January 6th, 2021 – Mr. Bean may be a man of few, mumbled words but the actor who made that character famous had a lot to say about so-called “cancel culture.” In a lengthy interview with British outlet Radio Times, Rowan Atkinson spoke about people not only being victim to mob mentality but the limited viewpoints we’re exposed to thanks to online algorithms.
The 66-year-old actor and comedian joins a long list of public figures who have publicly voiced their concern about being silenced.
“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,” he said. “It becomes a case of either you’re with us or against us. And if you’re against us, you deserve to be canceled.”
According to The Daily Beast, Atkinson doesn’t have any personal social media accounts. He views having a social media presence as “a side-show in my world.” Despite the detachment, Atkinson views the online space as one where people seek out others to vilify.
“It’s important that we’re exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn,” he said. “So it is scary for anyone who’s a victim of that mob, and it fills me with fear about the future.”
Atkinson, who grew up in England, has fought against several pieces of legislation over the years that sought to limit hate speech; one in particular that was meant to expand race hatred laws to also include religious hatred.
“The excuse for this legislation is that certain faith communities have suffered harassment and a law is required to address it,” Atkinson told The Guardianin 2005. “That in itself is a perfectly good reason, and it is what this amendment which we are launching today addresses. But it is not the real reason behind it. The real reason, it seems to me, is that since the publication in 1989 of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, a hard core of religious thinking in this country has sought a law to grant religious beliefs and practices immunity from criticism, unfavorable analysis, or ridicule.”
While Atkinson has taken serious stances when it comes to free speech and cultural issues in the real world, his characters onscreen don’t inspire much of a thoughtful tone. Reaction online seemed to focus on the zany characters Atkinson may be fearful of being “canceled.”
The guy who played Mr. Bean talking about cancel culture is so funny to me. Like, are the PC police stopping you from making a silly face after you accidentally put your feet into two trout like they’re a pair of slippers?