The term ‘Cancel Culture’ gets thrown around a lot these days. We often see the term when a major celebrity has done or said something that is deemed terrible by our collective societal standard.
Racism, homophobia, transphobia and any other kind of bigotry are genuine reasons why someone might be cancelled. The only problem is, there’s a vocal portion of the internet who believe cancel culture is wrong.
However, cancel culture is a wide term and seems to be used to defend any celebrities against criticism on the internet. Most recently, Gina Carano who is best known for having played Cara Dune in Disney’s popular The Mandalorian series came under fire for a series of incidents.
Not only was Carano accused of mocking the trans community over pronouns, but she was also linked to several anti-mask and election tampering posts. However, It was her criticism of mask-mandates and encouragement of church openings that drew the most ire from fans online.
The reason I bring up Carano, is that her behaviour and subsequent firing is what being cancelled actually looks like. Far too often people use the term as a catchall for anyone who receives criticism.
The term cancel culture seems is thrown around to describe anyone who faces public criticism. Most recently Gal Gadot, the star of WB's Wonder Woman, came under fire for a social media post commenting on the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Palestine.
Gadot herself is Israeli, so it’s understandable that she would have a vested interest in what’s happening. However, many construed her post as biased, citing that her wording was reductive and minimised the suffering experienced by Palestinian’s. It’s an immensely complex issue with moral, ethical ideological ramifications, but Gadot's opinion didn't get the actress ‘cancelled’.
However, numerous Twitter and Facebook posts afterwards complained about Gal Gadot's cancellation. In reality, Gadot turned the comments off on her post, and hasn’t really faced any other form of backlash. She’s still a huge movie star, and she's in the run for another Wonder Woman film.
Better known as Bucky, The Winter Soldier, Sebastian Stan recently came under fire for liking a post which argued that white people should be able to use the n word. As the primary character in one of 2021’s most popular TV shows, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the internet criticised Stan for liking the post.
Once again, Stan's proposed cancellation angered some on the internet. Even though he still continues to work, and is currently starting the promotional process for the upcoming Pamela Anderson and Tommy-Lee biopic. It seems that any time the internet criticises celebrities for questionable behaviour, a portion of the internet erupts in anger, bemoaning cancel culture.
Cancel Culture in action
Criticism is good though. Celebrities don’t have to be role models for society, but they are in a position of privilege and influence. Therefore, people are well within their rights to call someone out for culturally insensitive and problematic behaviour. This isn’t cancel culture, it is simply facing the consequences for one's actions. Cancel culture as a concept isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes people do really terrible things, while abusing their position of privilege.
The internet famously cancelled Louis C.K following a string of accusations of sexual harassment in 2017. Several networks dropped the comedian, who lost work valued at $35 million. Rather than deny the claims, C.K admitted to the allegations and showed remorse for his actions. Since then, C.K has faded into relative obscurity, with only a few mentions from big name friends like Dave Chappelle. The comedian has since returned to stand up, but pulls a fraction of the audience he used to.
Another high-profile celebrity to get actually cancelled was Kevin Spacey. Star Trek actor Anthony Rapp took to social media to explain that Spacey made unwanted sexual advances towards him when he was 14. Spacey was 26.
The social media firestorm gave multiple victims the bravery to also speak up on their experiences with the actor. Meanwhile, crowds of Twitter users demanded Spacey to be dropped from House of Cards and other projects. For years, this worked, but even now the actor is climbing back into acting with The Man Who Drew God.
Much like Louis C.K, Spacey will continue to get work in the film industry, even if he doesn't bring in the huge cheques he used to. That's what being cancelled really means: you become Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K or Arnie Hammer. It's not just Twitter calling you an idiot.
Criticism is good
Collectively cancelling someone who abused their position of power to sexually harass people is a good thing. This is real cancel culture in action, and with good reason. There’s a societal contract we all metaphorically sign when we live in a society. We all know not to do things like stealing or assaulting people. So, when someone does something bad, it shouldn’t be surprising that many people no longer want to interact with that individual
Instead of simply labelling any criticism of a celebrity as cancel culture, we should encourage criticism of people who say or do questionable things in the public forum. Celebrities may not be role models, but they aren’t impervious to criticism.
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