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Can We Actually Cancel Famous People?

Cancel culture has emerged on social media in recent years as a way to punish influencers and famous people instead of holding them accountable for their actions. But can we actually cancel another person?

If you’ve been on Twitter at least a few times over the past five to six years, you have probably seen # (insert celebrity name here) IsOverParty trending at some point. Currently being spearheaded by Gen Z on social media platforms, cancel culture has become a way to punish celebrities and influencers after they’ve done something offensive. Instead of people rightfully being held accountable for their actions, cancel culture attempts to exile them from the communities that made them famous, without the opportunity to apologize and learn from their mistakes. But Is cancel culture constructive? And can we actually cancel another person?

In the early 2000s, tabloids used photos of celebrities to sell a narrative that they were “irresponsible”. In reality, these young celebrities were humans just like us, just trying to get through it. Fifteen years ago, when a celebrity was having a rough time, it sold more magazines. But even if they did something awful, they were given another chance. Second chances that often produced an iconic comeback. In the 2020s celebrities are more accessible than ever on social media. But what we accept as politically correct has also drastically changed. A celebrity’s Instagram account feels like we have a piece of their personal life in the palm of our hands. So, when one of them does something we don’t like, we’re quicker to tell them of their wrongdoings, and demand apologies.

Cancel culture, which has emerged online in the past few years as a way for teenagers to express their distaste for celebrities and influencers. In reality it’s just a bunch of young people yelling over each other, often instead of actually holding a constructive conversation about the issue at hand. While it is amazing that young people are becoming more informed, it’s not constructive to any cause to punish someone because they haven’t had the same resources and opportunities to learn as you. Chances are your views on certain topics have changed drastically through reading, and consuming material that is different from what you were originally taught. But it is hard to want to hear someone out, especially after repeat offences. It feels easier to just banish them as a way of punishing them for their actions.

But here’s the truth about cancel culture; it’s toxic, and it’s not sustainable. It is human to make mistakes and learn from them. Some happen to be worse than others. Cancelling someone completely takes away any opportunity that person has in learning from their mistake and growing. Instead, we need to use “call out culture”. A system where we hold people accountable and allow them to seek out resources they can use to learn and grow. Once they understand why their actions were harmful, they’ll hopefully apologize, and can use their knowledge to help educate others. However, we also can’t expect everybody to want to put the work in to change. That’s when it’s time for us to individually decide if we want to support them going forward.

We cannot “cancel” another human. Nobody is perfect. Even the most woke, most politically correct person you know has made at least one mistake. Cancel culture completely eliminates the chance for people to apologize and do better after making a genuine mistake. Real life will always have exceptions, and it’s unrealistic to group every single person who has done something wrong together. Cancelling someone is not constructive to helping shift the way a person thinks or acts. That doesn’t mean we still have to consume the content of someone who continues to be problematic after they’ve been called out. We can choose to not buy their products anymore. We can unfollow, unsubscribe, and seize our support completely. But even if the majority of that person’s following chooses to detach themselves, they will still have a group of people who love them. You can’t convince everybody to hate the same person at the same time. I am guilty of trying and failing this at least once. I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I am.

There is a difference between calling somebody out and cancelling them. Even after somebody has done something wrong, even if it is unspeakable, they are still human. There isn’t some disgraced celebrity graveyard we can banish them to. We have to continue to hold these people accountable and when it feels appropriate, give them the chance to do better. If somebody does something that you completely disagree with, you have the choice to stop supporting them. Cancel culture isn’t actually helping anybody or any cause. It’s impossible to make sure somebody seizes to exist everywhere at once through the magic of a tweet. Cutting them off before giving them the chance to grow is not the answer. Holding people accountable, and giving them a chance to learn, and do better is how we progress as a society.

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