Cancel culture. Let’s talk about it for a minute.
Unless you’ve been off the grid in Antarctica for an extended period, you’re likely a social media user in one way or another. We share some of our most private moments with friends, family, and even a whole lot of strangers on the Internet every day. While this does help us stay connected, it also helps to amplify things we’d otherwise prefer were forgotten.
Social media users have gotten very good at “swarming” when they feel sense an injustice – or just something they don’t like – but this has more than once been done before all of the facts are out. Social media users often bring so much attention to a user’s page that they either deactivate it temporarily or delete it all together. Some will become downright bullies, while others simple help to further the madness. In increasing frequency, users call to “cancel” a person or entity they deem unworthy because of this new slight they’ve uncovered.
Many YouTube stars have learned the hard way that one ill-conceived phrase in just one video can mean the downfall of an entire persona or channel. Even the biggest stars are not immune to being told to walk the plank.
As these and others well know, within a matter of hours an entire career can be severely damaged, if not ruined, and it all goes down without anyone having much of the facts. Even if it is well-deserved, the dragging that goes down is so over-the-top and ongoing that no one can escape it.
It’s also pretty meaningless in a lot of cases, as people drag the celebrity or business through the mud until they move on to the next one and forget all about it. If you’re not angry enough to truly write this person off long-term, then what’s all the fuss about?
Imagine if everything you did growing up as a child was on the Internet for the entire world to scrutinize. It’s quite likely there’re a few things you wouldn’t want out there. We all have to grow and learn, and making mistakes is always a part of that journey. If we expect people in the limelight to be utter models of perfection at every waking moment, is this really something we can live up to? Doubt it.
So instead of canceling the culprit during opening statements, pay more attention to how they bounce back and respond to the situation rather than writing them off with a simple “canceled” label. No one is perfect, and to expect that is frankly absurd. Rallying behind those we love and whom we think are making a positive impact in our communities is key, and when these people falter, it is not up to us to put them on blast, but rather to show them why it was wrong and help guide them to being even better. This way, they can continue to give, and our communities can continue to get better and stronger.
Let’s take a look at some of the more controversial “cancels” that have gone down.
Justin Bieber has spent nearly his entire life as a celebrity, forced to grow up and experience all those embarrassing adolescent moments and stupid choices in front of the cameras and prying eyes of the public. His moments of privacy have long been fleeting, and while he seems fairly well adjusted to it today thanks to a great team of people around him, he has also been a target of the “cancel culture” – and not for any of the reasons you might think.
No one sought to cancel the Biebs when he peed in public, egged his neighbors homes, or got arrested. What did it? Well, at 18, he was doing what any handsome and rich young man would be doing – dating. A LOT. He had racked up quite a who’s who list of beautiful blonde celebs he’d wined and dined, and his fans had had enough of it.
When he started dating Sofia Richie, a mostly unknown (but a famous offspring of singer Lionel Richie) beautiful woman his own age, his fans lost their minds. They couldn’t fathom him breaking their illusion that they themselves could one day end up with him.
So instead of supporting him as he tried to find his own meaningful relationship with a good person who would actually be a great influence on him, his fans canceled him. In fact, he responded to fans’ nonsense and went as far as deactivating his Instagram for a bit, telling fans that if they were really his fans, they wouldn’t be doing this. The hashtag ##JustinBieberIsOverParty was trending, but like most times, people eventually forgot about it and moved on, putting that energy towards the next showing of fake outrage.
Billie Eilish is a great example of the totally unreasonable and ridiculous reasons to “cancel” or go after a celebrity. You’d think there wouldn’t be much to go after with this incredibly talented, beautiful, and wise-for-her-age artist, yet people found a way. They always do. Her gaff? Saying that Lady Gaga’s decade-old meat dress was “yikes.” Seems pretty tame, especially considering that she’s a staunch vegan and wasn’t even a diss towards Gaga, but the dress itself. Apparently, this minor voicing of her opinion on this trivial thing resulted in calls for her to be canceled by many of Gaga’s Little Monsters.
The account that posted the video of Eilish tagged it with #BillieEilishIsOverParty, and it soon took on a life of its own, leaving Eilish to deal with the backlash. Despite the fact that Eilish is a minor and didn’t even say anything serious, she was not spared. Luckily, many of her own fans stepped up, with one saying, “Y’all trynna cancel a 17 year old over an opinion, yikes that’s embarrassing.” If only everyone could keep that same energy all year.
Some personas are over-the-top, and no one expects them to behave. Take Azealia Banks, for example. She is messy, loud, and has gained a reputation for being a troll in the music industry and on social media in general. She’s had her social media suspended multiple times for the things she’s posted.
Back in 2016, Banks was dropped from her spot headlining a major music festival after posting racist tweets towards former One Direction member Zayn Malik, in which she referred to him as a “sand n*gga.”
In 2018, she got into a beef with RuPaul, even getting a song of his removed from Spotify after claiming he ripped off her song. She posted that RuPaul should be careful not to “step on my little black girl toes,” which saw an immediate “cancel” from the LGBTQ community.
Love him or hate him, I think we can all agree that Kanye West was never famous for his good judgment. Ye has given us a lot of opportunities to “cancel” him, many sticking with it and joining in to the constant drag online.
Kanye’s been controversial for many of his outspoken, off-the-cuff remarks, like when he said slavery was a choice. Whew! People were really thrown with that one. Looking more closely at Kanye, however, it’s pretty clear he’s struggled with mental health since long before that.
But we all need to consider the reality of this. Kanye is famous, yes. Does this mean he must expect more prying and judgment on his personal life? Yea, sure, today – that’s pretty much a given. But Kanye has also dealt with some incredible tragedy in the last decade, from the unexpected death of his mother and having to experience and work through that in front of everyone, to his battle with a prescription drug addiction all while trying to do a tour, manage a clothing line, and a growing, very famous family.
At what point to we recognize that these are people, not robots? They have struggles like all the rest of us, so why in the world are we expecting perfection or expecting them to fit some idealized concept? Kanye is good at what he does – extremely good – so can’t that be enough for us? We should value his art while being realistic about who he is as a person. His struggles do not mean we cannot appreciate and support him.
Kehlani has really worked her butt off over the years to establish herself as a power player in the music industry, and she’s earned the respect she deserves. However, this hasn’t been without her own cancel party or two.
Back in 2016, Kehlani made headlines after attempting to end her own life. She communicated some of her struggles to fans, letting them know what was happening and writing, “Today I wanted to leave this earth,” it read. “Being completely selfish for once. Never thought I’d get to such a low point.” As more details came out about what sparked the suicide attempt, people learned that she was embroiled in some messy stuff in her personal life. Without knowing anything about her relationship status, they preyed on the fact that her ex, PARTYNEXTDOOR, was with her during her recovery, accusing her of cheating on her recently confirmed new flame, NBA player Kyrie Irving.
In her caption, Kehlani told followers, “Don’t believe the blogs you read. No one was cheated on and I’m not a bad person. She added, “God saved me for a reason, and for that…I must be grateful.. Cuz I’m not in heaven right now for a reason.”
Rather than people recognizing that she was in a dark place and would need help and support from fans, they dragged her. Luckily, she was able to bounce back, but that doesn’t mean she won’t become a target again. People even came for her when she announced her new relationship with rapper LG, as though people shouldn’t be able to be happy about a relationship and tell others about it.
She even spoke about the whole idea of cancel culture in 2019, saying, “Let’s be real, real, real. Nobody ends up getting cancelled,” Kehlani said. “These people that we go in on—and it becomes heartbreaking sometimes—their streaming goes up, their views go up, they get more followers; they’re still booking shows. It’s disheartening as f**k.”
Although Kehlani thinks this whole “cancel culture” nonsense is useless in terms of getting any meaningful results when something happens, she does support the spirit of why people get to that point. “It’s not even the act of the cancelling itself that I support. It’s the act of if you are feeling unsafe and you are feeling unheard and someone has made you feel absolutely just low as hell, then you have every right to express your anger about that, and you have every right to set a boundary between yourself and this person,” she explained.
Her message, ladies and gentleman? Tell people how you feel and address it – but let’s chill with the whole “finish them” ideology for the slightest (or even biggest) infraction without thinking more deeply about it.
To Cancel or Not to Cancel
While everyone should be able to say what they think, this doesn’t absolve them of taking responsibility for those things that are said or done. We need to be more forgiving as a culture and listen more carefully rather than writing off everyone and everything based on first impressions. However, when some show us who they are and fail to ever change or learn from their mistakes, we might need to reserve some cancel sauce for them.
For those who may be deserving due to their outright and unabashedly bad behavior – carry on with the slaughter. Because some are far beyond saving. But the rest? Give people a chance to grow and right their wrongs before we wipe out a years of hard work and ruin lives. Just remember your most embarrassing mistake, and imagine it trending, and keep that same energy when you consider “canceling” the next offender. Open an ear, let them explain and be reactive – then decide. Let’s cancel this whole “canceling” business once and for all.