Cancel Culture: To Cancel or Counsel?

by Samantha Mdluli


With the shift in societal dynamics over the years and with the world moving towards a more digital lifestyle (especially with social media platforms) people now have platforms to broadcast their every thought alongside our society’s newfound social awareness, has brought about a movement of social awareness correctness known as “cancel culture”. Within these social platforms, the expectation now is to be, to some extent, socially aware. This has led to people, notably, celebrities actually being held accountable for their opinions now.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term “Cancel culture” or “Cancelling” as it has been coined on social media¬ – it is essentially, when people who have said or done problematic things, either now or in the past, are decidedly “cancelled,” and people no longer support them or their endeavours or when a celebrity does something bad or gets caught in a lie, holds outdated opinions, has involvements in assault, rape, homophobia, and other criminal activity and people will collectively “cancel” them.

Cancel culture entails making memes and GIFS of the said perpetrator and bombarding their social medias. Cancel culture has made things much more complex and has changed the way we view our favourite entertainers. Talent has been put on a moral purity pedestal.
On our local shores we have Okmalumkoolkat, who was found guilty of indecent assault, yet still enjoys a flourishing music career. Furthermore, in recent times a public figure who has come under threat of being cancelled is R Kelly who was caught on videotape engaging in questionable behaviour with an underage girl. Others have since come forth with claims that the R&B King has been grooming them from the hashtags #SurvivingRKelly and a six-part doccie series of that same name, his career had been sustainable until recent backlash for his deplorable actions’ Kelly’s album sales suffered a huge decline since the recent backlash and his concerts have been cancelled in many countries.

The real question still remains is cancelling effective though? Who decides what’s to be cancelled and what type of cancelling one gets? It’s all good and well saying someone is cancelled and having a big social media group agreeing. If they support the artists and allow them to make a coin with no repercussions, what’s the point? Whose place is it to say when someone should be forgiven? At what cost though? Putting into consideration that people are multi-faceted creatures and every single one of us holds certain inclinations, regardless of whether they are unequivocal or understood.

Inclusively keeping in mind that the vast majority of us are doing our best to learn and unlearn each day. People condemn actions as either good or bad when the world is not so straightforward and shadowed in circumstance. There are levels to our society and its intricacies. And as such, it’s almost unfair to write off certain things as either encompassing bad or good. So perhaps canceling someone may not be the best way to handle differing opinions or problematic behaviour.

Where do we draw the line between problematic and ignorant? Sometimes people can be ignorant or misinformed and they need to be educated and should be given second chances to try and redeem themselves, cancelling people, instead of working to educate them or encouraging them to educate themselves, does nothing to help the root of the problem. If we were to investigate the pasts of even the most prolific activists, we’re most likely to find filth not because they’re hypocrites – but because they’re human and are bound to be fallible.

For cancel culture to be effective, it’s up the consumers to treat all artists the same and not to be selective of who to cancel and it should apply to all parties. Calling out injustice, sexual abuse, corruption, and industry-protected violence is necessary it gives rise for victims to voice out their struggles and to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

The point of this article isn’t to tell you to forgive any problematic celebrities or give them second chances; it is simply to question whether canceling culture is effective and fair. Let’s make no mistake I’m not saying R Kelly, or others in similar situations, be let off the hook. I’m down for accountability everyone needs to be held accountable – even me.

At the end of the day, everyone has their own opinions as to who deserves forgiveness and who doesn’t everyone is entitled to their own boundaries and opinions and can decide what’s worth the emotional labour of forgiveness or not. It’s an individual decision, but part of the path to this softer, more understanding world we’re fighting for is finding room to forgive. I’d just like to encourage everyone to be critical of the media and art they expose themselves to, while also leaving an open mind for human error.

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