Unsubscribing from Cancel Culture
Sienna White explains how damaging cancel culture can really be
Cancel culture – a phrase designed to strike fear into the hearts of every public figure for whom their reputation is directly equivalent to their career success (and failure). No longer are celebrities and influencers a symbol of unattainable perfection who can do no wrong – quite the opposite.
People have been ‘cancelled’ for a wide range of missteps – using offensive language, treating a partner badly, and (more recently), failing to adhere to coronavirus guidelines. Influencers such as Amber Gill and Chloe Ferry have lost thousands of followers over the past few weeks after flaunting their extended Dubai getaways online, breaking British Government orders to only take foreign trips if absolutely necessary. This seems to indicate a rethinking of the moral pedestal that celebrities have so often been placed on due to their social status.
However, perhaps a more disturbing element than losing followers is the sensationalist nature of cancel culture which means that, often, talk of celebrities’ actions can spread like wildfire, drastically changing public opinion without any basis in fact.
Recently, news broke that celebrated power couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were divorcing. More shocking still was that West was supposedly conducting a sordid affair with Youtuber and beauty influencer Jeffree Star (who he had never publicly been involved with). The false story spread over social media, elevating the hearsay to such heights that Star had to personally deny any involvement in the matter.
This incident may be even more compelling in the context that Jeffree Star has actually already been ‘cancelled’ numerous times for incidents including accounts of racist behaviour and manipulation. Despite this, his fame and success, which includes a successful cosmetics company and 17 million YouTube subscribers, still endures. It seems, then, that the fleeting nature of the internet can be counterproductive to the very ‘accountability culture’ it has created.
However, the string of suicides and mental health crises that have rocked the entertainment industry speak to the often life-ruining ability of cancel culture.
We have a moral obligation to question the justification for the existence of such a powerful trend.
Recently, one of the more notable examples is Caroline Flack who tragically took her own life in the midst of an assault charge against her then boyfriend, Lewis Burton. She lost her job, and was relentlessly dissected and criticised by the media.
Whilst everyone is responsible for their own mistakes, it must be considered that social media invites an unprecedented level of scrutiny over celebrities who have their whole lives, and their every mistake, constantly on show. Flack’s death serves as a stark reminder as to the power of ‘cancel culture’. The general public may forget that, not only are celebrities flawed humans like the rest of us, they also do not have the luxury of anonymity as we do. In certain circumstances, society would do well to keep in mind the value of being allowed to learn from our mistakes.