Scarlett Johansson, Michael Jackson, Matt Damon, Ryan Seacrest — all of these public figures have one thing in common: the Internet has attempted to "cancel" them for a myriad of offenses ranging in severity.
For example, some are canceled for somewhat innocuous yet out-of-touch comments, while others are shunned upon accusations of sexual abuse. In all cases, one thing is abundantly clear — not only do we adhere to cancel culture, but we also thrive off of it.
I've grown up in the age of the internet and social media, where it feels like news travels instantaneously. Couple that with the immense polarization and political turmoil in our country, and you have a dangerous combination on your hands.
Sticking to your guns regardless of other people's views has been popularized and praised as a kind of activism; hence, cancel culture has evolved into an overwhelming phenomenon.
There is something almost deliciously wicked about participating in the public condemnation of a powerful figure, whether it be a politician, celebrity, journalist, etc.
It's also extremely easy: Open Twitter, scroll through the flood of tweets about so-and-so being canceled, type up a snarky message in 280 characters, slap a trending hashtag on it, and there you go — you have what some people consider to be modern activism.
While I do believe cancel culture can be an effective method of boycotting powerful figures (take, for example, the widespread condemnation of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein), it's also far too frequently employed for trivial matters.
When you're canceling anyone and everyone for every mistake, the practice loses credibility. At best, most celebrities and public figures who are canceled suffer minor setbacks before resuming their careers.
Clearly, cancel culture alone isn't enough to spark long-lasting change. Nonetheless, the power to publicly denounce those who abuse their power or make ignorant remarks is vital in giving the people a sense of agency. For example, the entire Me Too movement was grounded in people voicing their experiences, exposing horrific abuses of power as well as society's tendency to turn a blind eye.
However, several prominent men accused during the height of the Me Too movement suffered little to no retribution — Louis C.K. still performs stand-up in sold-out shows, and Ryan Seacrest is still conducting interviews on the red carpet.
It's easier said than done, but the only way we can cultivate positive change is to get to the root of the problem. It's impossible to move forward without understanding the belief systems and flawed structures that lead to wealthy and influential individuals making these very public wrongdoings.
This requires conversation and debate among people of different backgrounds with contrasting perspectives, which is admittedly difficult to accomplish.
I think we can and should continue to call out public figures' transgressions. We just have to stop assuming that this is enough to instigate the change we covet.
Sydney Byun is a senior at Wilsonville High School.
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