By its very nature, cancel culture is joyless and lifeless.
It is built on negativity, criticism, and fault-finding.
In the long term, it cannot be sustained.
Cancel culture produces death rather than life and fear rather than faith, stifling creativity and suffocating free expression.
As expressed by John Cleese of Monty Python fame, “I mean, if you’re going to come out with something really interesting artistically it’s going to come out of your unconscious, and if you’re having to edit everything you say before you say it then nothing it going to happen creatively—and also things that are rather lovely and funny in ordinary conversation, they’re not going to happen either, because everybody’s thinking ‘Ooh, somebody might [be offended]’.“
The latest intended victim of cancel culture is Clint Eastwood, based on a joke he made back in 1973—yes, 1973—during the Academy Awards.
As reported on Fox News, “The clip in question comes from the 1973 Academy Awards in which actor Marlon Brando famously refused to accept his award for best actor in The Godfather.
Instead he sent a Native American activist on stage to lament Hollywood’s treatment of American Indians by the film industry.”
The activist, Sacheen Littlefeather, explained his reasons as being a protest regarding the treatment of American Indians then by the film industry, and on television in movie reruns.
When Eastwood came to the podium to present another award, he quipped, “I don’t know if I should present this award, on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford Westerns over the years.”
And for that, Eastwood has now been targeted (not that he will care, especially at this stage of life).
To be sure, our treatment of Native Americans over the centuries has often been shameful.
And without a doubt, there has often been a stereotyped, negative portrayal of them in movies, especially in past decades.
But to make an issue out of a joke Eastwood cracked in 1973 is to put the absurdity of cancel culture on full display.
That’s America for you, but what about New Zealand.
How long will it be before someone cancels our country’s much-loved comedian Billy T James and his portrayals of both Māori and Pakeha.
What about David Mc Phail, Jon Gadsby or Ginette McDonald for their past characters.
Today, jokes can’t be funny, lest someone be offended, whereas, for centuries, the offense was understood as part of the joke, as we all laughed at ourselves.
And there can be no nuance in a message, lest someone misunderstand the meaning, thereby putting everyone in fear of saying one wrong word.
Today, one cannot tread too carefully, which will result in smaller and smaller circles being drawn until only the tiniest, super-elite segment remains in good standing.
The key to overcoming this stifling, suffocating atmosphere is to reject the superior moral standing of these elitists, telling the few that we, the many, will not be intimidated or manipulated by them.
For our part, as followers of Jesus, it is love that compels us to honour and respect others and to interact graciously with those with whom we differ.
We would never intentionally insult someone or cause them pain or shame.
And if we have a blind spot, wouldn’t we want someone to point that out and help us to grow in sensitivity.
But I will not, for one moment, bow to a suffocating ideology that cancels and destroys all dissenters and silences all dissent. Neither should you.
And along the way, remember to smile. And laugh. It will do you good