“Cancel culture” is a very common phrase being used in today’s society, especially among Gen Z. However, many people don’t know what it means and what it encompasses. Furthermore, many people are familiar with what it means to be canceled, however, their definitions are reflections of common misconceptions on this concept. I will get deeper into the definition of being canceled later in this piece. Cancel culture has its “benefits,” however, these benefits are vastly disproportionate to the disadvantages. Like the prison system, it places more emphasis on punishment, rather than rehabilitation and education, in a sense. This has negative effects on society at large and the effects vary depending on who and what is being canceled. There are not only misconceptions on the definition of cancel culture. Many people associate occurrences with cancel culture when these occurrences do not exemplify it. Further information and clarification on this statement will be provided within the next few paragraphs. Overall, in this piece, I will get into the definition of being canceled as well as the pros and cons of it, and occurrences that exemplify this circumstance.
What does it mean to be canceled? Well first, let’s get into what it DOES NOT mean to be canceled. When someone or something is canceled, it does not mean that they are altered in their appearance or impact. To put it more simply, when something is changed to become more acceptable to present societal norms, it is not being canceled. This can be seen in three major conflicts which have occurred presently with Aunt Jemima Syrup, some of Dr. Suess’s books, and Mr. Potato head. Much controversy has surfaced because Quaker Oats, the producer of Aunt Jemima syrup, is going to be getting rid of the Aunt Jemima image on its bottles and potentially changing its name. This is because it is no longer concurrent with present-day norms of social justice, and frankly commonplace morals. Aunt Jemima was based on a minstrel show character. Minstrel shows would feature white people who dressed up as black people and acted out negative stereotypes. This is blatantly racist, and by allowing this image to stay on the syrup bottle sends the message that this racism was and still is okay. All of this aside, Aunt Jemima is not being canceled, merely altered. And to the dismay of many conservatives, liberals are not behind this, it is the company’s decision. Another company that decided to alter its business’s image is the company behind Dr. Suess’s books. Several of his books are being discontinued because of their racist imagery and backstories. But, this does not mean he is being canceled. First of all, he is dead, therefore he cannot be canceled. Second of all, not publishing some racist books does not mean an entire book company is being canceled. Common sense people! One additional example of a company changing its image can be seen by the Mr. Potato Head toy line. Instead of only Mr. and Mrs. Potato head, there will also be gender-neutral potatoes to encourage inclusivity in a day and age where exploration of gender identity is no longer taboo. Why people are mad over a toy potato they forgot existed until now, I have no clue. But, the main point here is that the potato is not being canceled, its existence as we know it is just being altered. From all of this, I think a correct definition for cancel culture can now be derived. When someone or something is canceled, it means that they are dismissed and rejected for whatever reason, whether it be their insensitivity or rude actions. For example, let’s say Sally says a racial slur online. People all over the internet witness her say the slur, and from there they cancel her. Ultimately, she is ostracized from society and loses support. You can imagine the vast negative effects that this can have on someone’s mental health, specifically their self-esteem, bringing me to my next point. The pros and cons of cancel culture.
It gives attention to marginalized groups.
It holds people accountable for their wrongful actions.
Leads to violence and bullying that can create problems larger than the initial offense.
It doesn’t teach the antagonist why their action was wrong, potentially making them do it again as they do not understand the problem behind what they did.
In circumstances when people are canceled for the wrong reason/no reason at all, it can promote the ideology that holding different viewpoints is wrong. More simply, it can encourage excluding someone because you disagree with them. For example, if Sally is fiscally conservative while everyone else believes in more liberal ideals when it comes to the economy, she could be canceled just because she holds a different stance.
In my opinion, the cons of cancel culture far exceed the pros of it.
Lastly, now that I have shown you situations that do not represent cancel culture, I will now show you circumstances that do.
A video from the year 2000 resurfaced of popular TV show host Jimmy Fallon doing an impersonation on SNL while in blackface. He was canceled as he faced lots of backlash and lost much support from fans and viewers.
Actress Vanessa Hudgens downplayed the pandemic and the effects of the virus while she was upset Coachella was being canceled. This insensitivity upset many of her fans and she continues to face hostility and lack of support.
Ellen DeGeneres has been canceled due to shady activity, her so-called rude personality, and claims of workers who stated that working there consisted of a hostile environment
With all that being said, I hope you now have a clear understanding of the true meaning behind cancel culture as well as the positive and negative effects of it. Cancel culture goes to show how aware this generation is of injustice and the lengths that people will go to to ensure everyone is being treated fairly. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine whether you deem it as an adequate punishment for insensitivity.
On another note, I have a very important petition for you to sign. It is for a young black boy by the name of Semarion Humphrey who was racially targeted and bullied. According to the petition description, “the bullying got so bad that he had quit the team but was excited when a former team member invited him over for a sleepover. He was called racial slurs, beaten, and forced to drink their URINE. That is disgusting but what is even more disgusting is that Plano ISD (the school district) did NOTHING to curb the bullying. demand that haggard middle school hold semarion’s assailants accountable.``
Thank you for reading. Stay safe, wear a mask, and social distance.