In April 2019, beauty YouTuber James Charles was considered cancelled by millions after another YouTuber, Tati Westbrook, called Charles out for being a “sellout” and “finding him inconsiderate and often offensive,” as NBC reported.
After being cancelled, Charles then experienced one of the largest drops in subscriber count for a YouTuber, losing three million subscribers over the span of a week.
The term “Cancel Culture” originally came out of originally came out of social movements such as #Metoo. It was a tool for people to publicly hold powerful figures like Bill Cosby and Louis C.K. accountable for their crimes and misconduct, according to Merriam Webster.
Originally, cancelling was a meaningful concept with a necessary message: to punish people who did something that is immoral or unethical.
However, today’s version of cancel culture, characterized by rapid cancelling of people from public figures to previous friends for a range of offenses or mistakes, doesn’t hold the same meaning as its original use. Today’s cancel culture doesn’t allow for people to grow and to realize that what they did was wrong and to learn from their mistakes.
The New York Times ran an article in October 2019 in which teenagers talk about their experiences cancelling their peers or being cancelled themselves. The article depicts a range of experiences from cancelling somebody for being racist to being a supporter of the Trump administration, to something as simple as somebody being annoying.
Cancelling a student, however, isn’t as effective because they don’t have a platform and an audience of millions like many celebrities do.
While cancelling is effective in some circumstances, in a political sense, it isn’t the most effective method of challenging an opposing perspective. America is a country that values the diversity of political opinions and points of view. In a country that values the freedom of speech, that freedom seems to be tainted in recent years, by some people only valuing the freedom of speech, if it coincides with what they believe. People should be allowed to have their own points of view without judgement.
One example of this comes from Kanye West. During his 2018 Twitter tirade, Kanye was bashed for openly supporting Donald Trump, which led to him being considered cancelled. He expressed his feelings on stage after the show on how he was being treated again after going on SNL and talking about how he was mistreated by cast members backstage after he donned a Make America Great Again hat.
SNL is a program with a huge audience, and there are many within this audience who are quick to criticize the show and its cast members. Last year, Shane Gillis was part of the new SNL rookie class, which included the first Asian American cast member, Bowen Yang. After some digging, people found clips of Gillis saying derogatory things about Chinese-Americans. Soon thereafter, the spokesperson for SNL referenced Gillis’s previous clips in the decision to release Gillis from the show, according to NPR. These videos that surfaced were from the previous year and while Gillis should’ve been more conscious about what he said, cancel culture does not create opportunities for people like Gillis to learn from their mistakes.
Gillis’s situation triggered multiple responses that helped emphasize the negativity that comes with cancel culture.
Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who identifies as Asian-American, went on the CNN show State of the Union with Jake Tapper shortly after the Gillis’s situation blew up and said, “I believe that our country has become excessively punitive and vindictive about remarks that people find offensive or racist and that we need to try and move beyond that.”
Yang is addressing the fact that people are too quick to judge people after certain actions.
Another response to Gillis’s comments came from fellow comedian Rob Schneider stating, “I’m Sorry [Shane Gillis] had the misfortune of being a cast member during this era of cultural unforgiveness where comedic misfires are subject to intolerable inquisition.”
Schneider’s take on this leans more towards recognizing Gillis’s comedic failure.
“[Cancel Culture] Doesn’t offer the person who was cancelled an opportunity for redemption,” sophomore Jack Kalil states.
By providing more dialogue as to why what was done had negative repercussions or the intentions behind one’s words, , it grants more opportunities for a person to grow through reasonable and thoughtful conversation while still holding them accountable for their actions.
So how can this be turned into something more constructive? Today’s version of cancelling somebody negates all possibility for dialogue and conversation around the mistakes. As of now, cancel culture doesn’t accept people to change and their old points of views do not accurately represent how they feel or what they believe now. People should not be socially outcasted; they should be called out.
Calling somebody out and cancelling somebody are two different things. Calling somebody out is a more efficient way of achieving the aim of cancelling somebody. It acknowledges the person made a mistake but outside of that, there isn’t the social retribution of being cancelled. By simply calling out somebody, you aren’t necessarily closing the door on conversations nor are you limiting their ability to fix their mistakes and learn from them.
For younger people like ourselves, we should take care not to quickly cancel people, especially our peers, and be more cautious when using the phrase “cancelled.” Once we start allowing for conversations to happen and to allow for people to move forward, then as a community we can better ourselves and not allow for toxic communications to flow freely.