My Thoughts on Cancel Culture
“I guess 2021 is gonna be just like 2020.”
– Craig, South ParQ Vaccination Special
“So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.”
–Padme Amidala, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – U.S. Constitution, First Amendment
Well, here we are. Almost five months into 2021 as of this writing, and at long last, the vaccinations to cure us of the COVID-19 are finally rolling about at a steady, almost satisfactory pace for all Americans. The more access we have to these vaccines, the sooner we’ll be free of the one disease that caused countless turmoil for us and our country for the past year. With that in mind, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for us after all, right?
Mmm... I want to say yes, but there’s so much else going on around us in America that is equally as chaotic that somehow, we are far from out of the woods, more than we ever thought or hoped we’d be.
Imagine being forced to serve as a principal of a nationwide elementary school and trying to manage thousands and thousands of crowds of spoiled, pampered children slugging each other out. If 2020 felt like being forced to lie down along with everyone else as hospital patients, then this is what 2021 is starting to feel like. And let me tell you, it’s just ridiculous and beyond disheartening.
One of the biggest reasons for this? Last year, when the COVID-19 was starting to take its full effect on American society, a young black man named George Floyd was handcuffed, forced into the ground by Officer Chauvin, and then left to die after being pressed down by the knee on the neck for too long. From that moment onward, racial tensions and a desperate scramble for racial recognition reached their all-time high, as did, regrettably, the number of police officers who died under the blow of the newfound prejudices held against them.
But while this is worth bearing in mind as we navigate our way through this mess, what I’m really going to talk about is the particular phenomenon that is continually leaving the First Amendment of the Constitution, our human principles, and our American ideologies to hang by a thread: Cancel Culture.
I believe that witnessing the death of George Floyd on T.V. while hunkering down from the COVID may have added fuel to the flames in combating against perceived racist imagery or interpretations. This resulted in, to start with, two significant casualties to occur shortly after this outburst: Splash Mountain, which will have its Song of the South themes replaced with that of The Princess and the Frog, and the Aunt Jemima syrup brand, which had the image of Aunt Jemima herself removed under the impression that an African American woman posing as a cooker in a kitchen aroused racist allegories.
Now, I am not against the idea of a Princess and the Frog theme park. The Princess and the Frog was a terrific movie, anyway, and a theme park made in inspiration of this film is guaranteed money in the bank. But to propose it as a thematic replacement to Splash Mountain, a classic theme park partly made famous by the classic song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” that just feels wrong. I understand where people are coming from if they expressed the slightest discomfort over the idea of a theme park themed around one of the most controversial films ever made by Disney. But doesn’t taking it away feel kind of...counterproductive to our remembrance of Disney’s history and legacy, even its faultier aspects?
And about Aunt Jemima, what is so harmful about Aunt Jemima’s image on the syrup bottle? Outside of potentially representing what I stated about it earlier, it also was celebrated as a humble, welcoming image that endorsed humility, compassion, and joy. I understood that the lady who posed as Aunt Jemima in the first place, Nancy Green, did so for that reason. So what would taking her image away do? And if Aunt Jemima’s appearance was not as racist as they deemed it to be after all, then what is she, really?
But it’s not just these two that suffered under the heavy blows of peer pressure. Let’s look at what else went down, figuratively and literally, over that the past year:
Countless statues of the Confederate generals were torn down simply because the generals served the Confederate States of America, which relied on the servitude of slaves to do their bidding and keep them financially afloat.
The Eskimo Pies, a classic dessert, were renamed Eddie’s Pies for fear that they would have jeopardized the sensitivities of the Eskimo people.
A few episodes each of 30 Rock and Scrubs being banned because they each contained scenes of blackface, despite the scenes in question being clearly done to enhance the jokes and humor.
Six of the classic books by Dr. Seuss being banned, including “If I Ran the Zoo” and even “And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street,” the first book he ever wrote, simply because they contained racial stereotypes that the Dr. Seuss company deemed as “hurtful.” Word has it that the available copies of these books were even banned from being sold in such outlets as eBay.
Pepe le Pew, a classic Looney Tunes character, was kicked out of future Looney Tunes projects, including the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy. Why? Because he reportedly normalized rape culture, as demonstrated with his moves toward female characters... at least, that’s what New York Times journalist Charles M. Blow wanted us to believe.
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, both of which were classic toys that delighted children for over 50 years, including through the Toy Story films, were revised to be purely Potato Heads, with no gender identifications, in the hopes of pleasing the transgender crowds.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was scolded for making tweets supporting Maya Forstater’s questioning beliefs about transgender people, resulting in a children’s book event in New Zealand being canceled in response to it.
Rumors shortly after Pepe le Pew’s cancellation, there were plans to cancel Miss Piggy from the Muppets simply because she personified physical relationship abuse, as seen with her actions on Kermit the Frog, even though she loved him through thick and thin. Thankfully, no other word came up about it that I’m aware of.
But the biggest blow that may have jumpstarted my - and hopefully countless more people’s - personal vendetta against Cancel Culture? The firing of Gina Carano from The Mandalorian, just for sharing a controversial post on Instagram mentioning Nazis in relationship to the political treatments going on today. Carano, a Conservative actress, bemoaned the political conditions of America and decided to express those concerns with an Instagram post expressing that the mistreatment of Conservatives by the Liberals was no different from the hardships the Jews had to endure by the Nazis, especially during the Holocaust. This put her in hot water since many people called her out on it, most likely without digging deeper to acknowledge her point through her post. The outrage mounted up, and then, in February 2021, she was officially kicked out of The Mandalorian after two excellent seasons, and all for what? For expressing her opinions with a direct yet ultimately harmless comparison to demonstrate the atrocities of the situations at hand. Not only did I enjoy her in The Mandalorian, but I know she left an impression because she allowed her character to stand out as someone that young audiences, especially young girls, I bet, can relate to. So, to see Carano kicked out just for expressing opinions that other people may have disagreed with was just unnecessary and so uncalled for. So much so that once it became clear that Carano’s role in The Mandalorian was history, so too was my Disney+ subscription.
Do you want to know the other reason this does not sit well with me? Because I’ll bet that a lot of people like myself grew up with these properties long before they were hammered down by countless heightened sensitivities everywhere. Seeing these companies do what they did can be interpreted as them alleging that we should be ashamed of being fans of what they suddenly deemed unsuitable for the modern ages. Or, to put it another way, it’s like they’re saying, “No, no, you can’t watch them because they are offensive, and we say so!” This kind of condescending attitude implies that they’re telling us what to like or what not to like and that we should have no say in the matter. That behavior is downright unacceptable, more so than any of the vices, insignificant as they really may be, of which the targeted properties now stand accused. No matter how high up on the totem pole the CEOs may be, that’s no excuse not to hold them accountable. If they are going to move forward and promise exciting things to come, the least they should do instead is add and adjust as opposed to take away what was already available, and all with the best interests of their consumers at heart rather than the loud, senseless demands of those who have no perception of reality. These companies know better than that!
You see, I am a firm believer in the golden rule, where you treat others as you like to be treated. But after putting up with constant pushbacks that came with certain things that I like being canceled, I tended to agree with those who also complained about Cancel Culture that if this kept on, it’s best to give them a taste of their own medicine by boycotting them altogether. After all, I know that sacrifices must be made to achieve something, especially if it is for the good of American society and entertainment.
At the same time, however, that got me thinking, even though it’s nice to address the fatal flaws with their cancelation methods, what would ignoring those responsible for it do? What would fighting fire with fire accomplish?
So, then, I decided to take a more implicit and theoretically more outreaching approach: writing letters to the heads of those responsible for the cancelations in the hopes of talking them out of it, somehow. But even if that won’t change their minds, it would at least point out the folly of their practices and point out why they were follies in the first place. After Carano’s firing, I slowly but surely got into a habit of writing letters to whoever needed to hear them, no matter how the letters looked, as long as they conveyed the message that I wanted to tell them. After a couple of weeks, of course, I started to write my letters to them by hand so that they’d have caught on to how I really felt about the issues going on.
In fact, because these letters demonstrated in all their clarity my beef with Cancel Culture and the unorthodox practices being enacted, I decided to turn the letters I mailed out into open letters for all you readers to see and pick up from:
Letter to Kathleen Kennedy About Gina Carano’s Firing, February 12, 2021
1st Letter to Dr. Seuss About Six Banned Books, March 11, 2021
1st Letter to Warner Bros. About Banning Pepe Le Pew, March 11, 2021
Letter to The Honorable Lauren Boebert About Cancel Culture, March 18, 2021
2nd Letter to Susan Brandt About Dr. Seuss Books, April 2, 2021
2nd Letter to Ann Sarnoff About Pepe le Pew, April 2, 2021
Letter to Brian Goldner about the Potato Heads, April 2, 2021
Letter to Matt Stone About South Park, April 2, 2021
Letter to Trey Parker About South Park, April 2, 2021
Letter to Chris McCarthey about South Park, April 2, 2021
Letter to Bob Chapek About Miss Piggy, April 8, 2021
Letter to Joe Earley About Miss Piggy, April 8, 2021
Letter to Frank Oz About Miss Piggy, April 8, 2021
As you can see, I thought that Cancel Culture became so contagious and harmful to American society that I felt compelled to bring it to the attention of even the nearest Congresswoman, Lauren Boebert. My hope is that with this letter, she can make a case out of it in the name of American integrity.
I genuinely meant what I said in my letter to Boebert in that I don’t plan on stopping my one-man writing campaign against them any time soon. The companies that may think that their actions are phases that will pass would be proven wrong when my letters tell them that it is still an issue with people nowadays, people like me and maybe you. And if you feel compelled to take up the mantel and reach out to these companies about the inadequacy of their canceling actions, then I salute you. We all need the help that we can get.
I also suspect that some of you may be saying, ‘what’s done is done.’ Well, answer me this question: Did any rational human being say ‘what’s done is done’ when a movie theater in Paris was set on fire just for playing “The Last Temptation of Christ”? You tell me.
And another thing, while I did mention that I canceled my Disney+ subscription, let’s just say that this is a 3-year subscription that I signed up for, so technically, the expiration doesn’t go into full effect until the end of next year. So not only will I still get my money’s worth even after my balking of my subscription, but it will give me permission to give Disney the benefit of the doubt and see if they clean up their acts concerning political maneuvers over their entertainment by then.
Let’s look at the bigger picture now. Cancel Culture has been around for the past few years, including before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, and so many people had already thrown potshots against it for its illogical sense of solution.
I believe that the whole Cancel Culture trend going on right now started back in 2017, and four things may have had a role in the scary development of such a fruitless movement: the online outrage against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the online backlash that hounded the final season of Game of Thrones, the unearthed sexual activism by Harvey Weinstein, and the sexual escapades of Michael Jackson, as documented in the HBO film, “Leaving Neverland.”
I believe what these four events had in common was that all of them, whether they were real-life people or works of fiction, just got plagued by certain imperfections worthy of ridicule. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, his misdeeds went on for so long that it felt warranted. But in cases like The Last Jedi or Game of Thrones’ last season, they started as warranted but were blown so far out of proportion that they suddenly became anything but warranted. You can say that the people who jumpstarted these controversies put the ‘cult’ in ‘popular culture.’
That is all I see nowadays, both through social media and especially on the news. We’re really in a world of hurt to have people such as these as the biggest and only voices worth listening to.
Not only that, but if these imperfections uncovered are made out in the open for the entire viewing world to see, then let’s ask ourselves: Why are some of the films that Weinstein produced, including Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and Chicago, still celebrated? Why is Michael Jackson’s music still being played on radios everywhere? Why is Star Wars still a heralded franchise, warts and all? Why is Game of Thrones still looked back on as one of the most exemplary and groundbreaking shows of all time? The way I see it, it’s because they all gave us something of immeasurable value, and even though they’re not perfect, they’re still given credit where credit is due for that reason. Even though I’m not too fond of Game of Thrones, even I can’t deny the significant impact this left on so many people despite its faults and the unorthodox methods it took. And I’m not complaining or making a fuss over it, am I? So why is it that every time a work of fiction or even our history is shown to have some imperfections, that we make a big deal out of it and make it look more blasphemous than it actually is?
Plus, let’s look at it this way. What’s with people nowadays who always believed that the slightest injustice done on someone of a certain minority or gender group is a major problem? What, do they think that if we make a joke about any one of them or make moves on them in some weird way, we automatically treat them like they used to be treated in the past? Like, if we make fun of women, do they think we’re treating them like vulnerable, gossipy housewives? Or how about African Americans? Would they think we’re treating them like underprivileged servants? Or that we think of Native Americans as bloodthirsty animals? Or that we treat Asian Americans as goofy, conniving spies? Or that we treat gay people as giddily sacrilegious? When really, it all could’ve been for any reasons but those? That is not thinking a situation through; that is jumping to conclusions, taking the easy way out!
Whenever we think about racism or sexism, we automatically jump to mistreatment by white people against women, Blacks, Asians, Natives, Mexicans, whoever. But has it ever crossed your mind that racism and sexism are not limited to those and that the reverse – as in, white people or men being mistreated themselves – is also true?
The same can be said about humor in general, too. We did subject women and ethnic groups alike to stereotypical portrayals in the media for so long, I know. But while that may raise some eyebrows, why is the reverse also going on, like with African Americans making fun of white people or women playfully ridiculing men? Since humor knows no boundaries - nor should it - and since P.C. methods are off-limits, how about we allow both approaches to thrive? Not to endorse further racism or sexism, but to encourage versatility in good humor? Men on women, women on men, whites on blacks, blacks on whites, and so on. Comedians should practice humor from all angles, and it should be left up to their talents to do the job, not the audiences who feel they should have the say-so if they’re offended.
I also believe that the vices of Cancel Culture come from political pursuits. No matter where I turn to, I am always left with the impression that Conservatives know right from wrong, whereas the Liberals, primarily due to such organizations as BLM, became so blinded by their pursuits and beliefs that they lost track of what they were fighting for in the first place. And in so doing, they became recognized as synonymous with toxic cases of entitlement that would make Veruca Salt blush.
This caused such a divide between political parties and even between America that many people started to believe that there’s no longer such a thing as common ground between them, and worst of all, not even common sense. I can completely sympathize with that judgment.
I even had to put up with endless debates against Liberals from people I am close with, and just like the news, even though some of them had their points, it eventually became too alienating. Rather than feeling pressing, after a while, it ended up feeling depressing. Whether it’s Democrats against Republicans or Republicans against Democrats, the biggest impression I got from both sides of the coin is that they’re both at each other’s throats concerning what’s logical, worthy of attention, or right, and what’s not, instead of lunging straight into the issues in the hopes of straightening things out by then. When will there be more action than there is arguing? More often than not, I kept feeling like our country will end up in an even worse state unless we stand our ground and do something about this calamity.
Now, let me clarify: I am all for equality and recognition amongst women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, whoever. I believe they deserve as many opportunities as being an American at all would allow them. But what I don’t condone is the idea of equality being cheapened into pretentious propaganda made to be forced down everyone’s throats in the hopes that they will be heard this time. In which case, think about this: were they ever not heard?
Within all the political wars, I walked away feeling like the Conservatives and Republicans have become the perpetual punching bag as far as political superiority is concerned, and ergo, the most subject to Cancel Culture. This made it seem like Cancel Culture is more of a Republican or Conservative problem than a Democratic or Liberal problem.
With this thought still lingering over me, I decided to peruse online for articles that complained about Cancel Culture, why it’s so bad, and what can be done to stop it. Unsurprisingly, many journalists talked about how it’s affecting American and even human ways of thinking and brought up examples to hit home the idiocy of this newfound ideology. However, what surprised me for sure was that half of the articles I read were written by Liberals and Democrats – not to mention a couple of them written by gay folks – who felt just as offended by the idea of Cancel Culture as the Conservatives and Republicans were. That told me right away that just because a majority of a political party, or an ethnic or gender group, is in favor of something so collectively undesirable and foolish, that does not mean everyone from any of those groups is on the same boat. Different as we may be, there still may be a thread of righteousness that also knows no boundaries and binds us together.
And it’s not just these Liberals who took offense to Cancel Culture. I recently saw a video by PragerU that showed various college students of both political parties being interviewed on their thoughts on what or who’s being canceled. Many of them, including the Liberals, didn’t find Pepe le Pew, Mr. Potato Head, the banned Dr. Seuss books, or even the Aunt Jemima image to be that offensive, and they believed that they were canceled only because the companies responsible for such actions attempted to get in the social justice groove by sucking up to their customers. In which case, they may have done so because they were puppeteered by peer pressure instead of sticking to their guns.
It depends on the purpose behind the promotion. Were the companies doing it for other people? Or were they doing it for themselves? In that case, this is a problem, regardless of the race or gender of anyone involved. And this brings me back to what I stated earlier: these companies are doing far worse than censoring out beloved, if also flawed, characters or products. They are underestimating them just as much as they are underestimating their customers.
If you remember my reviews on both Total Drama Island and Pokémon Adventures’ Ruby and Sapphire book saga, you know that I am 100% anti-censorship. Anyone should acknowledge the flaws they are complaining about and point them out, but never make it into something it shouldn’t be. If people like it, great. If people don’t like it, to each their own. But stripping works of art of anything objectionable in the hopes of either making it more accessible to the general public or safeguarding whoever sees it — especially if we’re talking about the more problematic parts of history in general – should never be an option. Ever.
And let’s not forget, there were celebrities from both political parties who also took umbrage with Cancel Culture. Whoopi Goldberg, a Liberal, did not take kindly to Cancel Culture, especially after the news about Pepe le Pew surfaced. She believed that anyone deserves a chance to experience anything of questionable merit to grow as better people. Comedian Ricky Gervais, who famously criticized the Hollywood Wokeness in the 2020 Golden Globes, compared himself to Adolf Hitler, but for different reasons:
I’m a vegetarian, and I love dogs, like Hitler. But the only thing I have in common with Hitler are the good bits!
Months after the George Floyd affair, Harper’s published a letter written in defense of freedom of speech and consigned by many artists, college professors, and activists. Among such co-signers were JK Rowling and ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood.
Even former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, said this back in 2018 about the woke mentality:
There is this sense sometimes of, the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people. And that’s enough. ... That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not gonna get that far.
Exactly! And you know why? Because one, it destroys more than it promotes. And two, because it is instead a widespread case of public intoxication to the mind.
In fact, let’s look through the definitions of these three words tossed around quite a lot as of late:
Equality (n): being on the same level
Equity (n): the idea of being fair or right
Woke (a): being aware of a social injustice
If we carefully think through those three words and how they describe the methods used by people, especially Democrats, to achieve their ends, you would think that by following through with them, they’d know how to remedy the situations at hand. Such as, say, reaching out to people of all nationalities and genders alike and offering them a helping hand. Instead, what started as good intentions mutated into something all-consuming and blinds those who follow through with it.
According to some of the articles I read that ripped into Cancel Culture, they said that there is far more to be gained from life even without social media on our side. One of the most significant first steps, according to them, would be to spend any time from a day to a month without gazing at our phones for social media updates. They say that going through with that would open our eyes more to the things in life we may not have noticed before, in addition to it being healthier for us.
One movie my family and I watched not too long ago that addressed the more problematic aspects of social media is “The Social Dilemma.” I found it a real eye-opener, and I strongly recommend it to you, especially if you are cautious about how to peruse through social media in light of the endless controversial events flooding them.
And, if you want ideas about how to propose a more inclusive America, here’s mine:
Step 1: Do not worry about race, gender, ethnicity, background, or even political affiliations when you address American people; they may be part of their identities, but they don’t have to define who they are as people in general.
Step 2: Maintain the essence of equity but also take heed of the meanings of these two words in place of equality and woke:
tolerance (n): the act of putting up with things or people you may disagree with
forgiveness (n): the act of pardoning those of their sins or imperfections
Step 3: Remember the one thing we are that is second to none: human beings.
We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all need a chance to pick up on them and learn from them. We all need a chance to make a name for ourselves if we’re lucky. Isn’t that all that counts right now, rather than all the petty, ongoing issues that should never have been made a massive problem to begin with? Whether everything that’s going on right now went through in the name of money or political progression, we have to wake up the right way and acknowledge that the world doesn’t rely on those to function properly. The sun will always come up. America is still here. There are still multitudes of reasonable communities thriving in our country. And if anything, anywhere and onto whoever, feels askew or threatening, we need to do anything we can to carefully report it to everyone to pick up on it and deal with it as accordingly as possible with no act of entitlement to roadblock us.
Besides the Golden Rule, I grew up also believing that if you want something done right, you need to do it yourself. Or, specifically, that I should be problem-solving and thinking of solutions if there’s an issue that needs to be dealt with. So, with that in mind, I ask you to do some problem-solving of your own. Find some credible news sources, find some people you can trust, and find ways to remedy all the chaos that erupted because of either Cancel Culture, any noticeable political scheme, or anything you feel is worth taking note of. The way I see it, it’s nice to see someone else believing the same things you believe in and doing the same things you want to do, but at the same time, why rely on just them alone to do the task for you when you know that you, too, can do something about it? That you could potentially solve those problems your way, and, in more likely cases, even with them?
When I think of American integrity, I see it as the privilege to do something in the name of truth and proper justice. The Declaration of Independence allowed us to thrive on those principles as a country, and both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights allowed us to maintain those qualities as human beings, as Americans, and as a cohesive community. Part of that is indebted to the First Amendment of the Constitution, which allows us the freedom to speak our minds and practice our faiths to our hearts’ content, without any governmental influence. We may be surrounded by too many fraudulent actions to count, but rather than cowering away from those, why not inspect what the sacred Constitution grants us and put them to good use? Instead of leaving them to fall into the wrong hands?
That’s what we still are, aren’t we? The land of the free and the home of the brave? When will the free come out of hiding, and where is the brave when we need them?
The moment we realize they’re still out and about, that’s all the assurance we need to know that the American Dream and American integrity are still staying strong in some form.
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Wulfsohn, J. A. (2021, March 9). Whoopi Goldberg rips cancel culture targeting Pepé Le Pew: 'I don't know why you've got to erase everything'. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/media/whoopi-goldberg-cancel-culture-pepe-le-pew.