Is the internet really holding celebrities accountable?

Despite concerns of oversensitivity, problematic celebrities still flourish

Lilyanne Hamacher, Staff Writer

‘Cancel culture,’ a development from early 2000s ‘call-out culture,’ refers to what some believe is the dangerous manifestation of mob-mentality fostered by social media. This term typically refers to a public boycott of an individual for their offensive statements or actions that may have either been made publicly or otherwise brought to light.

There are genuine problems stemming from this phenomenon. Teenagers are feeling pressured to mature faster as their lives are put on display, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and isolation from peers. However this is not the cancel culture that people are worried about, but the hard-working celebrities thrown under the bus for innocent comments.  

The rise of concern around cancel culture is centered around the idea that powerful, talented individuals are being culturally blocked from their careers and public platforms for statements or actions that are viewed as problematic. While these actions may range from seemingly inconsequential comments to sexual assault and blatant racism, much of the language around cancel culture is concerned with either overreactions to comedians or unfounded sexual assault allegations. 

Concerns around cancel culture seem unfounded once examined. 

There are very few people who have had their careers truly ended for rape or blatantly racist statements, let alone the “comedy” that some worry about being censored.The collection of racist and abusive men who continue their careers with very little backlash from Hollywood is not a small group.

Modern social media platforms are giving voices to marginalized communities, and allowing them to comment on the insensitive jokes and hate directed towards them by famous individuals who were previously immune to the criticism of women and people of color. Women are now given platforms to speak out against the men in power who have sexually assaulted them. More often than not, however, they are harassed and silenced while the men who raped them are comforted and defended by fans who mourn how hard it is to live in the hyper-sensitive culture of today’s media.

Perhaps the most recent example of this can be seen in the death of Kobe Bryant. 

The Washington Post suspended one of their writers, Felicia Sonmez, for tweeting shortly after his death a link to an article about the the rape that Kobe Bryant committed in 2003. An editor for the newspaper released a statement that Sonmez was suspended because “The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.” Sonmez received major backlash from the public as well, and was forced to stay in a hotel room for a night as her home address was released online in response to her tweet. 

Many called for her to be fired for speaking ill of the deceased, claiming that the level of disrespect demanded permanent consequence. Sonmez, a surviver of sexual assault herself, deleted her original tweet as well as some subsequent screenshots of the harassment she received. 

While Bryant’s horrific crime is largely going ignored, as it did during his career, the woman who brought this case to light was formally barred from her platform. The status quo remains that those in power will retain their power, and those who speak against them will be silenced or ignored.

Bill Burr — who has received criticism through social media regarding his commentary that the “Me Too” movement is “overcorrecting” the issue of sexual assault — expressed during an interview that he does not believe that cancel culture is a problem. 

He made it clear that while some articles have been written about his controversial statements, and social media makes it look as if he has been cancelled, he has not run into any issues finding work. He recently made an appearance on Disney’s The Mandalorian, and he is currently touring his new comedy show. 

Perhaps a more extreme example, Louis C.K. has been on multiple successful tours since admitting that the accusations of sexual misconduct made by many women against him were true. 

Despite what seems to be massive public outcry against R. Kelly, streams of the convicted pedophile’s music went up 116% following the conclusion of the docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which detailed his crimes. 

Cancel culture is not what it has been made out to be. 

The fascination with cancel culture brings to light the lack of real consequences that powerful people have enjoyed for decades, as well as the outrage that the privileged experience at the idea that they can no longer enjoy racist, sexist actions made by sexual abusers without backlash. 

The refusal of individuals to engage in racist, misogynistic content is not posing the threat that people fear. Instead, many of these people are still not being held responsible for their actions at all.