Gen Z reacts to cancel culture
December 17, 2020
The influx of political and social changes such as the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter movement and a general social acceptance of the LGBTQ community redefined social standards in America. With this comes the growth of cancel culture, the process by which a celebrity or person of power is “canceled” or ostracized by the public for unpopular and often controversial opinions that go against these standards. While the lasting effects of cancel culture can range from a decline in social media followers to losing job opportunities and income, being “canceled” seems to be celebrities’ worst nightmare these days.
Cancel culture culminated its own controversy as it gained positive and negative reviews. Some believe it serves as a system to keep celebrities in check while others suggest society often abuses its powers for minor issues. Others are able to see both sides.
“I feel like cancel culture is good and bad,” junior Mary Braden said. “Good in the sense of holding people responsible for their actions and not supporting them if they’re bad people. You shouldn’t support someone if they are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Bad in the sense that sometimes people take it too far and cancel people for trivial things and use cancel culture as an excuse to bully someone.”
Cancel culture also allows society to single out who to criticize and who to keep safe. Often, bias on social media determines who is “canceled” and who’s not more so than the actions of individuals themselves, constantly leaving people wondering who’s next.
“I feel like cancel culture doesn’t really work a lot of the time because people are selective in who they cancel,” Braden said. “People either ignore when certain celebrities do something problematic they should be called out on or they don’t allow someone to grow if they made a past mistake and have changed.”
As more and more situations throughout 2020 have emerged, so have new views and opinions, such as those on politics and racial injustice. The number of “canceled” celebrities and social media influencers has soared since the term first became popular over the past few years. This year alone celebrities such as author JK Rowling, makeup artist Jeffree Star, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, actress Lea Michele and Tik Tok star Charli D’amelio have all fallen prey to the system.
“The amount of celebrities I have seen get canceled has really increased over the past few years,” junior Lauren Gentile said. “I think it definitely comes from an increase in social changes like the Black Lives Matter movement and the Presidential election this year.”
However, cancel culture has different effects on every individual it targets. In November, Charli D’amelio lost more than one million followers on Tik Tok, although she was able to gain them back within a few weeks once the drama surrounding her so-called “entitlement” subsided. JK Rowling and Jeffree Star have not received the same redemption for their transphobic and racist remarks respectively as they continue to lose fans and collaboration opportunities with other celebrities. This puts the policing system of cancel culture in a position without specific rules and consequences, things society most often needs in order to function.
“I think cancel culture has gotten out of control because it is so obvious that the public picks and chooses who to defend and who to cancel,” Gentile said. “I have seen people on TikTok get canceled for various reasons, and I agree that some people who cross the line and offend many people should not have a platform. However, I have seen some people give sincere apologies and not be forgiven by anyone, yet some give insincere apologies and their fans accept them right away.”
While many celebrities have been “canceled” for rational reasons such as transphobic tweets or racist remarks, there are also those who are criticized for simple human mistakes as well. When those people are the ones receiving more negative attention than those who continuously make offensive remarks and comments, the concept of cancel culture seems counterintuitive.
“The problem is that people use cancel culture for trivial things instead of calling out problematic people,” Braden said. “For example, I once saw someone get canceled for not liking a certain musician even though they didn’t say anything negative about them, just that they weren’t the person’s style. However, there are still celebrities who are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. that still have their jobs and are making a lot of money.”
In October of last year, former President Barack Obama expressed similar feelings on this idea in a speech at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. Obama spoke directly to his young audience, emphasizing the idea that everyone makes mistakes.
“You know, this idea of purity and that you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,” Obama said. “The world is messy; there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”
Obama went on to illustrate the negative side of cancel culture that allows people to feel pride in putting others down. He addressed the common misconception that cancel culture is a form of activism in which calling others out is justified and explained how doing so does not result in true societal changes.
“Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb,” Obama said, “then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, cause, ‘Man, you see how woke I was, I called you out.’ That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”
Young people who see the faults of cancel culture then must determine where canceling someone crosses the line and come up with other ways that society can hold people in positions of power accountable for their actions while also allowing them to learn and correct themselves.
“I think people who often have the spotlight should be informed when they do something wrong because they have many people who look up to them, but the act of society trying to ruin another person’s career/life is not acceptable,” Gentile said. “I think there are other ways to approach people’s mistakes rather than spreading those mistakes around the internet.”