moment. Click To Tweet
Deep or Just Whimsical?
But I’d still like to think it’s deeper than that, and there’s a pattern I have yet to identify (although I acknowledge that simply might not be the case).
Seen anything here I may have missed? Is there a system to the madness of my mind that I just haven’t uncovered yet? And how do you react when people you once respected start behaving in ways that start deteriorating that respect?