For those who aren’t as familiar with what cancel culture is, canceling and cancel culture have to do with the removal of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions (which can include boycotts or refusal to promote their work.)
In late 2018, comedian Kevin Hart publicly stated he would be hosting the 2019 Oscars; an announcement that triggered intense public scrutiny regarding homophobic jokes and tweets he had previously put forth. While the backlash against Hart came from many different directions, a majority derived from the social media platform, Twitter. Although ‘cancel culture’ is not a new phenomenon, it is evident that it was brought to the forefront of American pop culture after Hart’s “canceling,” and has continued since.
With this idea of “canceling” in mind, the question many have is whether or not canceling is harmful or effective in holding these celebrities and public figures accountable.
Last night during the Oscars, Joaquin Phoenix gave a discursive speech in which he both criticized “cancel” culture and advocated for social justice while accepting the Oscar for best actor for his performance in “The Joker.” In his speech he said,
“I have been a scoundrel all my life, I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with, and I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance,” Phoenix said. “I think that’s when we’re at our best: when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow. When we educate each other; when we guide each other to redemption.”
Like Joaquin, many believe that cancel culture is merely harmful to society and those individuals being “canceled,” but, according to the article on Daily Toreador, many also feel that it’s unfair that celebrities can seemingly “get away” with hurting other people or making damaging and harmful statements, even after being canceled for a little while. At the same time, however, it is both concerning and detrimental that as a society, we perpetuate a culture of simply canceling someone instead of encouraging them to be better and holding them accountable in a constructive way (similar to what Joaquin said.)
I think we can all agree that public outrage against celebrities is expected and sometimes even justified in some cases, but is it possible that sometimes cancel culture can go too far? What do you think?