Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture

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Updated Mar 09, 2021 at 08:00AM EST by shevyrolet.

Added Feb 07, 2019 at 10:28AM EST by Adam.

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Cancel Culture refers to the phenomena surrounding the use of the internet slang term "cancel" to describe the widespread public denouncement of a person on social media, typically used in light of actions that have been deemed problematic.


Prior to the fandom-centric definition, "cancel" had seen a variety of uses in slang. On Urban Dictionary,[1] an entry submitted in October 2003 defines the term as a rejection (shown below).

6 Cancelled 1. to reject, get rid of 2. one who is too ugly to even date; usually referring to woman Dayam! That biotch is nastydog. Cancelled! by TheTrueDrinker October 31,2003

On January 5th, 2016, MTV[2] included "cancel(led)" in a list of slang terms to keep an eye on in the coming year, using the example:

Me: "Should I swipe right? One of his 'interests' is Nickelback."
Friend: "CANCEL."

The New York Times[3] pointed to a video by Joanne the Scammer posted in 2016 as an early example of "canceled" taking on its modern definition, referring to a scene where the title character struggles to use an espresso machine and declares it is "canceled" (shown below, the scene mentioned starts at 0:25).


Over the following several years, the term grew to be disliked both as a standalone term and for the culture it represented. Pop Sugar wrote that people should stop using the term in 2017.[4] Readers Digest did the same at the end of 2018.[6] In 2018, after many controversial moments, Kanye West bemoaned that he had been "canceled" in an interview with The New York Times.[5] The New York Times[3] later decried the term as well as "cancel culture," which it argued was too quick to turn on a celebrity when they did something their fans didn't agree with. Some examples pointed to include Twitter user @aangelsimms tweeting about Kanye West (shown below, left) and Twitter user @thekingofleos tweeting about Erykah Badu (shown below, right).

RealLifeANGEL @aangelsimms Follow ldc how hard life gets. KANYE you are cancelled and forever will be canceled in my book. 12:08 AM - 2 May 2018 Devin @thekingofleos Follow Nice to know that Erykah Badu is canceled 5:56 PM -30 Apr 2018

Writer Jonah Engel Bromwich interviewed Lisa Nakamura, a professor at the University of Michigan, who argued cancel culture was borne from fans wishing to take matters into their own hands by deplatforming problematic celebrities, citing fans working to deplatform Logan Paul after his infamous Suicide Forest video. The article also cited a video made by the For Harriet channel which argued that campaigning for someone's "indefinite social death" did not constitute the justice "cancel culture" seeks (shown below).

Various Examples

mike from 79th. @curatedbymike Follow lol remember when she was "cancelled" after throwing heels? CARDI B ON FIRE 9:36 AM 7 Feb 2019 John Ganz @lionel_trolling Follow *zizek voice* they are shaying now i haff been "cancelled" and i must admit i like thish very much, because of course it is in the hegelian sense of "aufgehoben", so i have been cancelled but also at the same time presherved 11:52 AM-7 Feb 2019 4amtravo @TravieJx21 Follow GUCCI IS CANCELLED ALL 2019 GUCC MENU Women's Sweaters mo 5/ 5 unionize buzzfeed @LeftAtLondon Follow) Mickey're cancelled, horn 1:12 AM 7 Feb 2019 Ken Klippenstein @kenklippenstein Virginia is cancelled 3:45 PM- 6 Feb 2019 nuanced opinion guy @charles_kinbote Following ::riding on horseback with a cutlass surveying the battlefield, holding a cloth to my mouth to cover the stench:: So many people cancelled online in one day...Jesus 5:20 PM 4 Feb 2019

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