Digital Media Concepts/Cancel Culture

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Shane Dawson, a YouTube influencer canceled for pedophilia and racist remarks

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Cancel culture is a phenomenon on the internet where people cancel their support for an individual or group due to something problematic they have done. Many people who have been cancelled tend to be famous celebrities, brands, or even shows and movies, due to a controversial belief, idea, or portrayal. When someone has been "cancelled," their voice has been silenced, and their credibility has been lost and reputation damaged. This is usually extremely damaging to celebrities and widely-known brands, TV shows, and movies. Although cancel culture is most prominent on the internet on social media sites, it can also exist off of the media in social lives. Being cancelled socially by friends and loved ones can have many negative impacts to someone's social life, resulting in the cancelled person facing hate and being a recipient of cyber bullying. However, cancel culture can also be viewed as tool used to plug gaps in the justice system and keep people in check of their actions and behavior. By using people who have been cancelled as examples, people will double check whether their actions may face the same consequences, and refrain from posting and saying controversial things. Cancel culture can even encourage a sense of morality and ownership of the public, bringing strangers together to fight against a problem, or imploring people to own up to their actions and right their wrongs.

History[edit | edit source]

Country-turned-Pop star Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift and Kanye West[edit | edit source]

In 2016, famed and respected musician and celebrity Taylor Swift had claimed that Kanye West had not informed her of a provocative lyric on their collaboration "Famous. Yet, in a later interview, Kim Kardashian stated that she had footage of Swift approving the lyric. It is stated that Swift also was threatening Kim to not release the footage.[1] On Twitter, the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsCanceled was trending, causing an influx of threats and hate calling Swift a liar. Eventually, the drama slowly died out and as of July 10, 2019 Taylor Swift is the world's highest-paid celebrity with earnings of $185 million in 2019[2] .

#MeToo Movement[edit | edit source]

Another one of the early occurrences of cancel culture can be seen with the #MeToo movement. This global movement initially was founded by a sexual harassment survivor and activist names Tarana Burke [3]. However, after the Harvey Weinstein allegations in 2017, the movement was spread all over social media. On Twitter, Alyssa Milano had encouraged women who had been assaulted or harassed to speak up about their problems using the phrase "Me Too". Soon, many celebrities and people all over the world had spoken up about their personal stories, allowing for those in marginalized communities to speak up [4]. This was a major step into cancel culture with the assaulters being doxed or exposed, influencing their future and blocking them from jobs, labeling them as harassers.

The discourse on this topic is widespread with some referring to it as "toxic". With social media providing access for people to spread media and messages very quickly, many tend to jump onto the bandwagon and send hateful messages to the people in question. This can lead to careers being lost due to the lack of support and negative effects on the individual because of people sending negativity. Anonymity on the internet allows threats and insulting messages to be sent which can cause a toll on mental health.

Social Media Impact[edit | edit source]

Hashtags[edit | edit source]

Oftentimes, instances of people getting “canceled” can be shown under the trending category of twitter. The most common hashtag used is #_IsOverParty or #_IsCancelled, replacing the blank with the celebrity name. Under the hashtags are screenshots of proof of why the person(s) of why they are canceled, reactions of fans and non fans, and more.

Advantages[edit | edit source]

Letting people speak up about past situations of injustice can bring a sense of peace within, releasing burdens to benefit personal mental health. Victims can form support groups and communicate with others who have been in similar scenarios and share their experiences. Talking to others provides a therapeutic effect and allows for people to lessen their psychological burden when feelings are put into words[5].

Controversy[edit | edit source]

The extremity of canceling can result in someone's family being targeted and restricting their future. With people rapidly jumping on the cancel bandwagon, even those who were falsely accused or apologized would have a dent on their career. Many influencers have spoken out about how cancel culture is toxic and allows for more harm than good to be done. Some people have progressed to broader mindsets where they believe the person should be educated, which means informed about the problem, reflect, and apologize for what they have done, rather than be canceled.

Cyberbullying[edit | edit source]

J.K Rowling- known for associating with anti-transgender shops and past statements against the LGBTQ+ community

Cancel culture can also be tied into cyberbullying[6], which is "a form of bullying or harassment using electronic means". When someone is cancelled, their voice is silenced, their reputation is stripped away, and their credibility is diminished, so often times people receive hate and backlash for their actions. However, often times, people go overboard with the amount of hate they manifest, even going as far as sending death threats and other harsh messages to the cancelled person. As many cancelled people usually tend to be famous, it is easy to forget that they already live in a toxic environment on social media, so by getting cancelled, the amount of toxicity they must endure increases exponentially, which could very likely have seriously negative and harmful effects to their mental health[7] .

Cyberbullying can often be overlooked when people are being cancelled, due to cancel culture's inherent nature and purpose of stripping people of their voice and reputation, which can be problematic in the sense that cyberbullying may bleed over the line dividing it from cancel culture, and become socially acceptable as a form of keeping people in check[8]. It may force people to rethink their actions, but it can also have serious effects on their mental and psychological health. Many recipients of cyberbullying have fallen into a downwards spiral of depression, low self esteem, and even suicidal tendencies or thoughts.

Examples[edit | edit source]

In June of 2020, JK Rowling had expressed her frustration and disagreement with a tweet, which essentially depicted her as not being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community[9]. She had also posted support for an Etsy shop which discriminated and ridiculed the transgender community. For this, she received tons of backlash from her fans, but some went on to more severe forms of hate, threatening to burn her house down and sending her death threats. This is undoubtedly a form of cyberbullying, and can have serious effects on the recipient's mental health and wellbeing. In another instance, Doja Cat had also been cancelled for being racist towards Asians, facing similar results to JK Rowling.

Examples of Popular Celebrities Who Were Canceled [10]
Celebrity Reason
Shane Dawson Pedophilia, Racism
Doja Cat Racism towards Asians
Demi Lovato Talking poorly about someone on her private instagram
J.K Rowling Unsupportive toward the LGBTQ community
Jefree Star Posed in front of a confederate flag and was insensitive with language usage
Jimmy Fallon Did Blackface (apologized for it)

Resources[edit | edit source]

  1. "A Comprehensive Guide to the Kanye West-Taylor Swift Feud". Time. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  2. Kim, Katya Kupelian, Irene Anna. "Taylor Swift is the world's highest-paid celebrity. Here's how she makes and spends her $360 million". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-10-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Ohlheiser, Abby. "The woman behind 'Me Too' knew the power of the phrase when she created it — 10 years ago". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  4. Lopez, Chris Snyder, Linette. "Tarana Burke on why she created the #MeToo movement — and where it's headed". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-10-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. "Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  6. "Cyberbullying". Wikipedia. 2020-09-24. 
  7. Kwan, Irene; Dickson, Kelly; Richardson, Michelle; MacDowall, Wendy; Burchett, Helen; Stansfield, Claire; Brunton, Ginny; Sutcliffe, Katy et al. (2020-01-23). "Cyberbullying and Children and Young People's Mental Health: A Systematic Map of Systematic Reviews". Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 23 (2): 72–82. doi:10.1089/cyber.2019.0370. ISSN 2152-2715. 
  8. Sweeney, Tanya. "Cancel culture is poisonous and frightening. It needs to be cancelled". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  9. "This is why JK Rowling has been accused of transphobia on social media platforms". Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  10. Smith, Jodi (2020-07-15). "An Incomplete List Of All Of The Celebrities "Canceled" In 2020 So Far". Pajiba. Retrieved 2020-10-12.