The novelist James Patterson is not only the world’s bestselling author, he has two new books this week on The New York Times’ fiction bestseller lists, including one written with the superstar Dolly Parton. He also released a memoir this month.
But overshadowing Patterson’s latest books is an offhand comment that put him in the crosshairs of cancel culture over the weekend. In an interview with The (U.K.) Sunday Times, Patterson said that older white men are experiencing “another form of racism” because it’s harder for them to get work, particularly in the creative fields.
“Can you get a job? Yes. Is it harder? Yes. It’s even harder for older writers. You don’t meet many 52-year-old white males,” he said.
The remarks drew anger and mockery on Twitter, where people in the publishing industry listed the richest and most accomplished authors, dead and alive, noting that most of them are (or were) white men. One person tweeted that the comment was “The New York Times book review version of the white replacement conspiracy theory.”
Patterson, who is 75 and white, has a net worth that has been reported as $800 million although he grew up in a blue-collar household and said that he considers himself “kind of a working class storyteller.”
The novelist apologized Tuesday on Twitter, saying that he “absolutely” does not believe what he seemed to say.
I apologize for saying white male writers having trouble finding work is a form of racism. I absolutely do not believe that racism is practiced against white writers. Please know that I strongly support a diversity of voices being heard—in literature, in Hollywood, everywhere.— James Patterson (@JP_Books) June 14, 2022
But it’s not only that remark that was raising eyebrows. Patterson also said in the interview that he was appalled that people in publishing had protested filmmaker Woody Allen’s memoir, which led to the book’s cancellation. “I’m almost always on the side of free speech,” Patterson said.
It was hard to find anyone defending Patterson Tuesday, although he’s not the only one who has made a remark like this in recent weeks. The British actor Christopher Eccleston, known for playing “Dr. Who” in the BBC series, recently said, “I’m white, I’m middle-aged, I’m male, and I’m straight. We are the new pariah in the industry,” The Telegraph reported.
But Eccleston’s tone was far different, and the 58-year-old actor seemed to be OK with being a “dinosaur” in order to make way for other actors.
“We (white men) are all seen through the lens of Harvey Weinstein et al. And I can feel that the opportunities are shrinking, as they should do,” Eccleston said.
Cancel culture is the term that encompasses widespread shaming and attempted demonetization or deplatforming of people with unpopular views. A new Pew Research Center report says that 61% of American adults are familiar with the term and that awareness has most increased among older adults.
Eccleston, however, isn’t completely unemployed; he is in a new BBC drama called “My Name Is Leon.”
And like “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling, who has been under fire for her remarks about transgender issues, Patterson may be too big a star to be canceled.
He told the Times that he’s “plotting a new project” about the CIA with his friend and former co-author Bill Clinton. And Parton tweeted a photo of herself with Patterson on June 7, calling him one of her favorite people, and saying that she is excited for their joint book, “Run, Rose, Run,” to be made into a movie.
Run, Rose, Run is going to the big screen! I can't wait to make this dream come true with @hellosunshine, @SonyPictures, and some of my favorite people, @JP_Books and @ReeseW! pic.twitter.com/Jf4kGjhiFy— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) June 7, 2022