Opinion: The Controversial Cancel Culture

Cancel culture has swept the digital age of Gen Z. It seems as though every time I log onto Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or other social media platforms, a new celebrity or content creator is getting “canceled.” But what does it mean?

According to dictionary.com, cancel culture is “the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions.” While this might be the official definition, it is not always practiced “correctly.” The act of canceling can be as minor as blocking someone on social media, but it can also entail online bullying or scrutinizing, calling for an individual’s firing, boycotting, or other various forms of protest. There is definitely something to be said for not giving creators or businesses a large platform if they have corrupt practices or offensive content. Sometimes, however, creators get canceled for things that are too minor.

The action of “canceling” often fails to allow room for personal growth. When the public sees a celebrity doing something problematic, instead of attempting to educate them, they often just cancel them. This prohibits any opportunity for the person to correct their mistakes. On the other hand, if this creator continues to act problematically with no remorse, it becomes more understandable to not support them anymore. For instance, take J.K. Rowling, author of the popular Harry Potter book series. While fans grew up loving the stories and movies, many have recently found her transphobic and homophobic pins, tweets, and books to be harmful, withdrawing their support.

Recent controversial statements are not the only ones that are attacked. Many celebrities’ years-old tweets, posts, and comments have been scoured up from the depths of the internet. While these tweets are often absolutely outrageous and unacceptable, perhaps fans go too far in canceling people over 10-year-old tweets — especially if they’ve grown and learned in the meantime.

People can get canceled for many different things. Pedophilia (in the case of TikTokers Toney Lopez, Zoe Lavern, and Benji) and racism and usage of racial slurs (in cases of public figures Chase Hudson, Madonna, Shane Dawson) have both sparked widespread cancellations. Many celebrities have also been canceled for being affiliated with certain political candidates. A new cancellation surge has also arisen during the coronavirus pandemic because of people who are throwing large parties: Bryce Hall, Blake Gray, the Jenners/Kardashians, and more. People also get canceled for less severe offenses, such as romantic cheating, unfriending or not supporting others, vaping, unpopular relationships, and getting arrested for minor offenses like smoking pot.

Canceling is not exclusive to celebrities and social media stars. Companies like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Forever 21, Shein, Zaful, Romwe, and countless others have been shunned for their use of child labor. Amazon is also widely looked down on because of its CEO Jeff Bezos, who makes absurd amounts of money for doing very little labor himself and exploiting workers. 

Brandy Melville has also been canceled for its questionable hiring decisions, and its “one size fits all” petite clothing sizing. However, while many people can declare a “cancel” on these companies, it’s very difficult to actually abstain from them since they dominate the clothing chain.

So is the idea of canceling a good or bad thing? As the saying goes, to each their own. Many find it extremely toxic, while some, at least in theory, think it could be a good way to make sure only “good people” get large platforms, and some simply think it is overdone and that people shouldn’t be canceled for “one-time offenses.” Is canceling really the best way to create a helpful space for others to grow? Is our goal to punish or educate?