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Cancel culture: When bad people make good things | Chuck's World


Last updated 3/4/2021 at 10:11am

I fell in love with movies as a child, almost certainly because they were a treat. My parents had three little kids and pennies were definitely being pinched, so movies were special.

And with the rug rats, the best option was usually the drive-in theater, which routinely had double features, the first often a family-friendly movie, allowing for us to fall asleep in the backseat before the second film started.

I wasn’t about to sleep, so I caught at least portions of some pretty good movies when I was little. Given the era, and my parents, I wasn’t likely to see something disturbing, just boring, but I don’t remember being bored. Some of those remain favorites.

Eventually I gathered a personal circle of friends and acquaintances who shared my interest, if not always my taste. And as I recall from way back when, we all liked Woody Allen films until we didn't.

There might still be a few holdouts, but most of us moved on and upward. I think that as teenagers, we were initially drawn to what we saw as his subversive humor. Eventually I started to find his funny business old-fashioned, a lot closer to Bob Hope than, say, Albert Brooks. I think Woody Allen might agree, too.

But we still saw the big ones: “Sleeper,” “Annie Hall,” and “Manhattan” were special for several of us. It’s possible that was because it has a certain style, or maybe it was that as teenagers living in the Southwest, watching a slight Jewish man with a pronounced Brooklyn accent walk around the streets of New York, falling in and out of love, we finally had someone we could identify with.

Because she was our age. Mariel Hemingway was 17 in the movie, playing a high school senior in a romantic relationship with Woody Allen, who was 43 at the time.

Maybe that’s the reason it didn’t faze us, appreciating the novelty of that relationship but not giving it much more thought. We were young, and Woody was Woody.

Considering that Hemingway played her as a mature young woman on the cusp of adulthood, statutory and otherwise, and it was ostensibly a comedy, it seems that the age difference, not to mention the legal jeopardy, didn’t faze anyone else I knew of.

That wasn’t the reason I lost interest in Allen, though. I just moved on.

Now I'm seeing articles regarding this new documentary on HBO about the abuse allegations surrounding Woody Allen’s daughter. I still have zero interest, other than as a human being who recognizes what is at least an extremely sad situation. Nothing I've read about this has persuaded me about anything, and I don't know why I should stick my nose in.

But the subject is on the table, and always is these days. Even as I roll my eyes and click off my attention whenever I hear the phrase "cancel culture," I'm aware of the conversation. Our current version began with Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, men no one is defending. We had some other stories of maybe descending horror, and there were a few people who were treated unfairly in my mind, but I got it.

We might err on the side of believing purported victims, but it's a righteous error and overdue.

So I continue to roll my eyes when I hear “cancel culture.” I’m not unaware that in pursuit of truth and justice, some injustice has gotten involved in this. There have apparently been a few opportunists, ready to milk the moment for one reason or another.

But we’ve always done this. Ask the Dixie Chicks, who virtually disappeared after a little free speech by Natalie Maines. Or go back a century and look at silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle, falsely accused of assault and manslaughter, exonerated but canceled.

And O.J. Simpson, a big star in a few arenas, was acquitted of murder charges but canceled anyway. This isn’t a phenomenon of the 21st century. It’s just a reckoning whose time has come.

As I said, I haven’t the slightest inclination to watch a Woody Allen film, so whatever happened in his personal life is moot to me. I have no interest in revisiting anything with Cosby.

There are a couple of comedians I won’t want to see again, knowing that they just won’t seem as funny now that their flaws have been publicly exposed. This is the marketplace of personal choice, the key word being “personal.”

I haven’t got answers, and I definitely don’t have moral clarity. Colin Kaepernick was definitely and unjustly canceled, in my opinion, but I still watch the NFL. If I watch a favorite film, it never occurs to me to see if Harvey Weinstein had been involved in the production.

Recently I’ve been watching films and television produced, written, and/or directed by Joss Whedon, who has been in hot water over complaints about bullying and other antisocial behavior on the set. There seems to have been some effect on his career, but it’s early and I’m pretty sure he’s still able to pay his water bill.

And it’s occurred to me to wonder if I am, in some way, contributing to his ability to make the lives of others uncomfortable. I don’t know. I keep watching. I don’t watch some of the others. I don’t know what this says about me; probably nothing. Maybe it’s enough to wonder.

Cancel me if you want.


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