Should you keep buying an artist’s work after they commit a crime? Is “canceling” celebrities good or bad?
These are some questions I saw raised a while ago through a YouTube discussion from Jubilee, a media company that aims to “bridge people together.” Through the discussion, a group of people discussed if some celebrities should be “canceled” for actions that are unacceptable or problematic, and what sort of power people have when they band together on social media to “cancel” people or well-known products.
First: What is cancel culture? Jubilee looks to the online Macmillan Dictionary to define it as “the practice of no longer supporting people, especially celebrities, or products that are regarded as unacceptable or problematic.”
For example, in April 2019, vlogger and makeup artist James Charles lost 3 million subscribers on YouTube after fellow social media star and makeup artist Tati Westbrook exposed Charles’ past allegations of sexual assault and grooming.
What I realized after watching the Jubilee video is how arguable this topic is. While there are benefits of having a celebrity learn a lesson, there is also the toxicity of spreading hate online. It can seem difficult to pick a side for or against cancel culture.
However, I would say I’m leaning more on the side of “canceling cancel culture,” as it’s sometimes referred to on social media.
I remember having conversations throughout elementary school with my school counselor about cyberbullying and how it is the same as bullying: It is wrong and just as hurtful to a person as bullying in real life — maybe even more hurtful — since the bully is hiding behind a screen and can say whatever they want without being accountable for their words. The culture around cancellation seems to go beyond abandoning the works of celebrities or influencers, and toward spreading hatred.
Cancel culture also spreads hate online, similar to cyberbullying. Followers have been known to send death threats to influencers who have been “canceled” and post hateful comments about them over long periods of times. It’s easy for hate to spread on social media like a wildfire.
Although celebrities and influencers have fame and privilege, they are also people.
In most scenarios, when influencers take accountability, they usually apologize for their actions in a recorded video or written post. It is up to us, the followers and fans, to decide whether it is a genuine apology. We can choose to stop following that person, but does it have to go beyond that?
I was taught to always consider forgiveness, and it seems to me that negativity consumes more energy.
On the internet, it is a mystery if the person you support on their social platforms is the same in real life. Social media is a whole new world that everyone acts differently in. Cancel culture is just a branch of this tree that dives into the topic of if this influencer is a good person or not.
I still continue to find myself asking, should we just “cancel” cancel culture?
Sofia Barker is a junior at the Academy for Technology and the Classics. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.