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Cancel Culture: The Right's Latest Nonsensical Obsession

Shane is a freelance writer, independent researcher, comedian and sarcastic jackass. He's worked in media and entertainment for 20+ years.

the-rights-nonsensical-obsession-with-cancel-culture

Cancel Culture

Our MAIN story tonight concerns Cancel Culture. Specifically: where this idea started, how the term got hijacked and misused, how misusing it detracts from an actual problem that society needs to address, and also the Muppets. Lots and lots of Muppets.

"Let's DO this!"

"Let's DO this!"

In 2021, “Cancel Culture” has become a Right Wing talking point and applause-inducing go-to phrase for just about any position taken on any subject that they happen to disagree with. But when the idea of being “cancelled” first sprung into the public consciousness, it meant something very specific: actually being…cancelled. As in a TV or radio show that was cancelled from the airways, broadcast or syndication as a result of something deemed offensive by a member of the program.

One of the best examples of this to make national headlines and really kick off the discussion was the case of Don Imus, a “shock jock” radio host employed by CBS and Cumulus Radio. In 2007, Imus went live on air and referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as a bunch of “nappy-headed hoes,” which was simultaneously appallingly offensive AND…also kind of impressive in its ability to be both misogynistic and racist in the span of only three words. CBS cancelled his show and canned him over the comment.

Probably not the guy who should be discussing anyone else's hair.

Probably not the guy who should be discussing anyone else's hair.

Another legitimate example was the case of Roseanne Barr. In 2018, the show “Roseanne” was resurrected on ABC after a two-decade hiatus, enjoying a massively successful First Season reboot. But then Barr got herself into hot water on Twitter by referring to [black] senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, with the tweet:

the-rights-nonsensical-obsession-with-cancel-culture

The horrifically racist “monkey” insinuation didn’t go unnoticed, and ABC fired her and cancelled her show, freeing her up to go seek out new and undiscovered ways to butcher the national anthem.

Barr’s cancellation was slightly different than Imus’ in that she didn’t say the offensive thing on the show like Imus did, but the network decided they didn’t want anyone who represented their brand saying those kinds of things publicly, whether it was on their show or not.

After that, the examples begin to stray further and further from the initial concept.

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family, made some racist, anti-gay remarks in a GQ interview, so the AMC network suspended him from the show temporarily (he was reinstated after 9 days). But his comments caused several million viewers to stop tuning in, and AMC didn’t renew the show after the 5th season due to the ratings drop. The Right insisted, “Robertson got cancelled!

Gilbert Gottfried got fired by Aflac (as the voice of Aflac’s duck) after Gottfried fired off a series of tasteless tweets about the victims of the tsunami that hit Japan, one of which included:

“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now.’”

Aflac does 75% of its business in Japan, so it turned into a PR disaster of tsunami proportions. Gottfried refused to apologize for the comments, so Aflac apologized to Japan on his behalf, donated ¥100 million to Japan’s disaster relief, and then fired Gottfried from his side hustle as a water fowl impersonator. The Right howled, “Gottfried got cancelled!

Fun With Anagrams presents: Gilbert Gott Fired.

Fun With Anagrams presents: Gilbert Gott Fired.

When it became apparent to Right Wing media outlets that their audiences loved hearing about the latest “cancellation” because it gave them one more thing to feel indignant, persecuted, or outraged about, stations like Fox continued sprinkling nonsensical gasoline on the ludicrous culture war fire until we finally arrived this year at the HOLY TRIFECTA of inane, partisan pandering bulls***: Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, and The Muppets.

We’re going to look at all three examples in ascending order of stupidity.

the-rights-nonsensical-obsession-with-cancel-culture

#3. DR. SEUSS

Unlike the vast majority of commercial authors, the publication rights to Dr. Seuss’ books are actually retained by the Seuss’ estate, meaning Dr. Seuss Enterprises has full control over what does or does not get published. Back in March, they announced they would voluntarily cease publication of six – out of their more than 60 – titles due to what they felt was “hurtful, outdated, racially-insensitive stereotypes” contained in those six books.

The Right immediately lost its collective mind, [green] egged on in no small part by Tucker Carlson - that pasty, pallid pile of the type of human excrement that can only be formed by eating an entire loaf of Bunny Bread, slathered in mayonnaise, topped with marshmallows, and chased down with a full gallon of skim milk. Carlson - whose only positive contribution to society was finally ditching his smarmy bow tie for an actual man tie, thereby reducing his inherent face-punch-ability by 5%...bringing it down to a manageable 95% - took to the airwaves to declare, “The radical, socialist LIBERALS have now cancelled Dr. Seuss! If they can do that, where does it end?!? Next, they’re going to cancel the Bible!!!

The vacuous stare of 95% face-punchability

The vacuous stare of 95% face-punchability

Sufficiently panicked by the non-existent impending assault on Christian liberties by “The Left” - who had absolutely nothing to do with any of it, and were quite confused as to how they’d been dragged into a Butter Battle - some people reacted in hilarious ways. One of my Facebook friends took to FB to proudly declare their support for Dr. Seuss, and announced they’d just purchased a half dozen Dr. Seuss books online as a way of financially supporting Horton’s battle against oppression.

Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell most of you that when you buy a book, the proceeds from that book go to the publisher and/or author. Which, in this case happened to be the Seuss estate…who are the ones that made the in-house decision to pull their own books. So, my friend “protested” a movement by giving money directly to the people responsible for the thing they were outraged about. I can’t write a joke stupider than that.

Fine, I’ll try!

That would be like if Domino’s suddenly realized they’d been making their pizza crust out of the same material they’d been making the boxes it came in after all these years, and decided to switch to something flour-based instead of wood pulp, and you “protested” the decision by ordering 17 large pepperoni’s from Domi- okay, no, I was right the first time. I can’t write anything stupider than reality.

"Yes, I'd like to order your 3-Cheese & Cardboard Family Meal. That's right, 17 of them."

"Yes, I'd like to order your 3-Cheese & Cardboard Family Meal. That's right, 17 of them."

#2. MR. POTATO HEAD

the-rights-nonsensical-obsession-with-cancel-culture

Back in February, the Hasbro toy company announced that they were dropping the term “Mr.” From its Mr. Potato Head line of toys. Predictably, the Right immediately lost its collective mind without even bothering to make sure they understood what was being proposed. Outrage is so much funner to stew in when you have absolutely no freaking clue what it is you're supposed to be outraged about, amiright?!?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

“Mr. Potato Head” – launched in 1952 – is not a single toy. It is an entire line of toys that includes the original Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, Transformers Potato Heads, Star Wars Potato Heads, Batman Potato Heads, Simpsons Potato Heads, Looney Tunes Potato Heads, Toy Story 3 Potato Heads, Indiana Jones Potato Heads, the list goes on and on…

(Can anyone verify if there was ever a Dan Quayle Potato”e” Head?)

But the brand just had the umbrella name “Mr. Potato Head” because that was the only character that existed when the brand launched 70 years ago. Hasbro merely decided to change the brand name from “Mr. Potato Head” to “Potato Head” to make it gender-neutral since many of the Potato Head characters were actually female, and others - like R2D2 - didn’t have a gender to begin with. The toy Mr. Potato Head wasn’t going anywhere, and was still going to be the same “Mr.” Potato Head as before. But the Right didn’t care. This was all the “proof!” they needed that toy companies were secretly pursuing an agenda to ram LGBTQ ideology down our children’s throats at the behest of Left Wing Fanatical Marxists who want to cancel “Traditional Family Values!!!”

The whole thing was nonsensical.

And at no point in the outrage did any of the outraged people stop to wonder why they never questioned the idea of a “gendered” potato in the first place.

#3. THE MUPPETS

"We're BAAAAACK!!!"

"We're BAAAAACK!!!"

This one takes the cake on the stupidity scale, not only because it’s the polar opposite of what “cancelling” means, but because it’s a talking point that right wing media and right wing politicians simply refuse to let go of. In just the last three weeks, I’ve heard Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Tom Cotton, Madison Cawthorne, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, a veritable Who’s Who of Fox, OAN, and NewsMax pundits and whoever else lives at the bottom of Oscar the Grouch’s trash can insisting to either live or televised audiences that “Remember, the Left are the ones who want to cancel the Muppets!”

“Don't Let Them Cancel The Muppets!!!” has almost become the de facto rallying cry at Republican rallies by politicians who desperately crave audience approval and want to fire up the crowd, but are too lazy or dumb to say anything substantive.

So what’s all this “Muppet Cancellation Outrage” over?

Buckle up.

“The Muppet Show” was a variety show featuring Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the crew that aired once a week from 1976-1981.

It was pretty much the greatest show of all time.

It was pretty much the greatest show of all time.

Because fans of the old show had no way to watch old episodes, Disney+ decided to re-air the entire series on their streaming service. The show used to feature live musical guests each week, and occasionally the guest appearance would include a stage prop or something deemed “offensive” by today’s standards. For example, Johnny Cash once made an appearance performing in front of the Confederate flag.

Of the 120 episodes, Disney decided that 18 of them contained “offensive” visuals, but aired them anyway with a disclaimer at the start of the program that “some scenes may contain negative depictions and/or mistreatments of people or cultures.” It was no different than the disclaimers that accompany most shows today:

“The following program contains X content that some audiences may find inappropriate. Viewer discretion is advised.”

Pictured: The opposite of cancellation

Pictured: The opposite of cancellation

Nonetheless, the Right immediately lost its collective mind.

"The Muppets are being cancelled!!! WHERE WILL THE DRAW THE LINE?!?"

the-rights-nonsensical-obsession-with-cancel-culture

Because Disney took a show that had been off the air for four decades, and put it on air…with a disclaimer that Donald Duck was no longer on board with the Confederacy.

We’d finally come full circle.

“Cancel Culture” starting out referring to shows being removed from broadcast, and now the Right was using it to include shows being added to broadcasts. It used to mean “literally cancelled;” but today it’s used interchangeably with “fired,” “suspended,” “fined,” “questioned,” “re-branded,” “apologized to,” “explained,” “considered,” and "the exact opposite of cancelled."

It’s a term that has come to describe everything…and as a result, has ended up no longer meaning anything.

Why is this harmful beyond the absurd stupidity of it all?

Because there are actually some valid points to be made about Cancel Culture – the main one being the recent tendency to go digging through people’s 15-yr old Twitter feeds to find something offensive from 2006 as an excuse to not let them host The Oscar’s next year.

Granted, since “not hiring” someone obviously isn’t the same thing as “cancelling” them, we’re gonna have to come up with a new term that accurately depicts the problem. It is a real problem that we really need to address, but we can’t do it because the people who’ve pointed it out won’t stop ALSO yelling about Idaho vegetable toys and puppets.

Once you’ve cried wolf enough times, nobody’s going to listen to you when you’ve actually got a substantive point worth making. So, if you really want to engage in a meaningful discussion worth having, start by doing the world a favor and cancelling Tucker “Bunny Bread” Carlson.

Then we’ll talk.

"Are you talking about ME? I'm confused."

"Are you talking about ME? I'm confused."

Thank you, that’s our show.

See you next week.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Shane Almgren

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