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?
Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
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
3 thoughts on “Cancel Culture – Good or Bad?”
Hey Alice! I actually did a discourse analysis on an episode of South Park last semter for one of my Communications Research class. I ended up finding out that the creators use satire and the use of making fun of things that are obvious challenges for Americans as a way for relating to Americans. Since the creators are Canadian there approach to American issues are from the confused Canadians point of view. They do make fun of people with disabilities often, which I do find inappropriate, However, I believe they do this because this is how they believe dumb Americans view people with physcial or mental disabilites, as people with very to little no purpose. However, that’s obviously not true. I just believe the show is trying to show their audience how stupid America’s perceptions of certain things can be.
I read the Colbert article so seeing what the other one was about is interesting. I remember as a kid always watching South Park and seeing the bad things they would air. A couple of years back, I remember thinking about how episodes are still being aired from the show. Nonetheless, this example of South Park understanding their mistakes and attempting to do better shows that people can learn from their mistakes. Cancel culture has turned away from this a lot nowadays because lots of times, people who attempt to do better and learn from mistakes aren’t allowed and their careers and lives are really affected negatively. I know you talked about this in the reading which is something that pointed out to me. What are some examples you have seen where someone was wronged by cancel culture?
I love your closing question: “am I calling out the behavior for the right reasons?”. That is so important when discussing cancel culture. One thing I have noticed in my encounters with cancel culture online is that a lot of people will quickly jump in to cancel people (specifically public figures) simply because it’s trendy or they are not a fan of that person. Those are not reasons to cancel someone. I like that you also bring up the fact that many times people are canceled it is because of comments they made in their teen years. While I 100% believe people should be held accountable for their actions, it would be a lie to say that we haven’t all said something regrettable as a teenager. Granted, I wasn’t shouting racist comments or other types of hate speech in person or online, but people can change as time passes. People can educate themselves and change their behavior. Isn’t that one thing the internet can help with? We should focus more on educating people with flawed viewpoints (while still holding them accountable for their actions) instead of immediately shutting them out. #192