Actor Ethan Hawke has joined the chorus of the few but vocal celebrities who have denounced cancel culture due to its stifling of free speech.
Speaking with The Guardian in promotion of his novel, “A Bright Ray of Darkness,” Hawke said that the current cultural climate has made it difficult to talk about issues such as male sexuality and its idiosyncrasies.
“It’s a book in which sex is described regularly and frankly. [The protagonist has a relationship with a much younger woman.] Did you find this difficult in the current environment?” asked The Guardian.
“Our sexual identity and the relationship we have through it, to ourselves and to others, is defining in our lives. And in the light of cancel culture and shaming – while a lot of this moment is very helpful – it’s a difficult time to say: ‘I want to be open about the idiosyncrasies of human sexuality,'” he said. “What’s that great Mark Twain line? ‘The aim of art is to alleviate shame.’ We’re in this period now when you can’t even write about bad behaviour because it might seem like you’re condoning it. You have to be able to create a character who does things they wish they didn’t do. I went back and forth on it, because it’s just a petrifying time to speak about male sexuality. If you can’t shine a light into dark corners, the demons that live there will never go away.”
Ethan Hawke’s condemnation of cancel culture follows “Breaking Bad” actor Bryan Cranston, who lamented that such a culture kills forgiveness.
“We live in this ‘cancel culture’ of people erring and doing wrong — either on purpose or by accident — and there’s less forgiveness in our world,” he said.
“I think we’re unfortunately in a coarser environment. I think our societies have become harder and less understanding, less tolerant, less forgiving,” he added. “Where does forgiveness live in our society? Where can we accept someone’s behavior if they are contrite, if they are apologetic and take responsibility? Isn’t it possible that forgiveness plays a part of that and they are welcomed back in, as opposed to creating more fences, creating more, ‘you’re out, you’re in, that’s it.’ You make one mistake, gone.”
Cranston felt that society needed to “take a second look” at the concept of ostracizing people, extolling the concept of mercy and forgiveness as a human strength.
“I think we need to take a second look at that, exhale, and realize that asking forgiveness and receiving forgiveness are not weaknesses, but are human strengths,” he said.
In early January, actor Rowan Atkinson, forever known as Mr. Bean, likened cancel culture to the “digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn.”
“The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society,” Atkinson told the U.K. Radio Times. “It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘canceled.’”
“It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn,” Atkinson added. “So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear about the future.”