Donald Glover learned the hard way that you’ve got to be careful with how you use the word “cancel” these days. In a tweet about the film and TV industry on May 11, 2021, the “Atlanta” creator and rapper Childish Gambino set off a firestorm of hot takes and headlines for an apparent “cancel culture” gripe.
The term “cancel culture” has become a culture war flashpoint in its own right (very meta), with some, including prominent right-wing political figures such as former President Donald Trump, arguing that cancel culture run amok is “cancelling” free speech. On the other side of the debate are those who believe that cancel culture isn’t even a real thing.
Without getting too political on main, the real question is about what Glover was actually trying to say here. Was he really making an argument against “cancel culture,” as some have claimed? Or is this just one big misunderstanding?
There's a debate about what 'canceled' means
The headline in the New York Post reads, “Donald Glover: Fear of cancel culture is creating ‘boring’ TV, movies.” But if you go back to Glover’s original tweet, it looks like he was using the word “cancel” in its old-fashioned, original meaning.
In a series of tweets, Glover wrote, “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,” “so they feel like they can only experiment w/ aesthetic. (also because some of em know theyre not that good).”
Glover did not actually use the phrase “cancel culture,” and it would appear that what the actor and rapper meant was only that shows were afraid of getting literally canceled, as in, taken off the air. Something the rest of Twitter was quick to point out.
“Donald Glover being cancelled because people thought he was talking about people being cancelled when in actual fact he was talking about tv shows being cancelled is peak 2021,” wrote one user. Another tweeted, “not Donald Glover getting cancelled bc people thought he was criticising cancel culture when he was actually talking about TV shows not being renewed. the jokes write themselves at this point.”
Well, that settles it. The word “canceled” is hereby canceled until we figure this out.
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