You might have noticed the phrase “cancel culture” cropping up on social media and in the news. Cancel culture can be described as the concept of someone, celebrity status or not, getting shamed on social media for behaving unethically, with past actions inevitably coming to the surface. These past actions, whether intentional or unintentional, miniscule or major, can sometimes act as the sole basis for a person’s “cancellation,” causing society to question this person’s entire character.
Cancel culture is a loaded phrase with many implications behind its use, not to mention another controversial topic that can easily flare up those who argue for or against it. One side believes that cancel culture is an all-too-real fear and doesn’t feel comfortable being open and honest with their thoughts. They deny the accountability of cancel culture, stating it instead creates victims who get undeservingly slandered or creates an environment where people feel censored. On the other hand, the opposing side tends to see cancel culture as an easy way to decipher the good nuts from the bad, kind of like Willy Wonka and his squirrels. But cancel culture isn’t that black-and-white.
First off, whatever the original intention of cancel culture was supposed to be, people do not actually get cancelled in real life. Have you ever seen an actor who was cancelled one year show up in a new movie the next? Or an internet personality’s makeup line continuing to sell, if not heightening their sales, after past racist comments were revealed? If a “cancelled victim” still maintains status and wealth quietly, they aren’t really cancelled and are in most cases trying to victimize themselves. Most of the time, considering some of the heinous actions committed, they were barely held accountable, only getting knocked down a notch and having to work a little harder to rebuild their brand and trust in the public eye again. But there are those instances where a punishment or cancellation isn’t merited.
Jane Doe gets her first senior role at a company. The next day, she makes a very ludicrous comment on Facebook, and a mass of people swarm the office with emails and phone calls, demanding unemployment for someone they didn’t even know existed the day before. Jane issues an apology, but after a few days of dealing with a mob mentality from a bunch of randoms, the company decides to let Jane go. How can strangers have the authority to decide on someone else’s character? Why should a company backpedal on a hire without even knowing the integrity of those demanding Jane’s termination?
We can get extremely caught up in details and forget the bigger picture when we decide what constitutes a mistake and what doesn’t. That’s where the harm of cancel culture truly lies – in bringing down the hammer for all the wrong instances. By all means, let’s hold people accountable for their harmful actions, especially those in positions of power. But the groupthink of choosing to write someone off before their redemption story has even begun doesn’t help us progress, it makes us players in a game to assign blame. We all make mistakes, and that’s a tale as old as time. It’s why our human nature is to forgive and forget because we know people can still be worthy even after they screw up. So let’s give each other the chance and the space to do better.