MovieMonday: The Rise of Jordan Peterson

This documentary is scheduled to open at theaters later this week, but good luck finding it if you want to see the thing.

The problem is the subject matter — a Canadian professor who has studied psychology, literature, philosophy, religion, biology and evolution — and who has spent a lot time thinking about all of it.  He’s become a youtube celebrity, and his practical book on how to get your act together if you’re unhappy with your life has sold 3 million copies, often to young men who seem to appreciate the message.

For this he has earned a remarkable amount of disdain.


From all reports, the film presents a neutral view of Peterson, including comments from people who disagree with him.  It seems to have grown out of a 44-minute television documentary that was aired last year by the publicly funded Canadian Broadcast Corporation and then was expanded into a feature-length story about Peterson as a person and his family and what he believes.

Peterson earned oppobrium in 2017 when he said he opposed a Canadian law that was taken to mean that it would be a prosecutable crime not to call non-cisgender people by their preferred pronouns.  His logic, if I understand it, was that he would take the matter under consideration on an individual basis but that being compelled to obey was a step too far.

(In the US, the First Amendment prohibits government regulation of speech.  Our country is a cacophony of noise, often ranging from ignorance to hate, but at least we’re mostly spared battles about what people are allowed to think and say.)

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Jordan Peterson, but last year I watched a couple youtube videos of him.  In one, he maintains his cool through accusatory questions in an interview by a British television reporter.  In the other, he talks with Camille Paglia, an American scholar who is too idiosyncratic to be accepted at a major university but who is always interesting. Personally I enjoy discussions when serious people trade views without calling each other Nazis and communists.
Here, from early 2018 , is an Atlantic article (the Atlantic not being a retrograde right-wing publication) by a Southern California-based male essayist, Conor Freiersdorf, who wonders why Jordan Peterson is seen as social anathema.

Later that year, a female columnist, also in Los Angeles, suggested in an Atlantic column that Peterson scares “the left” because his fairly traditional advice comes as a revelation to young men like her son, who have not been exposed to such in their formal educations.

It was the second columnist’s writing that led Eric Levitz of New York magazine to publish a piece titled “The Left’s Hatred of Jordan Peterson Is Perfectly Rational.”


Anyway.  The audacity of a neutral Peterson bio-doc has attracted the ire of contemporary activists who seem to value conformity over all else.  Examples:

1) When one or more employees of a theater in Toronto said they thought the film’s scheduled run should be cancelled, the theater cancelled the run.

2) The same thing seems to have happened at a theater in Brooklyn.

3) Somewhere near Portland, OR, a pastor arranged to show the blocked JP movie at his church but decided against it after receiving an anonymous message that said the following:

                    “Several community organizations are planning to shut down your showing
                  of the Jordan Peterson propaganda film.  While many of us aren’t Christian
and some even flat-out condemn the religion, we do not want any harm
             to come to your place of worship or those within.  However, we cannot allow fascism to continue to rise and will not tolerate its presence in our city,
whether it is on the streets or on the waterfront or in a church.
Read some history books, read about eugenics, read about sex and gender and
then compare it to Peterson. Pray on it if you must. Do the right thing.
As much as we joke about it, we really don’t want to have
              to bring out the guillotine to fix society.”

(Translation:  “Nice little business church you got here, mister. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it, know what I mean?”  Also in Portland, a similar threat caused the cancellation of a general city parade several years ago because members of a Republican group planned to march in the event.  Apparently the appearance of members of a second national party was too dangerous to be tolerated.)

4) Of the three cities where I spend time each year, no theater seems to plan to show this film.


The film’s distributors have gotten the message. Peterson has attracted a great deal of interest in the last couple years, but one branch of what is now called “cancel culture” has been activated to limit the exposure or profitability of a film about him, even a non-hagiographic one, for fear it might find an audience in theaters or with nonprofit groups.

The net effect of all this is that if you want to watch The Rise of Jordan Peterson, you’re going to have to stream it at home on your television set or your computer or your cellphone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s