As consumers of media, entertainment and sports, and as active participants in American democracy, we hold immense power. We elect politicians, make athletes into globally-recognized figures and provide media companies with the support and funding necessary to continue producing their projects. It is our ability within a capitalistic structure to build up and tear down such entities as we see fit.
The act of withdrawing support and ripping the platform out from under celebrities, or business’ feet has become known as “canceling.”
When Harvey Weinstein came under fire for severe sexual misconduct, he was the well-deserving recipient of a canceling wave that came his way. Social media united in a scorching condemnation of his actions, the Producers Guild of America banned him for life and he was eventually sentenced to 23 years in prison.
In some cases, cancel culture has been a righteous deliverance of justice to people who are undeserving of their platforms or fame. However, recently, cancel culture has taken a dangerous swing toward negativity. Instead of being a tool of the people to take down despicable elements of humanity, it has drifted toward a mob mentality of hate and hasty conclusions.
One of the recent victims of the darker new-era cancel culture is a rising television star, Jodie Comer. Comer was launched into the spotlight as the lead actor of BBC America’s hit drama and black comedy show, “Killing Eve.” In September, Comer won an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama, becoming the first Emmy winner to be born in the 1990s, at the age of 27. This prestigious award comes after her win of a BAFTA TV award back in May 2019. Comer is nominated for the same award in this year’s Emmys, for her recurring role in “Killing Eve” as the international assassin, Villanelle.
While Comer’s character is certainly familiar with death, I doubt Comer herself is ready for the assassination of her career that many former fans are calling for.
In the past month, Twitter flooded with the hashtag #JodieComerIsCanceled. The backlash began as fans ran with unsubstantiated rumors that the Liverpool native was dating an American republican. Speculation on Comer’s love life uncovered details about her apparent boyfriend that upset and angered many fans.
While Comer herself has been vocal on social media in support of the LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement, the possibility of Comer dating a Republican is where the cancelers drew the line.
Canceling Comer based on speculation is an example of just how far cancel culture has swung toward mob mentality intolerance. A public humiliation and takedown of anyone who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of our own beliefs and opinions, or dating someone with opposing viewpoints threatens to throw society’s collective movement toward tolerance and inclusion down the drain.
The Constitution itself, in Article II, Section 2, allows the president to show forgiveness and tolerance of “offenses against the United States,” through pardons and clemency. President Washington set the example by pardoning two men of treason after the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s. Since then, thousands of presidential acts of clemency have been granted.
America was not founded on ideals of conformity and the idea that public shaming and conviction without due process is the best route to improving humans. The infamous Salem Witch Trials show just how dangerous and inhumane a society with such elements can be.
Yet, cancel culture has become a normalized modern version of burning people at the stake for daring to defy our expectations and definitions of what is acceptable. Instead of sticking to ending the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, who undoubtedly deserve the wrath of a united movement, cancel culture has slit the throat of Jodie Comers based on speculation and intolerance of differing opinions alone.
Spreading hate and unleashing anger in the name of righteous canceling is something I thought I left in the teenage, hormone-filled halls of middle school. Today, it is just as prevalent in the unfettered threads of Twitter mentions and social media pages. It’s time for us as a society to grow up and cut ties with cancel culture. By all means, exercise your freedom of speech and right to withdraw support from anyone you choose, but remember that diversity is what makes life so beautiful. Not everyone looks the same, loves the same people or views politics the same way. If we canceled everyone we differ from, no one would remain.