One of the big headlines of the summer movie season was how badly DC’s The Flash movie bombed. Despite being hailed by some of the studio as one of the best superhero movies ever, the film vastly under-performed at the box office.
One of the big reasons for that was the film’s star, Ezra Miller. In the years leading up to the film’s release, Miller was arrested multiple times for kidnapping, abuse, and last year was accused of grooming an indigenous child who was twelve years old at the time.
A lot of people chose not to see The Flash to protest Warner Brothers studio’s decision to continue to employ Miller even after their bad behavior became well-known.
I had conversations with several of you about the complexities of the issue – my wife and I decided to go see the film while some of you chose not to.
What is the “right” thing for a Christian to do in a situation like this? Do we ignore – and fund – the bad behavior of bad actors and the studios who hire them? Or do we cancel them?
It reached its height with the #metoo movement, but it’s not just bad men who are targets of cancel culture. Someone, somewhere on the internet decides that something someone said or did is bad. It could be something current, like the podcast host who wouldn’t help his daughter open a can of beans, or something from the past, like when Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was canceled for things he tweeted more than a decade earlier.
Once someone points out that bad thing, the internet forms a mob around the accused, deciding they’re guilty and crying for cancellation. Sometimes, it’s enough to drive the person off social media, as happened with the so-called BeanDad. Other times, the mob is looking for real-world consequences, like getting Disney to fire Gunn from Guardians 3 (of course they eventually rehired him).
What makes cancel culture so scary? After all, when we learned that Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted over 60 women throughout his career, nearly no one thought there shouldn’t be consequences. We might disagree on the exact nature of the consequences, but we all agree what he did was evil.
No, what often scares us is the feeling that anyone, at any time, could get canceled. Which means that at any time, any one of us could get canceled. And we’re in a world where the language around race, gender and sexuality is changing all the time, particularly as we center more marginalized voices. Which of us hasn’t said the wrong thing before? Which of us hasn’t posted to social media something we didn’t think all the way through?
Maybe our anxiety around cancel culture is really a fear for ourselves.