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Cancel Culture: Is it as Effective as it Seems?

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What is cancel culture?

Gradually, individuals have begun to introduce cancel culture or call-out culture. The idea and thought behind it is that a person – particularly public figures – can be ‘cancelled’ because of past or present actions and comments that are deemed offensive. Most of this cancel culture is fuelled by political stances and beliefs. Cancel culture is arguably a modern form of ostracism, as it generally has negative connotations and can be used to be a debate against free speech and censoring individuals.

History of cancel culture

Where did cancelling an individual and cancel culture originate from? Cancel culture began to find its footing in 2014, growing significantly in 2017 during the #MeToo movement. With the #MeToo movement and current movements like Free Palestine, it can show just how powerful social media is with its widespread viewing; giving a voice to people and helping fight injustice. With cancel culture, however, it can be debatable whether it is as positive as other movements or a toxic way for people to call out others for their mistakes and release frustration. Cancelling an individual can be seen as quite subjective.

Issues arising with cancel culture

Cancel culture grew during the lockdown as people found themselves spending more time online and with the current political climate, it can be debated as to whether it is a toxic ‘trend’ or something that is bringing change and a level of ‘wokeness’.

Living in a time where individuals and society expect you to be ‘woke’ and aware of what you say and do – claiming if you are not correct that you are at risk of being ‘cancelled’ – raises the question of whether this culture trend is toxic and taking away freedom of speech. Nowadays, it is becoming quite common for a public figure to lose their brand deals or even lose their job because of being cancelled.

Despite this, some individuals are excused of their behaviours because of their looks; the term being pretty privilege. Pretty privilege, like any other privilege, is created by society, granting benefits and exempting, or lessening the effect on, beautiful people from negativity such as being cancelled and scrutiny because they have good looks. This isn’t a new phenomenon, with an infamous example being Ted Bundy who was fetishized as a serial killer because of his looks.

With cancel culture, pretty privilege has allowed particular individuals to escape being cancelled because they are privileged frfom their looks, so for this they are excused from their current and past bad behaviours. A recent example is Nessa Barrett(a TikToker) who has been disrespectful and racist but was not cancelled because of her looks. But are looks a justifiable excuse to look over individuals wrongs? What makes better looking people better, for them to be treated differently?

Can cancel culture bring change?

Notably, cancel culture has bought some positive and social change. It has been extremely effective on tackling sexism, racism, or other types of abuse and wrongdoings. It has called out individuals and held them accountable for the actions committed. Cancel culture can be viewed as a way to strongly demand social change and address the deep-rooted inequalities that is keeping the voiceless, voiceless.

‘Social media has democratised shaming (we can shame anyone we like) simultaneously expanding its reach, stripping away any mitigating or humanising context and leaving permanent paper trail of what might have been a momentary indiscretion’

Cancel culture and its toxicity

Conversely, it can also be very toxic allowing innumerable people to target and attack an individual. This can pose a huge risk to the individuals mental health – having the whole world target and dehumanise them. It can also make other individuals weary and question themselves about what they do and worry if they might be targeted next, causing them significant stress. 

Cancel culture is arguably a step backwards in our society because it targets individuals with the underlying message that if someone makes a mistake, there is no return from it. It can be dangerous to have this thought process as it encourages people to call out and attack each other. It also makes people very reluctant to forgive people for their mistakes. People make mistakes every day and continue to do so but that does not always equate to them being a bad person. Is this a justifiable reason and an excuse to cancel someone and make their life problematic? We learn from our mistakes, so not having a chance to learn and change would just show how backwards our society could be heading. Cancel culture can have its pros and cons but it can be debatable whether it creates social justice or simply increases toxic behaviour. Calling out an individual for their mistake so they can learn from it can be reasonable but when do you cross the line? Having the need and demand to cancel an individual can be problematic? Is cancel culture as effective as people make it out to be?

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