Mr. Bean and Johnny English actor Rowan Atkinson has bemoaned the rise of cancel culture, comparing keyboard warriors to a “medieval mob roaming the streets looking for someone to burn.”
In an interview with the Radio Times, the multi-hyphenated British star blamed social media platforms for increased levels of polarization, which he said makes him fearful for the future of freedom of speech.
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“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 ‘cancelled’,” Atkinson said.
“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.”
Atkinson also hinted at plans to revive his iconic BBC comedy Blackadder and revealed that he finds playing Mr. Bean “stressful and exhausting.”
On the former, he said it was “certainly not impossible” for Blackadder to return after more than 30 years and confirmed there have been talks about a new series. “That’s about as optimistic as I can be and I’d rather not speculate on when it could be set,” he said.
Blackadder was written by Atkinson, Ben Elton, and Richard Curtis and the time-hopping comedy starred the likes of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Atkinson acknowledged it would be difficult to recapture the creative energy of the 1980s show. Elton has previously ruled out a return.
Atkinson added that he is “in the foothills” of developing an animated Mr. Bean film, but said he does not enjoy playing the character in a live action setting. “It’s easier for me to perform the character vocally than visually,” he said. “I don’t much enjoy playing him. The weight of responsibility is not pleasant. I find it stressful and exhausting and I look forward to the end of it.”
Atkinson is currently working with Netflix on a series titled Man vs Bee. The 10-part series of shorts centers on a man who finds himself at war with a bee while housesitting a luxurious mansion. The show is made by Atkinson’s production vehicle HouseSitter Productions.