Ahhh, the cartoons of our childhood. From providing us important life lessons on navigating the everyday struggles of working as an underwater fry cook, a detailed instruction manual on how to physically assault your nemesis in increasingly slapstick ways, and every marginally edible food one can possibly say "mmmm" before, the animated characters of our youth are generally wholesome, nostalgic figures that can do no wrong ... or are they?
Earlier this week, #CancelACartoonCharacter began trending on Twitter, a hashtag seeming in reference to New York Times columnist, Charles M. Blow's cultural critique addressing how Looney Tune's Pepe Le Pew may have perpetuated rape culture with his highly-aggressive tactics. "This helped teach boys that 'no' didn’t really mean no, that it was a part of 'the game,'" Blow explained, including a supercut of the skunk forcibly kissing and restraining Penelope Pussycat, clearly uncomfortable by the cartoon casanova's advances. "The starting line of a power struggle. It taught overcoming a woman’s strenuous, even physical objections, was normal, adorable, funny. They didn’t even give the woman the ability to SPEAK."
In light of Mr. Le Pew's concerning behavior, several fans flocked to Twitter, jokingly sharing several alarming revelations about our favorite small-screen fixtures. Homer Simpson? Choked his child nearly every day for 32 seasons.
Jimmy Neutron? Recklessly endangered his entire community on several occasions.
Patrick Star? A menace to society.
Babar? A staunch proponent of historically oppressive governance systems.
Angelica Pickles? Diaper Karen.
Danny Phantom? Literal -- and metaphorical -- creeper.
Jerry from Tom and Jerry? The antichrist is an animated mouse.
Animated allegations aside, over the past few years, cancel culture its uses and its downfalls has become a hot-button issue on several online forums, with many questioning if digital ostracization is an important step in holding once seemingly untouchable individuals in power accountable for their actions, or whether it has veered too far into a mob mentality. Reemerging to the front of our cultural conversation after figures ranging from Dr. Seuss to the aforementioned Pepe Le Pew have recently had their tangibly harmful actions, respectively illustrating racist images and perpetuating rape culture, broached on the national stage
Yet not everyone agrees with Gerstmann's take. CNN trends writer, AJ Willingham argued that the concept isn't real. In a recent OpEd entitled "It's time to cancel this talk of 'cancel culture,'" Willingham argues that aside from its ineffectiveness, as evident from previously canceled celebrities including Lana Del Rey, Justin Bieber, and Gina Carano still enjoying fruitful careers, cancel culture is essentially accountability.
"It's very convenient that the same people who want to convince you that cancel culture is real also seem to be the ones determining who is worthy of being saved from such a fate, and who is not. That's because cancel culture isn't real," Willingham explained in her piece, published Sunday. "There is accountability. There are legal repercussions. There are tides of public opinion and the pull of the free market. There are also longstanding institutional structures that serve to suppress and threaten those who act against the interests of those with power. None of this is cancel culture. And by pretending otherwise, we're distracting ourselves from seeing the patterns of who really benefits from this rhetoric, and who really loses."
So folks, regardless of where you stand on cancel culture, believing it perpetuates accountability or does more harm good, there's one thing we can agree upon -- it's been a rough morning for the world of animation, especially Phineas of Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb. How dare he resemble a cheesy chip?!