Should #Cancel Culture be Canceled?
Updated: Sep 21
It seems like someone new is getting canceled every day and we see the #_______IsOverParty trending online all the time. The rise of cancel culture has been divisive and problematic. A public figure says something or does something offensive and immediately faces public backlash, then comes the need for that public figure to be canceled on social media. This situation creates many questions: Where do we draw the line on cancel culture? What are the effects of being canceled? Should we end cancel culture? Let’s get deep and talk about this social justice situation.
Origins of Cancel Culture
Let’s start with defining cancel culture. This social phenomenon is the act of ending one’s career and popularity by calling them out. Support declines and fanbases shrink when a person gets canceled and that person gets boycotted. It originally got popular from the VH1’s reality show Love and Hip Hop back in 2014, when a cast member told his love interest during a fight, “you’re canceled.” It was hilarious and started out lighthearted, with people tweeting it as a reaction, but then it shifted to canceling celebrities and completely blacklisting them. Cancel culture got even more serious when it was prompted in the #MeToo movements, which demanded accountability from those who were canceled.
Drawing the Line
Where exactly do we draw the line when it comes to cancel culture? Canceling has become a way to blame and shame people, leaving no room for those who were canceled to apologize for what they have done or said. Aaron Rose, a corporate diversity and inclusion consultant, talked about how he used to participate in cancel and call-out culture, but now he’s focused on “conflict transformation." He explained that he used to think canceling created change, but he realized and said, "If we don’t give people a chance to change, then they will not change." We also have those who’ve had racial pasts, like Justin Trudeau, whose pictures of him in blackface have resurfaced.
What about those who have been charged with sexual assault, like Chris Brown, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill Cosby? Do they deserve a chance to apologize and reform? Rose believes that people can change and should be allowed to. The problem is if that person refuses to apologize and change. Some would argue that no matter what, a person can’t be forgiven and must face repercussions like Brown, Cosby, and Weinstein, which makes sense since they all committed crimes. In Trudeau’s case, many came to his defense saying that it happened many years ago, he apologized and he’s not racist. Many said that it doesn’t matter either way, there's proof and that means he is racist. That’s why it’s difficult to draw a line when it comes to cancel culture - everyone will have an opinion on who should be canceled. What that person did, how long ago it happened, the severity of their actions, whether or not their actions were harmful, if they made amends, and what their current actions or views are all matter, but it’s still very complicated.
What are the Effects of Cancel Culture?
In Taylor Swift's Netflix Documentary, Miss Americana, she explains the psychological damage of being canceled. #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty was trending on Twitter in 2016 because of her altercation with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West that led many to think she was a snake and a liar. “When people decided I was wicked and evil and conniving and not a good person, that was the one that I couldn’t really bounce back from,” she says. Taylor proves in her documentary that it doesn’t matter how much money someone has or how successful they are, cancel culture does have a severe impact on your mental health.
Is Cancel Culture Effective?
Just because Taylor Swift was once canceled and lost some support, she is still a Top Artist and one of the highest-paid celebrities. Some still aren't fans her, but it’s clear that her cancelation did not really last. People like Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, R.Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Rosanne Barr have been canceled and faced actual punishment. But others, like Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello, Kanye West, President Donald Trump, etc., have barely faced career setbacks and still garner endless support. Kanye West has been canceled due to his support of President Donald Trump and many of the things he has said. Some canceled him altogether, some still listen to his music despite disagreeing with him, and then you have those who support him unapologetically. Through it all, Kim and Kanye are still very wealthy and have many supporters, which creates the question of if cancel culture is actually effective.
Should We End Cancel Culture?
Has cancel culture become a means to seek justice and truth, or is it unnecessary hatred? We are taught to forgive people when they make mistakes because nobody is perfect, but we’re also taught to speak up when we see someone doing what we think is wrong. Calling out someone can give a person the chance to apologize and see the error in their ways. Calling out has actually been beneficial for minorities, but many people have pointed out how cancel culture became mob-mentality and toxic. Sarah Silverman has said, “these mass social media campaigns against a person can actually hinder them from growing and learning from their mistakes. Instead of “canceling” them, we should be educating them."
After old tweets of Kevin Hart using homophobic language resurfaced, many were quick to cancel him, but Billy Eichner came to his defense. “I'm not into people being permanently ‘canceled’ over something like this," he said on Twitter. “To me, ‘cancellation’ is childish. I'm into conversation, not cancellation. I'm into owning up to past mistakes, acknowledging blindspots and hurtful remarks, talking through it, discussing it, learning, moving past it and making progress together. To cancel someone immediately, is denying them that opportunity to learn and grow.” Does their past matter? As we said previously, it’s complicated. It depends on certain factors that were listed above, but we should be trying to educate people if given the chance.
Cancel culture is very messy and divisive. People go back and forth about who deserves to be canceled, but it’s never black and white. You have to look into the details. We should educate others so they can learn from their mistakes. We also need to remember that everyone makes mistakes and nobody is perfect, but that also does not excuse those who intentionally committed crimes. We live in a politically correct society, so people get called out all the time, but we often forget to think about how it can affect a person. Cancelation doesn’t last for everyone. A line can’t easily be drawn when it comes to cancel culture. Should cancel culture be canceled? There is no clear answer to that. People will say and believe whatever. As long as social media is around, so is cancel culture.
So, what's your opinion? We'd love to hear it in the comments or on our Instagram at @thisisuproar!