CANCEL CULTURE and why it is not always the best solution.
While a certain c-word has taken the news ablaze for most of 2020, there is another one which did not get much attention, but has been widespread this year – Cancel Culture.
For those of you who aren’t aware of this, Cancel Culture refers to this concept where everyone stops supporting a person(usually a public figure) and his/her endeavours because the person has engaged in an act which is seen as inappropriate in the eyes of the public. The whole idea behind this is to hold one accountable for his or her actions,so that they do not offend any ethnic, religious group or community as such in any way.
This year has seen multiple prominent public figures losing their fan following due to their insensitive behaviour. You had Shane Dawson, a once-famous youtuber who has a history with racist behaviour. He had an old video which resurfaced, in which he had made inappropriate comments about a then- 11 year old singer, Willow Smith. Then we have J.K Rowling, who is facing the heat for her transphobic tweets, and Ellen Degeneres, a TV host, who arguably had the biggest cancellation of the year – many staff members from The Ellen Degeneres Show complained about the extremely toxic work environment, with some claiming harassment and racism prevailed on set. One staff member even went on to call Ellen ‘the meanest people alive in a tweet, all of which is quite contradictory to her sweet, loving nature which is seen in front of the camera.
In all of the above instances, the idea behind cancelling these people makes sense. All of them have taken part in unjustifiable behaviour, with solid proof backing the accusations. They need to understand that as they live within the public eye, which is always completely by choice, they will be held to a higher standard of living, and their actions would be up for criticism and scrutiny. They cannot go about participating in activities which may hurt the sentiments of any social group or communities.
Coming to my point, looking at cancel culture from a general viewpoint and from the various examples mentioned above, it does indeed correct those with high influential power, but thanks to social media, rumours tend to go viral as much as actual news does, sometimes even more. In a time when it has become increasingly difficult to filter credible information, people tend to cancel artists by believing mere rumours, speculations and misinterpretation of actions which leads to unnecessary cancellations. This may seem irrelevant to you and me, but it can potentially cost an artist their career. It is absolutely important to also understand that we may never know what goes on in their private lives, or understand their personal mindset. If someone never shows that side to the public, they may go unharmed, but such exceptions will always exist.
Despite the above argument, cancelling celebrities does not always make sense, and sometimes is rather unnecessary, and happens due to misrepresented information. For instance, Lana Del Ray, a British singer, was cancelled for glorifying abuse and talking about the submissive or passive roles of women through her music. This, in my opinion, does not make sense at all. Lana Del Rey often portrays darker themes in her songs, and many actually reflect her personal stories.
Music is an art form. It is a channel through which one can express their feelings, experiences, emotions and thoughts. With that being said, it may also be a channel to understand someone’s ideology and viewpoints, they need not necessarily match one’s experiences. But if someone uses their art to show their support for a cause which is harmful to even a section of society, then that is where the limit is crossed, and then one should be held accountable for it. As in Lana’s case, just because her experiences conform to passive or submissive roles, it does not necessarily mean that she’s against women empowerment or for abuse glorification. She is portraying her thoughts, and has never stated that she is against women empowerment or supports abuse. None of her lyrics explicitly suggest this either.
If she can get cancelled for her lyrics, what about other western artists who quite regularly release music with highly explicit, and possibly offensive lyrics? Lana had pulled the same argument, mentioning the likes of Doja Cat, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande and Cardi B, but received further backlash, for pushing women of colour to defend herself. I find it hard to believe that if people can go ahead and cancel someone like Lana for merely singing about her experiences, why wouldn’t they go and cancel all of the artists who use dark themes or more explicit lyrics in their music?
At times, the cancellation is not even permanent, such as for Demi Lovato, who was allegedly cancelled for having an account where she trolled fellow singer Selena Gomez( she had later confirmed that the account was not hers), but apparently everyone forgot about this when she announced her engagement a few months later.
This article would not be complete without mentioning President Donald Trump, who first went on to state that he did not believe in cancel culture altogether, but then went on to call out Goodyear tires, a company which manufactures the tires of his presidential limousine, using this tweet.
To sum it up, cancel culture has indeed helped to hold celebrities accountable for their actions, but can have serious consequences for those who are cancelled for any sort of misinterpretation or false information.
S.Y B.Sc. Economics