Canceled or Popularized: The Rise of Cancel Culture

By Kenzie Smith, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Any pop-culture enthusiast is familiar with the effects of cancel culture as there are endless social media posts and news articles on it. Cancel culture occurs when celebrities or other public figures participate in behaviors that are viewed unfavorable by the general public. This often causes a mass of people to publicly withdraw their support of the individual and call for others to do the same. Social media has allowed for cancel culture to upsurge and spread at a quicker rate. This implication has both positive and negative aspects. 

There are times when cancel culture works to decrease support of individuals who have been proven to partake in behaviors and ideas that are harmful to society, such as Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and Matty Healy due to their anti semitic views. Social media allows for this information to spread quickly and gather more support.

Some people, though, do not believe canceling an artist works as it is intended. People argue that cancel culture creates an environment of harassment and intolerance. There are also arguments that it is not productive as the most it can do is promote shame of the individual rather than accountability.

An example of cancel culture taking it too far is an instance between James Corden and the k-pop band BTS. BTS has a very loyal fanbase called ARMY, and in 2021, Corden made jokes that ARMY did not like. These jokes were about BTS’ fanbase being 15-year-old girls and calling BTS “unusual visitors” at the UN General Assembly. These jokes led to ARMY taking to social media platforms such as X to criticize Corden. In a later interview with BTS, where Corden apologized for the jokes, he mentioned that people had told him they hoped he would die. 

Death threats in response to some possibly ill-thought-out jokes is excessive, but this example is not an outlier. Oftentimes celebrities and public figures receive death threats from people who do not agree with them. When cancel culture is used improperly, it breeds dangerous environments of hostility and violence that do not always match the weight of the controversy. 

Although the backlash Corden received resulted in an apology to BTS, this progression is not always the case. Many times when celebrities are canceled, they are still participating in the behaviors or believing in the condemned ideas. Even though these celebrities are receiving mass criticism, they still remain popular. It can be argued that they sometimes receive even more attention from being the center of a controversy. Matt Healy is still on tour with his band, The 1975, even though he holds anti semitic views. Ye continuously has news articles and social media outlets highlighting his most recent actions.

Another artist who has found herself facing cancel culture that is perhaps making her more popular is Doja Cat. The controversies surrounding Doja go back to 2015 where she released a song titled after a racist slur. She apologized for the use of the title but also said that she had chosen the title to reclaim the term that had been used against her in chat rooms. Other controversies surrounding Doja are her participation in chat rooms catered for incels and white supremacists, affiliation with streamer and musician J. Cyrus, the mocking of her fans and most recently, wearing a shirt that pictured alt-right YouTuber Sam Hyde. Although there has been an uproar on TikTok to cancel Doja Cat, she still has many fans and will be starting “The Scarlet Tour” on Oct. 31.

Cancel culture creates questions about its productivity and intent, such as what actions dictate canceling celebrities, and is the process a productive method or does it just cultivate a hostile environment? Cancel culture may work as a way to spread information on the questionable decisions and ideologies of public figures, but it is not enough to hold them accountable. This facet begs the question of what options exist to hold celebrities accountable, or in our society does fame cause people to transcend accountability?

This article originally appeared on page 11 of the No. 2 October 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.

Author: Kenzie Smith

Kenzie Smith ’26 is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for The Gettysburgian. Previously, she served as a Staff Writer for the News and Arts & Entertainment sections. Kenzie is an English with a writing concentration major and Environmental Studies minor originally hailing from Everett, PA. Outside The Gettysburgian, Kenzie is a tour guide for the Admissions Office, a writing tutor for the Writing Center, and a contributing editor for The Mercury. In her free time, you can find Kenzie listening to music, writing poetry, and hanging out with friends.

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