My favorite joke on the internet is canceling people. Why do I call it a joke? Well, because while someone might be “canceled” for an amount of time, eventually, they find their day in the spotlight once again.
What exactly is “cancel culture?” A celebrity or public figure is exposed for something offensive, illegal or crude. The public then decides that despite how excellent their art is, specifically here we are discussing music artists, they are no longer worthy of being supported. This can involve people deciding to stop buying their music and swag, boycott their concerts, or even manage to swing the public opinion into getting an artist fired from their labels.
People like Scarlett Johansson, Kevin Hart and, very famously, R. Kelly have been publicly canceled in the last several years, but you may have noticed they continue to be very much in the public eye. The less “serious” the indiscretion, the less likely the canceling of them will stick. But potentially, these celebrities can shed light on how we, as a society, can’t stick to our words.
R. Kelly is officially canceled, most likely to the criminal charges and immense media coverage against his case. But oddly enough, like many other facets of celebrity, he is one of the few. Examples include Chris Brown, Michael Jackson and even Kanye West have been called out and “canceled,” yet we still see them in music and on social media, whether it is related to their music or not. Oddly enough, their music tends to see an uptick in streams and purchases after they are announced to be canceled, as opposed to the opposite. What exactly does canceling someone do then, if not stop people from streaming their music?
Well, for starters, it does tend to at the very least call out problematic behave, whether it be as simple as a racist joke or as extreme as domestic assault. Not to say that one is necessarily more problematic than the other, but you can’t arrest someone for a racial slur on the internet as compared to beating up someone. We call out the artist for something they did, and to prove that we take it seriously, we decide to stop streaming their music.
The problem with this is, we call out a person, and they end up trending. People who have never heard of this artist suddenly are curious, which leads to Google searches, and then, whether we mean to or not, the public has created a new wave of fans. We are building a problem while trying to deal with a different issue.
Another issue with cancel culture in music is how people get canceled for something not necessarily wrong, basically creating an internet joke out of something. Ed Sheeran doesn’t like orange? Canceled. Taylor Swift finally speaks about her political opinions? Canceled. How are we supposed to take “cancel culture” seriously when it eventually becomes a joke, or we forget about the problems we canceled them for?
There is no one answer, but its important to remember why we cancel musicians in the first place. Domestic assault, rape, murder; are all easy enough to remember and justify. But something small, like racist or sexist jokes? Who cares about who they are as a person as long as they churn out great music? But bad people can be talented, and that does not give them the right to make millions if they insult and degrade people in the meantime. Not to say people can’t learn from their mistakes, but if cancel culture wants to be taken seriously, we need to start making it more than a two-day hiatus from our favorite artist’s streaming site.