How Cancel Culture Revolutionized the Internet

Joy Villanueva, Editor-in-Chief

During the Oscars on March 27, 2022, actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock due to an ill-suited joke made by Rock. Following the award show, many viewers all over social media questioned whether or not Smith should be “canceled” for his actions. After Smith won his first Oscar moments after the incident, audiences also argued if his Oscar should be taken away for going against the Academy’s conduct code. Canceling is unbeneficial for all parties, and holding people accountable should be the first step toward fixing their mistakes.

Cancel culture, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure. Widely tokenized by Generation-Z, cancel culture ends the careers of many, and in the opinion of some, it is simply for the entertainment of social media users watching. According to CBS News, one of the earliest pop culture references to someone being “canceled” was in late 2014, during an episode of VH1’s reality show Love and Hip-Hop: New York. Cisco Rosado, a cast member and music executive, told his then-girlfriend Diamond Strawberry, “You’re canceled,” after she revealed she had a daughter.

As reported by Pew Research, 44% of Americans say they heard at least a fair amount about the phrase, including 22% who heard a great deal, according to the Center’s survey of 10,093 U.S. adults, conducted Sept. 8-13, 2020. Still, an even larger share (56%) say they heard nothing or not too much about it, including 38% who heard nothing at all.

Students, as well as teachers at Sierra Vista High School, know a reasonable amount about cancel culture.

“I’ve heard a good amount of influencers being canceled. I feel like it happens every couple of weeks or so,” says senior Xavier Miranda.

“Like anybody else, celebrities are free to say and do whatever they please, but they should also be ready for the repercussions that come their way regarding those statements,” explains Vista English teacher and yearbook advisor David Jurvelin.

The Internet carries a massive reputation of accusing celebrities of issues that users deem as problematic that they may or may not have carried out, when instead, users should be taking a step back and investigating why said celebrities were canceled in the first place.

As the public scatters to debate about whether or not Smith should be canceled or have his Oscar taken away by the Academy in response to his actions, it is crucial to examine and attempt to understand his reasoning and why he did what he did the night of the Oscars. Explained by CNN, Rock presented the award for best documentary by taking a jab at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, joking: “Jada I love you, ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Pinkett-Smith struggles with alopecia, an autoimmune disease which causes sudden hair loss that starts with one or more circular bald patches that may overlap. Pinkett-Smith rolled her eyes in annoyance at the remark, which caused a reaction from Smith, resulting in the infamous slap. As society learns what is acceptable to joke about and what is not, Rock’s joke was completely inappropriate and Smith simply protected his wife’s feelings. The rules should apply to both celebrities, as Smith should not have let his anger get the best of him and Rock should have refrained from telling the joke in the first place.

Cancel culture continues to become the new form of gladiator games, where the offenders happen to be subjected to the court of public opinion. Although reducing cancel culture could be the more morally correct way to hold people accountable, it may shame influencers off the Internet, preventing them from ever making the same mistake twice. Rock deleted his Instagram account the night of the Oscars after receiving backlash from social media users about the joke, and has not been seen online since. According to Entertainment Weekly, during a comedy show in Boston the day after the award show, Rock told the audience: “‘I don’t have a bunch of [jokes] about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend,’ Rock could be heard saying in leaked audio from the show obtained by Variety. ‘I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that [situation]. And it will be serious and funny.’”

Cancel culture thrives at ruining the reputations of celebrities on all platforms, and most of the time, fails to teach a lesson or achieve its purpose; social media users go about canceling celebrities every day, not knowing what damage they are causing as well. As the influence of the internet continues to expand, it remains the choice of its users to decide to be one of the influencers or one of the influenced.

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