I Don’t Get It: Cancel Culture


Words || Masumi Atul Parmar

If you’ve been on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or literally any social media platform in the last few years you’ve probably heard about cancel culture.

From its origins in the Black Twitter community of 2015, cancel culture has been gaining rapid popularity. In the past year, it has truly staked its claim in the hall of fame: Hashtag #Cancelled is now all over the internet.



When you no longer financially, morally, and\or digitally support a person due to their problematic or questionable behaviour, you are “cancelling” the person.

Cancelling has been defined as “a call to boycott someone due to their questionable and/or unpopular opinions”, regardless of whether that has been done online or in real life.

Though this phenomenon has been mainly used against celebrities, people have brought it to real life by using the term on their mates, family members and even colleges.

An example of when to use cancelled would be:

  • Your friend wearing pink pants with a pink top and a pink hat, and you telling them that you will not walk out with them looking like that.
  • Learning that Chris Brown beat up Rihanna and going on to delete all his music from your library.
  • You block someone on Instagram for posting about white supremacy

In any of the above examples, you can let the offending party know that they have been “cancelled”.

The term “cancel culture”, specifically, is an umbrella term for the act of “cancelling” someone.

In referring to this trend of cancellation as a “culture”, we are able to recognise how ubiquitous it is in our everyday life. And as with any other societal norms we take for granted, we should use our own sense of critical literacy to examine the cultural narrative cancellation represents.


The term problematic is used to describe behavior by people that is questionable. This is often used to describe the actions of celebrities or figures in popular culture.

TW: Lena Dunham, for example, is a problematic “feminist” since she has admitted to sexually assaulting her friend, and has given her friend a non- apologetic apology for it.

The problematic behaviour of a fictional character might lead audience members to “cancel” this character.

Severus Snape might be called out for his problematic behaviour, like asking Old Voldy Baldy to kill all the Potters other than Lilly.

With problematic characters, though, there is a tendency for people to keep them in their hearts as “problematic faves”.

While some problematic behaviour can be redeemed by later actions, it’s important to make sure that we do recognize the past or current transgressions of our problematic faves.

It’s equal important to note that some behaviour is unable to be redeemed by any future actions. Regardless of how “wholesome” a character or person might be now, certain moral transgressions should warrant a permanent cancellation.

There are varying and heated opinions on this topic, with people debating from all sides of this fence. Some people might believe that any behaviour is redeemable, and, of those who believe in the irreparable moral qualities of certain actions, there are numerous opinions on which actions warrant such a judgement.

A significant recent debate about problematic versus irreparable behaviour is Liam Neeson’s admission that he previously used racist murder fantasy as a coping mechanism for processing a friend’s trauma.

Neeson admitted to actively going out into black neighbourhoods with the intention of “unleashing violence”. While he maintains that he never actually lashed out at anyone during this time, the question remains:

Is this behaviour significant enough to warrant permanent cancellation? Or does Neeson deserve slack for coming out of this “a better person”?

Hint: when it comes to admitting racist fantasies, it’s possible that you should acknowledge the horror of these past thoughts, rather than insisting you’re “not racist”.


Political correctness has been defined as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against”.

It means that one is incredibly aware of their language and actions in order to never be deemed problematic or cancelled and more importantly, not offend anyone.

People who are politically correct try to cover all bases and be as sensitive to everyone as possible.

People often do this to avoid getting cancelled and cancel culture.

When it comes to cancel culture, it is important that we move toward an understanding of “political awareness” rather than “political correctness”. This distinction, whilst seemingly trivial,


To call someone is out is to verbally (or electronically) hold someone accountable for their words or actions. This is more often than not used to call out problematic behavior rather than letting it slide.

Examples of why you’d call someone out:

  • Someone obviously bullshiting an answer to your question instead of just saying they have no clue.
  • Someone being passive aggressive to you rather than straight out telling you what the issue is.
  • Someone famous online making a questionable comment.

By calling someone out, you are basically not taking their crap and making sure they know it. Regardless of whether it’s online and you’re calling out a celebrity or someone you know, by calling them out you are making it know that they are being problematic and therefore should probably be cancelled.