Culture News

Maybe Cancel "Lolita" Instead of Madison Beer?

But was Beer's off-hand comment so bad?

Madison Beer

By Christian Bertrand (Shutterstock)

It's not often that 65-year-old literature becomes the center of online controversy–but maybe it should happen more often.

On Monday, 21-year-old singer Madison Beer faced backlash when she replied to a fan's question about what she thought of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel about a middle-aged man's predatory obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. During the livestream, Beer said it was her favorite book and that she "definitely" romanticized the storyline.

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Culture News

Woody Allen's Memoir Will No Longer Be Published

Hachette employees walked out on Thursday in protest of Woody Allen's no-longer-forthcoming memoir.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Update: Woody Allen's memoir will no longer be published.

This news came after a public outcry against the book. On Thursday, over 100 protesters gathered in Rockefeller Plaza outside of the publishing company Hachette's offices.

They were there to make three demands of Michael Pietsch, the chief executive: First, that he rescind his decision to publish Woody Allen's memoir, second that he apologize for approving its publication in the first place, and third that he "recognize that Hachette employees have the ability to speak up about books they disagree with without fear of reprisal," as The New York Timesreported.

"This afternoon, Grand Central Publishing employees are walking out of the Hachette New York office in protest of the publication of Woody Allen's memoir," said employees in an email. "We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault."

Woody Allen has been the subject of multiple sexual misconduct allegations, and most notably he was accused of molesting his daughter Dylan Farrow in the 1990s. Though Allen has denied the accusations and was never convicted, Farrow has stood by her statements and has been supported by her brother, Ronan. On Tuesday, the two released passionate statements in protest to news of the book's release.

Allen's memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was slated to come out on April 7. In response to the protest, a Hachette spokeswoman wrote in a Thursday evening email, "We respect and understand the perspective of our employees who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book. We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity."

"At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly," she said on Friday. "We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books," she continued, but last minute listening sessions had led "to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible".

While of course these employees all had the right to protest, there is some debate over whether or not the memoir should've been published.

According to Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America, "We believe everyone — including authors and publishing employees — has the right to express their opinions and raise their voices in protest. That said," she noted, "we also are concerned about the trend of pressuring the withdrawal of books from publication and circulation, depriving readers of the chance to make their own judgments and disincentivizing publishers from taking on contentious topics. While we don't take a position on the editorial judgments in question, we think that once a book is slated for publication, it should not be withdrawn just because it's controversial or gives rise to vociferous objections."

It all comes back to the classic question: Can you separate the art from the artist, and at what point are they inextricable? When does a critique based in social solidarity or ideology become censorship? And aren't the biases inherent in the publishing industry their own forms of censorship as these biases tend to favor certain voices and faces (namely, established voices who will make money) above others? Perhaps this will all lead to a deeper conversation on both sides about who has the right to tell what story.

In the end, it's important to remember that although Woody Allen's memoir was pulled from the shelves, the man is still doing just fine, while abuse survivors continue to suffer even if their abusers are brought to justice.

This article was updated from an earlier version on Friday, March 6.

Culture Feature

Why We Shouldn’t Cancel Cancel Culture: We Need Transformative Justice

To cancel cancel culture—and to write off the impulses that motivate it—would be to miss a valuable chance to learn.

Photo by Markus Winkler (Unsplash)

Kanye West is canceled.

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Bill Cosby Wants to Talk About Race: He Says His Jury Is a "Set Up"

The convicted sexual assaulter isn't backing down.

Bill Cosby Finally Speaks Behind Bars: "It's All A Setup" - CH News

In 2018, Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand—just one of five women who accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.

Cosby's lawyers have called these women "party girls," "pathological liars," and "robbers," claiming they're only in this case for potential financial gain. Though there have been years of rumors and allegedly dozens of victims, the famed 82-year-old comedian is still arguing that he's the victim in this situation and that the entirety of the case has been a sham. Recently, Cosby gave his first interview since beginning to serve his 3-to-10-year sentence in a maximum security penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

"It's all a set up. That whole jury thing. They were imposters," Cosby told Black Press USA.

Cosby received no special treatment during his interview. His spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, was also on the line, and Cosby's calls were limited to 15 minutes in accordance with the penitentiary's restrictions.

"It's all political," he argued. During his time in prison, Cosby has often spoken at meetings for Mann Up, an inmate reform program for African American men. In the interview, Cosby positioned his incarceration as an issue of racism and the disproportionate imprisonment of black people compared to white people. Though that gap is shrinking, the unfairness of the justice system against people of color is still a massive issue—however, for Cosby to blame his incarceration on race alone and continuously claim he's never committed sexual assault is entirely misguided and, frankly, disgusting.

We absolutely need criminal justice reform, especially as it pertains to race. But if Cosby wants to talk statistics, let's discuss how less than 5 percent of perpetrators in sexual assault cases get incarcerated. Let's discuss how about three out of four sexual assaults go unreported. And if Cosby wants to talk race in sexual assault cases, let's talk about how 22 percent of black women have been raped. Let's talk about the increased risk of domestic violence among black folks in the LGBTQIA+ community. Let's talk about sexual assault survivors like Cyntoia Brown, who at 16, shot and killed a man who picked her up for sex; she was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. And let's talk about the exclusion of black women's experiences in studies of sexual assault on college campuses, and how these survivors are too often discouraged to come forward, especially if their rapist was a black man—largely in part to men like Cosby, who position it as a race issue in all the wrong ways.


Survivor's #MeToo Incident Ruins the Whole Season

When sexual harassment is shoved under the rug, the veneer of strategic gameplay breaks down completely.


Anyone who hasn't watched Survivor since the first few seasons might not realize that the show as it exists now is very different from the show that first aired nearly 20 years ago.

Perhaps the most meta-reality show on television, modern Survivor doesn't even pretend to be about outdoor survival anymore. Rather, it's all about the social gameplay, kind of like a massive, high-level game of Werewolf. Everyone on the show is a superfan, well-versed in the strategic intricacies of past seasons, and while some might still try to pitch Survivor as a "social experiment," the vast majority of viewers and players realize that everything is part of the least until it's not.

A few times in the show's history, incidents have occurred that crossed the line of making everything in Survivor a part of the game. The most recent situation took place during Season 34 when Jeff Varner, a middle-aged contestant trying to avoid elimination, outed another player, Zeke Smith, as transgender during Tribal Council. The backlash was instantaneous, with players holding a public, unanimous vote (normally votes are held in secret) to kick Varner out of the game. Afterwards, Zeke insisted on airing everything on TV and worked alongside CBS and GLAAD to transform the experience into a teaching moment.

Now, during Season 39, we're once again witnessing an incident that transcends the gameplay of Survivor––except this time, the takeaway is much less positive. In fact, Survivor's foray into #MeToo territory is so uncomfortable and so disappointing that it might warrant giving up on the entire season.

In short, one of this season's players is a middle-aged man named Dan Spilo who, even in the most lenient terms, embodies that patently male boomer mentality of completely disregarding the wants and needs of women around him. As such, he touches women without permission in a way that some of them deem creepy. One of the female contestants on the show, Kellee, felt particularly uncomfortable around Dan, and she confronted him after he played with her hair. Afterwards, Dan took a step back from Kellee but continued touching other women around camp.

Kellee and Dan were put into separate camps earlier this season, but during this past week's episodes, the two camps merged together, bringing Kellee and Dan back in contact. During this time, Kellee bonded with another female contestant, Missy, whom she hadn't interacted with before. Missy confided in Kellee that Dan's touching had made her and a number of other female players uncomfortable, too. Kellee also spoke to Janet, an older female contestant who had been allied with Dan in-game but who also viewed herself as a mama bear, of sorts. Janet was incredibly empathetic, and promised Kellee that if she saw Dan doing anything around camp, she would confront him.

survivor kellee missyMissy (left) and Kellee (right)CBS

Kellee went on to give an incredibly emotional one-on-one with the camera, addressing the real-world machinations that prevent women from speaking up:

"It's super upsetting, because it's like you can't do anything about it. There are always consequences for standing up. This happens in real life, in work settings, in school. You can't say anything because it's going to affect your upward trajectory. It's going to affect how people look at you.

"The fact that it makes me, Lauren, Elizabeth, Missy, Molly—it made all of us uncomfortable. This isn't just one person. It's a pattern. It takes five people to be like, 'Man, the way I'm feeling about this is actually real. It's not in my head. I'm not overreacting to it.' He's literally done these things to five different women in this game. That sucks. That totally, totally sucks."

Even though player one-on-one's with the camera are always presented as the player monologuing, the show broke form and aired the producer's response. He asks Kellee if she wants him to get involved. She says that she thinks the tribe can handle it on their own, but the producer gets involved anyways, contacting CBS, which ultimately results in Dan receiving an official warning to stop touching women without permission.

survivor dan spiloDan SpiloCBS

Unfortunately, during this time, Missy and another female player, Elizabeth, met up together and conspired to play up their feelings about Dan for an in-game advantage. During this time, despite the fact that both of them had complained about Dan's touchiness in the past, they essentially admitted that neither of them really actually cared, but they could use Kellee's emotions for an in-game advantage.

The situation ultimately plays out with Missy and Elizabeth siding with Dan and rallying a majority of the tribe against Kellee to vote her out. Dan's former in-game ally, Janet, votes against Dan in solidarity with Kellee and against what might be in the best interest of her own meta-game. So the following week, the rest of the tribe treats her like a pariah, too. At the following tribal council, another male player, Aaron, accuses Janet of playing a victim and also discounts Kellee's experiences with Dan.

Then Dan gives an empty, half-assed apology ("If Kellee ever felt that in the freezing cold rain, or in tight shelters…or in all the ways we have to crawl around and through each other in this game—if I ever did anything that ever even remotely made her feel uncomfortable, it horrifies me, and I am terribly sorry...I couldn't be more confident in that I'm one of the kindest, gentlest people I know. I have a wife, I have been married for 21 years, I have two boys, I have a big business, I have lots of employees"), and Janet expresses a desire to leave the game due to everything that happened, which ruined her life-long dream of playing.

It's all, quite frankly, disgusting. The whole situation makes for an incredibly upsetting two hours of television. You can watch some of it play out in the following videos:

Survivor - DISGUSTING Tribal Council On #MeToo Discussion Part

Survivor - DISGUSTING Tribal Council On #MeToo Discussion Part

Janet is right, but this whole situation doesn't just damage Janet's dream of playing Survivor. It ruins season 39 of Survivor as a whole. In spite of Survivor's reputation for devious gameplay full of double-crosses and backstabbing, the players tend to become genuinely close throughout their experience and stand up for one another in situations that transcend the bounds of gameplay. The Varner/Zeke situation is a great example of this in practice.

Now, here's a situation where a woman came forward about sexual harassment, and she had that used against her by two other women on the tribe who lied to her about their own experiences and then rallied around the man who harassed her. Moreover, the other woman who stood alongside her ("strategy" be damned) and stuck with her morals became an in-game pariah.

At this point, it doesn't matter who wins or loses Season 39. A few genuinely rotten players, namely Dan, Missy, and Elizabeth, have spoiled the lot. The whole fun of Survivor is watching people strategize against one another through gameplay and social manipulation, but as soon as it crosses the line into both minimizing sexual harassment and using that trauma against an accuser, the veneer of strategic gameplay breaks down completely. Instead, it simply becomes an awful reflection of how women who come forward about sexual assault are treated in the real world.

Even worse, Missy's and Elizabeth's actions have real-world consequences, as they give credence to a position often taken by sexual abuse deniers who claim that women often lie about assault, even though statistics prove how rarely that actually occurs (only between 2-10% of claims are misleading). They even went so far as to attempt to gaslight Janet.

Currently, Missy, Elizabeth, and Aaron are taking an apology tour on Twitter (in fairness, Aaron's apology does seem very genuine, and I have a lot of respect for his ability and willingness to take responsibility for his actions), but it hardly matters at this point. For many, this season is ruined. For now, the magic of Survivor has been broken, and the fun is over.


5 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Cancelled

It's Almost Like They're Still Getting Away With Stuff...

Cancel culture has gone absolutely crazy.

You can't say anything these days without "triggering" a bunch of SJWs to get together and collectively cancel you. I mean, that's the contention of half the comedy specials on Netflix, so it must be true. They will dig through past comments and behavior to find any excuse. Even after you're dead, you can still get canceled! The whole situation is getting so out of control that it's getting hard to keep track of who is and isn't canceled, so here's a helpful guide to remind you of some of the celebrities whose cancellations may have escaped your notice.

Mark Wahlberg

Everyone knows Mark Wahlberg as the star of the Ted films, and Mel Gibson's son in Daddy's Home 2, but did you know that in his teen years, he was also the perpetrator of a string of brutal, racially motivated assaults, and that he has never acknowledged the racial component of his violent past? But who hasn't permanently disfigured and partially blinded a man while shouting racial slurs? Still, as a result of this normal, not-at-all upsetting history, Mark Wahlberg was officially cancelled in February. Since then, Wahlberg's once flourishing film career has collapsed to the point that he is only starring in five major motion pictures currently in production.

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld with Shoshanna Lonstein

What a normal-looking couple


Jerry Seinfeld made himself a target of cancel culture when he called out college kids for not laughing enough at his brilliant "gay French king" joke, but what really sealed the deal was the fact that, at the age of 39, when Seinfeld was the star of America's favorite sitcom, he was also dating a seventeen-year-old high school student named Shoshanna Lonstein. And yes, he absolutely looked like her awkward father in every picture they took together, but what man in his late thirties hasn't spent some time outside a high school looking to pick up chicks? Unfortunately for Jerry, the cancel cops got a hold of this info, and officially blacklisted him in August, resulting in Netflix only paying an estimated $500 million for the streaming rights to Seinfeld.

Whoopi Goldberg

Speaking of men and teenage girls, did you know you can be cancelled just for defending someone? That's what happened to Whoopi Goldberg in response to her 2009 comments on Roman Polanski, in which she said of Polanski's 1977 crimes "I don't think it was rape-rape," despite the victim's testimony that she continuously resisted his advances as Polanski gave the thirteen year old alcohol and drugs, and proceeded to rape her.

As a result, Donald Trump Jr. headed the team that cancelled Whoopi last October, which is why she has since appeared on The View only 5 days a week. Goldberg joins the ranks of Quentin Tarantino and a host of other prominent Hollywood figures whose careers have been absolutely tanked by impassioned Polanski defenses that are not at all indicative of a horrible culture that values talented men too much to punish horrifying crimes. Besides, it was only 8 years after Sharon Tate's murder! You can't be held accountable for anything you do in the decade after a loved one dies, even raping children!

John Lennon

Remember when people used to really idolize John Lennon and The Beatles? Their music used to be really popular, and people would even say mean things about Yoko Ono, blaming her for breaking up the band, not anymore. That all went out the window in July of last year, when a Twitter user reminded the world that John Lennon was a serial abuser, and then cancelled The Beatles. Sure, Lennon abused multiple partners, and at least one of his sons, but ever since Lennon was struck with the same post-mortem cancellation that Michael Jackson received, his solo music and The Beatles' entire catalogue have dropped completely out of cultural relevance, and is now valued at only around a billion dollars. "Imagine" that.


Footage recently resurfaced of Drake from a 2010 concert in Denver, in which he brings a girl onstage to dance with her, then takes the opportunity to drape his arms across her chest and kiss her neck before asking her age. When she answers that she's 17, Drake reacts as any 23 year old would when coming to terms with the fact that his behavior with an underage girl was suggestive and inappropriate. He says, "Why do you look like that? You thick. Look at all this," and follows that up with, "I like the way your breasts feel against my chest." Cool.

At any rate, that was nearly a decade ago, and Drake was pretty young himself, there's probably no reason to look further into the now 33 year old's tendency to befriend teenage girls who he ends up dating once they're of age. That's what the people who cancelled him in January—resulting in him being only the fifth richest rapper on earth—want you to focus on. They want you to be concerned about his friendship with Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown but let's just talk about his grooming habits instead.

On second thought, maybe the hysteria over "cancel culture" attacking any and every tiny misstep is a little overblown. Sure, Kevin Hart didn't get to host the Oscars, but he definitely still has a career, and James Gunn's brief cancellation was revoked. Maybe it's justified to call people out when they screw up, to push for apologies for minor offenses, and to stop giving money and awards to people who've done truly monstrous things. Maybe cancel culture should actually be going a lot further...