If you’re active on social media, I’m sure you’re accustomed to the tumultuous wave that is celebrity and cancel culture. Honestly, these days, it doesn’t even have to be a celebrity—sometimes, it’s someone in your Facebook groups, or your group chat, or your coworkers. Some things I’ve been thinking about lately are: who is actually worth canceling? Who are the people qualified to cancel “problematic” people? Is it smarter to cancel people, or to cancel behaviors, systems, and patterns? Can someone redeem themselves once canceled? How come black people get canceled to a larger extent than non-black people?
A great example of one of the main people who have been canceled repeatedly is Chris Brown. I’m sure that at this point, we’re all familiar with the initial situation that resulted in him being canceled. Years later, there is a clear division between people in society who believe he’s redeemed himself, and those who have been keeping tabs of his many incidents over the year, which reaffirm for them that he deserves to remain canceled. Artists continue to work with him, but said artists get backlash from fans and non-fans alike, and sometimes artists pull out of projects with him.
Now, let’s take a look at Woody Allen. Many people are aware of the egregious things he’s done, but there are people who stand by him, support him, and believe he has done no wrong. He is someone who has been long-known to create and adhere to disturbing tropes in his films, often times thrusting his clear bias and nonchalance for what he has allegedly done in his own life, and yet, even in this day and age, many actresses and actors continue to work with him. They defend him, compliment him, and praise him. They work under him, and then donate their salaries to causes or charities, and that is seen as forgivable.
I’ll admit to being the kind of person who believes people who abuse/assault women, hurt or prey on children, rape, murder, or otherwise terrify people deserve to remain canceled. I will not cape for any of the men used as examples here, ever. However, as I get older, I am beginning to notice more and more who gets canceled more. Is Azealia Banks really a problematic black woman? Or is her tongue so sharp, and her words so carefully chosen to be bombastic and in-your-face that the message is difficult to swallow? Is Scarlett Johansson really as naïve and wide-eyed and ignorant as she attempts to have people believe she is? Or does she bank on flying under the radar and not being called to the carpet, taking roles from women of color and transwomen (note that she only backed out after the possibility of being canceled) with no care in the world?
Is cancel culture based in the hegemonic, white-privilege-based pop culture we live in, which demonizes people from certain intersections of existence for equal or lesser crimes committed by white people of the same caste? Are we more willing to forgive white faces for their wrongdoings, and a lot more engaged in remembering what non-white, especially black people, have done?
I say to a world where Trayvon Martin was labeled an animal and a thug and Charles Manson had fan clubs: yes. I implore all of us to do better. I know it is something I am working on, and I am hopeful that bringing it here to your attention will encourage you to do better as well. After all, we have a responsibility to hold each other accountable—what better time than now?
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