Cancel Culture

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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: June 14, 2024

Cancel Culture

Activists in the past would protest in front of the offender’s home or business. Cancel culture is a more modern approach to activism that tries to hold offenders accountable for their actions and discriminations

What Is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture is a social phenomenon where individuals or groups promote the exclusion or boycotting of a person, organization, or brand due to behavior or statements deemed objectionable or offensive. This practice often unfolds on social media platforms, where public figures or entities can be “cancelled” by large numbers of people.

Examples of Cancel Culture

Examples of Cancel Culture
  1. Celebrity Tweets – Old tweets from a celebrity resurface, showing offensive content, leading to a public backlash and loss of endorsements.
  2. Brands – A company advertises a product in a way that is perceived as culturally insensitive, prompting calls for a boycott.
  3. Movies and Actors – An actor’s controversial opinions or actions lead to demands for their removal from a film or series.
  4. Academic Figures – A university professor faces backlash for expressing controversial views, resulting in calls for their dismissal.
  5. Authors – A book is criticized for its content or the author’s personal beliefs, leading to demands to halt its sales.
  6. Music Artists – Lyrics or statements by musicians deemed inappropriate or offensive lead to boycotts or streaming bans.
  7. Political Figures – A politician’s past or recent actions or statements spark widespread demands for resignation.
  8. Historical Figures – Statues or namesakes of historical figures associated with controversial actions are called to be removed.
  9. Social Media Influencers – An influencer engages in behavior that is found offensive, leading to loss of followers and sponsorships.
  10. Sports Figures – An athlete makes a political statement that leads to demands for their exclusion from the sport.
  11. Television Shows – A TV show is criticized for portraying stereotypes, leading to calls for its cancellation.
  12. Journalists – Articles or reports that are considered biased or insensitive lead to public outcry against the journalists.
  13. Corporate Executives – A high-ranking official in a company makes a controversial comment, resulting in a forced resignation.
  14. Chefs and Restaurateurs – Culinary figures face backlash over cultural appropriation or offensive remarks.
  15. Fashion Industry – A fashion brand releases a clothing line that is deemed culturally inappropriate, resulting in a boycott.

Cancel Culture Examples with Celebrities

  1. Kevin Hart – Stepped down from hosting the Oscars due to past homophobic tweets.
  2. Roseanne Barr – ABC cancelled her show after a racist tweet.
  3. James Gunn – Temporarily fired from directing “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” over old controversial tweets.
  4. Kathy Griffin – Faced backlash and lost gigs after a controversial photo with a fake severed head of President Trump.
  5. Johnny Depp – Dropped from various projects after allegations of domestic abuse.
  6. Gina Carano – Fired from “The Mandalorian” due to controversial social media posts.
  7. Chris Harrison – Stepped aside from “The Bachelor” after defending a contestant’s racially insensitive past.
  8. J.K. Rowling – Faced boycotts over comments criticized as transphobic.
  9. Ellen DeGeneres – Show ratings plummeted after allegations of a toxic workplace culture.
  10. Shane Dawson – Faced backlash and demonetization on YouTube due to past offensive content.
  11. Paula Deen – Lost numerous endorsements and her show after admitting to using racial slurs in the past.
  12. Lea Michele – Faced backlash from co-stars for alleged on-set behavior.
  13. Mike Richards – Stepped down as “Jeopardy!” host after controversial podcast remarks surfaced.
  14. Armie Hammer – Dropped from projects after allegations of sexual misconduct.
  15. DaBaby – Dropped from music festivals after making homophobic remarks.

Cancel Culture Examples in the US

  1. Confederate statues – Removed across various states due to their association with racism.
  2. Dr. Seuss – Some books ceased publication due to racist imagery.
  3. Aunt Jemima – Brand name and image changed due to racial stereotypes.
  4. Washington Redskins – Changed their team name due to offensive connotations.
  5. Goya Foods – Boycott calls after CEO praised President Trump.
  6. Dixie Chicks – Faced backlash and boycotts after criticizing President Bush.
  7. MyPillow – Retailers dropped the brand after CEO’s controversial political statements.
  8. H&M – Faced boycotts after an ad featuring a black child wearing a shirt with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle.”
  9. Alexi McCammond – Resigned as Teen Vogue editor-in-chief over past racist tweets.
  10. Megyn Kelly – Show cancelled after controversial comments about blackface.
  11. Kyle Larson – NASCAR driver suspended after using a racial slur during a virtual race.
  12. Papa John’s – Founder stepped down after using racial slurs.
  13. Nike – Faced a boycott after an ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.
  14. Laura Ingraham – Advertisers pulled out after she mocked a Parkland shooting survivor.
  15. Lou Dobbs – Fox Business cancelled his show amid controversy over election fraud claims.

Cancel Culture Examples in History

  1. Socrates – Executed for his philosophies, seen as corrupting youth.
  2. Galileo Galilei – Placed under house arrest for his heliocentric views.
  3. The Hollywood Blacklist – Careers ruined during the McCarthy era due to alleged communist ties.
  4. Oscar Wilde – Imprisoned for “gross indecency” due to his homosexuality.
  5. The Dixie Chicks – Boycotted for criticizing President Bush.
  6. Salman Rushdie – Faced death threats and was ‘cancelled’ by Islamic leaders over “The Satanic Verses.”
  7. McCarthyism – Many individuals blacklisted from various careers over supposed communist sympathies.
  8. Al Jolson – Criticized and retroactively condemned for performances in blackface.
  9. Richard Wagner – Frequently boycotted for his anti-Semitic views.
  10. Charlie Chaplin – Exiled from the US during the Red Scare.
  11. The Beatles – Boycotted in the US after John Lennon’s comment about being “more popular than Jesus.”
  12. “The Catcher in the Rye” – Banned from numerous schools and libraries.
  13. Lenny Bruce – Arrested multiple times for obscenity in his comedic performances.
  14. Josephine Baker – Faced racism and censorship in the US, leading her to move to France.
  15. The Scopes Trial – John Scopes ‘cancelled’ for teaching evolution.

Cancel Culture Examples in the UK

  1. Germaine Greer – Faced backlash for comments on transgender issues.
  2. Rolf Harris – Fell from grace after being convicted of indecent assault
  3. Piers Morgan – Left “Good Morning Britain” after controversial comments about Meghan Markle.
  4. Danny Baker – Fired from BBC Radio 5 Live for a controversial tweet about the royal baby.
  5. JK Rowling – Faced backlash for her statements on gender identity.
  6. Naga Munchetty – BBC reprimanded her for comments on President Trump, later overturned.
  7. Morrissey – Faced boycotts for his far-right political endorsements.
  8. Caroline Flack – Stepped down from “Love Island” after being charged with assault.
  9. Munroe Bergdorf – Dropped from L’Oréal campaign for commenting on racism.
  10. Nigel Farage – Faced advertiser boycotts on LBC for controversial comments.
  11. “Top Gear” – The show faced criticism and calls for cancellation over various controversies.
  12. Russell Brand – Lost various opportunities after the “Sachsgate” scandal.
  13. Clarkson, Hammond, and May – Left BBC following Clarkson’s altercation with a producer.
  14. Tommy Robinson – Banned from multiple social media platforms for hate speech.
  15. Katie Hopkins – Banned from Twitter for violating their abuse and hate policy.

Cancel Culture Examples in the Philippines

  1. Maria Ressa – Faced government harassment for her investigative journalism.
  2. ABS-CBN – Network’s franchise not renewed, allegedly due to critical coverage of the Duterte administration.
  3. Mocha Uson – Appointed then resigned due to numerous controversies and misinformation.
  4. Angel Locsin – Criticized by government supporters for her outspoken political stances.
  5. Liza Soberano – Received backlash for speaking on women’s rights issues.
  6. Catriona Gray – Criticized for her statements on political and social issues.
  7. Vice Ganda – Faced boycotts for controversial jokes and comments.
  8. Gretchen Barretto – Involved in several public controversies and feuds.
  9. Jimmy Bondoc – Faced backlash for his comments against ABS-CBN.
  10. Enchong Dee – Sued for libel by a government official after criticizing the government.
  11. Lea Salonga – Criticized for her comments on the Philippine government.
  12. Agot Isidro – Received backlash for criticizing President Duterte.
  13. Kim Chiu – Faced criticism for her comments during a political rally.
  14. Coco Martin – Criticized by government officials for defending ABS-CBN.
  15. Manny Pacquiao – Faced backlash for comments on same-sex marriage.

Cancel Culture Examples in India

  1. Aamir Khan – Faced boycotts for his comments on perceived intolerance in India.
  2. Snapchat – Boycotted after an alleged comment by the CEO about not wanting to expand into “poor countries like India.”
  3. Tanishq – Jewelry brand pulled an advertisement featuring an interfaith couple due to backlash.
  4. Deepika Padukone – Faced calls for boycotts after showing support for students in the anti-CAA protests at JNU.
  5. Tandav – Amazon Prime Video series faced calls for cancellation over allegations of hurting religious sentiments.
  6. Chetan Bhagat – Faced backlash for his comments on various social issues.
  7. Shah Rukh Khan – Occasionally faces boycotts for his comments or movies perceived as controversial.
  8. Kangana Ranaut – Often at the center of controversies, leading to calls for boycotts of her films.
  9. Priyanka Chopra – Faced criticism for a controversial episode of her TV show Quantico that portrayed Indian nationalists as terrorists.
  10. Alia Bhatt and Kareena Kapoor – Boycotted for nepotism after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput.
  11. Amazon – Faced calls for boycotts over products that hurt religious sentiments.
  12. Fabindia – Faced a backlash and had to withdraw an advertisement for using the Urdu phrase “Jashn-e-Riwaaz” for a Diwali collection.
  13. Levi’s – Faced backlash for an advertisement featuring Deepika Padukone that was perceived as disrespectful.
  14. Akshay Kumar – Faced calls for boycotts over his Canadian citizenship and various movie roles.
  15. Kunal Kamra – Faced show cancellations and legal issues for his political satire and remarks against the government.

These instances show the diverse nature of cancel culture in India, affecting individuals and companies based on a wide array of issues, from political stances to advertisements that touch on sensitive cultural topics.

Purpose of Cancel Culture

  • Accountability: It often aims to hold individuals and organizations accountable for actions or statements that are perceived as harmful or unethical, particularly when traditional forms of justice or response seem inadequate.
  • Social Change: By calling out behaviors and practices that are considered problematic, cancel culture can foster change and promote new social norms, encouraging more thoughtful or respectful conduct.
  • Community Building: For some, participating in cancel culture is a way to express solidarity with those harmed by objectionable behavior. It can strengthen community bonds among those who share similar values.
  • Public Discourse: It generates robust conversations about standards of behavior and the boundaries of acceptable discourse within society.

However, cancel culture also has its criticisms, such as potentially stifling free speech, promoting mob mentality, and sometimes causing disproportionate consequences for minor or misunderstood actions. These dynamics contribute to ongoing debates about the effectiveness and fairness of cancel culture as a social practice.

Origin of Cancel Culture

Historical Context

The term “cancel culture” refers to the practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. This phenomenon is largely driven by social media, where campaigns against certain individuals or organizations can gain momentum rapidly.

Evolution from Historical Practices

The concept of social ostracism, where individuals or groups are excluded from social or professional circles, is not new and has been practiced in various forms throughout history. However, the specific term “cancel culture” and its modern application are relatively recent developments.

Influence of Social Media

The rise of social media has played a pivotal role in the evolution of cancel culture. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allow people to share their opinions widely and mobilize quickly. This connectivity has provided a means for collective judgment and action against individuals or entities perceived to have stepped out of line with societal norms or values.

Cultural Shifts

In recent years, there has been a significant cultural shift towards accountability and social justice, fueled by various movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. These movements have raised awareness about issues of inequality and injustice, empowering people to call out behavior that they find unacceptable. This societal shift has contributed to the development and prevalence of cancel culture as a form of public censure.

Causes of Cancel Culture

Social Media Influence

Social media platforms amplify voices and enable rapid dissemination of opinions, which can lead to public shaming or “cancelling” of individuals or organizations perceived as having done something objectionable. These platforms facilitate quick judgment and mob mentality without thorough investigation or understanding of context.

Shifts in Social Norms

As societal values change, behaviors and statements that were once considered acceptable may become objectionable. This shift can lead to retrospective judgment, where past actions are reassessed against current standards, often leading to public backlash.

Political and Social Activism

Cancel culture can be a form of activism used to hold individuals and institutions accountable for actions that are considered harmful or offensive, particularly regarding issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. It is seen by some as a way to effect change when traditional methods have failed.

Desire for Justice and Accountability

There is a growing demand for accountability, especially from high-profile figures and corporations, in the public domain. This desire can drive collective efforts to “cancel” those who are perceived to have committed injustices or breached public trust.

Virality and Publicity

The viral nature of internet content means that any incident can gain immense traction and visibility, magnifying its impact. Public figures and brands are especially vulnerable to this, as their high visibility makes them prime targets for public scrutiny and potential cancellation.

Evolution of Cancel Culture on Social Media

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram became arenas for public opinion battles where users could mobilize quickly to hold individuals, celebrities, and brands accountable for their actions. As social media evolved, so did the nature and impact of cancel culture. Initially, it served as a form of online vigilante justice, where social media users collectively called out and sought accountability for actions or statements considered harmful or offensive. Over time, the approach has been criticized for sometimes leading to disproportionate consequences, lacking in due process, and being used for minor or misinterpreted actions.

Current State and Criticism

In recent years, there has been a significant backlash against cancel culture. Critics argue that it promotes a culture of fear, suppresses free speech, and often does not allow for redemption or learning from mistakes. This criticism has led to a more nuanced discussion about the ethics and effectiveness of cancel culture in achieving social justice goals.

Meanwhile, some proponents still view it as a necessary tool for social change, emphasizing its role in giving a voice to marginalized groups and holding powerful entities accountable. The debate continues as society grapples with the best ways to balance accountability, forgiveness, and the right to free expression in the digital age.

How to Safeguard Yourself Against Cancel Culture

Sometimes a mass cancelation can occur on someone who does not deserve said cancelation due to people taking or interpreting things out of the intended context. There are plenty of occurrences where people will also try to outright cause a mass cancellation due to conflicting outlooks or preferences (see biases, fundamental attribution error, and fallacies).

1.) Practice Patience and Staying Calm

When a mass cancelation occurs, the most important thing to keep in mind is to be calm in the situation. This is very important as rash actions and behaviors will lead to you digging a bigger hole for yourself.

2.) Apologize If You Did Something Wrong

If you have truly done something wrong and reprimandable, then you must apologize for your actions and show good faith and goodwill to change your behavior. But if you have not done anything wrong, it is best to stand firm and not apologize for the actions you have not taken.

3.) Create a Support System

It is hard to go through a mass cancelation unscathed and unbroken. Create a support system of people you trust and love, as these will help you go through tough times and will keep you centered.

4.) Seek Help or Therapy

Being canceled can lead to a lot of mental issues down the line and may even traumatize cancel culture victims. It is best to seek help and have a therapy session with a professional who can help improve your mental and emotional health.

People Involved in Cancel Culture

  • Activists and Social Media Users: These are individuals who actively participate in calling out the behavior or statements they find offensive. They use social media platforms to voice their opinions and mobilize others.
  • Celebrities and Public Figures: Often the targets of cancel culture, these individuals may face public backlash for their statements, actions, or past behaviors that the public deems unacceptable.
  • Critics of Cancel Culture: This group includes intellectuals, commentators, and public figures who argue against cancel culture. They often discuss the implications for freedom of speech and the potential for unfair treatment.
  • Supporters of Cancel Culture: They believe that cancel culture is a form of public accountability, especially for those in power or with influential platforms. They view it as a way to enforce social norms and promote justice.

Influential Voices

Some notable individuals often discuss or are associated with cancel culture, either as critics or supporters. These include:

  • J.K. Rowling: Known for her critical views on cancel culture, especially after her comments on gender identity led to widespread backlash.
  • Dave Chappelle: His comedy specials, which often include controversial topics, have made him a frequent subject of cancel culture discussions.
  • Jordan Peterson: An outspoken critic of cancel culture, arguing that it stifles free speech and intellectual debate.

These roles and figures highlight the dynamic nature of cancel culture, reflecting a complex interaction between social norms, public opinion, and individual actions.

Cancel Culture vs Free Speech

AspectCancel CultureFree Speech
DefinitionA form of social or professional ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles, either online on social media, in the real world, or both.The right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.
Primary FocusPunishing or calling out individuals or groups for actions or statements deemed objectionable or offensive.Protecting an individual’s or group’s right to express their thoughts and opinions.
Controversial AspectOften criticized for suppressing speech by creating an environment of fear regarding open expression.Sometimes criticized when used to defend speech that can be considered harmful or hate-fueled.
Social ImpactCan lead to self-censorship, social ostracism, and loss of career opportunities for those targeted.Promotes a culture of debate and the exchange of ideas, but can also lead to conflicts when harmful speech is protected.
Legal ConsiderationsNot a legal concept but can influence public opinion and behavior significantly.Protected by laws in many countries, such as the First Amendment in the United States.

Is Cancel Culture Healthy?

Cancel culture, the practice of withdrawing support from public figures or companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive, is a highly debated topic. It can serve as a form of social accountability, giving marginalized groups a voice against perceived injustices when traditional systems fail to address them. However, it can also lead to a lack of forgiveness and dialogue, where individuals are harshly judged for minor or past mistakes without a chance for redemption. The healthiness of cancel culture largely depends on its application—whether it fosters constructive change and accountability, or whether it perpetuates fear, divisiveness, and a culture of perpetual outrage.

Rules and Dynamics of Cancel Culture

  • Rapid Response: Cancel culture is marked by rapid responses to perceived offenses. Accusations and repercussions can unfold within hours of the original incident.
  • Community Action: Actions are often community-driven rather than led by any single individual, with many voices contributing to the call for someone to be canceled.
  • Irrevocable Consequences: Once a person or brand is canceled, it can be challenging to recover professionally and personally. In some cases, apologies or remedial actions are dismissed or ignored.
  • Polarization: The phenomenon is highly polarizing, with people often divided sharply in their opinions on whether specific instances of canceling are justified or too extreme.

Criticism and Debate

  • Fairness: Critics argue that cancel culture does not allow for due process or redemption, often punishing individuals disproportionately to the offense.
  • Freedom of Speech: There are concerns about the impact on freedom of speech, as people may feel pressured to self-censor to avoid being canceled.
  • Effectiveness: Some question the effectiveness of cancel culture in achieving social justice, noting that it may focus more on punishment than on meaningful change.

Negative Effects of Cancel Culture

Excessive Punishment

Cancel culture often results in consequences that can be vastly disproportionate to the offense. Individuals may face severe professional and personal repercussions, such as job loss or public shaming, for actions or statements that might have been minor or misunderstood.

Suppression of Free Speech

The fear of being “canceled” can lead to self-censorship. People may avoid expressing their opinions, especially on controversial topics, which stifles open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

Impact on Mental Health

Being the target of cancel culture can lead to significant stress, anxiety, and in some cases, depression. The intense scrutiny and criticism from the public can be overwhelming, especially when amplified by social media.

Lack of Redemption Opportunities

Cancel culture often doesn’t allow for redemption or forgiveness. Once someone is canceled, there is usually little opportunity for them to apologize, learn from their mistakes, and rehabilitate their image, leading to lasting damage to their reputation.


Cancel culture can contribute to societal polarization by encouraging a binary view of good versus bad. This can undermine the complexity of human behavior and prevent nuanced discussions about ethics and morality.

Benefits of Cancel Culture

Promotes Accountability

Cancel culture can serve as a powerful tool for enforcing social accountability, particularly when traditional systems fail to do so. It encourages individuals and organizations to think twice before saying or doing something that might be considered offensive or harmful. This heightened awareness can lead to more careful, considerate behavior and public statements.

Amplifies Marginalized Voices

One of the key benefits of cancel culture is its ability to amplify the voices of marginalized communities. Social media platforms enable individuals who traditionally may not have had a platform to express their grievances and seek justice. This aspect of cancel culture can empower these groups and foster a more inclusive dialogue.

Drives Social Change

Cancel culture can expedite social change by highlighting outdated, discriminatory, or harmful attitudes and practices. By calling out such behaviors and demanding higher standards, society can evolve to become more ethical and inclusive. This process often leads to broader discussions that can result in tangible changes in policies and norms.

Educates and Raises Awareness

The discussions and controversies that arise from instances of canceling can educate people on topics they may not have considered problematic before. It can lead to a broader understanding of complex social issues like racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, thereby increasing social consciousness and empathy among the public.

Public Opinion on Cancel Culture

  • Support for Cancel Culture: Some people view cancel culture as a necessary form of social justice, where communities hold individuals accountable where legal or organizational systems may fail. For these supporters, it’s seen as a way to voice discontent and push for better standards among public figures and corporations.
  • Criticism of Cancel Culture: On the other hand, many criticize cancel culture for being overly punitive and unforgiving. Critics argue that it can lead to unnecessary ostracism and may inhibit free speech. They worry that the fear of being “cancelled” can prevent individuals from speaking openly or engaging in meaningful dialogues.

Demographic Variations

Public opinion on cancel culture often varies significantly among different age groups, political affiliations, and cultural backgrounds. Younger generations, who are more active on social media, might see cancel culture as more normalized, whereas older individuals may view it as a problematic constraint on free expression and debate.

Impact on Society

The impact of cancel culture on society is complex. While it can empower marginalized groups and promote social justice, it can also lead to polarized communities and hinder reconciliation or understanding. The debate continues as society grapples with finding a balance between accountability and forgiveness.

How did cancel culture start?

The term originated in the early 2010s, evolving from social media platforms as a form of public shaming or boycotting.

What are the effects of cancel culture?

Cancel culture can lead to public apologies and changes in behavior, but also job losses, mental health issues, and social ostracism.

Who is affected by cancel culture?

Anyone can be targeted by cancel culture, including celebrities, politicians, and everyday individuals, particularly on social media.

What are the criticisms of cancel culture?

Critics argue that cancel culture suppresses free speech, fosters conformity, and often lacks due process.

How does cancel culture impact society?

It raises awareness about social and moral issues but also polarizes opinions and can lead to fear of expressing dissenting views.

Is cancel culture effective in bringing change?

While it can highlight issues and demand accountability, its effectiveness at producing genuine change is debated.

Can someone recover from being canceled?

Recovery is possible, often involving public apologies, restitution, or changes in behavior, though it can be challenging.

What are the alternatives to cancel culture?

Promoting open dialogue, education, restorative justice, and empathy are considered healthier alternatives to cancel culture.

How can individuals protect themselves from cancel culture?

Staying informed, engaging thoughtfully online, and practicing empathy can help mitigate the risks of cancel culture.

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