Posted on July 11, 2020

Peter Bart: Will Hollywood Icons Topple Like Confederate Statues In Current Cancel Culture?

Peter Bart, Deadline, July 10, 2020

Could Walt Disney be next? Really?

Let me explain: Most industry people I know were drawn to Hollywood by the prospect of creating things, not cancelling things. Now the dialogue has shifted, whether about airports (John Wayne), statues (Teddy Roosevelt) or movies (Gone With the Wind).

Could logos be next? Walt Disney was a man who did great things but whose points of view were nonetheless tainted by some unacceptable ideas (“tainted,” by today’s standards). A taint provides ammunition for those who now advocate removing John Wayne’s name from Orange County’s airport or bringing down statues of Confederate generals or even of progressive presidents like Teddy Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson. Each of them had a taint.


Now for the Hollywood types: I feel a personal stake in arguments about Disney and Wayne because I spent time with each of them.


I had two long meetings with Disney; he actually escorted me on my first tour of Disneyland. He vented his ignorant theories attacking the rights of labor unions. He was also tactless when describing his desire to “increase dialogue with the Jews in the industry.” In short, he was hard-core right wing — like Wayne. But I sensed his indiscretions stemmed not from bigotry but from a lack of the discretionary “cool” required of today’s CEOs. {snip}

In the years following his death, I spoke with people who worked with him and I could not find anyone who recalled specific comments suggesting a deep-seated anti-Semitic bias {snip}

{snip} It would be outrageous to advocate diminishing the Disney logo, which is a symbol of creativity and innovation. Its removal would constitute a loud announcement that the cancellation club ruled our society {snip}


{snip} Is a company like Netflix obligated to review every old movie it shows to judge whether cops were presented in too heroic a light? Should every period picture like Gone With the Wind require an introductory panel to contextualize its content? One industry poll suggests a slim majority would answer yes.

I don’t think a focus on “cancellation” will advance either our culture or the state of our sensibilities.