I often think that a gathering of popular culture figures who have been cancelled would make an excellent dinner party.
Imagine sitting around the table with everyone’s favourite British national treasure Stephen Fry. Authors J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, and Salman Rushdie. Historian David Starkey and even astrophysicist Dr Matt Taylor.
The bons mots, repartee, and raillery would be almost worth the risk of the entire company having to go into hiding whenever Vice got wind of the clandestine gathering and despatched their flying, borderline illiterate, irony deficient, howler monkeys.
As if the tantalising guest list was not already burgeoning with good reasons to find a babysitter at the last minute and rush straight to Waitrose for an impressive bottle of decent plonk, it would now include the 2001 Oscar-winner for Best Actress (and, incidentally, the only black woman to have won the award) for Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry.
The crime that earned the X-men star and massively underrated Bond girl her place in this rouges’ gallery…?
Well, that’s the interesting and terrifying thing.
On the face of it, what Halle Berry did looks remarkably similar to another culture crime committed by fellow actress, Scarlett Johansson, in 2018.
Johansson was cast to play Dante “Tex” Gill, an American trans gangster with a helluva story to tell, but later pulled out of the role because of the backlash she faced for agreeing to play a black trans man.
So, the déjà vu was thick in the air this week when Halle Berry was forced into a similar Twitter apology for “considering” the same role on the basis that she was a cis woman thinking about playing a trans role.
This is part of a new dogma that insists all roles of people within the LGBTQIA+ community must be played by actors whose identities line up with the identities of the characters they play.
It decrees that only gay men may play gay roles. Bi women must play bi roles. Trans people must play trans roles… And so on until actors can, presumably, only play themselves on screen. How dull!
In our culture, sat as it is in a handcart speeding down the tracks to hell, the line “to play x part you must be x in real life” has become a sad and boringly familiar refrain. It’s trilled so frequently that it’s barely worth noticing anymore.
However, the factors that forced Halle Berry into her snivelling, grovelling apology are worthy of note because of the subtle ratcheting-up of the authoritarianism behind the charges that the Twitter mob brought against her.
Keen observers will have noted that she was not cancelled for doing anything, or making any kind of remark or joke, or even for implicitly saying or doing anything.
Halle Berry has fallen foul of the culture court and has admitted her guilt on the trumped-up charges of thinking about doing something.
Halle Berry is a thought criminal.
She has committed a thought crime.
Notice the word choice, if you don’t believe me.
In her apology, she said that she was apologising for her “consideration” of the upcoming role. She was not apologising for having played a part that she ‘shouldn’t play’, nor was she apologising for having accepted a role, or even for arguing her case that she ought to play it.
Halle Berry has apologised for thinking about playing the role.
This is why this case is so alarming and the principle behind it must be resisted and justifiably panicked over.
The subtle shift from being liable to be cancelled for what any of us do or say, to this sickening state of affairs that will hopefully consume the cultural vandals and toe rags who created it once it has finished rolling over the rest of us, is terrifying because it is the most obvious hallmark of totalitarianism.
Thoughtcrime is the policy the authoritarian enacts when they don’t feel the need to disguise their true intentions anymore.
The forces that pressured Halle Berry to convict herself will, by the time this is published, have moved on to their next victim and will consider themselves morally virtuous for doing so.
At no point will they wonder if, given that their rogues’ gallery consists of such pop culture figures as Halle Berry, JK Rowling, Stephen Fry, Scarlett Johansson, and the others who gather around our imaginary dinner table, they might not be the valiant caped crusaders that they think they are but may, in fact, be a bunch of sneering, ghoulish, rapacious, puerile, egotistical, vainglorious, and ultimately self-destructive Jokers.
If a fightback against this kind of thing doesn’t happen soon, we might as well practice getting used to thinking that adding two and two together produces an answer other than four.
Now, who’s for another glass of Victory Gin? I reckon we need it…