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Wednesday, May 22
The Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices

Black Voices: Cancel culture has never been a real topic to debate

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Editor's Note: This article includes mention of sexual assault.

Cancel culture has long and widely been marked as a topic of discourse, begging questions such as: Do celebrities deserve to get cancelled over one bad decision? Should we ruin the lives of such powerful and talented people because they lost control a few times? Should we separate the art from the artist and let the “cancelled” people profit from the already respectable work that they have made?  

The most dismal aspect of the conversation lies in the fact that very few celebrities have faced real-life consequences from “cancel culture,” and many abusers who should be serving jail sentences instead find a different audience to pander to. In some worst-case scenarios, the past harmful actions of abusers go willfully ignored or forgotten by most people, allowing them to be held in good grace by their peers and the public.  

One example is Brad Pitt, esteemed actor and producer, having produced two films in the past couple of years about female suffering and, ironically enough, surviving abuse within the industry (“She Said” and “Women Talking”). He has had open allegations against him for a couple of years now, perpetrated by his ex-wife and esteemed actor Angelina Jolie, along with their six children. The outlined accusations include an incident of choking and striking his children, whilst also pouring alcohol over them and Jolie, on a drunken rampage in 2016.  

During the 2023 Golden Globes Awards he was referred to by several of his peers as a larger than life, talented and respectable man. Quinta Brunson halted her speech to marvel at the fact that she was looking at Pitt, Austin Butler referred to him as a hero and Regina Hall joked about her attraction to him. There is no way of knowing what led to so many taking the time to acknowledge his presence, but they did. He sits in the front row and produces Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films, even with the set of allegations against him. 

Another big name to examine would be Ezra Miller. Dating back to 2020, they were accused of choking a woman at an Iceland bar. 

The woman spoke of the incident in Variety, saying, “I think it’s just fun and games — but then it wasn’t. All of a sudden, [they’re] on top of me, choking me, still screaming in my face if I want to fight," she says. “Two guy friends of mine are actually holding [Miller] back as [they’re] screaming, ‘This is what you wanted! This is what you wanted!’” 

In 2022, Miller resurfaced in Hawaii after being arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment at a karaoke bar and getting arrested again a month later for second degree assault. They faced accusations of violent harassment, grooming and manipulation. They wreaked havoc on indigenous people for months.  

In response, Miller released a half-hearted apology, citing “mental health issues,” and not long after, “The Flash” was released in theaters, with Miller playing the leading role of Barry Allen. Many have been swept up in the hype and hate watching the movie, and some critics even say they enjoyed Miller’s performance. This is another clear example of jumping quickly to separate the art from the artist, rather than acknowledge that no one person should be seated in the theater unless they want to indirectly hand money to an abuser. It can be argued as even more vile in this case, as Miller’s victims were mostly indigenous women, and the people supporting them are not. 

Many will remember the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial, where evidence of sexual assault and violent abuse was brought forth against him. Yet, not too long after, he was cast in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Vol. 4 show, and will continue to make money off of old movies and have an audience who respects and reveres him until he dies.  

Comedian Louis C.K., a man who has been exposing himself to young women for the entirety of his career — often being referred to as an “open secret” in Hollywood — continues to sell out tours while curating his sets on the topic of cancel culture.  

In case it has not been made clear, celebrities benefit from cancel culture one way or another. They will wait for the allegations to slowly leave the media cycle while reveling in their fortune. If that does not work, they will whine and groan about sensitive audiences, and the whining and groaning will be received by certain demographics as funny or unique or, “He’s saying what everyone else is scared to say!”  

The people who claim to be “cancelled” will live the rest of their days with respect from their peers and will always have an audience to return to. The culture in Hollywood is bleak and unwilling to hold awful people accountable, and audiences are naïve enough to eat it up. 

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