Should Cancel Culture Be "Cancelled"?

With Gen Z growing up in such an internet-dominated environment, trends and information surface pretty quickly. A new trend that’s become prominent in 2020 is “cancelling” celebrities. Cancelling occurs when it appears that a celebrity or important figure does something wrong, offensive, etc. In theory, it seems like a good concept.  It's important that people own up to and apologize for offensive behavior and learn from their mistakes, but the way it occurs is often very flawed. 

Here’s where I believe “cancel culture” goes wrong: the way “cancelling” occurs tends to lean very much towards performative activism. If you aren’t aware of the definition of performative activism, it occurs when activism is done for show or to increase social media following, rather than actually having a devotion to a cause. This happens when people only appear to cancel others to benefit their own ego or to assert to themselves that they are morally superior. If someone is cancelled for possibly offending a group of people, it's rare that a lot of the people cancelling will be doing it in solidarity but rather to feed their own personal savior-complex.

phone screen with social media apps Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

Another major problem with cancel culture is that it does not leave room for growth. It’s very important that accountability is held, but people will often ignore that a person has obviously grown from their mistakes, and, as a result, people can be seen only as a mistake they made years ago despite the fact that they have apologized and changed. Not everyone will always apologize or hold themselves accountable, and in that case it's ok to hold these things to them. If someone also doesn’t show any chance of growth or is repeating these behaviors, it's extremely valid to cancel them or consider them a bad person, and of course there are some actions that are more than just “cancelling” and are genuinely unforgivable. 

Though, when apologies do happen they usually get ignored and told their apologies are never enough. Many things people are cancelled for either occurred years ago when society was very different or when the person was young or still is young. We all made mistakes when we were young. The only difference is that these people’s every move is monitored. I'm sure if everything you did was in the public eye you wouldn’t be perfect either. I often hear the excuse “Well, when I was their age I knew better”... like, okay, good for you! You want a medal? Not everyone grew up in the same environment as you, not everyone learned what was acceptable behavior or not, especially at such a young age, and it's important that you take that into account and try and educate before you go straight to demonizing. Educating is important, and it quite rarely occurs. The initial reaction people have is to attack others rather than try and help. With all of this considered, I think it's important that we do point out problematic behaviors and hold others and ourselves accountable but the way we do this has to change! So we don’t have to get rid of cancel culture entirely, but maybe just fix the flaws.