What is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture is a term that is difficult to define. Depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer for the exact meaning. Some might say cancel culture includes withdrawing support for public figures or companies after they have done or said something that is considered objectionable or offensive. Others might consider cancel culture as more of a political term. Lisa  Nakamura, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies the intersection of digital media and race, gender, and sexuality, describes cancel culture as a “cultural boycott.” The political left has been implicated with using this cultural boycott tactic to their advantage. On the opposite side, the right has been said to use cancel culture with more of a mob rule as an instrument against free speech and open debate.

Cancel Culture has surged in recent years due to conversations prompted by the #MeToo movement and other calls for greater accountability from public figures, but there is no exact incident that started the phenomenon. Some people believe the term was first coined in 2014 during a Love and Hip Hop: New York episode in which cast member Cisco Rosado tells his love interest Diamond Strawberry during a fight, “you’re canceled.” The quote began to appear on social media shortly after the episode aired and became a popular trend among Black Twitter throughout 2015 with calls for Travis Scott and Kanye West to be cancelled.

There are several instances of cancel culture in Hollywood. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is perhaps the most notable figure in cancel culture after the #Metoo movement called for his arrest after numerous women came forward with allegations of rape and other sex crimes. Additionally, Roseanne Barr was removed from the uber successful reboot of her self-titled show, after she made racist tweets about former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. Finally, Kevin Hart received backlash after homophobic tweets resurfaced online. A campaign on social media called for the end of his career. He ultimately stepped down from hosting the 2019 Academy Awards due to the controversy.

Goya Foods became a victim of cancel culture in politics after the company’s CEO Robert Unanue praised President Donald Trump during a White House event. President Trump and his daughter Ivanka then posted pictures of themselves with Goya products which caused an uproar and a reciprocate call to boycott the brand and its products. President Trump referred to the response as an attack on him and his family and denounced the media and cancel culture.

President Trump, however, has called for the cancellation of public companies and figures who do not comply with his demands and ideals. President Trump has called for a boycott against the American Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company after they announced a ban on Maga hats. Goodyear said in a statement that it has a company policy asking employees to refrain from displaying any kind of partisan political preference, which was not exclusive to Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats. In 2017, he also threatened retaliation in a tweet against NFL players and fans for “disrespecting our flag and country.” Of course, Trump is the biggest proponent of cancelling the media and fake news, although he is also one of the leading agents of misinformation and fake news.

Opponents of Cancel Culture, including Donald Trump, have called it toxic, totalitarian, and an inability to forgive and move on. Some say cancel culture isn’t even real. Although Louis C.K. faced criticism and lost contracts with HBO and Netflix for admittedly masturbating in front of other female comedians, he recently started to tour again and sold out several shows in Canada. Cancel culture is really just a way of treating others. If you don’t like someone or something you call for a boycott. If you want to silence free speech and an open debate of new ideas, you call for it be cancelled. There is certainly a lack of forgiveness when it comes to cancel culture and that’s why it has caused such a feeling of distrust and separation throughout Hollywood and politics. If more public figures would just take responsibility for their actions and apologize, sincerely, forgiveness might be easier to come by.


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