Internet sensation and beauty YouTuber James Charles was the first male face of CoverGirl at age 19. However, in 2019, over the course of a couple of days, he found himself as the victim of cancel culture. 37-year-old beauty vlogger Tati Westbrook posted in a video that she no longer wanted anything to do with him. Charles lost about 3 million subscribers on YouTube and major celebrities who endorsed him in the past unfollowed him on Instagram.
This is not the first time Charles or another celebrity has been “canceled” – Kanye West, Tory Lanez and Ellen DeGeneres are just a few that come to mind in addition to the hundreds of other celebrities that have experienced cancel culture.
In addition, cancel culture has impacted many people outside of stardom who were exposed on social media for particular wrongdoing. Businesses and companies have also found themselves canceled after marketing mishaps.
What is cancel culture and what does it mean to be “canceled”?
According to Dictionary.com, “cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”
For someone to be “canceled” it is often broadcasted on social media by many people that they will no longer be supporting that person whether that be not buying their products, watching their videos or following them on some form of social media.
Where did it come from?
The idea itself is not new. Throughout history, humans have shunned and ignored those outside of the established norm.
The term itself, to “cancel” someone is almost humorous in the sense that followers on social media or fans are equating a celebrity -but also a human being- to a product or commodity that they can simply stop supporting. Saying “it’s canceled” is a funny way for people to refer to an entire idea; the entire year of 2020 for example.
However, there are also ways in which cancel culture has been linked to holding public figures accountable in light of movements like #MeToo and after the revealing of disturbing information about celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, James Franco and Matt Lauer.
Should we be “canceling” people?
In an open letter by Harper’s Magazine, the writers call out the “intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism” that occurs in our culture. The letter goes on to say that the silencing of opposing ideas is in fact harmful to, “those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.”
Writers, artists, journalists, celebrities and humans, in general, should not fear for their livelihoods if they are to disagree with the general consensus on an issue. In addition, freedom of speech is something that is highly valued and desired for all humans.
While there are things that can be generally agreed on as worthy of “canceling” someone, such as a sexual assault conviction to give one example. Humans make mistakes and celebrities live their lives in front of an audience, so the mistakes they make are more likely to be seen. This does not necessarily mean they or any human, in general, deserves to be “canceled.”