Cancel culture has gone too far


Credit: Melissa Preston

Copy Editor Melissa Preston’s editorial cartoon of the recent rise in cancel culture online. The cartoon depicts a representation of the Twitter bird critiquing the actions of a baby playing with a Mr. Potato Head figure: the subject of recent controversy.

Melissa Preston, Chief Copy Editor

#___IsOverParty has been all over Twitter for the last few years. Whether serious or sarcastically, the mob mentality of canceling celebrities has been prevalent on social media.

Cancel culture is a movement on the internet, particularly Twitter, aimed to expose celebrities for harmful actions and make them face the consequences. However, because people get too caught up in the power of influence, cancel culture doesn’t allow room for growth or differences.

The main goal of cancel culture is to make the canceled party lose support from the public as a result of their inappropriate actions. This is mostly seen through social media where people are encouraged to stop following celebrities or boycott their products. The idea of the public holding people responsible is good and necessary, and can even bring around positive change. 

An example of cancel culture bringing about progress can be seen with The Quaker Oats Company’s change in branding. The breakfast foods brand Aunt Jemima has been under fire for racist stereotypes over the last few years. This constant media attention and backlash has forced the company to reevaluate their products and change. Starting in 2021, the brand will now be known as Pearl Milling Company. 

As people realize the power of influence that canceling gives them, they’ve started going after more trivial issues. This is when cancel culture stepped too far, going from a helpful tool to a more harmful issue. 

In late October 2020, actor Chris Pratt was put under a lot of fire on social media. What started as a tweet comparing four celebrities all named Chris, ended with many people calling to cancel him. Reasons for this loss of support ranged from giving away an old cat to wearing a shirt with a coiled snake that read “don’t tread on me”. 

The symbol of the snake is from the Gadsden flag, which originated during the American Revolution as a symbol of unity between the colonies and rebellion against Great Britain. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in 2016 that the Gadsden flag didn’t have a racist origin. However, recently extremist groups have adopted this flag to promote their hatred. 

Another aspect of Pratt’s life that has been shamed are his political views. Pratt has never openly expressed any of his political stances. However, when Twitter users noticed he followed 45th American president Donald Trump and other conservative accounts on social media, they assumed that gave grounds for action. 

When cancel culture seeks to destroy a celebrity’s career simply because their ideas are different from what is deemed politically correct, the whole movement loses its impact. This tool made to call out wrong behaviors becomes simply calling out any behavior that the loud minority doesn’t like. Stomping out other opinions prevents any political discourse and limits diversity in thoughts. This eventually leads to more polarization between ideas, preventing compromise.

Pratt’s co-star Robert Downey Jr. responded to the mass canceling with his own message on Instagram. He highlighted how Pratt just has different opinions, but hadn’t done anything wrong. He also mentioned how everyone was so quick to judge and condemn Pratt for not being perfect, yet they themselves still have faults.

Celebrities are put under the scrutiny of the public eye almost 24/7. Everyone expects them to be and have been perfect their whole life, but realistically they are still human and will still make mistakes. Part of the public’s responsibility is to hold them accountable for extreme mistakes. 

Going back 10 years to find dirt on someone when they are clearly more educated now isn’t holding them responsible. Removing historic figures, who are dead, because they didn’t hold current ideas won’t bring about any change. Cancel culture needs to focus on the progress that it can cause now, since the past can’t be changed.

An open letter by Harper’s Magazine discussed the downsides of cancel culture, specifically how the flow of ideas has been restricted by this censorship. The letter was signed by over 200 writers and creators, including activist Gloria Steinem who’s accredited as one of the world’s most famous feminists.

 “The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away,” Harper’s Magazine wrote. 

By cutting off all support and refusing to listen to the canceled individuals, the public stops progress in the right direction. When canceling is done right, social media is used to highlight what was wrong, be open to the apology and allow growth past the mistake.

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