Thursday, September 24, 2020
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CANCEL CULTURE – DOES IT WORK?

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DID WE NEED TO RUIN AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL’S LEGACY BASED ON CHALLENGES WE NOW SEE TO BE HARMFUL?

You have the power to cancel a credit card or a paid subscription, but should anyone have the power to cancel a human being? Have we as a society become “woke” or just too sensitive and quick to judge? We’re all on edge and who could blame us? We’re living in the middle of a global pandemic, a civil rights movement, an economic depression, and a disappointing election, all while having an unqualified and antagonizing bully as president. Whether it’s a deep investigation into a celebrities past or analyzing microaggressive tweets and captions, quarantine has everyone primed with lit torches and sharpened pitchforks. How could they not be? Every single terrible piece of news this year has made us all hypersensitive and uber paranoid. We’ve all had a lot to process, and it’s much easier to point the finger at high-profile celebrities and shame them for their privilege than to worry about making real change. Besides, how many people are truly innocent of anything they’re complaining about online? Cancel culture has taken over the internet, but maybe it’s time to start a conversation about who’s being canceled and whether or not it’s a helpful contribution to society.

The idea of ‘call-out/cancel culture’ has always been an active part of the human mind; but it became most prominent following the #MeToo movement in 2014, in which people began to call out the questionable or oppressive behavior they were witnessing– mostly at the hands of straight white men. Celebrities made this movement what it was, and their influence has spread to every movement the country has ever seen. Our attention spans are mostly available for people we recognize from entertainment, especially since many young people choose to stay as far away from political news as possible. There’s a misconception that people in the public eye should be model citizens, immediately know how to handle any situation with grace and humility, and that they owe groups of thousands or millions of people a blanket apology when they do something that complete strangers deem to be even remotely offensive. We often use our energy to shame teenagers for their relationships, outfits, wardrobes, actions, and sometimes unfortunately lit studios or questionably dark tans and foundation shades.

Should popular TikTok star Addison Rae be called out on social media for posting a picture with an over-the-top tan?

Should we stop watching Riverdale because of the racial pay gap that’s recently come to light?

Did we need to ruin America’s Next Top Model’s legacy based on challenges we now see to be harmful?

Do we need to undermine everything that Glee stood for because of the rumors and public feuds? Lea Michele has been called out numerous times for her unpleasant behavior on set, especially her rude treatment of Samantha Ware.

Does Shane Dawson need to be stripped of his YouTube ad revenue because of his racist jokes in the past? Does that make him actively racist and worthy of being completely trashed on the internet? Should we alienate Jeffree Star’s Cosmetic brand, when he has always praised inclusive brands, advocated for varied shade ranges, and launched his own diverse set of concealers? Are they bad people or were they just in need of a privilege check?

Are these really worth the call-out, and are we completely neglecting the idea that focusing hateful energy on instances like these cause psychological damage? Do we need to focus our energy on being angry at people who make these little mistakes or jokes rather than those who are actively advocating for initiatives that continue to disparage and oppress the black community?

Maybe a lot of our energy is currently being wasted on things like that when the real problems are too much to handle. We should care more about the fact that our president refused to wear masks in public, and that he’s turned them into a protest statement for some arbitrary freedom rather than a simple gesture for the overall good of public health. In the midst of this tragic epidemic, America should be on a completely different patriotic path. Situations like this usually band citizens together. Most significantly, post 9/11 America was the most united and patriotic country in recent history. Americans were brought together with one goal and one common enemy under one passionate leader. We should be feeling the same sense of communal optimism and goal-oriented togetherness, no matter the political affiliation. Instead, our (I use this word begrudgingly) leader has polarized us in a way that’s made an unthinkable situation 1,000 times worse. Anti-mask wearers are under a false sense of victimization, as if wearing a mask is a terrible burden on personal freedom. You know what else is a burden on personal freedom? Not being able to enjoy your last semester of high school or college with your friends. Entering into an unprecedented challenging job market because of halted productions and virtual business changes. Losing your job and means of supporting your family. Not being able to attend a loved one’s funeral because of social distancing practices. Not being able to visit someone in the hospital because of their contagious affliction. People refusing to wear masks or hold off on attending parties and clubs are the reason why this virus won’t calm down. So, no. Maybe Jimmy Fallon’s face paint decision from the year 2000 isn’t the most relevant topic of discussion. While his career certainly didn’t end over that rumor, it was still a small part of a larger picture of how we hold entertainers to such high standards and are quick to call them out. We should be focusing our energy on holding the people actually making the important decisions in politics the most accountable.

Boycotts have brought brands and businesses accountable for their choices. It’s long been known what certain brands stand for. They’re proud and unwavering in their support for controversial subjects. See Chick-Fil-A with their homophobic donations and Hobby Lobby with their controversies regarding religious freedom. People boycott brands all the time, but by losing your support, is a brand really suffering? Some things have absolutely needed to be changed and it’s shocking that certain things have been overlooked so long. Monuments honoring slave owners and notable civil rights opponents have finally been looked at in different lights. The Washington Redskins have finally decided to change their truly heinous mascot that represents the violent scalpings of Native Americans. Problematic brand logos such as the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben images are being updated to be less stereotypical. For decades, I’ve walked past the breakfast aisle in a grocery store and looked for the Aunt Jemima logo to know which syrup I want. It’s only now that people are realizing the negative stereotypes it supports, and the impact a two-inch image can have. Changes are happening everywhere to make the world a safer and more representative space for more diverse groups of people. In that sense, cancel culture has had its advantages. However, it’s been turned into an ugly form of online shaming and bullying that some could argue to be more counter productive than anything else.

I could have gone into detail about every instance of ‘cancel culture’ in the media, but it would be way too arduous and depressing to read. While cancel/call-out culture can create a mindset of self-policing, it can also cause anxiety, depression, and an unwillingness to actively and regularly engage on social media. With all that being said, stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius once said, “often injustice lies with what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing.” The most shameful moments in our history were only rectified when people spoke up against them. Especially with the prevalence of the Black Lives Matter movement, people everywhere are looking for ways to impact change. Perhaps the easiest is to hold people and brands accountable for everything they say and do. No matter how harsh it might be to ‘cancel’ something, you must also consider the fact that the action of listening to others and recognizing hateful or offensive speech is a sign that we are evolving.

I guess the biggest question with regards to ‘cancel culture’ is does it work? Are these movements driven by anger really changing things for good? Maybe it’s naivete, or maybe its optimism; but I like to think that the majority of people don’t try to say offensive things. Celebrities are just people living a different kind of lifestyle than most. Does that give them unspoken responsibilities to never make bad choices or to apologize to millions of anonymous people every time they slip up? Are we asking too much of these people? Regardless of how harsh it may be to ‘cancel’ a public figure, we as a society are starting very important conversations that are changing the world in all new ways. We know how to hold people accountable. Our influencers are making it acceptable to place them under the spotlight in our personal conversations. Maybe in addition to entertaining us, they’ve become our scape goats and catalysts for change. As topics of difficult conversations, they’re pretty great people to place blame on.

Staying silent makes us part of the problem. Whenever a real change has had to be made in society, oppressed groups and their allies have created change through loud and cohesive voices disrupting the stifling tyranny from their oppressors. The acts of protesting and boycotting have literally created the country we know today. For centuries, millions of brave and angry people have protested and gotten actual things done. This is why, as a woman, I can vote and buy property without a father or husband’s approval. This is why the color of anyone’s skin can’t impact how they’re treated. This is why members of the LGBTQIA+ community is protected against discrimination. The root of ‘cancel culture’ is that it’s a form of protest, and protests and tough conversations are the reason why the general consensus is that we were all created equal and should be treated as such.