Cancel Culture Has To Change
In December of 2014, VH1 aired an episode of Love and Hip-Hop: New York in which Cisco Rosado tells his love interest Diamond Strawberry during a fight, “you’re canceled.” It was from that moment on that cancel culture became a prominent part of social media and its use can be seen today on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok.
According to Dictionary.com, the term refers to “the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”
In an article by Vox, Anne Charity Hudley, the chair of linguistics of African America for the University of California Santa Barbara, describes the origins of cancel culture and how its existence is a symbol and representation of Black power and voices, even if it is a widely used social media term today.
“While the terminology of cancel culture may be new and most applicable to social media through Black Twitter, in particular, the concept of being canceled is not new to black culture,” … Hudley pointed out that canceling someone is akin to a boycott, but of a person rather than a business… “If you don’t have the ability to stop something through political means, what you can do is refuse to participate,” she said… “Canceling is a way to acknowledge that you don’t have to have the power to change structural inequality,” Hudley said.
Our presence on social media has paved the way for cancel culture to be a notable part of our experiences and interactions online. However, it doesn’t just stop there. Cancel culture also dictates who we like, the movies we watch, music we listen to and the people we support. As a society, our opinions are dictated by those who have the most following and when they do something wrong, they are called out, but that’s usually where it ends. Of the hundreds of celebrities, politicians and influencers that have been cancelled, few have ever had their careers ruined. So what purpose does cancel culture serve if it doesn’t bring justice or serve as a learning experience most of the time?
Though celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Bill Cosby, whose rape and sexual assault allegations caused them to be effectively cancelled by the internet and thus, have their careers ruined, many of figures face backlash, but not repercussions. When celebrities get cancelled, most of the time their first reaction is to post an apology.
Take Camila Cabello for example, who faced heavy backlash after a Twitter user posted a thread of Tumblr blogs where Cabello expressed several anti-black, anti-chinese and misogynistic thoughts.
The Tumblr account was deleted after she faced backlash, however, the user archived all her posts so they are still available to see. Though many called her racist and “cancelled” her, she still has a following of 50.2 and 11.5 million on Instagram and Twitter respectively.
Likewise, people like Kanye West, who suggested slavery was a choice, was “cancelled” and yet shortly after, in 2018, he saw his album “Ye” hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Rowan Blanchard was accused of being biphobic and yet, she still has 5.2 million followers. The list goes on and on.
When an influencer is cancelled, they face massive backlash and often, come forward and apologize for their problematic behavior by stating they didn’t mean to offend anyone, they were too young, they have grown since the incident, etc. And though some of them actually appear to be apologetic, there are always a handful who apologize just for show.
Cancel culture has become such a prominent part of our lives in today’s society, but perhaps it’s time to find a new form of accountability that ensures justice.
The basis of cancel and call-out culture is great, people should and have every right to hold influencers accountable for offensive comments they make or crimes they commit. Minorities who for centuries have been oppressed, cancel culture gives them the opportunity to hold people in power accountable for all the wrongs they have done to people, particularly minorities.
My proposal: reform cancel culture so it ensures that powerful people are held accountable to the highest extent of the law, whether that be social laws or actual state and country laws. Cancel culture has proved to be effective in several cases, but if people continue to attack and cancel any and all celebrities they come across, then continue to support them, then they are a part of the problem.
As a society, we have to stop letting popular figures shape the way we think, instead we have to listen to the facts, stay informed and actually follow through the next time we decide to cancel someone.
Author: Daisy Calderon