While accepting an award at the San Sebastian film festival, Johnny Depp recently described cancel culture as being "out of hand." The actor, who stepped down from his roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Fantastic Beasts after losing in a domestic assault lawsuit with ex-wife Amber Heard, went on to say "no one is safe...not one of you."
Regardless of what you think about Depp's own personal life, could the actor who was once Hollywood's most reliable star be onto something here?
Johnny Depp Claims Cancel Culture Has Gotten 'Out Of Hand' www.youtube.com
A short disclaimer here: this is not a debate about whether or not Johnny Depp is innocent or guilty, or whether or now he should have been "cancelled". Rather, the point here is that Depp brings up some valid, or at the very least interesting, points about this cultural phenomenon.
Here is what Depp had to say, according to Deadline:
"...This instant rush to judgement based on what essentially amounts to polluted air...It takes one sentence and there's no more ground, the carpet has been pulled. It's not just me that this has happened to, it's happened to a lot of people. This type of thing has happened to women, men. Sadly at a certain point they begin to think that it's normal. Or that it's them. When it's not."
Public call-outs were once intended to give power to those without a voice, as with the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. Finally, marginalized communities were able to take down high profile Goliaths and force them to actually take responsibility for their behavior. As with the cases of Harvey Weinstien and Kevin Spacey, cancel culture can create lasting, positive change.
However, things can become toxic, when the initial instinct is to publicly humiliate, revoke, and excommunicate others in snap judgements. Is this really advocating for more accountability? Or mob mentality?
Depp continues with:
"Hollywood is certainly not what it was… it is a case of, 'no matter what, I'm going to get mine'. That's where these people are coming from." "They realize they're just as disposable as I am."
Depp brings up another valid point in this jab at the Film & TV industry. Cancel culture in many ways can be seen as a branch of the "woke capitalism" tree. Woke Capitalism meaning those superficial nods to social justice, all in the name of making money off of it.
Take for instance the controversial, tone-deaf Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner, that completely trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement in the name of selling soda. Now, it doesn't escape me that what put these ads under scrutiny was, in fact, an act of cancel culture.
the new @Pepsi ad evoking imagery of @IeshiaEvans in Baton Rouge is total exploitative brand social activism bs 👋🏼 https://t.co/YzAFtWEzDO— Sherry (@Sherry)1491338536.0
But it does raise the question: should we really be taking our moral cues from these industries, who try to cash in on genuine social justice movements? Hollywood is telling us to call people out now that it's in fashion, but they could have easily cancelled Weinstein ages ago. Perhaps the way some individuals (maybe including Depp, maybe not) are handled need not be as extreme as we're being called to do now. After all, isn't the whole point the pursuit of justice?
Johnny Depp's statement, whether intended to make himself a martyr or not, does contain within it some resounding truth. Undeniably, there are times of right vs. wrong. There are times when accountability must be claimed, especially when it comes to giving power to the disadvantaged. However, there is always a danger in the territory of extremes. In the case of cancel culture being given absolute power, the danger lies in how the weapon is used. It should be aimed with the intention of protection, rather than being swung wildly. It should be used when other methods have tried and failed. When cancelling takes the place of discourse, that's when we aren't really making collective progress.
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