Modern Day Ostracism: Cancel Culture
The start of cancel culture and how the movement is influencing our world today
By: Lauren Dillard
What is Cancel Culture
Cancel culture stamps people as canceled for certain actions. In recent years, cancel culture has become a significant movement. According to The Pew Research Center, cancel culture is the movement to remove celebrities, people with a prestigious status or a brand after offending a large group of people. The topic is a significant debate that hosts heavy arguments on social media every few months.
The term cancel culture became famous in 2015. The term is widely used by Black Twitter but became popular in recent years, with more people calling for the cancellation of brands and businesses. The topic helps create a conversation on offensive behavior, comments and why we should not continue to support specific people and brands if their messages align with racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia or any type of hate. The movement is complex because of how we feel about people being entitled to their ideas and sometimes we hold people to the fire for actions that do not reflect them currently.
Cancel culture sometimes comes with a legitimate argument as to why a business or brand should be canceled. Over the recent years, people have called for the cancellation of many people and brands such as: classic Disney movies for racial and sexual remarks, JK Rowling for transphobic comments, Dr. Suess for racial depictions about Black and Asian characters, Piers Morgan for insensitive comments about the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, Jimmy Fallon for wearing black face, Columbus Day because of the insensitivity towards Indigenous people and even canceling cancel culture because of its toxic nature.
These examples above are relatively new examples of cancel culture. Reasons why people should be “canceled” have been around since the start of this nature. I want to look at our government and some leaders who have been called on to be canceled. A prominent example that comes to mind would be former President Bill Clinton for his sexual actions during his time in the White House. This scandal got attention from all over the world. Clinton’s actions were inappropriate and short of what a world leader should engage. As news about Jefferey Epstein’s inappropriate and illegal sexual events spread, many names of prominent people worldwide connected with the late financial advisor. Many politicians and celebrities were called to be canceled by the general public, such as Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Donald Trump and Former Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta. People alleged to have close contact with Epstein were automatically thrown into allegations, but these allegations are still being investigated.
Does Cancel Culture Work
Cancel culture is not legitimate because once a person or a business reaches a certain status, it will never be fully canceled. Recently, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was called to resign from his position because of sexual allegations. The Cuomo brothers are known around the world for their work in politics and journalism. With their prestige in the nation, we will see in years to come where they go and how their name flows throughout the world.
One celebrity who has reaped the consequences of cancel culture is director and producer Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has been charged with sexual assault and rape after many people have given details about his actions. His actions have resulted in him being in prison for the rest of his life and his name stained throughout the world. His cancellation asks if cancel culture only works when people are legally found guilty of a crime.
“We treat people with fame and money like they are inherently different. It does not negate the fact that they can be harmful people in their private life. If we stop treating talent like it is synonymous with the character, we will be a lot less disappointed in some of our favorite people,” says journalist Ayishat Akanbi.
Toxic or Helpful
Cancel culture has been called toxic and some people have even said it is destroying lives. Sometimes the movement allows for people to be canceled over a simple mistake. It is essential to look at how every culture has harmful ideas. Sometimes beliefs by people come from the environment they are raised in or life events and religion.
“If we were to condemn ideas, we can see how those ideas how affected us at one point. We can see how those ideas are embedded in structures that we still defend,” says Akanbi. I do think that some ideas are condemned but since people and some infrastructures are raised in environments rooted in certain behaviors and language, it is hard to determine what and who to cancel.
“People cherry-pick the term,” says Ana Navarro. The movement can sometimes lose credibility when people call to cancel someone or a business because they do not agree with a statement or behavior.
I think the term has brought attention to leaders and people on influence with the words and behaviors they exhibit. People must take accountability for what they say and do. “I think it should be called consequence culture,” says The View co-host, Sunny Hostin. Cancel Culture is still a very new movement with a lot of research and investigating that needs to be done. Behind the people and businesses of cancel, culture is ideas and beliefs harmful to different groups. Once we get to the root of what is called to be canceled, we can reconstruct the systems and infrastructures that aid in negative and hateful beliefs.
About the Author: Lauren Dillard is a journalism student at the University of North Texas, located in Denton, Texas. Lauren’s journalism focus is on public relations, and she expects to graduate in December 2021.