Should Cancelling Culture Be Cancelled?

Words: Susanne Norris
Feature Image:aleksandar cvetanovic

‘Cancelling culture’ may sound like an alien term to most. But, it’s something we come across on social media regularly. Saying a controversial celebrity ‘is cancelled’ has become synonymous with millennials as meaning that particular person is blacklisted.

‘Cancelling culture’ divides many. Some believe it is too blasé – used too freely about trivial issues – meaning the idea of blacklisting a celebrity for their behaviour loses it’s worth. However, for me (and I believe many others) where this culture shows it’s worth is in the context of #MeToo. This is an example of where celebrities do deserve to be blacklisted. They have done something which they cannot be granted redemption for.

This is where this concept comes into its own. The debate begins on whether we can separate the artist from the art. And, I personally don’t think we should. I watched every Gossip Girl episode and had a huge crush on Ed Westwick for most of my teenage years. I was a huge admirer of House of Cards and thought Kevin Spacey was a fine actor. However, when sexual assault allegations were made about both these men, I did not make excuses for them simply because I liked seeing them on my television. And I don’t believe anyone should.

Another debate around this was GQ UK’s recent cover – featuring Johnny Depp. The cover promised an ‘outlaw’ who would talk ‘divorce’ and ‘allegations’. This was of course relating to his relationship with Amber Heard, who filed for divorce citing domestic violence as the reason. GQ got it wrong this time. Thousands took to Twitter to express their outrage – domestic violence is not sexy, exciting or glamorous. While the magazine argued Depp ‘brought joy to millions of film lovers’, this did not seem to wash down well with the public.

So, what does all this mean? In my opinion, it means progress. #MeToo saw endless arguments on whether the artist could be separated from the art, with people citing past examples – like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski – on why we should separate the two. It was said by some we should look at art subjectively to avoid losing creative genius, history and talent. But, as time goes on, it appears more people are unwilling to do this. Despite the art produced – be it a moment in a film that stays with us forever or an actor who reduces us to tears – we should not glorify people who are capable of hurting others so badly.