Meet the canceled characters

Fatmata Sesay

As an avid YouTube watcher and social media consumer, I am very plugged
into pop culture, which over the past few years has been dominated by cancel
culture, where a large number of people, all linked through social media, agree
to no longer support a public figure or organization after offensive or hurtful
actions. The hope is that they learn from their mistakes and change their ways.
While “cancellation” may sound like a good idea, it normally ends in fake
apologies, lots of angry stans, and more attention drawn to the public figure or
organization.
After observing many cancellations, I have discovered that most canceled
people fit into one of four archetypes: the actor, the ignorer, the hider, and the
lotus.

The majority of people who get cancelled are actors. An actor normally goes
on a short hiatus, ignores the haters, and comes out with an apology to the
smallest audience possible when the noise gets too loud. One recent example
is David Dobrik, the Youtuber who had over 20 million subscribers and was
canceled in March for creating a vlog culture that allowed incidents of sexual
assault and jokes with racist punchlines. His initial apology seemed scripted
and lacking accountability, leading to many lost fans and sponsors. So Dobrik
posted another, more vulnerable apology, which was more widely accepted
but criticized for having sponsors as its catalyst, not true reflection or
remorse. Dobrik has been quiet ever since.
The Dobrik situation highlights why being “an
actor” is the most popular role amongst people who get
canceled. They apologize to improve public opinion,
and once everything is said and done, they can go back
to doing what they were doing.
Just as the name suggests, an ignorer gets canceled
and completely ignores the criticism. A prominent
example is J.K. Rowling, the world-renowned
author who made Harry Potter famous. Over
her career, Rowling has tweeted hatred toward the
transgender community countless times, causing
major uproar. It is one thing for a YouTuber to be
shady among acquaintances and on their own platforms, but for an author to
ostracize a whole portion of her fanbase, disrespecting their entire existence,
is unacceptable, never mind ungrateful. Rowling has yet to apologize or even
show remorse for her actions. In fact, she has gone on to play the victim and has
since retweeted various articles defending her sentiment.
Being “an ignorer” is the worst response to being canceled. It just shows the
consumer how little they care about the pain they are causing.
Normally, the hider has caused large-scale upset or continuously done
something inappropriate. The blowback is so big that it is too overwhelming to
face, so they just leave and don’t come back. An example is Shane Dawson, a
YouTuber who was canceled for making racist and pedophilic videos for almost
a decade. Until June of 2020, Dawson fit into the “actor” archetype because
of his disingenuous apologies for blackface, pedophilia, and beastiality. After
he made a video insulting fellow YouTuber, Tati Westbrook, in June, though,
the internet grew tired of his shenanigans, and he was canceled across social
media. Ever since, he has been radio silent: no tweets, no Youtube videos, and
only a few comments here and there.
The hider is the second-worst archetype due to their inability to own up to
their actions. In their hiding, and all of their newfound free time, we can’t tell
what they’re doing. They could be focusing on what they were called out for, or
they could be waiting for everything to blow over. We may never know.
A plant well known in literature, the lotus represents overcoming obstacles
or tragedy, and it is by far the least common archetype. After cancellation, a
lotus uses what they learn from critics and changes their behavior to become a
better person. An example of a lotus in the YouTube community is Logan Paul.
One fatal day, Paul was wandering in a Japanese forest known for the amount
of suicides that happen there, when he and his friends found one such victim.
They recorded, edited, and uploaded a video containing clips of this victim. The
video faced immediate backlash, and Paul was immediately canceled. Paul came
out with an apology, which was met with even more backlash, as in it he sang
his own praises and did not respect the victim. At this point, Paul was the actor
archetype, but then he started his redemption arc. He came out with a suicide
awareness mini-documentary and started a new podcast. All of these actions
seem very performative at first glance, but over time, the transformation and
the evolution of Logan Paul is clear in his content. He goes from making short
little skits every day to uploading a few times a month with a popular podcast
that dives deep into various topics. This is one of the few cases where cancel
culture really did what it intended and got a person to change their actions.
Cancel culture as a basic idea is a good one: bring attention to people’s
shortfalls by hurting them where it hurts—their wallet and reputation. But these
examples and countless others show us that while the heart of the canceler may
be in the right place, canceling often causes performances and often only leads
to disappointment.
If cancel culture continues as is, we will just keep seeing fake apologies, and
people will care less and less about serious issues. Apologies can only work if
the person is truly sorry for what they did, and true remorse typically takes
time. We need to hold public figures accountable but allow them the time and
grace to make meaningful change.