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Cancel Culture Cannot Be The Knee Jerk Reaction To Mildy Controversial Gaffes

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May 20, 2020

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Image credit: Emma Langevin

A TikTok creator named Emma Langevin uploaded a video to Twitter, went viral, and almost immediately got canceled, and was forced to make a public apology Previously, a Twitch streamer named Nicole — better known as ‘Ok Boomer Girl‘ was canceled days after her random, meteoric virality.

A common theme between the attempt to ‘cancel,’ or boycott, the content both people made is that they went viral, gained extremely obsessive fans, only to be quickly canceled for minor gaffes they made years ago.

Cancel culture is a complex mechanism, replete with successes and flaws. For the marginalized, it is a tool to take back power from those who abuse it. The shared support and solidarity that calling out someone who has hurt many, together, is empowering. When a large group of fans cancels a popular individual who profits off their fandom for serious, unrepentant misbehavior — cancel culture triumphs. However, when a group of people cancels a famous individual whose faults are thin, and whose behavior is repentant — cancel culture teeters and shows its flaws.


Related on The Swaddle:

Cancel Culture Is Not Making People Intolerant; It’s Empowering Them


Every single person who joined the Internet at a young age has left behind a legacy of unsavory content. While some have changed their opinions over time, others haven’t, and most don’t go back to carefully comb through their posts to delete material that deems them cancel-worthy. While we grapple with large-scale celebrity cancellations, we forget that canceling young people who misspoke the same way as we cancel unrepentant predators effectively closes the channel of communication, often even pushing young people away from progressive causes.

It’s time we stop using cancel culture to immediately write off anyone who makes a mildly problematic mistake. A TikTok star who makes a video and goes viral will most likely have made a bunch of mistakes, like every other person. Instead of boycotting their content, we should be engaging in dialogue with them, helping them understand where they went wrong, and how they can be kinder and more responsible.

Those who actively participate in call-out and cancel culture are doing it to promote progressive ideals and effect social change. However, activism isn’t just posting hot takes, canceling people, and asking them to run their faults through a search engine. It is hard work coaxing people to understand why their behaviors are unsavory, and helping them get on the path towards kindness and equality. Cancel culture is a useful protest mechanism, and to use it well, one must decide to take it seriously and engage with it responsibly.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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