South Park, the cartoon comedy is no stranger to cancel culture. Some viewers have boycotted the show due to their offensive episodes and others have expressed their outrage on social media and demanded the show be taken off the air. South Park is known to focus on sensitive subjects such as gender, race, sexuality, and religion. The episode “Krazy Kripples” has caused controversy over the portrayal of people with disabilities and creating harmful stereotypes. However, behind what some people would argue as offensive, the character challenges preconceptions and starts a conversation around the intersection of race and disability in today’s society. Their episodes focus on real issues that are seen daily and start a conversation amongst people about the effects of stigmatization. We have seen times that the television comedy has got it wrong in an episode that saw trans rights being mocked. However, I think it is important to mention that the show has tried to learn from their wrongdoings by addressing their failures and producing a trans-friendly episode called “The Cissy.” We can assume the reasoning behind the producer’s decision to make things right was due to cancel culture on social media. Therefore, they have listened to people’s points and concerns and tried to make amends to some degree. But ultimately it shows that people can make mistakes and put their hands up and acknowledge their immoral behavior. Just because an error has been made doesn’t mean someone has to suffer major consequences because of it.
We have seen cancel culture do great things in creating social justice, equality, and destroying harmful precedents. We have seen this in the downfall of big names like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby. In these situations, cancel culture has been massive in highlighting the inappropriate behavior of high-profile names that have been able to get away with their actions for too long. Cancel culture on social media has given a voice to people to express their points and influence change.
However, I believe there can be a downside to cancel culture because some people go too far in calling out people that have only committed mistakes on a minor level or from their past. We have seen celebrities such as UK rapper Stormzy come under fire on social media with homophobic tweets from his past resurfacing when he was a teenager. After this had happened, he publicly came out and apologized and called the comments “unacceptable and disgusting” (BBC, 2017). In this instance, we have to carefully reflect on the information we see. We are all human and we are bound to make mistakes. It is how we respond to these mistakes that shape who we are as a person. I think it is important that we believe people can change and when they have publicly apologized for their behavior, we have to accept that they will do better and change their character.
When we want to call someone out on their bad behavior it is important to be doing it with the right intentions. Many people involved in cancel culture can be doing it for the wrong reasons such as wanting to increase their social status. We need to be able to reason and reflect on how best to respond to bad behavior and ask the question, am I calling out the behavior for the right reasons?
BBC. (2017). Stormy apologises for homophobic tweets. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/42078366/stormzy-apologises-for-homophobic-tweets
Henderson, R. (2020). What Propels Cancel Culture? Psychology Today, POV Cancel Culture, pages 36-38
Krebs, N. (2020). “Krazy Kripples” and the Transformative Body Politics of Disability and Race. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 14 (3), 301-316