‘Cancelled’ culture is so cancelled

Photo illustration by Lauren Kelly

Shunning on social media does not educate or rectify the problematic
By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor


There are so many celebrities that have been “cancelled,” it’s hard to keep track. These include Kanye West, Shania Twain, Maya Jama, and Cardi B—to name a few. However, it’s not just celebrities getting shunned by the internet. Brands such as H&M and Dove have endured the public punishment that is being “cancelled,” with social media as their executioner.

Being “cancelled” is a sensation that has consumed social media. Anything from an unearthed offensive tweet, to saying who you would have voted for in the 2016 election, to a misunderstood commercial can earn you a one-way ticket to cancel city. The point is to get everyone to stop supporting whatever it is people have decided to shun. Although it has done some good in the past, I find that cancelling most of the things mainstream society finds problematic is both ineffective and often malicious.

Cancelling doesn’t serve to educate or change people’s problematic behaviour, nor does it make any meaningful difference in their lives or whether people support them. Take Kanye West for example: Despite being ostracized by social media for saying that he would have voted for Donald Trump in the election, and for claiming that “slavery was a choice,” people are still listening to his music, he’s still making money, and his career has suffered only minor nuisances. His new album Ye even reached number one on the Billboard charts. In his case, all “cancelling” has resulted in is a few days of being shunned by the internet and an apology, then it’s been practically forgotten.

Furthermore, shunning people doesn’t teach them about social issues or why their behaviour might be problematic, it only pushes the problem away. It’s practically cyberbullying celebrities for stating their opinions or brands for something that is misunderstood, or misguided.

When Dove first came out with their body wash advertisement in 2017, in which a Black woman removes her shirt and becomes a white woman, there was a huge storm of angry tweets directed at the brand because some people thought it implied that white skin was “clean.” However, if you watched the full advert, you’d see the white woman also takes off her shirt and becomes another Woman of Colour. People saw the first two seconds of the commercial and decided Dove was effectively eradicated, without really seeing the big picture.

Cancelled culture is toxic. It implies that a controversial opinion or a misunderstanding is enough to discredit your existence. It also makes quick, negative assumptions about something that may be completely harmless. People don’t learn what they said or did was wrong by being ignored—they learn through communication, education, and understanding.