As the cultural shift towards political correctness has swept through our society, it has vastly affected the people in our society. The expectation now is to be, on some level, socially aware. People have a platform to broadcast their every thought and with this platform has come the ability for those sentiments to be immortalized as well. This, mixed with our society’s newfound social awareness, has led to people actually being held accountable now. While this shift is a necessary part of the progression of our society, there have been many casualties of this cultural change.
What has risen from the new-found foundation of political correctness is something called “cancel culture.” Cancel culture is, essentially, when people who have said or done problematic things, either now or in the past, are decidedly “canceled,” and people no longer support them or their endeavors. In this day and age, examples are everywhere. Celebrities getting called out for problematic behavior, or racially insensitive words, and losing network deals or TV shows, as a result.
Although it is important to be conscientious of who you support and the ethical implications that come with supporting them, a question arises. Where is the line? Where is the statute of limitations on problematic words and behavior? When is “young and ignorant” no longer a valid excuse?
Before I go any further, I would like to state that the behavior I am talking about in this article is not sexual assault, or anything regarding the Time’s Up movement. The behavior I am discussing in this article is mostly limited to problematic beliefs, past interviews, etc.
The problem with cancel culture is it does not allow people the capacity to learn from their mistakes. Individuals are more often than not simply written off, and no longer supported, no matter the apology. However, the world isn’t simply a dichotomy of ignorance verses self-awareness. People are always learning, and as such, there are varying degrees when it comes to knowledge. For example, Emma Watson got hit hard when it came to claims about her conceptualization of feminism not being inclusive, and since then, she has worked to apologize, educate herself further, and include this new and diverse definition in her work as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador. People can learn and become better and at times I worry that canceling people, instead of working to educate them or encouraging them to educate themselves, does nothing to help the root of the problem.
It’s as if people finally realized how powerful we become when we stick together in unity. It’s an incredible revelation. But at what cost? Humans are imperfect beings and each one of us retains certain biases, whether they are explicit or implicit. And while most of us are doing our best to learn and unlearn every day, the path to hell is still paved with good intentions.
I think part of the problem is people condemn actions as either good or bad, when the world is not so straightforward. 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. People are multifaceted with detailed opinions and ideas. Our society and morals aren’t a system of black and white, but rather a gradient, shadowed in circumstance. So perhaps canceling someone and ensuring they’re dead on arrival may not be the best way to handle differing opinions, or problematic behavior.
However, where is the line? When does it become too late to forgive? Whose place is it to say when someone should be forgiven? At the end of the day, everyone has their own opinions as to who deserves forgiveness and who doesn’t. However, a general rule of thumb is that if you are not a part of the group in question that was targeted by someone’s comments or actions, you do not get to decide if the person responsible deserves forgiveness. Furthermore, if you are not offended by someone’s words or actions, great. Just please do not tell other people what they can and cannot be offended by. And lastly, are some things beyond forgiveness? Yes. And to each person, that line is different. There are many things that need to be taken into account, and I don’t have all the answers. Each situation is different and each person and their capacity for forgiveness is different, and as such, the results will always be different.
The point of this article isn’t to tell you to forgive Kevin Spacey or give Jeffree Star a second chance; it is simply to put some humanity into the idea of infallible larger than life stars. Everyone can draw their own boundaries and decide what’s worth the emotional labor 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 encourage everyone to be critical of the media and art they consume, while also leaving an open mind for human error when they see fit.