The Curious Case of Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture has gained both critiques and praise, its approach has helped many, but also often remained short-lived. This tool has emerged as a voice for the marginalised, but how effective is it?

Cancel Culture refers to the phenomenon of “cancelling” or boycotting a celebrity’s work, products, art and position, and as a practice has gained momentum in the past year. This process involves people expressing their anger towards the celebrity by collectivizing in order to counter the social influence he or she has. This tool has been proven effective in providing marginalized groups with a voice and facilitating in the “takedowns” of people. Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey’s careers were cancelled after several women, and men came out against them in cases of harassment.

kevin hart canceled
Kevin Hart steps down as Oscars’ host – Photo by Flickr

Cancel Culture comes with its supporters and opponents. Its advocates talk about how in an attention-based economy, this is a medium to gauge the attention of millions of people towards problematic behaviors. It can help educate and enlighten. We can call out big companies or brands for their acts of fright. The notion of individuals with social capital getting away with their wrongdoings is now challenged. Furthermore, we can now raise awareness about issues which were never openly discussed before, such as sexual harassment, racist comments, and queerbaiting.

This practice goes on from a celebrity-fan equation, to also a person-to-person equation. A very recent example becomes the number of people who were called out as a part of the #MeToo movement. We have all heard these stories, read these posts on Facebook or Instagram or known someone who has experienced this. From offices to colleges, and mostly the circuits of different societies. After the incident is painfully reported, the retelling of the story begins. But even at this level, there exists this social hierarchy, with some people whose reputation will be unaffected and those with much to lose.

The accused tend to remain involved, while the accuser is forced to leave this situation.

Recently, several cases of this have come to light. From Logan Paul, Aziz Ansari, James Charles to Indian comedians like AIB’s Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat have been boycotted. But the question remains, is this an effective solution? We cannot guarantee its impact, and how long the impact lasts. Only so few people have had to face long-lasting repercussions of being cancelled. Aziz Ansari made a comeback on Netflix, and incorporated this period in his piece, James Charles made an apology video and regained his lost position, Kanye West also successfully returned with his reputation untouched.

It is believed that with every controversy that comes and goes, people tend to forget the past. So, most celebrities suffer a brief period of losing deals and fans. Their return involves three steps; they make a seemingly “raw” and honest apology, lay low for a few months and return with the persona of a “changed” person. The authenticity of these apologies and transformations seem questionable. Going back to how it pans out in college circuits, a similar trend follows.

With cancel culture, “cancelling cancel culture” has also gained some attention. It has risen as a messiah of the ‘cancelled’ and propagates that these individuals be made aware of their problematic behaviours. Some people even bring in the idea of cyberbullying in speaking out against cancel culture.

Short or long, the impact this new culture brings is a ray of hope in a world where even ‘Instagram famous’ people gain social capital which can be hard to fight. The idea is not to takedown celebrities or to oppress them, but it is to revoke the privilege that has been placed. This fights against people in positions of privilege who have gotten away with racist and homophobic jokes or demanding sexual favours. The exploitation has now collectivised many to rage against, not a few select individuals, but centuries of oppression.

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