How Effective is Cancel Culture?

What is Cancel Culture?

Cancel Culture is the withdrawal of support from celebrities, public figures and brands who have said or done something offensive. This ostracism is a way to call out people of higher status to take accountability. Additionally, it’s used to deplatform problematic people. This phrase started to go around from the early 2010’s and late 2020’s and is seen on many social media platforms; Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, … etc.

It’s Not All Bad, Right?

In some instances canceling people was useful. But this only happens when situations occur with people who have committed serious offenses; for example, sex offenders. Cancel culture empowers marginalized groups to speak up and have a voice on the internet. Individuals who are disenfranchised and have less power are able to take a stand and voice their opinions. These groups seek accountability from people, brands, and/or the justice system. Consequently, people view cancel culture as a way to bring about social change and justice. 

Why Cancel Culture Isn’t Social Justice

Cancel culture could be viewed as social justice since it allows for marginalized groups to have a voice. But in reality, cancel culture is harassment and bullying. It incites violence and threats towards the people who are being canceled. There aren’t many benefits to cancel culture, it usually makes matters worse. The cancel culture community doesn’t allow for change or growth and there is a lack of forgiveness. If people find something from almost a decade ago and use it against a celebrity/public figure, that person isn’t being held accountable. They aren’t the same person they were back then; they’ve become more educated as time went on. Consequently, the “canceled person” is defined by their past actions and many people aren’t willing to see past it. Additionally, most apologies aren’t fully genuine. They are being forced to take accountability. People who have been canceled would also ask for forgiveness just to gain back the support they lost. Due to these types of people, it’s hard for authentic individuals who do want to hold themselves accountable to be forgiven. They could apologize hundreds of times but they won’t be fully forgiven and will continue to be harassed. Consequently, this brings up the belief that there is no reason to own up to their actions if they won’t be forgiven. 

When Was Canceling Actually Justified?

A time when cancel culture was useful was in the “Aunt Jemima” branding situation and how the logo was rooted from a racist stereotype. The company Quaker Oats received major backlash on the brand’s usage of a stereotypical black woman and how it was offensive to the Black Community. People started to call this brand out in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The company found this to be influential and began to change their branding as an effort “toward progress on racial equality”. This illustrates the power cancel culture has and how they can influence brands,people, and public figures to make a change for the benefit of others.

A Time Cancel Culture Canceled an Innocent Person

A more recent case of someone who was inappropriately canceled based on false accusations was Johnny Depp. His ex-wife, Amber Heard, accused Depp of sexual and physical assault. These rumors spread around the internet like a wildfire. Depp was harassed and dragged all over the internet due to the fact that Amber painted him as an abuser. But the latest news being that Amber Heard lied about the abuse and losing the case against her filed by Johnny, led to him being set free from cancel culture but remaining a victim. Amber was the perpetrator in this situation. She claimed to be an advocate for abuse victims but was an abuser herself. This demonstrates that not everything you see on the internet is true. Johnny’s career took a big hit because of cancel culture and how many went straight to cyber bullying instead of checking their ‘facts’. 

How Far Is Too Far?

In a poll from The Hill we see that the majority agrees with the statement; Cancel culture has gone too far. Instead of ‘call-out culture’ being helpful it turned harmful once people started to abuse the power it gave them. Instead of canceling people for the harmful things they have done, many become canceled for their own beliefs and opinions. They exclude and shame anyone who thinks  differently so there is a lack of diversity in thoughts. The community isn’t thinking realistically and that everyone has flaws regardless of their status. Many go to extreme lengths and begin to dox the said canceled person. This private information is leaked over the internet and could get into the hands of someone dangerous. Death threats against the canceled person  and their families all occur during cancellations. Additionally, such harassment could drive someone to suicide. The mental health of the canceled person is seriously affected. Even the bystander’s experience the effects of canceling. They are full of fear and become anxious since people might turn on them just for expressing their opinions. 

How Can We Stop Cancel Culture

We’ve seen the good and bad of cancel culture, but how can we stop it overall? There is no definitive way to stop cancel culture, but you can refrain from indulging in toxic behavior. If you see someone being harassed and threatened, you could step in. But beware that people will come for you too. However, this isn’t supposed to stop you from taking action. Report and Block accounts that are harassing, doxing, and threatening people. Do not join in on the bullying no matter whose side you’re on, you’ll most likely make things worse. There is no reason to cyberbully someone because “other people are doing it”. You are definitely not the bigger person with that excuse. In short, refrain from interfering or demonstrating toxic behavior and just block and report accounts you see are causing a serious problem; leaking information, threats, and bullying. These actions don’t convince people to take accountability!

Destiny Cruz – DePaul College Prep – DMSF Class of 2026

Image credit:  Google; creative commons license