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On Cancel Culture

Oftentimes, a book or poem will be criticized for having racial or otherwise derogatory slurs. Most of these books will be from less modern times, when the usage of such slurs were still acceptable. Other times (though much less often), a book will use slurs in order to emulate language used in a particular time period (ex. the n-word for pieces set during the Civil War era). These books may be ‘cancelled’ because it is deemed inappropriate to use slurs during modern times.

However, as mentioned above, it is also common for books that are considered classical literature to be cancelled as well for using slurs. Where does ‘cancel culture’ draw the line when it comes to classical literature? Should classical literature be ‘cancelled’ for liberally using slurs when it was common in that time period? What about pieces meant to specifically emulate language from an olden time period? Is it acceptable to read literature (and specifically, make movies) that use slurs?

  • "cancel culture" is very rarely actually applied to literature. To Kill a Mockingbird is still taught in schools worldwide, let alone the united states. most of the time "cancel culture" is only invoked when celebrities are held accountable for their actions – Bombatwombat 1 year ago
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  • Interesting topic. I believe "cancel culture" is different from the book bans you're referring to that often impact the ability for classic literature to be taught in schools. This is a difference that's definitely worth examining, though! – Sophia 1 year ago
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  • From reams of fairytale retellings, to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, from Meg and Jo to Circe, the literary world bursts with retellings of classic novels. – asmaaphilip 1 year ago
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  • This is a really interesting topic! It’s especially common right now with celebrities on social media. You could definitely tie this topic into the idea of classic literature and it’s importance in school systems for learning purposes. – paytonphillips 1 year ago
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  • I believe emulation of a previous time is fine - when it is done in a fictional capacity that is simply there to create a sense of realism. What ISN'T okay is using language, ideas, or ideologies from "less than modern times" in contemporary times. That is what cancel culture usually targets; actors, actresses, stores, brands etc that continue to adopt racist or otherwise offensive behaviors or language. 'Cancel culture' encouraged the rejection of Nivea products when they - in the modern age - reportedly said that "Nivea doesn't do gay", and J K Rowling has faced the rejection of her fanbase when she came out with derogatory comments about transsexual women. And yes, books may be criticized when they seemingly encourage or unnecessarily include derogatory language or behaviours; but that is different from cancel culture. – TheGrandDuck 1 year ago
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