Issue of the day: 2021 and the rise of cancel culture

CANCEL culture is nothing new, but it has intensified in 2021, with a number of high-profile figures in the firing line, none more so than JK Rowling.

‘Cancel culture’ is on the rise?

The modern form of ostracising someone, forcing them out of social, online or professional circles, meaning they have no public platform or career, certainly ramped up in 2021.


When did it begin?

The terminology is said to have been inspired by a line in 1991 movie, New Jack City, where Wesley Snipes character says at one point: “Cancel that b****!” The term then took flight alongside the rise of the #MeToo movement.


Who has been in the firing line this year?

The number one target has undoubtedly been Harry Potter creator, JK Rowling. The Edinburgh-based author initially came under fire in 2019 for announcing her support for a researcher who lost her job for tweeting “men cannot change into women”, and then commenting on an article that said “people who menstruate”, by saying, “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people…”


But this year?

To mark the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reunited for a special TV show, ‘Return to Hogwarts’, but Ms Rowling was left out. She has been targeted by “hundreds of trans activists”, with one Twitter user saying they wished to put a “very nice pipe bomb in her mail box”.



Her latest book, The Christmas Pig, went straight to number one on its first week on sale in the UK, while her ‘pinned’ tweet declares, “I never let the Muggles get me down,” which Harry fans know means “non magic” people, although one suspects she means all those trying to cancel her.


Who else?

The Old Vic said it would no longer stage a production of Into The Woods directed by Monty Python star Terry Gilliam, with some staff reported to be unhappy with remarks he made previously such as saying he was “tired of white men being blamed for everything wrong with the world”.


Some even ‘cancelled’ themselves?

John Cleese decided to cancel himself, calling off an appearance at Cambridge University after a fellow attendee was barred for doing an impersonation of Adolf Hitler. Cleese tweeted: “I hear that someone there has been blacklisted for doing an impersonation of Hitler. I regret that I did the same on a Monty Python show, so I am blacklisting myself before someone else does.”


It wasn’t just people?

In the spring, the Dr Seuss estate announced it would discontinue six of the author’s titles over “hurtful and wrong” imagery, while Enid Blyton’s work was flagged as racist, with English Heritage updating their website to say her “work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism,”, with some saying it was an important issue to highlight and others saying it was a product of its time.


It comes as?

Dame Maureen Lipman said last week that she fears cancel culture could erase comedy, saying, “It’s in the balance whether we will ever be funny again,” after a YouGov survey found 57 per cent of Britons say they have censored themselves from expressing political and social views for fear of being cancelled.





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