Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat and now Jimmy Fallon? ‘Cancel culture’ explained

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-05-28 15:26

A handful of celebs were called out on social media this week

Have you ever said something insensitive?

If so, you might have had to apologize to someone.

But if you’re a celebrity in 2020 whose actions affect a lot more people, your entire status could be at stake.

In the past week, several different celebs were called out on social media for past or present insensitive behaviour.

The hashtags #DojaCatIsOverParty, #LanaDelReyIsOverParty and #JimmyFallonIsOverParty were all trending on Twitter as users tried to ‘cancel’ the three stars.

“When we cancel somebody, we’re basically saying that a person has done something harmful and we want people to know about it and for them to face consequences for it.” - El Jones, instructor of Social Justice and Community Studies

Jeffree Star

Last week, Jeffree Star was called out for releasing a death-themed makeup palette during the pandemic, which many viewed as insensitive.

Lana Del Rey

At the same time, pop star Lana Del Rey came under fire for an Instagram post expressing frustration at claims that her lyrics aren’t empowering for women.

She opened the post by saying that Doja Cat, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Kehlani, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé don’t get the same kind of criticism.

Users on Twitter pointed out that the majority of those artists are women of colour, and weren’t happy that Del Rey appeared to throw them under the bus.

Many of those women’s fans, including the Beyonce Beyhive, jumped on the #LanaDelReyIsOverParty hashtag.

Lana shared an Instagram TV video several days later to clarify her post, saying that it wasn’t intended to be racist.

Doja Cat

Doja Cat, one of the women that she mentioned, was next to be called out.

Over the weekend, the Say So singer and rapper got a cancellation party of her own after videos surfaced online of her participating in chat rooms involving racist conversations.

The pop star, who is half-black, was also called out for a 2015 song that people claimed made light of victims of police brutality.

On Sunday, Doja Cat made a public apology on Instagram and said that she didn’t have any racist intentions.

Jimmy Fallon

The next day, Twitter users tried to cancel late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon after a video of him doing blackface from 20 years ago started circulating online.

The video is from an episode of Saturday Night Live from 2000 and features Fallon doing an impersonation of fellow cast member Chris Rock while in blackface.

On Tuesday, Fallon took to Twitter to make a public apology.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also called out for doing blackface when he was a teacher almost 20 years ago.

Like Fallon, he ended up making a public apology and said his decision to do blackface was wrong.

But is apologizing enough to keep yourself from being cancelled, and does cancel culture sometimes go too far?

What is cancel culture?

El Jones, an instructor of social justice and community studies at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said cancel culture is all about holding people accountable for their actions.

The term came out of social media, which has allowed people to band together and use their collective voice to call someone out.

Although cancel culture usually takes place online, Jones said it can also happen in real life when someone who does something bad is no longer wanted in certain spaces. (Robert Short/CBC)

Usually it involves people with power, like celebrities, who have done or said something harmful — like something racist, homophobic or sexist.

“When we cancel somebody, we’re basically saying that a person has done something harmful and we want people to know about it and for them to face consequences for it,” Jones told CBC Kids News.

Depending on the situation, the consequences can mean having to apologize, having one’s power stripped away (e.g., a celebrity losing their audience) or even facing legal action.

Is cancel culture the best solution??

Jones said cancel culture can be good when it takes somebody powerful off of a pedestal, especially if they have a pattern of harmful behaviour and are likely to cause more harm.

However, she said it can sometimes “go too far” in certain cases when people cancel someone for a first-time mistake, because it doesn’t allow them to learn and grow.

What does a good apology look like? 

Jones said that if someone calls you out, it’s important to not take it personally and that “there’s nothing shameful about being wrong.”

“Often when we make a mistake, we get defensive because we feel like someone is telling us we’re a bad person,” she said.

Jones stressed that it’s important to “take a deep breath,” listen to what people are saying to you and be willing to say sorry and learn from it.

And if you’re the one calling someone out, Jones said it’s always best to approach them in a way that is helpful and makes them feel like you’re on their side.

“We can do it in ways that are very gentle and helpful, because sometimes people just don’t know that what they did is wrong.”

Top Photo: Doja Cat, left, Jimmy Fallon and Lana Del Rey are some of the celebs to come under fire this week. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images, Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images, Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images, illustrated by Philip Street/CBC)

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