The Wrap’s Film Critic Confab Cheers on Cancel Culture6 min read
The Wrap wants to embrace Cancel Culture, not toss it into the dustbin of history.
That seemed clear after the first of its four-part series on the toxic trend. The debut episode looked at how Cancel Culture impacts journalism, but the banter shed little light on the issue. In fact, the assembled journalists spent much of their time tap dancing around the issue.
The newest Wrap podcast on the subject is even worse.
It did, however, illustrate how dangerous Cancel Culture is at the moment. Question after question sparked long, awkward silences from the assembled film critics. Did they fear saying the wrong thing the wrong way? Or even the right thing without the proper inflection?
Why? Cancel Culture, of course, even if they couldn’t say it outright.
Like the first installment, the second part of TheWrap.com’s Cancel Culture series lacked ideological diversity. Instead, the show lined up three liberal film critics:
- The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday
- TheWrap.com’s own Alonso Duralde
- Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune
They took turns weighing in on content warnings, “The Birth of a Nation” and whether Woody Allen films should be “cancelled.”
RELATED: Chris Rock Shreds Cancel Culture, Misses Big Picture
Hornaday led the charge, praising HBO Max for putting a warning label on “Gone with the Wind” while suggesting it shouldn’t stop there. We need to listen to the new, woke generation, she said. Yes, the same young people who haven’t lived long enough to gain essential wisdom and who, sadly, disavow the First Amendment in shocking numbers.
What Hornaday doesn’t realize is the Pandora’s Box being opened by the “Gone with the Wind” example. What other films are problematic? Short answer? Hundreds, maybe thousands, according to the woke Left’s standards.
Will every third film begin with a lecture on why the movie we’re about to see is so very wrong?
Even a film released less than two years ago, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” got dubbed problematic by Variety. See the problem? Do we label them all? Who decides what the labels should be? What parties do the actual labeling? Could today’s labels give away to tomorrow’s outright cancellations?
Think these fears are overblown?
And these film critics can’t connect any of these troubling dots?
The critics did decry censorship, saying more labeling is sufficient for problematic films. Yet, when the topic turns to “Birth of a Nation,” a vital part of film history that’s simultaneously steeped in racism, they say the movie’s poster shouldn’t decorate a college building’s walls.
Why? It might offend someone.
And that’s why this deeply flawed conversation offers some value. The three critics weigh their words very, very carefully. At times, the silences go on until the moderator prods them for a final answer.
Because these critics know the “wrong” response could get them canceled.
RELATED: Bill Burr: Cancel Culture Made Me a Better Comic
The conversation spends far too much time debating whether a Kevin Spacey or Roman Polanski can be invited back into the Hollywood fold, subjects that hardly capture the full Cancel Culture trend. Those stars either admitted to or allegedly committed serious crimes. It’s a far cry from Mario Lopez going on an apology tour for saying three-year-olds shouldn’t be able to choose their gender.
Deep into the conversation Duralde made an astute point after Hornaday brings up restorative justice for “cancelled” Hollywood stars. He also steered the conversation closer to where it needs to be in the first place.
“Are we talking about people who have committed genuine offenses against other people, or people who shot their mouth off in public and then got dragged for it on Twitter, because there’s a lot of people who want to group all of that in the same place,” Duralde said.
The critic followed that up, sadly, with an out-of-left field attack on the Trump administration and Republicans in general.
The panel kept the conversation rooted mostly in the past. How should we process an artist like Polanski, who admitted to drugging and raping a 13 year old girl but got a standing ovation at the 2003 Oscars? What about Woody Allen?
What went missing in TheWrap.com’s conversation on Cancel Culture?
- How it restricts creativity
- Why the director of “The Hangover” quit directing comedies
- How actors are now less able to play characters outside of their own life experiences
- The arbitrary nature of Cancel Culture (Roseanne Barr erased, but not Alec Baldwin)
- How some art IS censored, and why the oft-derided slippery slope rule should make us all worry
The participants talked excessively about nuance and context, ignoring how Cancel Culture aggressively avoids both. The conversation spent so much time on Hollywood players who committed real crimes they mostly ignored the thought crimes angle. That’s where Cancel Culture can be the most pernicious.
At times the conversation left listeners with a discernible chill.
The moderator, Stephen Galloway, dean of the film school at Chapman University, asked each about forgiveness in our Cancel Culture age. Why is it in such short supply now?
The critics essentially shrugged off the question, saying marginalized groups are now enjoying the power long denied to them. Forgiveness will have to wait.
“Is it a forgiving age …it probably seems very unforgiving to those who had a very sweet deal, ethically or legally, for a long time,” Phillips explained in his best Vox voice.
It’s hard to come to any other conclusion that the assembled critics embrace Cancel Culture. Galloway even says as much.
“Are we in a moment that will end? My fear is there’s going to be a backlash to this, and that we could end up in a situation three, four, five years time when the pendulum swings the other way,” he said. “A backlash to a willingness to cancel things, to remove them, to be extremely sensitive to some people’s pain.”
“I think it’s generational,” Hornaday said, extolling the woke youth driving the Cancel Culture bus once more. “Their expectations have fundamentally changed in terms of what they see as acceptable behavior, and this gets to their expectations as audiences … they look at this stuff, and they’re wondering why we ever accepted it in the first place. It’s our job to the degree that we’re stewards of the culture and the patrimony to explain to them why this was valued and also to why we understand it also has problems.”
Phillips said we need to keep on explaining movies to the new, woke elites.
“This is how we have to go at everything. We can teach anything, we can show almost anything, as long as we’re willing to have the right discussions about it, and hopefully, enough of the right people [emphasis added] writing about it as to what it meant to people back then,” Phillips said. “Our opinions have to change over time.”
It’s worth nothing that, prior to the conversation, the podcast bemoaned how Cancel Culture pounced on Ellie Kemper, the “Office” alum dubbed a “KKK Princess” for an absurd reason. Yet has Sharon Waxman, host of “The Wrap Up” podcast and founder of TheWrap.com, assigned a writer to defend Kemper or smite the culture that attempted to cancel her?
A good faith search on TheWrap.com found no such story. Instead, the site took the charges very seriously and even reached out to Kemper for comment.
Why would TheWrap.com and three prominent film critics defend Cancel Culture at all? Cancel Culture is about power, not making the world a better place. And too many liberals, like the assembled critics and TheWrap.com, relish using it against Red State values.