Nobody becomes a prophet in his own country. Although he is probably one of the most famous living Canadians, Jordan Peterson is still being protested and cancelled on his home turf, proving not only the relevance of this Biblical reference but that cancel culture is showing no signs of abating. The latest victim in this sad saga of censorship is The Rise of Jordan Peterson, the feature-length film by Patricia Marcoccia. The film has been removed from its scheduled, week-long run at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto after “one or more” staff complained. The Post Millennial reached out to the Carlton Cinema, and the manager on duty confirmed that there was disagreement among the staff over the film. Marcoccia, who directed the movie, said in an email that her company, Holding Space Films, has also experienced reluctance and rejections from independent film houses and cinemas across the country.
“Over the last few months we have been reaching out to mainstream and arthouse cinemas across North America. In many cases, we encountered challenges simply because of the subject matter being Jordan Peterson. Some cinemas got stuck in internal debates. Others told us outright that they thought the film was well done and fair, but that they couldn’t, in good conscience, contribute to the ‘cult of personality around Peterson’ in any way,” Marcoccia said.
“The most disappointing case for me was the cancellation of a week-long theatrical run that was already agreed upon at Carlton Cinema in Toronto, because apparently one or more staff complained about the film even though they most likely hadn’t watched it.”
The film, which is the follow-up to the shorter and aptly named Shut Him Down, released last year on CBC, documents the past three years of Jordan Peterson’s life. His rapid rise to fame, emerging first as the “professor against political correctness,” arguing his opposition to compelled speech as Canada wanted to legislate for the forced use of trans people’s preferred pronouns. He then gained even more followers after the mainstream media tried to manipulate his views in the Cathy Newman interview on Channel 4. He finally became a household name across the world with his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos after many years as a relatively anonymous psychology professor, surely this deserves a closer look?
“It’s disappointing on many levels. This film was made with different perspectives in mind and there’s something in it for everyone—even if you’re not a Jordan Peterson fan,” Marcoccia told me. “The issues he raised and his presence in public discourse had a huge impact on society at large; that is undeniable. So for a film about him and about this high profile period to be dismissed because of fear or so-called moral principle, as though the very presence of a documentary covering it is problematic, is backwards in a free and progressive society. It also ironically supports Jordan’s criticisms about the dangers of social justice taking things too far.”
Marcoccia added that she’s not interested in participating in any political campaign with this film, and that some organisations that are right-leaning have also rejected showing it, “presumably because after watching they saw that it wasn’t a film that could easily be used as a political propaganda tool.”
This isn’t the first time social justice warriors try to shut Peterson down, of course. In March, his offer of a fellowship at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University was rescinded, after a photo of Peterson with a fan wearing an ironic “I’m a proud Islamaphobe (sic)” t-shirt had emerged. The rescindment placed Cambridge firmly outside its proud tradition of open enquiry and free speech. Two days later, Whitcoulls, a bookstore in New Zealand pulled their copies of 12 Rules for Life, linking it to the Christchurch massacre, whilst still selling copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. These developments were only natural, perhaps, after what Peterson has experienced in the last few years: being booed and sabotaged during speeches on college campuses, been described as both a “Jewish shill” and a “globalist,” while also being accused of affiliation with the alt-right. Add to that, the now numerous hit pieces on him that have become so exaggerated that they’re read as satire by some of his fans. Due to all this, you might be forgiven for thinking Peterson is a highly controversial character. A documentary that aims to take sober and nuanced approach surely would be a welcome break from that.
After a relatively quiet few months, you would think that the world had tired of bashing the 57-year-old Canadian grandfather. After all, I would argue that most of us who have bothered reading his book, and who have listened to his lectures and interviews, don’t find him controversial in the least. His empathy for young men as they struggle to find meaning in their lives, his in-depth knowledge of psychology, and fondness for Carl Jung and classic literature—he adores Dostoyevsky—alongside his rejection of post-modernism and its destructive offshoots (such as intersectional feminism), make him a much-loved hero for many, many people—and not just men.
It’s a sad reflection of the times, and also slightly ironic, that filmmakers in a free society like Canada encounter censorship of their film about a thoughtful, well-spoken psychology professor, whose own views on free speech are a thousand times more liberal than those “progressive” activists that protest him. Albeit, this censorship is not pushed by a totalitarian state, but by individuals who have been taught to think words are so dangerous that they need to be shielded from anything that might challenge them a little. This is authoritarian and regressive. It’s not “unsafe” (to use their language) to hear a view that’s outside of your comfort zone. In Peterson’s own words, it may even be of critical importance to hear such views: “In order to think you have to risk being offensive,” Peterson once told Cathy Newman. And in order to understand, you have to expose yourself to thoughts you may disagree with.”
I can’t think of anything more boring than living a life wrapped in cotton wool, protected from the big, bad world around you, never having your views challenged. But then, I also feel sorry for people who refuse to engage with a thinker who could help them not only to widen their horizons, but give them courage to make the most of their potential and take part in the world, properly, as the good doctor would say. One can only hope this kowtowing by the cinemas to the activists will have the opposite effect from what they desire, producing even more interest from the public, and in the end, the film might be viewed by more people than the makers had hoped for. Maybe we can call it the Peterson effect.