What is Cancel Culture?

2 mins read

By Mairin Hoffman ’25

What is Cancel Culture? People who aren’t active social media users may be asking this question, and boy, you are in for a ride. Cancel Culture has taken the world by storm, particularly when the use of social media evolved. While it may be hard to explain what cancel culture is, pewresearch.com has summed it up; “Cancel Culture is a movement to remove celebrity status or esteem from a person, place, or thing based on offensive behavior or transgression.”. Although Cancel Culture has been applied to politicians, it is mostly applied to celebrities involved in pop culture and those with huge fanbases.

An example of Cancel Culture is viewing a celebrities’ past (for example, scrolling to the beginning of their YouTube channel or their Instagram) and seeing that they may have done some actions that are controversial or just offensive. People bring up these actions, and everyone starts to hate this celebrity and claims them as “canceled.”. 

As much as Cancel Culture just seems like an online issue, it can go outside of the internet and affect someone’s personal life immensely. An example of an extremely out-of-hand cancel culture is with James Charles in 2019. James Charles is a popular YouTuber known for his makeup videos, and Tati Westbrook, another beauty YouTuber, made a long 25-minute video explaining horrible things that James allegedly did. James immediately began to get hated, when there was a lack of proof of the things Tati said he did. He lost more than a million subscribers and brands stopped working with him. Everyone on TikTok was destroying his makeup palette, and he was labeled as “canceled” and “problematic”. James fought back with a longer video, showing proof of the lies Tati spread and showing that everything she said was false. Lots of people were suddenly back on his side, while others despised James still. This situation shows how someone’s life can be ruined because of Cancel Culture and that even with a lack of proof people will believe it.

Cancel Culture may get mixed up for accountability, but it is entirely two different things. It makes sense for us as a society to want to hold those on platforms accountable, but this system is simply toxic and unproductive. Accountability for your own actions is important, but being canceled because of mistakes you made, you are defined as canceled for the rest of your life. People need to realize that everyone makes mistakes and we are human and canceling culture has just made this harder to realize and accept. Of course, some people deserve to have their careers taken away if they continue to keep making problematic choices, but everyone makes mistakes and that is something we as a society should accept more often. That being said, we need to recognize the difference between accountability and Cancel Culture, as with the use of social media, it may get increasingly difficult. 

Photo courtsey NBC News

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