There is a lot to be said about today’s social shaming trend, “cancel culture.” Many say it’s toxic; some say it holds people accountable; while others say it’s nothing but empty yet hurtful words and hashtags. Whatever your stance on the matter is, we should all be mindful before we start another call-out party.
This type of public shaming, also known as call-out culture, mostly happens on Twitter and has been around for quite a while. In a nutshell, to cancel someone is to boycott them for something wrong they said or did — even if it’s already been years since the incident. If you think about that for a minute, I bet you’d feel slightly scared. That’s exactly how American stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman felt about her recent experience of being “cancelled.”
Sarah Silverman has a multi-faceted career but she’s mostly known for her comedy sketches that tackle social taboos and controversial subjects like racism and politics. Unfortunately, one of her past attempts to address the ever-present issue of racism recently came back to bite her.
Earlier this month, Silverman was a guest on an episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast” where she talked about a movie she was supposed to do but was fired the night before her first day of shooting because of a racist blackface photo for a comedic sketch she did in 2007. The photo had reappeared online and rose in popularity but not before it was too late. According to a report The Guardian made on this, Silverman said that the picture on Twitter is out of context and she regrets ever tweeting it in the first place.
On the podcast, Silverman attributes her unnerving experience to cancel culture and says that the enforcement of the trend is “really scary.” The comedian classified the trend as “righteousness porn” and suggested that the trend itself should be overthrown, saying that it hinders a person from moving on and growing from an incident. This is the part where I silently nodded in agreement. This is where it gets toxic.
Even though Silverman has expressed remorse and has since tried to make things right, because of a mistake she did more than a decade ago, she lost an opportunity to further her career. It sounds a bit petty if we simply put it like that, but if we take a moment to really think about what the comedian said, you’d understand why she’s crushed. Silverman was not so much crushed about losing the job as she was about the fact that she has since tried her best to right her wrong. The comedian even brought up the idea of accountability.
“I’m not saying, ‘Don’t hold me accountable,’ ” Silverman said. “I held myself accountable. I can’t erase that I did that, but I can only be changed forever and do what I can to make it right for the rest of my life.” Silverman said.
This is basically where she hit the nail on the head. The problem with cancel culture is the fact that it doesn’t let a person live their mistake down which takes away the chance for growth. Sure, some people like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian survive cancellations on the daily and yet are still deemed two of the richest people on the planet, and James Charles is slowly but surely gaining back the subscribers he lost. But just because other people point out that there aren’t any real consequences to this trend, doesn’t mean that this practice doesn’t do people some serious damage.
American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift also spoke on cancel culture in her recent interview with Vogue. She broadly talks about her incident involving Kanye West and Kim Kardashian as well as her silence around the US elections.
“I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly…” Swift said. “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, ‘Kill yourself.’” she continued.
Despite the criticisms hurled against her, Swift remains the #1 female artist but you can’t deny that cancel culture can harm even the most “powerful” people. Calling someone out for unacceptable behavior is one thing, but when it turns into something that affects someone’s mental health, then I think we should all be accountable.
I can go on forever about how we could look at this trend, but to put it simply, I don’t think it’s possible to totally ditch the practice of “cancel culture” since it’s inherent in us humans to get offended and exploit other people’s shortcomings (sadly). But like Taylor Swift’s song, we should all calm down, learn from Sarah Silverman, and maybe try looking at our own mistakes while we’re at it. Perhaps, we just might want to grow and move on too.