Call For Comments: Can We Cancel Cancel Culture Culture or Can’t We?

From Mav:

So this is a weird one. We had this idea a few weeks ago that we would do a show on “cancel culture” after Gina Carano was publicly fired from The Mandalorian. But we didn’t get to it. For one thing, everyone else in the world was dumping think pieces left and right on her. For another, it seemed like old news by the time Wayne wrote his blog about it. And finally, we had too many other shows planned that we wanted to get in. After all, what the hell were we gonna do, not talk about WandaVision? Exactly! This is the Internet. There are rules!

So we shelved the idea. I remember saying to Wayne, something like “ehh… give it a month. Some other idiot will be cancelled and we’ll just do the same show then.” Well, it’s been exactly a month… and yeah, Pierce Morgan went and got himself cancelled yesterday morning. I’m all precognitive and stuff! Or I was just paying attention. Of course, in that same time period, we’ve also supposedly seen the “cancelling” of the Muppets, Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potatohead and Pepe LePew (and by the way, we at VoxPopcast take FULL CREDIT for that last one). At least that’s what the Internet tells me. And the Internet doesn’t lie, right? There are rules!

Before I continue, I’ll let Past-Wayne say his piece. Just pretend he had also mentioned Mr. Potatohead or something in there somewhere, and then Future-Mav will leave some thoughts at the end.

From Wayne:

So, Gina Carano was fired from The Mandalorian. This will be old news by the time we record this episode, but the issues it raises seem to be in the headlines every day. Those on the Right are shouting ‟Cancel Culture” in a frenzy of anger at what they see as a violation of freedom of speech. Those on the Left , on the other hand, say that is justified because freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences of that speech.

The phrase Cancel Culture is being tossed around a lot these days. I’m hearing it daily in the impeachment trial. It seems to be the go-to scare phrase of the Right. Does Carano have the right to express her opinions? Absolutely. Does Disney have the right to fire her because they belief her opinions do not reflect their company values? Well, according to the Right, absolutely… at least that was the cry during the Colin Kaepernick situation. But not when Twitter shut down Trump’s Twitter account or Apple stopped carrying the Parler app, but okay again when Robin Hood shut out customers who had beat the system. Is it okay to boycott Dick’s Sporting Goods because they stopped selling guns, but not okay to boycott Chik-fil-A because they support anti-LGBQT legislation. To bring it home for me, can I still read Marvel Comics when Isaac Perlmutter, the chairman and CEO Emeritus of Marvel Entertainment, contributes to Right-Wing causes I find abhorrent?

As we learned on The Good Place, everything is connected and whatever choice we make makes us culpable in some regard. But I don’t think Cancel Culture is really understood by most of the people using the phrase. We want to talk about Cancel Culture: what it is, what it isn’t, and what role it may play in culture, popular and otherwise.

Give us your thoughts and give us a listen. Of course, can always choose to turn us off.

From Mav:

So yeah, same shit, different day. Wow, was the impeachment trial really only a month ago? Time really had no meaning in pandemics. Anyway, aside from the fact that people forgot they cared about Gina Carano once the next big cancel came along. Yeah, that’s right… MAGAheads were soooo concerned about Carano that they decided that a plastic potato and an 80+ year children’s book made a better cause. Actually they more than didn’t care about her. A lot of the idiots who were defending her last month actively hated her because she was “ugly” and “mannish” before they knew she was basically a nazi.

Aside from her being old news, one of the reasons we ended up not doing the cancel culture show last time was we didn’t know if we had a fresh angle on it. After all, we did our milkshake duck show like almost two years ago. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the going more liberal reaction to everything in the last few years has been “there is no cancel culture because really, almost no one is ever truly ‘cancelled’, and most of the non-people aren’t either.” And that’s true; in fact we talk about it on the show all of the time. But that returns us to the point Wayne made at the end of his post: That’s not really what “culture” means.

Sadly, it turns out that the internet DOES lie. Or at least, it gets stuff wrong. I spend so much time when I teach a cultural studies class correcting the way cultural studies terms are used in popular discourse. I’ve had to explain to people that “yes, identity politics is a thing”, “yes, systemic racism and sexism exist”, “yes, you can censor things without being the government and sometimes that’s even a good thing”, “yes racism and sexism exist”, “yes, systemic racism and sexism exist”, “yes, you can be racist as a person of color”, “yes, you can be sexist as a woman”, “yes, privilege exists and everyone has it,” “yes, virtue signaling is a thing and so is race baiting, and in a lot of ways they work in the same way”, “yes, gender and sex are different and in fact, neither of them are binary”, “yes there were gay and trans and bi and poly and kinky people before 2010”, “yes, media has always been political and ideological and your favorite news source is probably biased and that’s part of why you like it”, etc. It’s a long list, and to you, dear reader, yes, I have to explain these things to liberal students as well as conservative ones.

Cancel Culture is becoming one of those things. It doesn’t matter if anyone is actually “cancelled.” Cancel Culture exists because it is part of the cultural zeitgeist. In fact, it’s driving the cultural conversation almost daily now. It’s not just your racist uncle or that idiot friend from high school spreading memes and headlines that they don’t really understand. The US Congress discusses it in session. The very fact that news outlets are devoting regular nightly time to discussing whether or not someone has or hasn’t been cancelled is evidence that the “culture of cancellation” is a thing. Cancel culture exists because we invented it. I would argue that we are now, in fact, a “Cancel Culture Culture.”

But Wayne’s right, that’s something we need to talk about. This is a pop culture analysis show. And maybe the biggest issue in pop culture these days is talking about who has and hasn’t been (or does or does not deserve to be) cancelled. But I don’t think this is just an issue of talking about what cancelling someone entails (or if it’s even possible). I think we really have to talk about what are the ramifications of the idea of cancelling being the conversation. Seriously, no one cares about Gina Carano. She was only BARELY famous. I wasn’t joking; people totally forgot about her once they had Mr. Potatohead to fight over. And we don’t really care about him either. What we care about is the fight over the IDEA of cancelling. It’s a war of hegemony… or really, I’d argue, it’s probably a war of metahegemony. And if nothing else I’d say this show is worth doing just to discuss what I even mean by those terms.

But we want to know your thoughts before we record it. So tell us in the comments below!

1 Comment and 5 Webmentions for “Call For Comments: Can We Cancel Cancel Culture Culture or Can’t We?”

  1. First, I agree that it’s more about fighting the idea of cancel culture than about anything actually being cancelled. The Potato Head “controversy” showed that, as people have continued fighting even after it was clarified that gendered potato toy sets aren’t going away, they just rebranded the line. But people have continued to be angry that it’s now a Potato Head brand Mr. Potato Head and not a Mr. Potato Head brand Mr. Potato Head. I feel like, particularly when it comes to the “cancelling” of older pieces of media or products, that a lot of the backlash to “cancel culture” is just a cover for people my age and older not being able to handle that what they liked when they were young may have been flawed and isn’t popular anymore. The Dr. Seuss estate didn’t cancel their 6 best sellers. Most people I know didn’t even know most of those 6 books. They weren’t popular, probably in large part because images and text in them made a lot of people really uncomfortable over time. When I read about the cut scene that was planned for Pepe LePew in Space Jam 2, I thought the idea of having him called out for being a creep was funny, but I wondered how many younger viewers would even really get why that’s supposed to be funny. I can’t imagine his cartoons have been in heavy rotation for a long time. I know there was a recent NYT op-ed about the character being problematic, but the Pepe LePew is a Creep conversation has been going on for decades (I remember discussing it coming up in my college days), and it was really just a matter of time before Warner Bros. decided “Eh. Maybe it’s time to retire this one.” As times goes on, younger audiences are just less and less likely to find a character whose entire bit is being a relentless stalker funny. And it’s really the same as all of the older comedians who have either been “cancelled” or are just finding their material doesn’t hit with younger audiences anymore. They don’t want to adapt their material to the younger generations’ values, but also don’t want to accept that not doing so means their audience is pretty much just other old people now.

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