Cancel culture has never been more prominent than it is today. But what does it truly mean to be ‘cancelled’? Is it career-ending and is it toxic within modern society or the tough love version of holding someone accountable?
What is ‘cancel culture’?
Cancel culture is essentially saying “I’m done with you”. Some describe cancel culture as the most modern form of ostracism whereby people quickly find themselves out of social or professional circles. From what I can gather, people in the limelight are the most subject to being cancelled, as it often happens to people who speak out or act in a questionable or controversial manner, or in a way that doesn’t withhold modern societies beliefs.
‘Cancelling’ essentially means boycotting in this sense. But does cancel culture go against free speech? Reasons for cancelling people will often vary from outdated values such as sexism to politics!
According to Susannah Goldsbrough from The Telegraph, she believes that cancel culture means different things, and represents itself differently, depending on your values. Goldsbrough believes too many who are on the left, ‘when a group of people lack the power to change or dismantle something, one of the few options available to them is to refuse to participate. In the economy of the internet, where attention often equals money, such a boycott has consequences’. Whereas on the right, ‘cancel culture is seen as kind of internet mob rule, a blunt instrument wielded by the intolerant against free speech and open debate’.
‘Call out culture’ as opposed to ‘cancel culture’?
There is a simple difference between ‘call-out culture’ and ‘cancel culture’ but truthfully, I think they go hand in hand. Calling someone out on something they have said or done which isn’t acceptable in today’s society basically means explaining to them why they shouldn’t say it again. Holding them accountable. Oftentimes, this means genuinely educating people. If the individual proceeds to not change their ways, this will result in being cancelled.
Who has been ‘cancelled’?
Ellen DeGeneres: Despite many controversies in the past, Ellen was cancelled in 2020 after many former employees of the Ellen Show came forward about the ‘toxic workplace’. Reports from many employees stated they had been subject to racism/ microaggressions, some lost their jobs for taking medical/bereavement leave and others stated they had been harassed by executive producers. This all came to light after a BuzzFeed article in July. In August, employees claimed Ellen “didn’t just turn a blind eye” but actively encouraged the poor treatment of her staff: “You cannot stand up in front of an audience as large as hers every single day for 17 years and say the words ‘be kind to one another’ and do what she did.”
Ellen wrote an email to her staff apologising, stating ‘on day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed’. She is yet to return to her show.
Shane Dawson: After a long series of YouTube drama and ‘cancelling’ between himself, James Charles and Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson had already lost millions of subscribers. It wasn’t until old videos resurfaced that Shane was truly cancelled.
Shane’s old skit videos resurfaced in 2020 and many were deeply offensive and it isn’t the first time when his old videos came back to haunt him. The videos included inappropriate comments about the then 11-year-old, Willow Smith and many where he was seen in blackface. Stringing back for many years, Shane has apologised for various videos, but this seemed to be the final straw as many were tired of his excuses. He says his career is over and it’s hard to say what Shane is doing now, but YouTube has stopped him from earning ad revenue from old videos.
Sia: Despite her singing career going from strength to strength, Sia was also ‘cancelled’ in 2020. The Australian singer was criticised for her new film ‘Music’ whereby the main character has Autism. Many firstly found the film distasteful claiming it depicted autism as ‘negative’ and ‘inaccurate’.
The critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads “offensive in its depiction of autism — and painfully misguided in essentially every respect — Music is a vanity project that begs to be turned down”. Many questioned Sia on why she’d choose someone who isn’t autistic, to play a character with autism. Sia responded saying “I’ve never referred to music as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.” But this added more fuel as many said this branded autism as negative and incapable which is far from the case.
Can you come back from being cancelled?
I think for many, cancel culture is pretty irreversible. For those on the receiving end of cancel culture, the consequences can lead to loss of reputation and income, from which it can be hard to recover.
JK Rowling: Responsible for a generations childhood memories, JK Rowling was one of the best selling authors of all time selling over 500 million copies of her novels including the Harry Potter series. It wasn’t until 2020 when the author made some anti-trans tweets that the world turned its back. The tweets she shared were considered transphobic and deeply offensive, specifically to trans-women.
With this in mind, JK Rowling was ‘cancelled’. The career-ending ostracism meant that her publishing days were over, similarly with Shane Dawson who’s public life ended overnight. But this was far from the case for JK. Despite her comments denting her popularity, during the first lockdown, her book sales went up by at least a quarter more in revenue. The pandemic saw her books boom.
Vanessa Hudgens: Back in March 2020, actress, singer and High School Musical star, Vanessa Hudgens did a Livestream on Instagram after a Trump speech declaring the pandemic could stretch into July/August 2020. The star makes no secret for her love of festival, Coachella, based in California every year, but she made some insensitive comments that landed her in the cancel zone.
As the star live-streamed to her 40million+ followers, she said “even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible… but inevitable?” After her comments circulated around social media, many claimed she was ‘cancelled’ despite her follow-up apology. This, however, seemed to be quite short-lived. She has since featured in The Princess Switch 3 and fans can’t get enough of her and her boyfriend, Cole Tucker.
Charli and Dixie D’Amelio: The D’Amelio sisters quickly found themselves in the spotlight after going viral on TikTok. They have since branched out to collaborate with brands, releasing their own products/music and launch a family YouTube channel. The family released a video titled, “our first dinner guest” featuring YouTube sensation, James Charles whereby the family sat with James and shared their conversations over dinner in November 2020… Much like Shane’s cancellation, it wasn’t one moment in this video that led to the duo being cancelled, but many.
Their dinner consisted of a classic Spanish Paella, made by the family’s private chef, Aaron May. Viewers commented that the sisters seemed unappreciative and disinterested when Chef Aaron May was describing the dish. Dixie went on to eat one of the seafood pieces and vomited out in the garden asking “Do we have any dino nuggets?” Charli was also heard saying “I wish I had more time. Imagine if I hit 100 million [followers] a year after hitting 1 million [followers]” with James Charles sarcastically responding, “was the 95 million not enough for you.” Many felt Charli was unappreciative of the support she had received and the social media storm started as the pair were cancelled. Charli lost over 1million followers due to this. However, this also didn’t last forever, as Charli now has over 111 million followers and Dixie has since released more music, including a Christmas song, Naughty List, 2020 with 1D singer, Liam Payne.
So… do we cancel ‘cancel culture’?
Does cancel culture hold people accountable, educate them and move the world into a healthier place? Or does cancel culture suggest people can’t learn and won’t learn, meaning we just erase them from society? Let us know what you think on our Instagram @TheStudentAspect