Chris Rock warned us early on about Cancel Culture.
That term wasn’t in vogue at the time, but Rock shared why he stopped playing gigs for college students all the way back in 2014. The Millennials in the crowd wanted to “cancel” jokes they found inappropriate.
Today’s students are “too conservative,” Rock told columnist Frank Rich.
Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.
Rock was ahead of the curve. Now, he’s scrambling to catch up.
The comedian failed to support fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum Jimmy Fallon last year when the “Tonight Show” star got “cancelled” for a 20-year-old blackface imitation of … Chris Rock.
Rock could have stopped the cancellation cold by speaking out immediately, defending both comedy and a friend who had no malice in his heart. He didn’t. He waited months, and months, to do so, long after Fallon wrapped his humiliating Public Apology Tour.
More recently, Rock lambasted Cancel Culture anew during a wide-ranging interview on “The Breakfast Club.” The conversation showed Rock’s understandable frustration with the cultural currents as well as his naivete about its root causes.
Power. Control. Ego.
“It’s weird when you’re a comedian because when your audience doesn’t laugh, we get the message. Like you don’t have to cancel us. … They’re not laughing … our feelings hurt. … I don’t understand why people feel the need to go beyond that.”
He correctly described how Cancel Culture flattens creativity, leaving storytellers scrambling to avoid narratives that might offend select groups.
“What happens is everybody gets safe and nobody tries anything. Things get boring. I see a lot of unfunny comedians, unfunny TV shows, unfunny movies because people are scared to make a move and that’s not a good place to be. We should have the right to fail because failure is a part of art. It’s the ultimate cancel.”
Rock can be an astute cultural observer, but he has his blind spots. Cancel Culture is one of them, no doubt. Cancel Culture is part of the woke ideology, a valuable tool to promote specific causes, diminish others and leave society in a state of increasing self-censorship.
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Rock even touched on the latter during that 2014 interview, but he hasn’t expanded on the concept in his public statements.
More importantly, Rock doesn’t connect the dots on who is canceled, and who isn’t.
There’s a method to the cancellation madness. Powerful liberals are given much more room to make mistakes, apologize and return to polite society. Others, like Fallon and Barr, either clung to a more neutral position or dared to lean to the Right.
And they paid for their “thought crimes.”
Cancel Culture is a cudgel for the far-Left, a way to silence voices it disapproves of and promote those it does.
Once upon a time, Rock was the kind of comic who would not only diagnose that but dissect it on comedy stages. For now, he can only see the problem, not the reasons it exists in the first place.