Well, it appears "Mr. Bean" star Rowan Atkinson has some thoughts he wanted to share about today's social media world, "cancel culture," Blackadder, and the character that made him famous. Now if you're like me, your "old British white comedian dude wants to lecture on today's culture" alarms went off- and with pretty good reason as it turns out. In an interview with Radio Times, wasn't exactly kicking off the new year with waves of positivity. First up, Atkinson isn't too thrilled with what he sees is an "us vs. them" mob mentality on social media that's led others to seeing their careers ended over past comments and views.
"The problem we have online is that an algorithm decides what we want to see, which ends up creating a simplistic, binary view of society. It becomes a case of either you're with us or against us. And if you're against us, you deserve to be 'canceled,'" Atkinson argued. "It's important that we're exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion, but what we have now is the digital equivalent of the medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn. So it is scary for anyone who's a victim of that mob and it fills me with fear about the future."
On paper or maybe taught in a grad-level lecture hall, Atkinson's perspective has merit. But while it makes for a reasoned argument, it loses its value and becomes much more naive when you consider that we now live in a social media world where some of that "wide spectrum of opinion" includes those that refuse to take basic facts into consideration. Or when that "opinion" comes from someone whose god tells them they should think, feel, and act the way they do. Or when that "opinion" comes from someone who considers themselves better because of the color of their skin. Or when that opinion comes from yet another comic who blames the audience for their act not being as accepted or relevant as it once was. That's like a writer blaming readers for not reading their stuff.
If it's any consolation, it sounds like Atkinson is about as thrilled with playing his popular character as he is with the current state of social media. In the same interview, he revealed, "I don't much enjoy playing him [Mr. Bean]. The weight of responsibility is not pleasant. I find it stressful and exhausting, and I look forward to the end of it." But that doesn't mean he's not willing to return for another animated paycheck- this time, for the big-screen-small-screen. "Having made an animated TV series, we're now in the foothills of developing an animated movie for 'Mr. Bean'- it's easier for me to perform the character vocally than visually," he explained. But there's one series he would definitely return for. "I don't actually like the process of making anything — with the possible exception of 'Blackadder,' because the responsibility for making that series funny was on many shoulders, not just mine," he said. "But 'Blackadder' represented the creative energy we all had in the '80s. To try to replicate that 30 years on wouldn't be easy."