Drama. Feuds. Friendships. Break-ups & make-ups. This is the entertaining, yet debased, moral economy that rules the world of social media. It lords over influencers, YouTube stars and high-profile MUAs with a tyrannical fist. It started with reality TV, and now it’s everywhere.
It’s a world where people frame themselves as righteous knights of the internet; online vigilantes ready to ‘cancel’ someone the moment they step out of line. What’s the harm in that, right? It’s just another public rupture that people will talk about for a week and then move onto something else.
This is cancel culture. It’s okay though. I mean, it’s the internet; people are forgiving and always assume the best…
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week (which after seeing a bombardment of horrible Tweets, some of you should seriously consider doing) you’ll have seen James Charles being called out by Tati Westbrook. This is arguably the most memorable mainstream take-down since Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift’s Snapchat-snake-receipt extravaganza; and it serves as a horrifying reminder of how cancel culture remains a protuberant, and toxic, part of life on social media.
Part of our pathology in 2019 is we’re so invested in the lives of others that we rip through things; we rip through people culturally now. The substances they’ve snorted, the wrong things they did or said; who they may-or-may-not-have had sex with.
We’re immersed in a culture that thrives off someone’s misfortune; we take a person’s mistakes and turn them into a public punchline. One minute they’re on top, next they’re just another internet tombstone. We destroy people so bad that they need to disappear for a while to rehab their image.
In relation to Westbrook / Charles, the call-out accelerated with fierce velocity, gaining thousands upon thousands of supporters on its way. Now it seems the internet is poised to take James down; it wants blood – but is this the point where cancel culture takes it too far?
In complete transparency, I believe a lot of Charles’ actions confirm what I’ve always thought – that he’s a douche. But I’m not standing outside his house with a hoard of angry subscribers, armed with pitchforks and firewood, which I truly believe some of the brainwashed masses from social media would do.
It’s coming across as though people want to see this teenage boy suffer. Checking in to see if his follower count has dropped more; waiting for his ‘meltdown’ video to surface online. Death threats, Tweets urging him to ‘kill himself.’ I’ve seen people boasting they’ve subscribed to Tati’s channel. Not because of her talent or that they resonated with what she’s said – they’re purely thirsty for drama.
My take on ‘Cancel Culture’ is this: It’s history repeating in varying severity.
People have always loved the hero/villain story arc. A brave truth-teller dishing out much deserved karma. It’s akin to the Salem witch trails; but much like them, it takes one person to light the fire and the rest of the world love to see whoever it is burn.
So, how about this.
If you’re so disenfranchised with someone, be it an artist, actor, a MUA, whoever, then why not unsubscribe from their platforms? Don’t buy their music, or watch the films they star in. Block them if it makes you feel better.
Hell, I’ve had that gibbering mess Cardi B blocked for months. The fact she sounds like a Furby being microwaved aside, her transphobic comments and problematic presence really trigger me. So, I chose not to waste my energy on entertaining her.
Instead some people seek to make themselves popular off someone else’s humiliation and defeat. Sacrificing morality for a few likes or to join the bandwagon; crucifying someone for a few mistakes – while we conveniently forget our own indiscretions in the process. I’m aware these mistakes range in severity; if someone crosses a line they yeah, career over – but if you’re condemning a teenager to death for being an idiot, I’d suggest stepping back.
And if anyone replies to this saying, ‘Oh, I have never offended anyone!’ or offers up any similar narrative, you’ll have to wait on my response. I’m busy contacting the Vatican about getting you your sainthood.
I’m not trying come across all pious; I like many others have made mistakes. In fact, I feel a great swell of pity for my future PR team, especially when they try to eradicate my multiple thirst traps and digs at my ex from existence.
I’ve likely endorsed cancel-culture behaviour in the past without grasping the true ramifications it can have. Now I’ve seen that the world’s taking it too far (hence why I’m writing this.)
This whole ordeal makes me think the public eye must be the coldest place to live in the world. It can’t be your mother; it can’t be your partner or friend. It’s never a frequent source of trust, considering it changes its attitude toward you with the snap of a finger. It must be like living on drugs; some batches are good, some batches are bad, but at the end of the day you’re not going to feel great after.
My point is: mistakes are made, lessons are learned, but that doesn’t justify thousands of people hammering one person. Death threats, mass bullying, jeopardising someone’s mental health…
You know how awful it feels when people are mad you? When a friend is stubborn and won’t forgive you. Then they tell others what you’ve done, and suddenly they’re against you too? Imagine that but with millions of people. You think you’d handle that sort of public discourse well?
I don’t know why, especially with how far we’ve come lately, that we still love the glamour of a shitty situation. Just because someone lives in the online spotlight, doesn’t disenfranchise them from humanity.