It has been speculated that the idea of cancel culture exists as a way to hold celebrities accountable for their problematic actions by method of boycott or silence.
Cancelling is a term iconically coined by Twitter in late 2014. Over quarantine this March, it became an infamous threat that brought fear to many celebrities; however, the illusion of having control of our problematic figures and organizations has been proven to be inconsistent and rarely occurs.
After a summer of protest and backlash against our figures and corporations, a light has been shed on the efficacy of cancel culture. Is it realistic to hold our celebrities, businesses, and politicians to the standards we face as everyday people? And while cancelling a person, idea, or business can occur, to what extent?
In late October, Tik Tok influencer and YouTuber Larray released a song titled: “Cancelled.” The song as a whole passes off the idea of cancel culture and relates exclusively to Tik Tok influencers. What is surprising about this song was the fact that most of the lyrics are somewhat true.
For example, looking at one of the lyrics in the chorus “Tony Lopez caught a case” and “Charli hit that vape”; these lyrics are referencing that Tony Lopez has allegedly solicited naked pictures from a 15-year-old and Charli D’Amelio’s vape scandal. These two wrongs are vastly different. Is it fair to compare vaping to pedophilia? Is it fair to say all of these actions yielded the same level of wrongness?
Passing these two offenses together negates the severity of Tony Lopez’s actions to the level of vaping. This song is a representation on how influencers view cancel culture. They believe it’s a joke, and because of that many of their fans take their serious actions as jokes. Tony Lopez can maintain and grow his platform despite him having allegations and accusations, and he is often compared with other Tik Tok influencers, even though the wrongs of other influencers have been not as severe as his.
Influencers are not the only figures who should be cancelled. With the ever increasing polarization this country sees in politics, cancel culture is nowhere to be found. We look up to our politicians on both sides of the aisle as idols, even when their actions suggest otherwise. If the concept of canceling is even partially true, many of our current politicians would be turned away from society.
Sadly, this isn’t the case. All cancel culture has seemed to do is pull party from party, left from right, extremists from extremists, and leave those in the center forced to choose. Cancel culture should not be the reason for the hyper-polarization we see in politics today. It should be a means to hold our representatives accountable non-partisanly. How is our country able to say cancel culture exists, and then praise politicians who have allegations of infidelity, used harassing language, and in extreme cases sexual assault? Maintaining our politicians’ integrity requires the use of cancel culture.
Cancel culture is not reserved solely for people, companies and corporations are also able to be cancelled. The Montgomery bus boycott is an example of cancel culture working. When Rosa Parks was denied her seat, many stopped supporting the company and were able to get lasting change.
But in today’s consumer world, many companies are still profiting after making choices that violate moral responsibility. Disney has gone off to Xinjiang, the province where currently a genocide is happening towards Uiyger Muslims, to film the new Mulan. Amazon has slowly built up a monopoly and has the power to tear any small business to shreds if they even think about defying the company. Further, it has become its own economy, yet no one has thought of holding it to the same standard as it would’ve been held to during Roosevelt’s antitrust era. These corporations have been able to pass over cancel culture because they’ve been able to maintain their original customer base and attract new consumers at the same time.
Historical figures and monuments have also been defiled this summer and many have claimed them as a casualty of cancel culture. But was it ever acceptable of society to erect the figures of known traitors, rapists and genocide instigators?
Christopher Colombus never deserved his day for his colonization and taking of native land. He never deserved statues and cities named after the terrible legacy he left. Arguably, these figures aren’t being cancelled, they are being held accountable for their past actions. Taking down a statue has no effect on history taught at educational institutions. Taking down a statue does not nullify or erase history. While everyone can agree that putting these figures’ actions into context is extremely important, many of these figures can be shown in our textbooks, museums and other historical preservatories.
Despite all of the celebrities who have been claimed as cancelled, there is also the phenomenon of those who are not cancellable. It’s either people who can see through the selectiveness of cancel culture or followers who cherry-pick who is cancelled and who isn’t.
Trisha Paytas is one person who comes to mind when talking about those who are immortal; while she was cancelled with her racist roleplays, her platform gains supporters. JK Rowling, a TERF(Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist), disvalues the experience transgender women have overcome to be their true selves and still proceeds to profit from her works and receive praise from other authors as if she was never cancelled.
Rap artists: Migos, Ice-T, or Rico Nasty, who even though continue to normalize racism against the East Asian diaspora by using slurs against those communities in their songs, still proceed to have listeners. These people show cancel culture is not as effective as we make it out to be.
Followers are inconsistent about their cancels, and many figures see this and try to escape cancel culture. Many will try to hide from it by coming up with phony apologies, although many times they already knew they were in the wrong.
There’s another explanation for why those artists have not been cancelled, and that’s because they didn’t target their followers, fellow artists, or ‘stans’. However, YouTuber Shane Dawson can be seen as an example of being cancelled solely due to the fact he became too problematic and upset a group of his supporters. It was because he targeted this group that his downfall began with most, if not all, of his fans.
As followers of these artists, supporters of these politicians and consumers of these corporations, it is our responsibility to be critical. We need to acknowledge cancel culture is inconsistent and varies widely. It is our job, however, to improve the ways of cancel culture. Many times those who are most problematic can continue with their platform because they maintain their fanbases.
We need to continue this critique of society and idols by ensuring that they are accounted for dehumanizing and humiliating any group. Cancel culture is not to be feared, it’s a way we as ordinary people can enforce the standards we set when giving a platform.
People who have been cancelled so far:
Reason: Abused her employees and created an extremely toxic work environment.
Chase Hudson a.k.a. Lil’ Huddy
Reason: Has said racial slurs on video and has not apologized.
Reason: In March a video of her surfaced being not empathetic to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hype House
Reason: Broke quarantine restrictions in the L.A. County and had a party in July with 60-70 guests.
Reason: Tweeted numerous offensive statements towards the LGBTQ+ community. One tweet advocated against the use of they/them pronouns.
Reason: Said many racist statements, yet still manages to profit from the makeup industry.
Reason: Said inappropriate and harassing remarks to Willow Smith.
Reason: Making anti-semitic remarks and also dressed up in racist costume on her social media accounts.