Actor Vince Vaughn was the first person to be “canceled” in 2020. “The Mandalorian” star Gina Carano is among the last.
But in between Vaughan’s friendly chat with President Donald Trump and Carano’s election-fraud tweets were dozens of other people who became the faces of cancel culture this year. They include famous people, like actor Chris Pratt and “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling, and ordinary Americans, such as Tori Perrotti, a Target employee who turned a social-media shaming into an opportunity to do good.
Along the way, “cancel culture” became ensconced in the American lexicon, with even Trump referencing it in his July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore. He called cancel culture a political weapon of the left, “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.”
Trump himself has been accused of “canceling” people — and TV networks — with whom he disagrees. But the highest profile cases of 2020 involved outrage over conservative views and attempts to scuttle the careers or reputations of the people who expressed them. (Of note: No one called for rapper Cardi B to be canceled when she released — and defended — a song and video widely seen as pornographic.)
Writing for RealClearPolitics, Charles Lipson, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago, said that departure from popular, socially approved views “is not just considered an error, much less an innocent one.”
“It is considered immoral, illegitimate and unworthy of a public hearing. Although both left and right have moved steadily toward this abyss, the worst excesses today come from the left, just as they came from the right in the 1950s,” Lipson wrote.
And although people on both the left and right decry cancel culture, it continued full-throated throughout the year. Here’s a look at a few of the faces of cancel culture in 2020, and how they’re doing now.
Vince Vaughn, actor
Actor Vince Vaughn was the leading man in movies such as “Wedding Crashers” and “The Break-Up.” In January, however, he got a different sort of fame after he was filmed having what was called a “friendly conversation” with Trump and his wife, Melania, at the college football playoffs in New Orleans.
As the crowd around them sang “Sweet Caroline,” Trump listened intently to what Vaughn was saying and shook his hand after Vaughn got up to leave. That was enough for people who viewed the clip on Twitter to say they weren’t watching his movies again.
The kerfuffle didn’t seem to hurt Vaughn’s latest movie, “Freaky,” which was released in November. And he noted in the Los Angeles Times that he’s had an equally cordial conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
“I was raised with the idea that you could have different likes and beliefs and you should respect and defend that in other people, not shout it down. The people you disagree with the most, you should stand up for their right to do that,” he told Josh Rottenberg of the Times. Vaughn is getting ready to start work on a new film, a dark comedy, and is considering a sequel to “Wedding Crashers,” he said.
J.K. Rowling, author
Until she began speaking out about gender, J.K. Rowling was best known as the internationally beloved author who gave the world the “Harry Potter” series. By July, she was better known in some circles for having been ensnared in the vitriolic debate over gender identity and transgender rights.
It began in June on Twitter, when Rowling mocked a publication for saying “people who menstruate” rather than women. An uproar ensued, with people labeling her transphobic and calling for a boycott of her books. That appears to have happened; publishers reported a “remarkably sudden and sharp drop” in sales of “Harry Potter” books over the summer.
In the aftermath, Rowling denied being transphobic, saying, “I know and love trans people,” and sought to clarify her beliefs in an essay that further inflamed the fury of some of her critics.
She has since doubled down on her belief that “many women are concerned about the challenges to their fundamental rights posed by certain aspects of gender identity ideology,” and recently lamented a “climate of fear” that exists in the transgender debate. But she’s been busy on other fronts as well. She launched a website called “Harry Potter at Home” to help entertain children during COVID-19 lockdowns and also published a new book, “The Ickabog,” which is illustrated by children across the U.S. and Canada.
Tori Perrotti, kindness ambassador
Tori Perrotti of Rhode Island became widely known as “Target Tori” after a shopper snapped an unflattering picture of her earlier this year at the store where she worked. He’d come across a display that appeared to show an electric toothbrush for sale for 1 cent and was angry that Perrotti wouldn’t sell him the product at that price. (The toothbrush in question was only for display.)
The shopper posted the picture of Perrotti on Twitter, but his attempt to shame her backfired when people came to her (and Target’s) defense. She later left her job, but not because she was fired. After going on a Hawaii vacation funded by her defenders, she started a nonprofit devoted to encouraging people to put a pause on anger and emphasize kindness. She also tweets regularly about kindness (and, sometimes, toothbrushes) to her 30,000 followers on Twitter.
Chris Pratt, actor
In October, screenwriter Amy Berg posted pictures of four actors named Chris on Twitter — Chris Pratt, Chris Pine, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth — along with the line “One has to go.”
People who picked Pratt, best known for his roles in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Parks and Rec,” began mentioning his membership in a conservative Christian church and said that he was a supporter of President Donald Trump. “Chris Pratt because he’s MAGA. He’s the worst Chris,” one Twitter user wrote.
Pratt cancelers also noted that Pratt hadn’t taken place in a virtual fundraiser for then- presidential candidate Joe Biden, a Democrat, with six of Pratt’s Avengers co-stars.
Pratt stayed quiet on the matter, but it didn’t take long for the Avengers to come to his defense. Robert Downey Jr., Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo and James Gunn were among people who spoke out in support. Downey wrote on Instagram: “What a world… The ‘sinless’ are casting stones at my brother, Chris Pratt… A real Christian who lives by principle, has never demonstrated anything but positivity and gratitude…AND he just married into a family that makes space for civil discourse and (just plain fact) INSISTS on service as the highest value.”
Hollywood must not think Pratt’s star has been diminished by the attempted cancellation: He is set to star in “Jurassic World: Dominion” (delayed to 2022 because of the pandemic). He also welcomed a second child this year, a daughter he had with wife Katherine Schwarzenegger. (He has a son with ex Anna Faris.)
Gina Carano, actor
“Star Wars: The Mandalorian” is among the most popular series on Disney+. But Gina Carano seems to have become the show’s most unpopular actor, with calls erupting in November for Carano, who plays Cara Dune, to be canceled. Some have even called for Disney to fire her.
Carano’s offense? Posting conservative viewpoints on Twitter, then having a Parler account. Among other subjects, she has posted about election fraud and masks, and has “liked” tweets seen as controversial, including one that mocked people who list their preferred pronouns in their social media bios.
Amid rumors that Disney has asked Carano to apologize, she continues to tweet content that could be seen as political, including a video posted Tuesday of a mask-wearing man aggressively confronting a woman not wearing a mask in a store. She has also posted a meme that says, “Democratic government leaders now recommend we all wear blindfolds along with masks so we can’t see what’s really going.”
But despite the calls to cancel Carano, her content is resonating with some people. According to one report, Carano is the second most popular celebrity in the world, as ranked by IMDb.
“The site’s Top Star Meter gauges the amount of interest on an actor’s profile and this week, sitting behind The Queen’s Gambit‘s Anya Taylor-Joy is Carano in the number two position,” Christian Bone wrote on the entertainment website We Got This Covered.
There’s been some speculation that her character might leave the show but no word on that from either Carano or Disney+.