Actor Ethan Hawke, who has starred in major films such as Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams and Training Day with Samuel L. Jackson, spoke about how the cancellation culture that has become popular in recent years negatively affects the development of art.
In an interview with The Guardian, the actor was asked about his most recent novel which involves “sex regularly and frankly” and whether he found it difficult to carry this book forward in the current climate of the world.
“Our sexual identity and the relationship we have through it with ourselves and with others,” Hawke says, “is determinative in our lives.” “And in light of the culture of cancellation and shame,” he continues, “while much of this moment is very helpful, it’s a complicated time to say, I want to be open about the idiosyncrasies of human sexuality.”
“What’s that great line from Mark Twain, ‘The whole point of art is to relieve shame,'” he continues. Hawke believes we’re in this period where you can’t even write about bad behavior because it can seem like you’re condoning it.
“You have to be able,” claims the Training Day actor, “to create a character who does things he wishes he wouldn’t do.” Hawke believes this is a “petrifying” moment to talk about male sexuality (the protagonist of his novel dates women much younger than him). “I thought about it over and over again,” he confessed.
Ethan Hawke isn’t the first to criticize cancellation culture
Hawke joins the list of Hollywood performers criticizing the cancellation culture that comedians like Kevin Hart have fallen victim to. British actor John Cleese, star of the iconic Monty Python, attacked the woke culture saying it actually kills humor. “There are a lot of people who are politically correct now who have absolutely no sense of humor.”
Ricky Gervais, producer and writer of the classic sitcom The Office and more recent series such as After Life, criticized this cancellation culture saying that “it’s not right when people try to get someone fired because they don’t like their opinion on something that has nothing to do with their job.” He commented in an interview with talkRadio about the woke mob hysteria that “if you’re a bit conservative, then you’re Hitler now.”
One of the biggest comedians to criticize cancellation culture like Hawke is Dave Chappelle. The creator of the legendary Chappelle Show said on his Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, mimicking those who promote cancellation culture:
“If you do something wrong in your life and I find out, I will try to take everything away from you. I don’t care what I find out. It could be today, tomorrow, fifteen, twenty years from now. If I find out, you’re fucking finished.”
“That’s why I don’t do comedy all the time,” Chappelle states, “because you all are the worst motherfuckers I’ve ever tried to entertain in my fucking life. Goddamn it, I’m sick of it! This is the worst time to be a celebrity.”
Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey questioned where “the line is going to land when it comes to free speech, what we allow and what we don’t allow, where this cancellation culture is going, it’s a very interesting place that we’re engaged in as a society and we’re trying to figure out. We haven’t found the right place.” He also considered that at the moment we are at an irrational point of struggle: “we don’t give legitimacy or validation to an opposing point of view, we make it persona non grata, and that’s unconstitutional.”