Ah, the internet. Since its conception, the internet has perpetuated the popularity of celebrities by shoving clickbait articles down the throats of the public. The internet also has a hand in creating and continuing the careers of our favorite public personas and talents. However, the internet is often, at least in part, the very thing to blame for the downfall of these famous figures. This is due to a toxic little thing that many call “cancel culture.”
James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy and one of the many victims of cancel culture, recently lost his job after some of his past offensive tweets surfaced. While many people were shocked that Disney fired him, including actors in the franchise, others applauded Disney’s actions. The latter views Gunn’s seven to ten year old tweets as representative of his current character, despite the years that have passed since Gunn tweeted those troubling words.
I disagree with this second mindset. Here’s the thing: Were Gunn’s tweets funny? Not even a little bit. Do I approve of them? No. However, this does not mean Gunn is an awful person who deserves a tsunami of backlash and the loss of his job.
In most cases, when a problematic tweet arises from the depths of Twitter’s archives or when a poor joke from an ancient interview paints a celebrity as a bad person, the backlash from outraged people online is overkill. While there are exceptions and people who really do deserve to be reprimanded for their actions, there is a difference between something truly representative of someone’s character and a past mistake from which a person can learn.
However, cancel culture does not consider context. Cancel culture could not care less if someone has proven that they are a good person, so long as they have said one thing that the community constitutes as offensive in the past. Cancel culture does not favor second chances. It only favors profiting off of mob mentality, hypocrisy, and self righteousness. The truth is no matter how perfect someone tries to appear, they are really only one viral tweet away from being cancelled at any given moment. The next cancellation could be anyone who has publicly made one mistake in their life, which could be anyone if they lacked as much privacy as a celebrity does.
Even people who support this culture and berate those unfortunate enough to face the online chopping block are not safe from their own cancellation. If they speak out against someone, their own transgressions can be scrutinized, turning them into a hypocrite. If they do not speak out against someone, they are seen as complacent and their past can still be brought up.
Cancel culture is not about justice. It is about banding together to punish whoever just angered the internet by bringing up every minute detail of their life. Cancel culture demands a perfect person, someone who simply does not exist.