In the same vein of last week’s blog post on what the future holds for cinema, there is one particular aspect of this debate that we’re going to focus on this week. That is, how political correctness and “cancel culture” are impacting creative output.
For those who aren’t familiar, though, most of you probably are, over the course of roughly the past decade, there has been an emergence of increased sensitivity and intolerance towards specific words, phrases, and general ideologies that are regarded by "many" as offensive. With most political correctness aimed to fight issues like racism, sexism, and homophobia, the general principles and intentions of the movement are seemingly positive. However, where some opinions diverge is on the topic of “cancel culture," which is the crusade to banish members of society for not complying with political correctness. The cause for controversy is that while “cancel culture” attempts to stop people from catering to racist mentalities (or mentalities of that sort), it doesn’t provide any space for forgiveness, error in judgement, or for people to learn from their mistakes.
With “cancel culture” being a controversial topic in a generalized sense, it becomes an even more controversial discussion when relating to cinema and creative liberties, begging the question:
Is there a justified place in the arts for political correctness? Or should creativity and freedom of expression reign free from censorship?
The perfect example of someone who refuses to cater to political correctness in his art is Quentin Tarantino. He has been viciously attacked by keyboard warriors in his films, most notably for his portrayal of violence, and even more specifically for his portrayal of violence against women. But, while “cancel culture” has attempted to take him down, he fully rejects the objections against his work. He is a cinema artist that takes the stance that nothing should stand between you and your creative output.
Tarantino's point of view is that in order to produce new and exciting cinema, one must make the movie they want to make, no holds barred.
No one will ever make a movie that pleases everyone, so regardless of if some people don’t like it, or if some people find it offensive, the most important thing is attuning to your own creative vision, untainted by censors.
In the same light, actor and musician Donald Glover recently spoke out on Twitter saying “[I] saw people on here havin a discussion about how tired they were of reviewing boring stuff (tv & film). We’re getting boring stuff and not even experimental mistakes because people are afraid of getting cancelled.” He brings up an interesting point. From his point of view, if filmmakers are afraid to follow the path of someone like Tarantino, not even entertaining the idea of “cancel culture," and their focus becomes primarily how to make a movie or TV show that won’t offend people, the vivacity of the content will surely diminish. Not to say that political correctness on a more generalized scale is ruining creativity, for example blatantly racist or sexist content that is purely offensive. But, rather, the nitpicky nature of “cancel culture” that harps on someone for using one word in an improper context, or for portraying a scenario that an infinitesimal population of people MAY find offensive in order to prevent even one person’s feelings from being hurt.
Opposed to having the focal point be coming up with a great story, Glover is pointing out that the movement towards extreme self-censorship is shifting the focus to making content that will please everyone, which is an impossible feat...
Unless you want to end up with a drab and monotonous portrayal of human life.
While a lot of creatives follow the logic of Glover and Tarantino, there is a flip side to the argument. That is, political correctness and the subsequent burgeoning culture may be taking things to an extreme, but it is a means to an end for the ultimate goal of making a better society.
In an interview, comedian, filmmaker, and musician Bo Burham said, “Political correctness with young people, for me, is an over correction for a serious problem like bigotry and racism. And yeah they’ve swung the other way. And yeah they’re a little irony-deaf, but I’ll take, like, an irony-deaf tolerant crowd over a racist crowd that really understands the workings of comedy and irony.” He goes on to say that he doesn’t agree with “cancel culture” and he doesn’t think it’s acceptable to infringe on people’s freedom of speech or freedom of expression, but for the most part, the movement is just people jumping on a bandwagon that is attempting to take down deeply rooted issues in our society, and even if the pendulum has swung too far the other way, at least it is swinging in the right direction.
My personal opinion on this matter is somewhere in the middle. First and foremost, I feel that creative endeavors shouldn’t be hindered by the fear of judgement. There is no such thing as an artistic pursuit that will please everyone, so taking that into consideration, we as artists need to follow our creative impulses and tell evocative and thought-provoking stories regardless. However, I also think a certain level of sensitivity is valuable. While I won’t subscribe to the picking apart of every minute detail in order to prevent any hurt feelings, I do think broad strokes of political correctness, like avoiding blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, and offensive material is something to strive for. That isn’t to say discussion of these issues is wrong or bad, but all around finding ways to be inclusive of all people, in order to tell everyone’s story (no exceptions), is what I strive for in my own creative pursuits.
What do you think about political correctness and “cancel culture?" Is there a place for this kind of censorship in art? Or is political correctness hindering storytellers and artists, making for boring and tedious material, and ultimately impeding upon our freedom of expression?
Follow Hannah on Instagram: @hannahwagner3932
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