Declarations of regret from various celebrities regarding content aired years or even decades ago have become so commonplace that only the core Twitter cultural commentary base would appear to still be paying attention. For the average consumer, of which this writer is one, the collected masses of apologetic headlines have long since merged into a single unit, its component parts impossible to distinguish from one another. Yet the development of celebrities censoring their own content from the past, despite being under no pressure to do so, is an interesting development. Conservative commentator Daisy Cousens recently made an astute observation that helps to explain matters: there is money to be made.
Relative to the grand pay cheques doled out at the point of airing, royalties yielded from a handful of nostalgic viewers on internet streaming service are normally tiny. But the situation of late is different for DVD sales. Cancellations and amendments caused DVD sales of Little Britain and Gone with the Wind, among other titles, to soar. Cousens reports that sales of Little Britain’s series one on Amazon went up 125,460%; even series three came in just under the 100,000% mark. Just one day after HBO MAX pulled Gone with the Wind, the 1939 release was atop of the Amazon bestseller list for TV, DVD and Movies. Not bad going for a film supposedly so problematic that a streaming service would wish to remove it, hoping the decision would placate a small band of online activists. Perhaps the sales spike helped to ply the decision makers at HBO with enough courage to reinstate the film. So, as the old line goes, just follow the money. More television and movie creators have been at it, again causing this writer to mentally combine every headline, hastily stuffing them into a mental box.
But there is more to it than money. The sudden desire to refocus attention on supposedly ‘problematic’ content even Twitter mobs had long since forgotten about suggests another force is at play beyond money: stars may be engaging in this behavior to remind normal people of their best works, work which often gained traction by pushing the limits of what was socially acceptable. It may very well be that the most recent disavowals are a sign that longstanding entertainers in the TV and film industry know the ‘woke’ agenda is quietly killing creativity—something online commentators have been saying for quite some time. Like a school child who has just got away with an egregious breaking of the rules, the temptation is to tell everyone about it rather than be silent. And that is what so many celebrities are now doing; reminding their audiences of how naughty they were, and therefore how naughty they could still be, while playing to the social justice gallery who remain highly influential to the major decision makers in the industry.
Ultimately, the whole affair could soon become a disaster for the censorious instincts of political activists. In removing material, either voluntarily or under pressure, the true modern-day audience for shows such as Little Britain is now known. Netflix, Amazon and other subscription services do not have to pander to advertisers seeking to protect carefully crafted brand images before the public. Streaming platforms can be naughty. They can be everything the Twitter mobs hate. And now, thanks to soaring DVD sales of supposedly disapproved content, the amount of money to be made from abandoning cancel culture is obvious. Though many more struggles must be had to restore creativity in media, recent events may eventually be looked back on as a turning point.