The NY Times has produced a skit imagining modern day cancel culture taking place in the year 1283. The idea is to mock some of the absurdity of social media witch hunts by comparing them to actual witch hunts from a previous era. Here’s how the Times describes the clip:
In the satirical Video Op-Ed above, cancel culture is reimagined with the help of a medieval mob. Pray thee, the video begs, is there any room left for transgression?
These days, it seems like everyone’s being canceled — from celebrities like Louis C.K. and Kanye West to ordinary high-schoolers. Some cancellations are temporary (we’re looking at you, Aziz Ansari). Some seem permanent (has anyone even seen R. Kelly?). But all are very public. And rarely is an apology good enough. Even more rare: redemption.
Last month, former President Barack Obama urged young people to leave cancel culture behind. “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff” he said, “you should get over that quickly.”
A mob quickly rose to the defense of cancel culture, sprinkled with a bit of “O.K. Boomer” judgment. For a brief moment, we wondered: Could even President Obama be canceled?
This particular clip was created by two writers who are part of an Australian sketch comedy series called Nice Shorts. I wonder if they’ll be canceled for doing this.
The Australian series must owe a deep debt of gratitude to Monty Python because, as you’ll see, the skit seems like a slightly re imagined version of the witch scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In that scene a mob demands a witch be burned and walks through the “science” behind the test for witchcraft. In the NY Times’ version, a similar mob demands a woman be canceled for saying something inappropriate 11-years-ago. She’s given a chance to apologize and that only makes things worse. Fortunately, the mob soon turns on the executioner and then on one another. All of this is performed in English accents and even some loose interpretations of specific voices from Monty Python’s repertoire. The executioner in particular seems to be imitating Michael Palin a bit.
Once you acknowledge that this skit isn’t terribly original, the writing and acting isn’t too bad. The skit does make the point that the standards used to cancel people seem to be a) nonsensical and b) ever-evolving. By the end of the clip the mob is angry about things that haven’t even happened yet. But the last-minute arrival of some lord planning to raise taxes and burn crops seemed somewhat random. Are the writers suggesting cancel culture is a distraction from real social justice?
While I don’t have a problem with the skit or the point it’s making, I guess it’s a bit hard to believe the Times as an institution really believes this. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit, after all they did publish this clip which must count for something. Still, I’d have guessed most of the people working at the Times are in the “accountability culture” camp. If you haven’t heard that term, that’s the progressive left’s defense of cancel culture, i.e. the claim that people getting canceled really just deserved it.
Here’s the Times’ skit. Below that is the original Monty Python witch skit for comparison. If you’re going to borrow material, you might as well borrow from the best.
“…I got better.”