British superstar Rowan Atkinson, who will forever be immortalized as the iconic “Mr. Bean,” has joined Ricky Gervais and John Cleese in the fight against cancel culture.
Speaking with U.K.’s Radio Times, Atkinson said that the modern act of destroying people in an instant due to past or present sins is 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,” he said, as reported by Variety. “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.”
In the same interview, Atkinson admitted that he does not much “enjoy” playing Mr. Bean because of the immense responsibility that comes with getting him right.
“I don’t much enjoy playing him. The weight of responsibility is not pleasant. I find it stressful and exhausting, and I look forward to the end of it,” he said.
Atkinson joins the ranks of several British comedians who have condemned cancel culture, including “Monty Python” alum John Cleese and Ricky Gervais.
Speaking with Reuters this past July, Cleese said that cancel culture, often fueled by political correctness, “misunderstands the main purposes of life, which is to have fun.”
“Everything humorous is critical. If you have someone who is perfectly kind and intelligent and flexible and who always behaves appropriately, they’re not funny. Funniness is about people who don’t do that, like Trump,” he said.
Cleese added that political correctness creates a problem for comedians because they “have to set the bar according to what we are told by the most touchy, most emotionally unstable and fragile, and least stoic people in the country.”
Comedian Ricky Gervais has long been an opponent of cancel culture and the excesses of political correctness in general. During an episode of the podcast “SmartLess” with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett, Gervais said that being woke in today’s environment could be taboo in the next 10 years based on cultural shifts.
“The scary thing is being canceled if you say the wrong thing and suddenly Netflix can take you off their platform,” Gervais said.
“You could be the most woke, politically correct stand-up in the world at the moment, but you don’t know what it’s going to be like in 10 years time. You can get canceled for things you said 10 years ago,” he added.
Some might argue that cancel culture holds public figures accountable for transgressions, but Gervais said they are mistaken. For instance, if a comedian, celebrity, or anyone else expressed views that offended someone, the person can always choose to boycott them; with cancel culture, however, people are bullied into deplatforming and blacklisting others, something entirely different.
“The misunderstanding about cancel culture is some people think you should be able to say anything you want without consequences and that’s not true because we’re members of society and people are allowed to criticize you,” he said. “They’re allowed to not buy your things, they’re allowed to burn your DVDs and they’re allowed to turn the telly off. What they’re not allowed to do is to bully other people into not going to see you.”