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30 Sep, 2019 18:51

Jordan Peterson doc still gets premiere after finding itself under ‘cancel culture’ chopping block

Jordan Peterson doc still gets premiere after finding itself under ‘cancel culture’ chopping block

A documentary tracking the rise of conservative figure Jordan Peterson has faced hurdles getting to the big screen in his home country of Canada, with the creators telling RT the difficulties signal deeper problems in the West.

A psychology professor and author, Peterson first rose to international prominence for his vocal and unapologetic opposition to extreme political correctness and identity politics. The firm stance won him quite a few supporters worldwide – and at least as many critics, who see him as a transgender-hating custodian of the patriarchy, whose ‘archaic’ views don’t deserve any platform in the woke modern world.

Filmmaker Patricia Marcoccia knew Peterson before he became an international phenomenon and she witnessed his meteoric burst into the public consciousness and watched as his profile grew exponentially in recent years. Her observations form the basis of the documentary ‘The Rise of Jordan Peterson’ which expands on an earlier film aired by Canadian public broadcaster CBC last year.

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The film was due to be screened for a week in Canada by Carlton Cinema, a Toronto-based chain specializing in foreign and independent movies, but the screenings were scrapped. The cancellation reportedly followed complaints by some employees that they were uncomfortable with Peterson as the documentary’s subject. Controversial subject matter is apparently off limits these days, as the hyper-vigilant political correctness police gain more and more influence over what is (and is not) acceptable to say in public. 

The uproar over the Peterson film was somewhat ironic, Marcoccia told RT, because as far as the company knows, those doing the complaining haven’t even seen the documentary, and as such, are hardly best placed to make judgements. 

The controversy signals a wider problem with divisiveness, online echo chambers and an inability to accept others’ political opinions in the West, the film’s producer Maziar Ghaderi told RT.

“These days politics in the West has become so polarized that people don’t even speak with people that they disagree with — and social media makes it really easy to do that, and that’s very sad,” Ghaderi said.

“This political stuff shouldn’t be the center of your world.”

Carlton Cinema’s abrupt decision to back out is not the only cancellation the filmmakers have faced, either. Other theaters rejected the film too, arguing that it was “unethical” to contribute to the “cult of personality” around Peterson, Marcoccia claimed.

“[Some theaters] said if people don’t like Jordan Peterson, they won’t pay money to see a film about him. There were all sorts of reasons we were getting,” she added.

This kind of obfuscation is understandable, but regrettable, Ghaderi said, explaining that the intention with the documentary was to show that Peterson is neither devil incarnate nor conservative messiah — but a regular, living, breathing person. They hoped they could use the film to help overcome increased political polarization in society and encourage honest dialogue between warring factions in the culture wars. 

Yet, it seems gone are the days, when people at least waited until they had viewed the contentious movie or actually read the controversial book before calling for it to be scrapped.

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The hand-wringing over the Peterson documentary comes as the latest in a series of attempts in the West to silence alternative or anti-mainstream views through public pressure and “cancel culture.” Controversial public figures, often those expressing conservative views, can easily find themselves “cancelled” by liberal society or face outright censorship on social media. 

From ironically wearing blackface over a decade ago to suggesting a three-year-old isn’t mature enough to decide its own gender, the list of offenses for which one can be excommunicated from polite society is growing by the day.

Over the past couple of years, controversial conservative commentators like Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer have found themselves banned from Facebook. Others, like Steven Crowder, have had their YouTube accounts demonetized for the crime of expressing non-mainstream ideas.

Eager to comply with the demands of the liberal zeitgeist, YouTube went on a banning spree earlier this year, axing accounts for “extreme” content — but the Google-owned video platform did so with such gusto that even educational channels discussing topics like the history of Nazi Germany got swept up under the ban brush. It’s within that context that the Peterson documentary seems to be offering up a bit more than the PC police can handle.

Despite the hurdles, however, ‘The Rise of Jordan Peterson’ did get a chance for a theatrical premiere after Canada’s Cineplex chain agreed to screen it on a cinema-on-demand basis. 

Marcoccia and Ghaderi said they had received positive feedback, with viewers describing the film as unbiased and thought-provoking. That’s enough to consider their endeavor a success, they said, since that’s how they hoped the work would be regarded.

There is respect to the audience in that we don’t dumb down things and oversimplify the narrative to make it fit into a simple story. We are being honest and reflect back reality.

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