Cancel culture. Let's talk about it. This is something that I think about all the time, and it took me a while to really formulate my thoughts with what I wanted to do with this post. Whenever cancel culture crosses my mind, I find myself asking A LOT of questions about the topic at hand. So I decided that instead of taking one side in the "cancel culture" argument in this post, I thought it would be more efficient to discuss questions that I'm sure many of us have when it comes to this new era of "canceling".
For those of you that may not be familiar with cancel culture, I'm sure you've seen it happen at least once before if you're an avid social media user. Cancel culture is defined on Wikipedia as, "a form of boycott in which someone (usually a celebrity) who has shared a questionable/unpopular opinion or has had behavior in their past that is perceived to be either offensive or problematic called out on social media, is "canceled"." In other words, it's when mainly a celebrity or someone who is perceived to be a public figure says or does something problematic and people deem them as unworthy of any attention going forward AKA "canceled". This means: unfollowing them, not supporting any of their work anymore, not considering anything they do or say worthy of being paid any positive attention. Basically, it's a way of deeming that person as dead in a figurative sense. It's essentially, "You can't sit with us" syndrome, but in a really, really extreme sense. You're like, not part of the human race anymore in tons of people's eyes.
I know. Pretty severe.
We're gonna get down to the nitty-gritty in this post and explore both sides of the spectrum in depth. Keep in mind, I'm not necessarily saying what I think the answers are to all of these questions. I'm asking what you all think.
Now that we've covered the definition and all that, let's not waste any time and jump into questions that need answers involving this topic.
Do we separate the art from the person?
This is one of the main arguments that I see come up quite often. If someone does something problematic but makes art that many people consider great, whether it be music, film, etc., is it okay to cancel that person but still consume their craft? I see this a lot with Chris Brown. He's "canceled" by many because of physically assaulting Rihanna and treating women in a way that most don't agree with, but on the other hand, his music still does really well and he's adored by tons. XXXTentacion was canceled by plenty (his music AND him) after his ex-girlfriend allegedly came out and said that he beat her while she was pregnant (I say allegedly not because I'm dismissing what she said, but because I haven't looked into the situation enough to 100% say that she said that, I'm really just going off of what I see tons of people say online) and his death was even celebrated. R. Kelly, on the other hand, got to slide by in the music industry for literal years, being featured on songs by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and many, MANY more until the documentary exposing how he's practically a pedophile was released....and then all of a sudden people wanted to cancel him -- the general public and celebrities alike. Even though the majority of people seemed to be "stepping in the name of love" for decades knowing he had married Aaliyah when she was only fifteen years old. See how all of these situations are treated differently? One person, a lot of people canceled him, but his music still does really well and he's pretty well-liked, I'd say. Another person got killed and their death was practically celebrated and even though their music is still listened to by many, it's not nearly as appreciated. And then the last person was appreciated musically for sure and probably still would be if a documentary wasn't released exposing what the majority of people already knew. What's the difference here? Why are some of them canceled more or less than others? Is it wrong to listen to the person's music depending on what they did? Is it only required to stop listening to it once the general public comes to a consensus that they're canceled for A, B, and C? Can you listen to someone's music and enjoy it without necessarily supporting what they may have done?
Should any rumor or accusation be believed about someone?
Imagine the nicest and most innocent person you know. And then imagine someone coming out saying that they did something horrible. How inclined would you be to believe that person? If you didn't believe the person would you be considered a horrible human being? What determines whether or not someone should be believed when they say someone else did or said something? Should we base whether we believe what's said about someone based on their past actions? If absolutely anything said about someone is believed by most, then wouldn't that enable practically anyone to say anything about anyone and then we're supposed to automatically believe it? How are we supposed to decide what's to be believed and what's not? There has been many incidents where someone has been canceled even though there hasn't been concrete proof that they said or did whatever they were accused of. For example, remember the James Charles fiasco that happened in 2019? Everyone "canceled" him based on what Tati Westbrook and Jeffree Star said he had done. People perceived him to be a terrible, untrustworthy person that preyed on unwilling straight men. Me, not even really knowing what was going on and barely knowing much about these people but mindlessly reading tweets caused me to form my own opinion on the kind of person James Charles must be. Then he released his side of the story with millions of receipts which completely flipped the entire perspective around and had a lot of people in shock, questioning why they had ever believed what people were saying about him so quickly to begin with. Me being one of them! After all, none of us were even there. So what gave us the right to be so opinionated on who he must be? Especially those of us like myself who don't even really know or watch any of these people that much. Is there a way to differentiate between what's meant to be believed and what's not? Should we question every single accusation? Or would that be wrong and immoral to do -- would it be considered victim-blaming if we were to do that? But once again, couldn't anyone say anyone said or did something if that's the case?
Does it depend on if the victim forgives the person?
If someone does something horrible to another, but over time, the victim forgives that person, would anyone who continues to enjoy that person's artistry be considered "bad"? For example, once Rihanna made the song Birthday Cake with Chris Brown after the assault, I saw that as her forgiving him for what he did. So I didn't feel bad about listening to his music again, because I felt that if Rihanna could make a whole song with him, why should I hold any animosity towards him when I wasn't even involved? Mind you, I was a high schooler when this song was released, so don't come for me. I'm just using this as an example for the purpose of this question. XXXTentacion's ex-girlfriend was absolutely devastated when he was killed. She made countless posts saying how this was not what she wanted, because many had assumed she was happy he was "finally gone". To my knowledge, the main reason many people despised him was because of what he allegedly did to her. Since she still supports him, is it wrong for the general public to? Or does the answer to the question change depending on what the person actually did?
Are only a handful of things actually cancel worthy?
What is actually considered "cancel worthy"? Is there a spectrum of things and depending on how extreme the action is, determines if someone is canceled? Is age a factor? If someone does something when they were twelve, like tweet a racial slur or something discriminatory (which I'm sure you've all seen happen to plenty of public figures), should they automatically be canceled, or does it really depend on their age and what they tweeted? If there's a list of things someone should be canceled for, what actually are they or is it up to everyone and what they personally think? And if it is up to everyone to decide what they think is cancel worthy, is it fair to get mad at people if they don't want to cancel someone you want to?
If we cancel one, should we cancel all?
I see people picking and choosing who to cancel a lot, which is why the last question about what's actually considered cancel worthy is so important. I'm sure many of you remember when Ariana Grande went into that doughnut shop and spit all over those doughnuts that she didn't buy, was rude to the employees (according to them), and then said she "hates America/Americans". Then she had that apology shortly after she was exposed throughout the media and she said she did all of it because she's young, still learning, and hates obesity in America. She was 22 at the time, by the way. So yeah, she was young, but still old enough to know better. People weren't really upset with her for long, it seemed. And she's doing great now! Even after contaminating food and being rude to people for no real reason (according to them). How come most people didn't cancel her, and if they did, not for long? Is it because she's pretty and convincing? Is it because she can sing really well? Is it because what she did isn't "that bad"? What about when it was leaked that Justin Bieber had said the n-word. I don't really remember him being canceled for that, and I even remember a lot of black people saying they thought it was funny because he was just joking around. He seems to still be doing pretty well now, and I don't think that many people consider him "canceled", in the grand scheme of things. Recently, Camila Cabello received a lot of backlash after her old Tumblr page from years ago showed that she had reblogged a bunch of racist posts with black people, chicken, watermelon and plenty of racial slurs against minority groups. I'd consider her to have been canceled by many people. But what is the difference between the things all of these people did? Maybe most don't see what Ariana did to be that bad, but imagine someone you don't know coming up and spitting in your food and then blaming it on obesity in America. How would you feel about that? What Justin and Camila did is kind of similar in a way, but what makes it different in your eyes? Do you consider all of these people canceled? Or do you pick and choose? If so, why?
Can people change and how should that be measured?
What determines if someone has actually changed after they did something problematic? After someone is canceled, can they be forgiven? Does it depend on the age they were when they did what they did or said what they said? Are there some things that just can't be forgiven? Many celebrities come out with apologies after they did something problematic, and usually they mention how young they were when they said/did whatever and talk about how much they've changed. Well, how can that be measured? Does it depend on what they've done since that time? Does it depend on how genuine the apology sounds? Or is there really no coming back from being canceled?
Should the person's past be taken into consideration?
If someone was raised in an extremely racist household -- an innocent kid with no ill intentions raised in a terrible household that's racist as ever. And they grow up portraying the environment they were raised in all throughout their childhood and teenage years, but as they begin to enter adulthood, they have a change of heart in college. They experience being around other people of different cultures and they realize that what they were taught their entire life is wrong and they begin taking steps to be anything BUT that. They end up becoming famous somehow. In their mid-twenties, horrific tweets they posted when they were 15 are distributed online. The person makes a long post explaining their upbringing, but people cancel them anyways and their life is ruined from then on. Is this fair?
Is it fair to cancel people?
Last but not least, is it fair to cancel people? We've all done and said stupid things we're not proud of, right? Imagine the worst thing you've ever done or said and then imagine it being online or on TV for the world to see, even though you know you were wrong at the time and you regret having said or done whatever it was. People then cancel you. How would this make you feel? Is it wrong for us to expect people to be perfect and never problematic? Aren't we all problematic sometimes in someone's eyes? How can we differentiate between when it's fair to cancel someone and when someone should be given the benefit of the doubt?
Thank you all so much for reading this post. Remember, I'm not saying whether I lean one way or the other. The purpose of this post was simply to propose a set of questions that I think we should all be asking ourselves when we decide to participate in cancel culture and the canceling of another human being who's no more perfect than ourselves.
I would LOVE to know what you all think below and how you go about answering the questions above! What are your thoughts on cancel culture overall and if you participate in it, what are your answers to those questions? Please let me know down in the comments below! 💕