In the last few years, much has been made of “cancel culture,” an allegedly widespread phenomenon in which a public figure will make a comment or engage in an act that runs afoul of politically correct orthodoxy, and their lives are destroyed as a result.
In reality, it’s hard to find too many examples of public figures whose lives were destroyed forever because they said or did the wrong thing. They may have gotten called out on Twitter or been forced by their publicists to issue an apology, but in most cases, the “cancellation” was more of a temporary pause.
The following 13 public figures demonstrate that there is life after cancellation. In order to qualify for this list, the figures in question had to lose work – an actual cancellation – because of something they said or did. Then, after the outrage died down, they had to go right back to work, which begs the question, “Is cancel culture even really a thing?”
1. Kevin Spacey
Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey starred in such movies as The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, as well as the Netflix series House of Cards, and for a while there his career seemed unstoppable. Then, in 2017, he was accused by actor Anthony Rapp of making unwanted sexual advances toward him when he was still a minor, and while Spacey apologized for his behavior on Twitter, he used the same tweet to reveal that he was gay.
Far from endearing him to the LGBTQ+ community, his decision to come out as part of the apology was perceived as conflating consensual, adult same-sex relationships with pedophilia, making Spacey persona non grata in the entertainment industry. It was believed that his career was over, but in May 2021, he was cast in the Italian movie The Man Who Drew God, opposite Vanessa Redgrave. So, Kevin Spacey wasn’t canceled so much as he was put on pause for four years.
2. Jeffrey Toobin
Jeffrey Toobin is a journalist who works as a legal analyst for CNN. He also used to write for the New Yorker magazine, but in October 2020, during a Zoom call between New Yorker and WNYC radio staffers, he was observed touching himself in what we’ll call the bathing suit area, prompting the New Yorker to let him go, and CNN to give him an indefinite leave of absence.
It seemed like Toobin would be forever unemployed for this transgression. However, a mere eight months after the incident, which Toobin himself described as “deeply moronic and indefensible,” he found himself back in the good graces of CNN, working as a legal analyst. The moral of the story is that when you’re on Zoom and mute yourself, everyone can still see you.
3. Louis C.K.
Louis Székely, better known as Louis C.K., is a standup comedian who, for a while at least, could seemingly do no wrong. Then, in 2017, it was revealed that he had touched himself inappropriately in front of several different women, which he admitted to in a statement in the New York Times. In response, companies that he had been working with, such as HBO and Netflix, cut ties with him.
“I will now step back and take a long time to listen,” the comedian said in the New York Times statement, but less than a year later, he was back on the standup stage. In May, it was announced that he was going back out on tour, and that the four Nashville dates that he had booked immediately sold out. We’re just saying, that’s a lot of sold out tour dates for a canceled person.
4. Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson is an actor and director whose work includes The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart, and whose performances in such movies as The Road Warrior and Lethal Weapon turned him into one of the biggest stars in the world. In 2006, he was involved in a series of incidents that were believed to be fatal to his career, such as making anti-Semitic comments while being arrested on DUI charges, then pleading no contest to misdemeanor battery charges.
Gibson’s career collapsed In spectacular fashion, and People magazine reported that an unnamed “entertainment executive” had said his career was now over. However, in 2016 he was back in the director’s chair for Hacksaw Ridge, a war movie for which he was nominated for a Best Director Oscar. This prompted Vox to say that Gibson was not only back from exile, but he had now demonstrated how other disgraced celebrities could come back too.
5. Garrison Keillor
Humorist Garrison Keillor was the creator and host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. In 2017, his folksy, down-home image was dealt a major blow when Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) terminated its business relationship with him after an individual that he worked with alleged that he had behaved inappropriately with her.
The following year, Keillor reached an agreement with MPR to the effect that it would pay him $275,000 and restore access to the A Prairie Home Companion archives, which it had made unavailable in the wake of the allegations against him. Keillor also began publishing new episodes of one of his properties, The Writer’s Almanac, on his website. So, while his career and image may not be what they once were, he’s far from canceled.
6. Bill O’Reilly
Bill O’Reilly was the host of the Fox News political opinion show The O’Reilly Factor, which ran from 1996 to 2017. Fox terminated his contract in 2017 shortly after a New York Times article ran that said he had been the subject of multiple complaints from women about inappropriate behavior, to the tune of $13 million in settlements.
In 2020, O’Reilly found a home for his new show, No Spin News, on the Pluto TV channel’s conservative news show The First. In June 2021, it was announced that he would embark on a speaking tour alongside former president Donald Trump. It may not be the high-profile gig he used to have, but being on a double bill with a former president has to count for something, right?
7. Gina Carano
Gina Carano is a former mixed martial artist who starred on the Disney+ show The Mandalorian. She was fired after two seasons over some controversial social media posts, specifically one she shared on Instagram comparing being hated for one’s political views to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. But weep not for Gina Carano, as she has already bounced back from losing her show!
A week after the firing, she struck a deal with conservative internet personality Ben Shapiro’s publication, the Daily Wire, and used the occasion to tell others to live their truth in the face of cancellation. “I am sending out a direct message of hope to everyone living in fear of cancellation by the totalitarian mob,” she said. “I have only just begun using my voice which is now freer than ever before, and I hope it inspires others to do the same. They can’t cancel us if we don’t let them.”
8. Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams is a musician who was once a member of the group Whiskeytown, then went solo in 2000. In January 2019, he announced that he was going to release three studio albums in that year, but allegations from several women emerged of sexual misconduct, and all three releases were pulled from the schedule.
He apologized for the behavior in July 2020, then in December 2020, he released the first of the planned trilogy of albums, Wednesdays, through his own label. Many publications chose not to review it, but that didn’t stop such musicians as Lucinda Williams and Lindsay Buckingham from praising it. He released the second album, Big Colors, in June 2021, and while there’s been no announcement regarding the release of the third album, its likely release at some point in the future would seem to indicate that Adams’ career was not canceled so much as temporarily inconvenienced.
9. Sarah Silverman
Comedian Sarah Silverman may not be a famous case of a canceled celebrity, but she did lose work because of bad past behavior, which certainly qualifies. She said on the Bill Simmons Podcast in 2019 that she had recently lost a part in a movie for which she had been cast when a 2007 episode of her Comedy Central Show The Sarah Silverman Program came back to haunt her.
The issue was that one of the episodes featured her in blackface. The filmmakers found out about it, and fired her from the movie. The comedian conceded that she messed up and “didn’t fight” the firing, and also said that there were so many problematic moments from the Comedy Central show that “it’s brutal.” Be that as it may, she is appearing in the forthcoming Jennifer Lopez movie, Marry Me, which is scheduled for release in 2022, so her career goes on.
10. Kathy Griffin
Comedian Kathy Griffin is no stranger to getting canceled. She is banned from the television show The View, for example, but it was in 2017 that she really got in trouble, for posting a photo to social media of herself holding the bloody, disembodied head of former president Donald Trump. CNN fired her from hosting its annual New Year’s Eve broadcast, her upcoming tour dates were canceled, and an advertisement that she made for toilet stool company Squatty Potty was pulled.
Griffin really and truly seemed to be at the end of her career, but one year later, she booked a concert date at Carnegie Hall and it sold out in a single day. Not only has Griffin’s career recovered from the incident since then, but she went the extra step of re-posting the offending bloody head image in November 2020, to no ill effect.
11. Kevin Hart
In December 2018, actor and comedian Kevin Hart was announced as the host of the 2019 Oscars, a dream gig for any performer if there ever was one. Shortly after the announcement, several of his decade-old homophobic jokes and tweets resurfaced, and at first he issued a defiant non-apology that did more harm than good. He eventually issued an actual, acceptable apology and then stepped down from his hosting duties.
Despite qualifying as “canceled” for losing work in the wake of the incident, he bounced back almost immediately. He starred in three movies in 2019, including Jumanji: The Next Level, which earned $800 million at the worldwide box office. In October 2020, he was announced as the new host of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, a post previously held by Jerry Lewis. We can’t wait to hear him sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the end.
12. Nick Cannon
Comedian, musician, and actor Nick Cannon has had a wildly successful career for over 20 years, and his public image is as upbeat and wholesome as it gets. For this reason, it was surprising to learn that he had made comments deemed anti-Semitic on his podcast in 2020. ViacomCBS, the parent company of MTV and TeenNick, terminated its relationship with him, saying that “an episode of his podcast ‘Cannon’s Class’ on YouTube… promoted hateful speech and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
In 2021, after apologizing on social media, visiting the Holocaust Museum, and pledging to make a donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Cannon found himself back in the good graces of Viacom CBS. Approximately seven months after parting ways with Cannon, the company announced that it would resume production on VH1’s Wild ‘N Out, with Cannon resuming his duties as host.
13. Laura Dern
Laura Dern has had a long career as an actor stretching back to the 1980s, but the response by some to a role that she took in 1997 nearly sidelined her. In a 2019 interview with New York magazine, she revealed that after appearing on the show “Ellen” as star Ellen DeGeneres’ love interest, she not only began to lose acting work, but her life may have been in danger while they filmed the episode.
“We all spent the next couple of years really struggling in work and safety,” she said. “It was the only time I ever experienced having to have full security detail.” Despite facing the possible cancellation of both her career and her life, Dern endured and is still acting today. In fact, she’ll be returning to the blockbuster Jurassic Park franchise for its next installment, Jurassic World: Dominion, which was pushed back from its original 2021 release date to 2022.
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This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.