By Emma Jackson and Tatiany Rivera
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, cancel culture is “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling, as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure”. This term also refers to the “mass withdrawal of support from public figures or celebrities who have done things that aren’t socially accepted today. This practice of “canceling” or mass shaming often occurs on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook” – Demetria Slyt on Merriam-Webster.com.
The ultimate purpose of this movement is to completely de-platform individuals who have made unforgivable offenses. The rise of cancel culture began in the last couple of years and it is believed to have originated from Black Twitter around 2015. After an episode of VH1’s reality show Love and Hip-Hop: New York aired in December 2014, where a cast member tells his love interest “you’re canceled” and it caused uproar on social media. From then on, canceling individuals for their offenses spread like wildfire. In its early stages, cancel culture began as a light-hearted joke between social media users, but it evolved into a more serious discussion. Celebrities and politicians began suffering the repercussions of their past actions through cancel culture.
It is important to emphasize the power of cancel culture and how much panic it incites to any public figure as well as any average social media user. Social media is a place that will not tolerate any minor offense and will call-out anyone regardless of who they are, when they committed the offense and how apologetic they are. Cancel culture is subjective and can be harmful in many circumstances.
Although it is not a new idea, the act of canceling a person, especially someone of high or celebrity status, has grown exponentially in Western culture since the early 2010s with no real sign of slowing down anytime soon. Cancel culture is very different from what some refer to as “call-out culture,” which occurs when an individual points out when someone said something politically incorrect, offensive, or similar, and offers a more socially acceptable solution. Cancel culture, on the other hand, is a ruthless action that leaves no real room for the canceled individual to rectify their mistake.
So, why did canceling people become such a huge thing? The answer to that question lies more so in the people doing the canceling than in those who are canceled. In a climate where insulting or inappropriate action calls for immediate attention from the media, it is very easy to jump on a bandwagon of wanting to make that individual face the consequences of their actions. The rise of the #MeToo movement and other social justice actions are calling for people who have caused harm or serious insult to others to be held accountable for their actions. But cancel culture takes it a step further and attempts to exile that individual from popular culture and ruin their image for the general public.
It is easy to joke about being canceled over the littlest things, but in today’s climate, celebrities and other public figures are being canceled over a comment made 10 years prior that has resurfaced and made people angry. It has been brought into question what is unredeemable – especially in situations like comedy where things can be said to comment on the way society behaves, for a skit or joke. Are those comedians in the wrong and subject to being canceled because they made the comment? Due to the speed and aggressive nature of social media, cancel culture does not seem to be slowing down – and it is definitely not going away any time soon, since it is so ingrained in our culture as social creatures who wish to ostracize anyone who goes against our social laws and acceptable behaviors.
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