The phrase “cancel culture” has become increasingly prominent in a more polarized and incredibly connected world. In the early months of 2021, many content creators faced accusations of sexual assault, racism, homophobia, and transphobia from fellow YouTubers and victims, becoming the forefront of social media news.
Content creators play a major role in the lives of many, especially youth. Because of their global impact and leadership, many viewers feel obligated to hold their role models accountable for their actions and attitudes. This leads to “cancelling” a creator: taking away the support for that individual because they did something offensive. A toxic online atmosphere in which audiences seek out creators to cancel often develops.
After a creator gains fame, a slew of jealousy ensues. Viewers, including haters and even supporters, begin to investigate the pasts of these new popular creators looking for controversial incidents to publicise.
“People may dig up things from Youtubers’ pasts because they want to shed light on how they were not good people [prior to their fame],” Acalanes sophomore Lucy Gellman said.
Typically, influencers who experience cancel culture encounter a mass unfollowing along with hate messages and widespread publicity about their actions.
In this current age of social media, creators can quickly gain and lose mass followings. In November 2020, teenager Charli D’Amelio reached 100 million followers on TikTok after approximately a year and a half spent on the app. On the precipice of this milestone, she faced backlash from her viewers after releasing a YouTube video that many interpreted as rude.
“Any person who doesn’t necessarily have controversy, but has a large platform will face scrutiny … People don’t believe that she deserves the platform that she has,” sophomore Sarah Gohres said.
In other cases, the public cancels media stars for legitimate and very consequential reasons. After some creators establish strong platforms, they acquire a sense of protection from consequences and repercussions.
“They think that they’re entitled because they’re rich and have a lot of fans. Creators begin to think that they can get away with things and that their immoral actions won’t affect them. Whenever someone gains fame that fast, it’s bound to impact their ego,” sophomore Ava McGlothlin said.
In 2015, David Dobrik began his YouTube journey. After six years on the app, Dobrik gained roughly 18.5 million subscribers and an incredibly dedicated fan base. In the early months of 2021, Dobrik’s “Vlog Squad” experienced an abundance of hate after accusations of sexual assault and rape surfaced against Durte Dom, a member of this group who Dobrik supported and defended. YouTube demonetized Dobrik’s channel, effectively resulting in an end to his career on the platform. Neither Dobrik nor Youtube could any longer make money from his videos.
Because Youtube makes more money from large creators like Dobrik, they may be more reluctant to demonetize him, as opposed to someone with a smaller channel.
“[For] people like David, because he has so many followers, it took YouTube a long time to take down some of these videos or hold them accountable, or demonetize him, while smaller creators are constantly getting demonetised for almost nothing,” Gohres said.
Disputes over accountability, magnitude, and repercussions surface and often become content for other creators. Trisha Paytas and Ethan Klein have adopted cancel culture as their primary content for their podcast “Frenemies”.
These two creators, especially Paytas, mediate the social media news, yet occasionally find themselves at the center. They, like many other creators, assume their mass following results in a pardon from their misconduct. Viewers constantly attempt to cancel them, but their supporters and entertainment value often outweigh the desire for accountability.
“I think Trisha is very problematic, even though she helped bring light to many of the issues, she still has a past of racism and some questionable actions,” sophomore Alyssa Fong said. “I think she is able to get away with it because she is unbothered by what the internet thinks, and she covers up her scandals by talking about other scandals.”
While some argue cancel culture is negative, others see the accountability aspect of it as beneficial. People see viewers and other creators taking action as a self filtering system working towards a better social media community.
“I believe in holding people accountable and helping to educate. Sometimes boycotting a celebrity or influencer’s platform is the way for them to realize they need to change,” Fong said.
Although cancel culture will likely continue to run rampant on social media, it is the responsibility of all users to make their own decisions as to how to respond to controversy.
“We blindly follow [cancel culture], we need to differentiate between someone who needs to be canceled and someone who just made a mistake,” sophomore Juan Ruiz-Sagrero said.