Helena Bonham Carter criticized cancel culture in an interview with The Times magazine. She recently became the first woman to be named president of the London Library. During the interview, the actress talked about various topics; from British politics to the characters she has played on the big screen. However, what made headlines from the interview were her assessments of today's issues, including cancel culture.
The actress began by talking about the practice of re-evaluating "offensive" content from books from different periods by modern standards. She told The Times that she considers this to be detrimental, as it shows that we do not trust readers' judgment:
I get a kneejerk reaction about this because we should be able to rely on readers’ common sense. When people start editing things, I feel they’re missing the point. We can’t coerce the past into our present values, even though it’s evidence we’ve progressed, and we can’t start Tippexing out anything offensive. If you’re a teacher, you point out, ‘This was a time when …’ but we can’t whitewash the past, because the past is what we’re reacting against.
In addition, the actress was very much against the cancel culture that exists in the world today. As she told the British magazine, you can't cancel someone's work because of their personal life:
Do you ban genius for their sexual practices? There would be millions of people who if you looked closely enough at their personal life you would disqualify them. You can’t ban people. I hate to cancel culture. It has become quite hysterical and there’s a kind of witch-hunt and a lack of understanding.
Johnny Depp and J.K. Rowling, victims of cancel culture
Bonham Carter witnessed the impact of cancel culture firsthand through the experiences of fellow professionals such as her friend Johnny Depp or author J.K. Rowling, defending them from the accusations thrown at them in the court of public opinion.
In Depp's case, she considers that the actor, after a tumultuous lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, was "completely vindicated" and "is now well." However, his reputation is still damaged by Heard, who, according to Bonham Carter, did so by taking advantage of the #MeToo movement: "My view is that she got on that pendulum. That’s the problem with these things — that people will jump on the bandwagon because it’s the trend and to be the poster girl for it," she told the British publication.
However, what bothers Bonham Carter most has been the public thrashing of J.K. Rowling. The author received multiple criticisms from trans rights activists for a series of comments the Harry Potter author posted on her Twitter profile. It is these constant attacks from the public that most bother the actress who played Rowling's Bellatrix Lestrange on the big screen:
It’s horrendous, a load of bollocks. I think she has been hounded. It’s been taken to the extreme, the judgmentalism of people. She’s allowed her opinion, particularly if she’s suffered abuse. Everybody carries their history of trauma and forms their opinions from that trauma, and you have to respect where people come from and their pain. You don’t all have to agree on everything — that would be insane and boring. She’s not meaning it aggressively, she’s just saying something out of her own experience.
Both she and Ralph Fiennes are among the few cast members who came out in defense of Rowling, while other cast members such as Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint criticized her extensively. Even so, Bonham Carter did not criticize her fellow actors:
I won’t say that. I feel they should let her have her opinions, but I think they’re very aware of protecting their fan base and their generation. It’s hard. One thing with the fame game is that there’s an etiquette that comes with it; I don’t agree with talking about other famous people.
For her, the real culprit of cancel culture is not so much the support of other performers or experts, but the debate it generates on Twitter, which, according to her, does not encourage moderated debate at all: "No one can talk about ideas there; it becomes polarized and is war, and people waste days being angry inside their head," she said.