I have a secret to share. For decades I had an overwhelming crush on Kevin Spacey. I loved all his films; ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ was my favorite and I even went on a pilgrimage to Savannah to see where it was filmed. In my fantasies, we were going to meet on one of my transatlantic flights and fall madly in love with each other, even though I suspected he was gay. Then Spacey was charged with a felony charge of an indecency assault and battery against an 18-year-old man. The prosecutors dropped the charges after the alleged victim stopped testifying. Our legal system has found Spacey innocent but subsequently other young men spoke out about his alleged predatorial behavior. I felt nauseated especially since the storyline in ‘Midnight in the Garden’ was about an older man with a younger vulnerable male. The consequence of this is that my head and heart have cancelled him. I will not watch any film with him in it – our ‘affair’ is over.
Growing up in Europe, I have a laissez faire attitude to extramarital sex, polygamous unions, homosexuality and anything else that is part of our human nature to explore. I don’t care if the Prime Minister of England, for example, has sex with a consenting adult – I would rather have it as common knowledge than a blackmailable secret. It is the more egregious acts that concern me, such as Bill Cosby’s many offences against women. In that case, the law prevailed and he is in jail as he should be. He seemed like a genial actor playing a loveable role; so many of us were fooled.
Paradoxically, when Ellen Degeneres came out as a gay woman, all those years ago, I thought she was treated appallingly. She was a funny actress/comedienne and didn’t deserve to have her show cancelled because of her personal life. More recently, however, there were allegations about a toxic environment in her workplace and now she is leaving her long running talk show, although it was not cancelled. Not being a fan of talk shows, I rarely saw it but on one memorable occasion I watched her interrogate a young famous guest about their love life in a most unpleasant way. After I saw her do that again, I stopped watching. It seemed as though she was hiding an unlikeable trait behind the ‘Be Kind’ message. Maybe she has a giant chip on her shoulder about her previous experience?
In every day life, there aren’t enough consequences for bad behavior. If a contractor messes up, I won’t give a bad review online but I won’t use them again. Far too often, creepy workmen have behaved inappropriately to me and my friends, when we have been home alone with them. When I last had a carpet cleaning crew in my house, on of the technicians sat on MY BED WITH ME where I was sitting to get out their way. I now have my own carpet cleaning machine. On a hilarious but very frightening occasion another acquaintance called the police when the window cleaner stripped naked in her house – he was deported back to Europe. He thought his saggy dad-bod would entice her to have sex with him…
I also believe that it is unfair that someone is painted black when they may be innocent. Surely most of us have the common sense to work out which ones have far too much smoke, along with the fire? If I feel that there is a genuine apology about an action that was unpalatable, I can accept that. People who are in the public eye, whatever their role, must know that there is an expectation for them to behave within the confines of social norms. In Egypt belly dancers get arrested if they are too provocative – just as well they don’t have Hooters there. Programs get cancelled for the weakest of reasons so it should come as no surprise when an offensive action is the reason for a cancellation. My final cancellation is Woody Allen. Everyone has their own reason for liking him or not. His work does not appeal to me although he has employed some excellent actors. I don’t know if the sexual allegations from his children or child are true but I can’t tolerate someone marrying their step-daughter even if it was technically legal.
This is Merriam-Webster’s Definition of cancel culture
: the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling (see CANCEL entry 1 sense 1e) as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure
Before we had social media we still had cancel culture – we sent people to Coventry in the UK. Wikipedia states ‘To send someone to Coventry is an English idiom meaning to deliberately ostracize someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist.’
“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.”
― Robert G. Ingersoll