Cancel culture has earned a conflicting reputation on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
The controversy comes from the mere definition: a sociocultural process to terminate someone’s platform due to political beliefs, racism, transphobia, homophobia and more.
Cancelations occur for reasons such as disapproval of opinions shared in interviews, offensive or controversial posts on social media, and even with celebrity looks appearing as cultural appropriation. Though opinions on what constitutes a “cancelation” can be divided, once a high profile figure shares something that could be deemed inappropriate, it’s almost never long until intense reactions follow.
Some wonder if cancel culture is merely a trend, instead of an actual crusade for social justice. Betsy Kunstel, director of advising and retention for Ohio University, believes cancel culture is undoubtedly a trend.
“Now, is it a trend that’s going to fizzle out?,” Kunstel said in a message. “I doubt it, I kind of hope not. For example, after Ellen Degeneres came out on her sitcom, it was cancelled the next season. We never held anyone accountable for their words or actions that caused or contributed to the oppression of people in the past.”
Cancel culture has evolved throughout the years, and deciding what deserves to be canceled strongly correlates with “fitting in.”
“It's like a total popular crowd,” Hakan Karaaytu, an OU doctoral student, said. “People don't know what they are doing. They are just doing what other people are doing. That's why they want to be doing it. Also, hate is a very strong emotion born with that. That's why it's so easy and, also, so delicious.”
With social media gaining traction, those of popular status are watched closely through posts, videos, tweets and public appearance. In past years, TikTok has become a site for cancel culture. Comments like “Wait do we like her,” “I thought she was canceled,” or “I can’t decide whose side I’m on,” appear often.
“The one I can mention extensively is James Charles,” Regan Magee, a freshman studying civil engineering, said. “He was canceled for something he didn’t even do. I think it’s unfair because everyone jumped to conclusions and it resulted in the loss of millions of followers. I'll see like one video on TikTok that’s talking bad about someone and how they've done this and they're canceled. I won't really look further into it. I just want to believe it and then, I'm like ‘Well that person's canceled.’ I'll say all the time — ‘Isn't she bad or something?’”
Though cancel culture has been around for quite a while, it’s still alive and canceling left and right in 2020. Some celebrities who have received their “cancelation status” this year are J.K. Rowling for transphobic tweets, Lea Michelle for her mistreating of Glee castmates and Ellen DeGeneres for having a toxic work environment.
Kunstel said that another celebrity that comes to mind with the topic of cancel culture is Roseanne Barr.
“I grew up in the 90s and we watched Roseanne (the sitcom) religiously in my house, in fact, I still love those old shows,” Kunstel said in a message. “Then recently, after the 2016 election when her show was rebooted, she said some dumb, dumb, things and the series wasn’t cancelled but she was taken off and it was renamed. Harvey Weinstein also comes to mind since he produced movies as a sexual predator for how many years and we just now decided to cancel him?”
Karaaytu also feels that cancel culture is controlled by the world of social media — bringing up past interviews and having an archive of past interviews, social media dangerously threatens those with a controversial past.
“I think this culture has lost a balance,” Karaaytu said. “Let's imagine that everybody is in charge. People are judging, people are giving penalties. This is a kind of judge and prosecutor. It sounds and looks horrible, and people, again, cannot just consist of a message. People are judging, people are making pressure on companies or institutes and they are losing their jobs. That's why I am against this culture and it doesn't make sense to me.”
Though they all know cancel culture isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Kunstel, Karaaytu and Magee feel people should tread lightly when “canceling” another person, as it could ruin their entire career and livelihood.
“Seeing these people in top positions get canceled for doing one thing wrong is disheartening,” Magee said. “When all eyes are on you it's so easy to get canceled because you do one wrong thing and it's over. I try to think of how this affects me and how I see the world — and ultimately, it just makes it unfair.”