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A call to cancel 'cancel culture'

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

As dialogue around self-education and development accelerates, many are questioning whether cancel culture can sometimes be a limiting response or blunt tool in a complex world.

So popular has 'cancel culture' become, it was named Macquarie Dictionary's word of the year in 2019 (plurals are apparently acceptable).

Source: Instagram @futureearth

As society reckons with its shortcomings, it seems that more and more frequently celebrities, businesses and regular people are called out for their wrongdoings. Each week there seems to be a new tweet surfaced, an unwarranted Insta story and presumably, a bunch of PR people in the foetal position.

Recently however there has been a growing push back to this sometimes career-ending response. Last week 150 writers, activists and academics signed an open letter which acknowledges the need for reckoning but goes on to question "a vogue for public shaming and ostracism" and "a blinding moral certainty". Famous signatories include Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Atwood and JK Rowling. Rowling has of course very recently been in extremely hot water for her many transphobic comments.

Cancel culture has also come under fire as a direct result of discussions around race, in particular how white fragility and cancel culture can go hand in hand. This infographic is one of many doing the rounds, illustrating how people's fear of getting it wrong can lead to silence and stagnation, rather than healthy debate, education and progression.

The space left for the fans of cancelled authors and celebrities has also been much discussed. Fandoms often provide emotional connection and support for these sometimes niche, other times widely dispersed communities. But when a very emotionally important and loved character, writer or brand comes out with a new opinion, sometimes completely at odds with what they have previously stood behind, it can make these fans feel confused or outright failed. As written in The Conversation however "the original object of a fandom — be it a celebrity or an artistic product — can last beyond a cancellation. As Daniel Radcliffe said, if something has resonated with you “it is sacred. […] Nobody can touch that”.

Zara Cooper

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