With cancel culture being ever apparent now, I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic.
If you do not know what cancel culture is, it is usually when a celebrity, author, YouTuber, beauty guru, etc. does something that most people would consider wrong and therefore, they are “canceled” and people will stop supporting them by unfollowing them on social media, not watching them on YouTube, and refusing to buy any of their products or books. The purpose of cancel culture is to hold celebrities accountable for their past or present actions, which often leads to them apologizing for their harmful actions.
Examples of Cancel Culture
J. K. Rowling
In December 2019, Rowling wrote a tweet supporting a researcher named Maya Forstater who was fired because she claimed that there are only two sexes, male and female, and it is impossible to change sex. By supporting Forstater, Rowling essentially declared that transgender people do not exist, and since then she has received a ton of backlash. Rowling has continuously made transphobic tweets, and you can read a complete breakdown of the transgender comments controversy, but in September 2020 she released a new book Troubled Blood under her pen name Robert Galbraith. The book follows a detective who is hunting a cisgender male serial killer who dresses as a woman to murder cisgender women. Since the main plot is about a man who dresses as a woman and murders women, Rowling has received even more backlash for being transphobic. After the release of her book. Rowling shared a tweet of her wearing a “This Witch Doesn’t Burn” shirt. The shirt itself is not problematic, but she linked the website she purchased it from, which has tons of transphobic merch including a “Notorious Transphobe” mug, a “Transwomen are Men” button, and a “Female Biology is Not an Identity” sticker to name a few.
Since J.K. Rowling has continuously shared transphobic tweets and she openly supports a shop that makes transphobic merch, and she has not apologized for a single one of her tweets, is it okay for her to be canceled? Her tweets nowadays are filled with people who are calling her out for being transphobic while others are supporting her and using the hashtag #IStandWithRowling.
Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson, James Charles, and Tati Westbrook
I am going to include these 4 YouTubers and beauty gurus together because they intertwine and they have all been canceled at some point. In 2019, James Charles shared an Instagram story supporting Sugar Bear Hair, which is a direct competitor to Tati Westbrook’s brand Halo Beauty. James made a public apology to Tati on Instagram, and shortly after Tati uploaded a YouTube video called “Bye Sister” where she said James never told her about the Sugar Bear Hair deal and he is also coercive of straight men. Jeffree Star also made a tweet where he claimed James was a danger to society. After James was called out, millions of people canceled him by unsubscribing to his YouTube channel and instead subscribed to Tati. There were more YouTube videos and drama between James and Tati, but eventually everything died down and James and Tati continued uploading content on their YouTube chancels. However, in June 2020, Tati uploaded her “Breaking My Silence…” video where she claimed that Jeffree and Shane Dawson were behind the “Bye Sister” video and that they gaslit her into making it. She also apologized to James for making the video.
Because of Tati’s “Breaking My Silence…” video exposing Jeffree and Shane, people have canceled them and unsubscribed from their channels, unfollowed them on social media, and refused to buy Jeffree’s makeup and Shane’s books and merch. Others were also canceling Tati because they claimed Tati is manipulative and was blaming her actions on others. Around the time of Tati’s video, Jeffree’s racist past was brought up as well, which he addressed on Twitter, and he also apologized for his actions and behavior to James in a “Doing What’s Right” YouTube video, but there are many who still support canceling Jeffree because of his racist past and his involvement in taking down James. Since Tati’s “Breaking My Silence..” video, Morphe cut ties with Jeffree, but Jeffree is continuing to release new makeup collections and seems unphased by being canceled.
Shane’s older YouTube videos and tweets were also brought up. In the videos and tweets, Shane appeared in blackface, said racist remarks, and made inappropriate comments about children. Shane apologized for his older content in a “Taking Accountability” video, but an inappropriate video clip of Shane with a poster of the then-11-year-old Willow Smith resurfaced. Both her mother Jade Pinkett Smith and her brother Jaden Smith called out Shane for the video, which further supported the canceling of Shane and even more people unsubscribed from his channels and social media accounts. After Shane was called out, Target removed Shane’s books from stores, Morphe removed Shane’s makeup range, and YouTube suspended monetization on all 3 of Shane’s channels. Since Shane was called out and canceled, he has not been active on any of his channels or social media accounts
In April 2021, James, who was 21-years-old at the time, made a “Holding Myself Accountability” video where he addressed that he did talk to and flirt with underage boys after he previously denied the accusations. He specifcally apologized to two underage boys – a boy he talked to in 2020 and another boy he talked to more recently. James said that when he added the boys on Snapchat, he asked them their age and they both claimed they were 18. After James sent them explicit pictures and messages, he found out that the boys were 16-years-old and he blocked them. Now James is facing another round of canceling and many are saying that he should be in jail.
Did all of these YouTubers deserve to be canceled? Tati Westbrook does seem the least problematic whereas Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson, and now James Charles certainly seem the most problematic especially when their past harmful actions are taken into account as well. Shane has also experienced the most repercussions with his books and makeup collection being removed from stores and his YouTube channels being demonetized.
In the summer of 2020, videos from 2011 and 2012 were brought up again where Jenna impersonated Nicki Minaj and had noticeably darker skin. People claimed it was blackface, but in her apology video she claimed it was just a spray tan. Additionally in 2011 she made a parody rap video where she appeared in yellowface and made a racist joke against Asian men, and in 2012 she made a video slut-shaming women. The videos have been privated for a long time, but people wanted Jenna to address her past harmful videos whereas others were supporting her and telling her an apology was not necessary. However, at the end of June 2020, Jenna apologized for her past videos and decided to quit YouTube.
Jenna’s YouTube content has changed since 2011 and 2012 and the offensive videos are not up on her channel. Recent comments on her channel and social media accounts are mainly from those that miss Jenna and want her to come back to YouTube. Should those harmful videos have been brought up again and should she have quit YouTube?
My Thoughts on Cancel Culture
I believe that cancel culture can be good for those celebrities that repeatedly do harmful actions and refuse to accept and apologize for their wrongdoings. J.K. Rowling has repeatedly made transphobic comments and she openly supports a transphobic shop. By doing so, she is harming a vulnerable population by invalidating transmen and transwomen. Others may disagree and say that Rowling is entitled to her opinion, but if her opinion is that transwomen are men, I believe that it is not okay for her to share her opinion to her millions of followers. I also grew up reading the Harry Potter books, and I know the Harry Potter series was an important part of childhood for many others, but I can no longer support an author who is openly against transgender people. I love the world of Harry Potter and the fandom, but I must separate the author from the books.
With that said, I do not think cancel culture is appropriate for those like Jenna Marbles who shared offensive videos years ago and due to the current backlash she apologized for the videos and quit YouTube. Yes Jenna was wrong for making those videos, but she should not be canceled for them. She delisted them a long time ago and since then her content has changed, which shows she has realized her mistakes and became a better person. Many of Jenna’s followers also claimed that she was one of the nicest people on YouTube and she did not deserve the backlash she received for the videos.
However, I feel like there is a huge grey on whether or not a celebrity should be canceled. Yes celebrities need to be held accountable for their actions, but who determines who gets canceled especially when everyone will not agree on the decision? Like I said, there are some who believe J.K. Rowling should not be canceled because she has the right to share her opinion and there are others who wanted Jenna Marbles canceled for her past offensive videos. Also, cancel culture can lead to canceling anybody regardless if their wrongdoings were in the past and the person has since changed or if their wrongdoings are presently happening. Is it possible to call out celebrities for their wrongdoings without canceling them and having an #isoverparty? More and more celebrities are being canceled and it seems never-ending. When a celebrity’s wrongdoing is exposed, I often find myself jumping on the bandwagon and hitting the unsubscribe button without waiting to hear what the celebrity has to say for themselves. When a celebrity does apologize for their actions, it does not seem like it is ever good enough, and if you happen to still support one of those celebrities who have been called out and canceled, you yourself may receive backlash for supporting a transphobic author or a racist YouTuber. So is cancel culture good?