Cancel culture is a modern internet phenomenon where a celebrity, brand or concept is withdrawn from their fame and support because of something offensive they have done. This term was popularized by black users of Twitter in 2017, when a public figure’s questionable information came to light. Since then, it has become increasingly present in pop culture.
At first glance, cancel culture seems like a good way to hold people accountable for their mistakes. It was originally meant to be used just for that. However, cancel culture has become toxic because of the growing number of false accusations and interpretations made out of context. Not only that, but cancel culture has become a way for celebrities to be scared of posting content as they never know if what they say or do may offend a certain group of people.
One clear example of this was seen with youtuber, Jenna Marbles. She was demanded to address some of her past videos that were problematic. One of her videos featured her doing a parody of a song of Nicki Minaj, where she was caught committing blackface. Blackface is the term used to name the action a non-black person takes when painting their face black to look like a black person. This was a form of theatrical make-up popularized around 200 years ago; it is problematic and offensive in various different ways. In the time period when this video was made, she was working at a tanning salon. This resulted in her having a bad tan and being a few shades darker than normal. She made this video private a long time ago because she realized that it was offensive. However, the screenshots resurfaced on twitter and people requested her to address it. In her apology video she also addressed a few videos that she had done which she was not requested to talk about but felt the need to do so anyway because they didn’t sit right with her. At the end of the video, Jenna Marbles said that she was going to leave Youtube because she didn’t want to offend anyone. I am in no position to forgive her because I am not part of the black community, but I thought this was a good example of how celebrities are scared to post content because they feel that they are going to get canceled. This case of cancel culture was especially heartbreaking for many people because Jenna Marbles is considered one of Youtube’s legends. She joined Youtube in 2010 and many people have grown up watching her videos.
I think another problem of cancel culture is how selective it is when choosing who to cancel. There are people who have been cancelled for things they said when they were 10 years old. This does not mean that they shouldn’t be taken accountable, it just means that they shouldn’t be denied a future in the media for their mistakes when they were just kids who didn’t know any better. On the other hand, there are people who should not have a platform, yet they are popular and aren’t held accountable. An example of this is singer 6ix9ine. He is a mexican singer who repeatedly uses derogatory slurs towards black people and other minorities. In 2015 he was accused of having sexual contact with a 13-year old while he was 19 years old. He was declared guilty and was in probation for 4 years and was not registered as a sex offender. Since then, he has had more allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault from minors. After all of that, he still has a fanbase and is a rising music artist with a large platform. This is a problem because people like him don’t deserve to be idolized or forgiven because he has never felt sorry for what he does. He still uses offensive slurs in his music and hasn’t been taken accountable.
One of the most difficult things about cancel culture is that you may never know how someone has changed or learned from their mistakes. If they said an offensive slur years ago how can the public be sure that the celebrity has learned and grown as a person and no longer says that offensive slur? How can someone know if a public figure’s apology is genuine and they ultimately feel sorry for what they have done? Cancel culture is a very complex topic because evident hatred has never been inoffensive, even when it wasn’t meant to be. Personally, I have grown from who I was two years ago. I realized how some of the terms I was using may have resulted in offending indigenous people. These terms were normalized, and because I heard them from the people around me I thought it was okay for me to use them as well.
Humans and their ideologies are constantly changing, what was considered normal 10 years ago might be considered problematic now. This is neither good nor bad, it is great that we are realizing how some things we normally say or do are offensive. However, it seems like everything nowadays is problematic when we didn’t necessarily mean it to be. This environment stresses us with the gigantic pressure to always be politically correct. And that is certainly impossible. We as a society should be able to grow and be educated after committing a mistake, instead of being deprived from the public’s support in an instant.