At the beginning of August, when ‘WAP’ was first released, I didn’t listen to it. In fact, it took me until the end of September to fully understand the hype. It’s a good song. It’s sex positive, catchy, and as soon as you know any lyrics you want to yell them at increasingly questionable pitches.
The reason it took me so long to listen to it is that I couldn’t shake the feeling I was forgetting something. I looked it up, and sure enough, Cardi B had been cancelled. At whatever time, for whatever reason, the internet had decided that she was a bad person and vowed never to consume her music again.
I think you can already see the problem here.
It was decided at some point that she was bad, but everything changed when she released ‘WAP’. I’m not here to discuss what Cardi B did or didn’t do, or what sort of a person she is or isn’t. That’s not the point of this article. The point is, you can’t stick a cancelled label on someone and call it a day. That’s not enough. It doesn’t make room for the fickle nature of people; it doesn’t give them credit for the things they actually have done right.
One other prevalent victim of Cancellation is Johnny Depp. When Amber Heard first spoke out against him, everyone was quick to jump on the cancel train. With no real evidence, we all decided that we hated him forever and he could never grow or move on from this thing that supposedly happened a while ago. In fact, he was in a Fantastic Beasts movie at the time, and everyone was upset about it.
“They fired Jamie Waylett from Harry Potter for less,” was the main argument.
Well now, in 2020, he has been fired from Fantastic Beasts, and the internet has done a full 180. Now everyone is outraged, because it has come out that his ex-wife was the abuser all along.
Again, I’m not here to make a judgement on either Depp or Heard. This is exactly why cancel culture is so damaging, and why it gets nothing done. Johnny Depp deserves to be treated as human, nothing more or less. I hate to say it, but from our perspective (that perspective being, it’s nothing to do with us) so does Amber Heard. Personally, I’m not a fan of his acting. He’s had some good roles, but he always plays the same character, in my opinion. As for Heard, I didn’t even know she was the one that played Mera in Aquaman. My own opinion of their acting ability doesn’t change the fact that we all have been treating them as beyond human in our imaginations. That isn’t fair. Johnny Depp is neither the pinnacle of good or evil. He may be innocent, but it won’t be long before something else is dug up that will throw opinions the other way again.
Treating celebrities as if they should be more than human is wrong, and it will only make the people who idolise them more confused when they make human errors. They should be judged as humans.
I am not excusing any wrongdoings in any way. Abuse is wrong, plain and simple, and abusers deserve punishment. But cancel culture is fundamentally flawed. You cannot judge people in black and white. You cannot judge people without knowing the full story. And you have to recognise whether or not they have grown as a person since doing whatever they did.
I didn’t listen to Cardi B before ‘WAP’. I probably won’t listen to her after it. I don’t remember what she did, and honestly, I don’t have the mental capacity to keep track of everything she, or any other celebrity does, and weigh them up in my head. And that is the root of cancel culture. People physically cannot keep all of this information in their heads. We’re not meant to. So we just slap a cancelled sticker on each person they judge to have done wrong, and then try to avoid them.
That doesn’t stop the person from creating, from living their own life. If we cancelled Jeff Bezos, he wouldn’t shut down Amazon and give all his money to charity. He certainly wouldn’t start paying his staff a living wage and working to save the environment. Cancel culture does nothing. It hurts no one except the poor people who think they have to keep track of who is and isn’t cancelled.
Some people have done unforgivable things, and for that, they need more than just to be cancelled. It’s difficult to think about. But some people can be absolutely awful and make great art. Look at JK Rowling. You cannot separate the art from the artist. What you can do, is listen to your own moral compass.
“I’ve decided I can’t support Cardi B anymore” you might say, “She has done bad things and I can’t knowingly support someone who has done that.” That is fine. But you may then go on to say, “I already own her first album, and I do like her music, so I’ll pirate her second, so that I am not supporting her.” And that would be fine too. In fact, it would even be fine if you decided to buy the new album. It would also be fine if you went to a concert of hers. You are not a bad person for enjoying the art of questionable people.
But that doesn’t mean you get to enjoy it blindly.
If you can be conscious, and critical of the art you consume, it doesn’t matter what the content or who the creator of that art is. It is something that you enjoy, and you know that the person who made it is bad, but they still made something good.
Human nature is tricky to define. Philosophers have been trying to do it for thousands of years, and the internet has only made this more obvious. You can hear lots of bad things about people you thought you knew. That’s ok. If cancel culture has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is solved by painting things in black and white and judging blindly. As long as you stay critical, and as long as you’re trying to be a good person, things will turn out ok.
Forget the bad people for a second and focus on those that cancel them. That’s us, the internet. If we can be a bit more forgiving of each other, for enjoying certain art by certain people, then I think that’s a step in the right direction.
You don’t need to forgive the artist to enjoy their art. Because let’s face it. ‘WAP’ is an absolute banger.
Rosie Bowers is a Second Year Drama Student
Featured Image from Pixabay