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The Good VS. The Bad Cancel Culture

The Good VS. The Bad Cancel Culture

Those who frequent their social media may have come across the word “cancel” a numerous amount of times on their feed and, if you are not hip with the times, you may be confused as to why people are “canceling” certain public figures. Similar to modern online dialect, such as “same” or “and I-oop”, very simple one-syllable words are used to portray a bigger meaning. To help break it down for those who are still confused, these popular words are usually used on Twitter, specifically, in a comical sense or for a dark humor approach. For instance, if someone posts a picture on Twitter with a dead squirrel on the side of the road, the thread would include responses like “same” as a phrased way to say that you relate to the post. Another popular response to this dark humor approach arose from a famous video where someone said “and I-oop”, which is now used as a comical diversion or response to shock. It seems that every year our socials are now cluttered with small words that lead to a bigger meaning and these words somehow are able to unite users as a society and make us feel like we can all relate to one another under one, huge internet meme. The latest, and most controversial, the phrase is now “cancel”, which basically is saying you are defaming someone for what they did or have done. Unlike the rest of the trend words, “cancel” has created a new debate over social media on whether this idea of “canceling” someone should be considered toxic. 

The Negatives of Cancel Culture

Although, “canceling” someone first started off as a joke, just like every other Twitter trend, the more it was used people began to take the idea of canceling public figures incredibly seriously inadvertently creating its own online culture. Advanced technology and the internet have provided a world where nothing anyone posts is forever gone and privacy itself is a privilege. In this modern age of social media, users have developed a vigorous defense to stand up for what they believe in and cement what is considered good and bad. Although cancel culture itself introduced a new way to portray these messages by exposing the wrongdoings of public figures, including most of the popular content creators on Youtube, the initial positivity behind the idea took a downward spiral. What started off as just another one-worded meme may now be argued to represent cyberbullying and an overall invasion of a celebrity’s privacy. For example, recent cancel culture instances involved numerous named within the beauty community of Youtube. Popular names such as Laura Lee, Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson, and James Charles are some of the latest to be slandered. Laura Lee, Jeffree Star, and Shane Dawson have become quite controversial due to the multiple cases of racist activity in their past, which were all exposed by someone finding their old tweets or videos and bringing them back to the surface. Cancel culture arises due to online “drama” and it’s impossible for viewers, fans, and followers of popular content creators to tell the real “tea” from the fake. This past summer, drama erupted in the YouTube beauty community after James Charles was supposedly exposed by another YouTuber, Tati Westbrook, who created a very long “Bye Sister” video leveling charges at James Charles—a makeup artist who did the makeup for Tati Westbrook’s wedding. She issued a lengthy diatribe accusing James Charles of numerous horrible things; the most notable allegation suggested that Charles had been sexually objectifying young straight men and carrying on with unwelcome flirtations that bordered on assault. This scandal occurred in the midst of a record-breaking eyeshadow palette launch by James Charles in association with Morphe cosmetics. In the wake of the Tati Westbrook “Bye Sister” video, cancel culture was quick to blow up the evidence and ultimately started endless threads full of hate, yet their fights to defame the famous YouTubers failed and actually ended up having the opposite effect. While Charles’s follower count declined by the millions in the immediate wake of “Bye Sister” and Westbrook’s follower count exploded, adding roughly 5 million followers to her channel, in the weeks that followed the “Bye Sister” scandal, Charles released his own videos in response and defended himself against Westbrook’s allegations. Despite a few weeks of videos decrying James Charles as a predator and cancel culture, his follower count rebounded as quickly as it dissipated and Westbrook seems to have retained the majority of her 5 million windfalls of new followers. 

 These specific cases are interesting because clearly these acts of racism and accusations of sexual assault are intolerable in everyday life, yet for these famous figures, bad publicity is still publicity. Since the “Bye Sister” scandal broke, James Charles went on to have record-breaking sales of his Morphe eyeshadow palette and just this past week, Tati Westbrook launched her “Tati Beauty” line and has reportedly sold out of the eyeshadow palette she released at launch. 

Cancel culture is quick to pounce on the latest web-scandal but, quite often, when these scandals hit, content creators may see their subscriber counts plummet for a few weeks and then skyrocket right back up after, especially if they keep the adding to the churn by delivering response of apology videos, which can leave them more famous than before. The problem with cancel culture is that it provides an excuse for users to cyberbully others and invade their privacy. In addition, cancel culture is notoriously ineffective in that the majority of people being “canceled” never experience their careers ending. They may lose a few fans, but those are immediately replaced by more curious viewers. In a recent trend, cancel culture is now viewed as a toxic idea to end someone’s popularity because they did something unsavory or made a mistake years ago. In a world where people are constantly learning and becoming more mature, it is hard to completely write someone off due to their past mistakes. The world is seeming to take more notice of that issue, as evidenced by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s re-election earlier this month despite a very serious blackface scandal for which he was rightly criticized and has made attempts to apologize and atone for—a move that the Canadian people appear to have embraced by casting votes indicating they are willing to forgive Trudeau for his past mistakes. 

The Positives of Cancel Culture

Cancel culture may now mostly involve spreading hate, but many can argue that there are positives within this trend. The major positive is that users are defining what is acceptable and unacceptable to do in today’s society. What used to be grey-area for some people is now general public knowledge. For example, blackface and Caucasians saying the n-word is not tolerable—but apologies that are received as genuine can win back a skeptical public—as seen in Trudeau’s case. Not all cancel culture is bad or ineffective and in cases where an enraged internet continues to expose sexual assaulters, like Brock Turner, never letting the public forget what a specific predator did and could do to someone else does appear to have at least some social value. While cancel culture can get out-of-hand sometimes, it is important to remember that its initial intention was used as a light way to say: Hey, don’t do that. Thereby, if cancel culture has a use, it is to act as a lesson or provide a comical response. 

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Sierra Joan Sierra Joan

 @Sierra Swanson  @sierrajoan  @sierrajoan_  @sierrajoan_