Celebrities can be cancelled. Fandoms are forever

8 Jul 2020

Cancel culture — withdrawing support for public figures when they do or say something offensive — has become so widespread it was Macquarie Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year.

A practice where people come together to remove the offender’s cultural capital and “cancel” them, the phenomenon has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. With so many people staying at home there has been a rise in social media use, and with more time on social media there is more time for “cancellations”.

harry potter cosplay with cauldronJK Rowling was cancelled for anti-trans remarks. Lana Del Rey, criticised as using anti-feminist lyrics, was cancelled after her response to these criticisms on Instagram. Popular YouTuber Jenna Marbles announced she was leaving the platform following criticism of early videos featuring offensive lyrics, gender stereotypes and blackface.

Everyone is cancelled

Fandom is deeply rooted in identity and values, and fans are likely to “cancel” people who violate norms of justice and moral responsibility. As fandoms represent community and comfort, fans are quick to denounce threats to these spaces.

Following the controversy of Rowling’s recent tweet, many fans are working to distance themselves from “Harry Potter and the author who failed us”.

Actors from the Harry Potter movies and spinoffs, including Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne, Noma Dumezweni, and Emma Watson, have criticised Rowling’s remarks. Staff at her publisher Hachette are reportedly refusing to work on her newest book.

In 2018, the New York Times declared “everyone is cancelled”. It can take just one thing – seemingly nothing – for someone to be cancelled, argued the story.

In many cases, cancel culture is criticised as mob mentality echoing the same principles of bullying. Cancel culture has become reactive instead of proactive: knee-jerk reactions and lashing out rather than progressive calls for accountability.

Our research shows fandoms can be spaces where people with shared interests build on visible collective identities and camaraderie. But fandoms can also be spaces of invisible emotional attachments: private “friendships” with real or imagined characters.

Read the full article by Alison Joubert and Jack Coffin at The Conversation.