Rowan Atkinson, most well-known for his on-screen persona Mr. Bean, is just the latest to land himself in the crosshairs of the internet’s cancel culture hive mind. But before you go about looking for what he did wrong to “deserve” the wrath of the online mob wanting to see him meet his demise, know it’s a little different than other folks who’ve landed here. Unlike victims of cancel culture who’ve been outed because of off-brand comments or unseemly actions, Atkinson’s sins were more of the meta version. That’s because folks are attempting to cancel Rowan Atkinson simply because he talked about cancel culture in general.
Rowan Atkinson sat down for an interview with the UK’s Radio Times to talk about a wide variety of topics including some upcoming projects, the difficulty in playing a character like Mr. Bean, and eventually, the ideas and negativity around cancel culture for celebrities. He had some interesting, rather uncontroversial takes on the subject. From one portion of the interview he says:
“The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society. It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be ‘canceled.’
He goes on:
“…but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn…”
Is Rowan Atkinson’s medieval mob comparison a little over-the-top? Probably, considering those folks were out for actual blood. But if anything, this appears to be merely a summation of the topic with a slightly negative view of what’s happening writ large in terms of public discourse. He appears to be simply calling for maybe more discernment and context around comments or actions before there’s a sprint towards canceling someone. He also goes on in the interview to lament how the quick trigger around canceling someone has negative societal outcomes and that the internet mob mentality can spiral out of control.
These comments by Rowan Atkinson, in what can only be described as complete irony, had the internet mob come out quickly wanting the actor canceled for his opinions. “Mr. Bean” is trending on Twitter right now with early comments deriding the actor for even mentioning the topic. That being said, there are others rallying to his defense with the opinion that his comments were nothing more than an opinion and didn’t constitute anything close to controversial.
In terms of celebrities being canceled because of comments or actions recently, the list is almost too long to go through. Black Panther‘s Letitia Wright is in trouble because of comments she made on Twitter, Gina Carano’s future is in doubt on The Mandalorian and, of course, Johnny Depp is now persona non grata in Hollywood. Of course, these few examples are all over the map in terms of actual severity and each should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some are incredibly serious, others may be just differences in opinion. It’s important to make the distinction.
In general, the calls for canceling Rowan Atkinson only serve to actually prove his point. In the interview, he worried about being a “victim of that mob” and that’s what’s apparently happening here though likely on a smaller scale than the examples he referred to. In all, it’s unlikely to threaten his upcoming Netflix comedy Man vs. Bee but hey, this is the internet and all and these days anything can get canceled.