Canceling cancel culture

Photo courtesy of Journey Sherman

What do J.K Rowling, Jimmy Kimmel, Doja Cat and Starbucks have in common? They have all been #cancelled on Twitter. It seems like every week there is a new celebrity that is getting heat for something they said or did that was not politically correct. Even if their words or actions took place years ago or even almost two decades ago, the internet stands the test of time. 

Although the cancel culture trend has added more to the conversation in regards to racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and other societal ills, its nature is outright dismissive. Cancel culture completely eliminates educational discourse.

It tells celebrities to shut up or be ready to put up with the backlash of any sort of apology they muster up. Instead of a thread of random users just wailing on a celebrity that they do not know, there needs to be an element of educating them on why what they did was wrong. 

Cancel culture is a prickly and complex idea that cannot be boiled down to right or wrong, black or white. On the other hand, in the case of celebrities being accused of heinous acts like sexual harassment or assault, there is nothing that can be said to ameliorate it or turn it into a teaching moment. In this case, cancel culture is a godsend.

For the likes of comedian, Chris D’Elia and actor, Ansel Elgort, who were both accused of sexual harassment or assault in the past month, their cancelations will most likely stick. Even if there is no legal justice done, they will most likely be blackballed from their industry. Twitter users now have the power to be judge, jury and executioner, and in some cases that is great, but in most, it is not.  

Author J.K. Rowling is most likely going to be canceled indefinitely for her transphobic comments and with good reason. She has done nothing but double down on her beliefs and does not show any signs of wanting to grow or learn.

This behavior undoubtedly warrants being canceled. TV personality Jimmy Kimmel has recently been canceled due to a skit he did in blackface over twenty years ago and a video resurfacing of him using the n-word. He recently apologized for his past behavior and is presently very vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement. There are still thousands of people who want his show canceled and removed from his network.

I agree that yes he should be punished, but society needs to normalize the fact that people can grow and change their beliefs when learning new information and having more life experiences. 

There is a lot more grey area when it comes to the cancelation of singer Doja Cat. A video first came out of her engaging in a video cam call with quite a bit of racist rhetoric being said. When first seeing this video I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt because it was hard to quite make out what was going on and being said.

But, when her song “Dindu Nuffin,” a racial slur used by the alt-right, resurfaced from 2015, I had to pause. How could I defend this? I could not. This song was released around the time of Sandra Bland’s death and is alleged to mock victims of police brutality. The apology that followed was lousy, disingenuous and was seemingly the final nail in the coffin to end her fifteen minutes of fame. 

Although corporations are not one person, they are held accountable online as if they are. Recently Starbucks and Taco Bell came under fire for sending employees home for wearing Black Lives Matter memorabilia to work. Understandably, both were canceled on Twitter for being racist.

The difference between celebrities and corporations being canceled is that corporations are almost always canceled in a fleeting manner. This is not the first time Starbucks has been canceled and that says a lot about cancel culture and its relationship with capitalism.

Why will we feel guilty about listening to a song by someone who said something racially insensitive once, but still go to Starbucks, a company that has a history of racist incidents?  

Cancel culture is a trend that almost always provides short term justice and yields little to no growth. So you called someone a ‘racist,’ now what? Why is what they did wrong and how can they make amends moving forward? 

Cancel culture is dangerous because it allows people to wallow in their ignorance and feel ashamed with no real conversation around it. It is easy to call someone out by their name or label them as something and move on to the next, but it is difficult to have an intelligent conversation with someone that may not initially see things the same way as you. This is the first step in canceling cancel culture.