The "Cancel Culture" Headline That Broke My Brain
Beware this bit of rhetorical sleight of hand.
Hello readers! Parker here.
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I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this headline.
It’s just such a perfect example of how broken media — right-wing media like Fox News, in particular — is right now. I’ll explain.
As you likely know, the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild are both currently on strike against the major Hollywood studios. This has pretty much ground the production of TV shows and movies to a halt. There are some very legitimate issues looming on the horizon (in addition to existing issues related to residuals and work conditions) related to A.I. Now really is the time for actors and writers to push for a better deal. And so that’s why they’re on strike. It’s pretty simple, really.
Like the rest of the industry, The Drew Barrymore Show has been shut down. Recently, the show’s namesake announced that she was breaking with the strikers and resuming production without them. Writers, actors, and their supporters criticized Barrymore, and Barrymore was dropped as the host of the National Book Awards in November. And that’s where the above headline comes in:
FOX NEWS: DREW BARRYMORE DEFIES HOLLYWOOD CANCEL CULTURE AND RESUMES TALK SHOW
Amazing. Truly amazing stuff. A real [chef’s kiss] kind of moment here where words have lost meaning to the point that the concept of striking as a means to improve pay and working conditions is “cancel culture.”
Eventually, in response to criticism, Barrymore did a 180 and announced that she would not be bringing the show back during the strikes. (Big ups to her for doing that!) Still, let’s talk about the “cancel culture” stuff.
Wonder why reactionaries with a conservative agenda are eager to turn conversations about Barrymore’s decision to break with the strike into one about “cancel culture?” Misdirection.
Misdirection. That’s it.
See, if this is a conversation about strikes and labor rights, it’s a conversation about how strikes work and why the success of strikes is linked to members of the union not caving.
While so much of this is framed as Hollywood stars being spoiled and selfish, it’s not the stars that the union is primarily striking for. Yes, high-profile actors and writers will benefit from any new deal that gets hammered out, but it’s the actors and writers who aren’t household names, who are just scraping by right now, who most need fixes to contracts to protect their futures in the industry.
It’s only because of the solidarity of workers in a union that they are able to leverage their numbers to improve working conditions. That’s the whole point here, and that’s why it’s absolutely maddening to watch as anti-union activists and political commentators try to rebrand strike tactics like picketing as “cancel culture” or some sort of “anti-speech” action.
Linking this to "cancel culture" serves to divert focus from the potential harm strikebreaking can have on the union's bargaining power1. Instead of discussing the potential implications of her decision for writers and actors, the conversation becomes about Barrymore's personal freedom, her right to work, and the perceived overreactions of her detractors.
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