On Friday’s “Real Time,” Bill Maher returned to a subject he’s been talking about A Lot lately: Cancel culture, which as it usually does when pundits talk about it, refers to people on the Internet who otherwise have no actual power, publicly expressing displeasure with certain things people say or do.
As usual, Maher is of course not down with that whole thing, and this time he elaborated on that using as inspiration generally well-liked and respected actor Matt Damon. You can watch the whole thing at the top of the page now.
Damon had something of a bad week, PR-wise, after, while attempting to describe how he’d personally evolved on an issue, he told the U.K.’s Sunday Times, that he only recently stopped using the “the f-slur for a homosexual.” He credited his daughter for getting him to stop, and said it was “commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application.” After some backlash, he clarified that statement, insisting he never actually called another human being that word and expressed solidarity with the LGBTQ community. But for obvious reasons he received some pretty fair criticisms in the following days, before it all died down.
It’s far from the only time in the last several years that Damon has been criticized for awkward things he said of course. And Maher used his “New Rules” segment to talk about this whole thing, which he thinks is extremely unfair to Damon.
“Why is this guy always in the doghouse with the online Hall monitors of righteousness? It is a phenomenon that truly fascinates me that every couple of years, Matt Damon, one of the most likable guys in Hollywood with impeccable liberal credentials, is again flailing around in cancel culture quicksand. It happened again this month when Damon revealed that he used to use a gay slur,” Maher said.
“I won’t say the word, but it’s the one your teenage son greets his friends with when they meet up at Chipotle. It’s not always meant as a slur, but it’s wrong, yes, of course. And Damon owned up, saying that while coming of age in Boston in the 70s and 80s, that word was thrown around without any thought put into it. And now he’s put some thought into it! And he’s going to stop using it,” Maher said.
“One might say he became woke. Okay, he was late to the party. To which we could say welcome, glad you could make it,” Maher continued. Or we could say ‘you came later than I did! Die!’ There are too many people in this country who are motivated not by what they really believe, but by what will get Twitter to react to them with likes and retweets. That’s called bad faith.”
Maher explained some examples of bad faith in other contexts, then listed off some headlines from the last couple of years that criticized Damon. Complaining “he is always getting pulled over by the woke police for something. He’s got a woke rap sheet as long as your arm,” Maher of course listed several examples.
Maher compared the situation to one from 2019 involving Liam Neeson, who “recounted a story of personal growth involving racist thoughts he had as a young man, but then realizing the error of his ways, expunging the racist element from his anger.” (In case you forgot about that, read more here.)
“But of course, in so doing, he committed the cardinal sin of admitting he was not born perfect, and did not emerge from the womb completely enlightened like Buddha,” Maher added. “And now Matt’s done it with his gay slur admission. Committed the crime of not always being the person you would become.”
At the end of the bit, Maher summed up his point thusly: “Matt, my advice to you: stop hunting for goodwill. You’re not gonna find much in this country.”
Of course Maher is right that Damon seems like a well meaning guy trying to be decent — but then again he does have a tendency to stick his foot into his mouth on some sensitive subjects. But it needs to be said that Damon has never actually been canceled. His career remains as strong as it ever was. He’s just spent a few days being criticized by strangers from time to time.