Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Chris Brown is cancelled. R Kelly is cancelled. Harvey Weinstein is cancelled. Roseanne Barr is cancelled. Johnny Depp is cancelled. Trump is EXTREMELY cancelled. Just about everyone is cancelled, but what does that even mean? Who can be cancelled? What constitutes someone just needing to apologize versus someone who down-right needs to be wiped off of their pedestal and relegated into the deepest, darkest abyss of society?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “CANCELLED?”
Whether or not you are an avid user of social media, you’ve probably heard of the word “cancelled” being referred to a celebrity and/or public figure that people do not believe are worthy of support anymore because of something that they have said or done. This is because of the fact that our culture is moving more towards being politically correct and ensuring that everyone is held accountable for their actions – especially if it may negatively affect others. So, in essence, cancel culture is when people collectively agree that the problematic behaviour exhibited by someone deems them someone that the general public should no longer support and should be doxed from their high-ranking position in society.
THE ISSUES WITH CANCEL CULTURE
I genuinely believe that there should be some sort of distinction between the general public completely cancelling a public figure and just highlighting their mistake(s) and asking them to reflect on and then apologize for it. I agree with the importance of upholding social awareness, so that those who are highly respected and more valued within society are also held within the same standard as everyone else and aren’t just given the go-ahead to continue to be problematic just because of the fact that they are wealthy and/or well-known. However – I find it incredibly damaging when the general public do not allow those who’ve made mistakes in the past to reflect on their behaviour and redeem themselves the way that we all deserve. It’s one thing to engage in sexual misconduct because I do NOT believe that using your power to violate someone else’s bodily autonomy is a mistake, but the MOST common reason why someone is cancelled is because they’ve said something offensive in the past, especially via a tweet.
The issue with that is that pulling up tweets from the Stone Age to try and get rid of a celebrity is P-E-T-T-Y. Everyone changes overtime. That’s not to say that everyone becomes more socially aware overtime, but the least we can do is allow them to acknowledge their mistakes and grow from there, rather than deem them a useless member of society just because of a comment they made from the past. If there is proof that they are just as problematic and offensive NOW as they were before, THEN I believe it makes sense to cancel them because it shows that they have experienced little to NO personal growth and have no sense of self-awareness. But, if we know that they’ve made the active effort to be a better person and no longer believe in the offensive comments they’ve made in the past, they are worthy of a second chance the same way we are when we make a mistake.
WHY DOES ‘CANCEL CULTURE’ HAPPEN?
I believe that this happens often because of how quickly and heavily the general public idolizes public figures. This is exactly what happens when you give celebrities too much dominion over your personal life, so that when they are eventually exposed for saying something messy from the past, it feels like a PERSONAL attack and a major disappointment – rather than us taking a step back and acknowledging the fact that they are human beings who mess up too. Celebrities and public figures are still people with flaws, fears, insecurities, and biases just like us. When you end up putting too much obsession into a celebrity and allow them to influence the way you think, act, and behave – when they end up getting called out for doing something foolish, people will either make excuses for them because they believe that their idol can do no wrong OR people end up extremely cancelling them because they believe that their idol failed them personally.
IS IT BENEFICIAL, OR ARE WE TOO SENSITIVE?
Cancel culture is beneficial in the sense that it shows that we no longer want problematic goofies representing us or to continue to remain in the limelight. It shows that we refuse to allow those who harbour racist, homophobic, colourist, sexist, Islamophobic and/or other oppressive ideologies to get away with being offensive because we know how those problematic opinions translate into marginalized groups being harassed, disenfranchised, abused, and/or murdered in real life simply BECAUSE of these beliefs.
However – cancelling people can become extreme if we continue to promote this idea that you can’t learn from your mistakes and that if you mess up once, you’re not worthy of redemption. When people don’t feel like they can make mistakes, there will be nothing for them to learn from. They’ll be too fearful to speak out and talk about things in fear of saying something problematic. This doesn’t allow us to have a comfortable environment for people to learn from their errors and GROW from there. They’ll either end up blindly following politically correct ideals without truly understanding WHY they should, they’ll refuse to speak on certain social topics in fear of being wrong (which is not healthy), or they’ll push back and be fake-edgy and politically incorrect because they feel like they’re freedom of speech and freedom of thought are being infringed upon and that they deserve to be messy.
DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY GET 'CANCELLED' IN REAL LIFE?
There are some celebrities who have literally had their careers crushed because of their problematic behaviour. But, for some reason, cancel culture sometimes feels performative at best because the general public may SAY that someone is cancelled, but in reality – people will continue to support them and completely ignore their negative actions.
A good example of this is Kanye West who, in my personal opinion, has been doing an amazing job at ruining his reputation by vouching for Trump and saying things like “slavery was a choice,” but despite the outcry that was found on social media, his latest album was still able to successfully debut at Number 1 on Billboard, he still has millions of followers on Twitter, and he is still able to collaborate with other artists with little to no issues. It’s understandable that we can’t successfully cancel everyone, but I think we need to do a better job at being more consistent with what it even means to cancel someone and how to actually go about cancelling them, so that we aren’t just lying for social justice brownie points on Twitter.
FOR THE FUTURE..
If you are going to cancel someone, you have to do it with your CHEST, or don’t do it at all because there are entirely too many celebrities and public figures who should have BEEN cancelled but are still making rounds and doing numbers because the general public won’t stop supporting them. We also need to do a better job at fixing the culture and discussing why we need to know the difference between completely cancelling people who are an absolute mess and have shown no sign of improvement or remorse vs. simply calling people out for being offensive rather ostracizing them and deeming them worthless. It’s important to add though that people who have been successfully cancelled in the past can always change for the future and be accepted back into the graces of society, but ONLY if they are willing to show signs of improvement, offer a genuine apology for their previous mistakes, and ensure they don’t make that exact same mistake in the future.