By Sarah Kadous
Artwork by Genie Espinosa
Redemption: A transaction of remorse for the opportunity to start over. The feeling of guilt or a desire to improve runs through human nature. Whether or not we are worthy of second chances, however, ultimately boils down to the question: Can people really change?
In George Orwell’s 1984, the author describes Big Brother to be an unforgiving eye that spies on its people, awaiting their faults. Literary experts have translated this political allegory to be representative of a tyrannical and noisy establishment. However, post 2016 America’s “cancel culture” has presented the possibility of Big Brother actually being the unforgiving public pupils.
Canceling is something humans do to avoid an awkward dinner we don’t want to attend or to get rid of a magazine subscription cluttering our email inboxes. However, progressive activists have tokened the term “political cancelation” to mean the unrecognition of someone in public atmospheres due to their past or present tendencies to say or do something that is socially unacceptable to the public eye. Basically, if you screw up, you seize exist-In our world, at least.
Everyday, a new celebrity is upgraded, or rather downgraded, to that same status. In fact, it would not surprise me if the politically correct people’s secret society had a frequently updated laminated list that bared the names of every politician, musician, actor, actress, and general human being that they deem canceled (also would not be surprised if Kanye West and Taylor Swift were at the top of this list). Now, I get it. As a sixteen year old Muslim American with immigrant parents and a short temper, I too feel the tendency of wanting to snap my fingers and ignore the presence of ignorant people that say ignorant things. But this we can’t see you approach will only get us so far in the fight against the Trump Administration and discriminatory culture sewn into the country.
Cancel Culture is the product of human tendency to swing from one extreme to another. Trump’s election to the US presidency followed by numerous amounts of ignorant statements shocked and shunned us. We felt no connection to our leader and therefore did not want to recognize his position of power. “Not My President” we said, hoping impeachment was a genuine possibility. We knew, however, that his ruling for the next four years was inevitable, and moved onto smaller authorities we thought we could break- The world of celebrities. Twitter users took it upon themselves to research famous faces and dig up their pasts, sometimes finding decade old dirt. And just like that, social media held the power to potentially destroy careers.
And For what cause do they fight in the name of? The hopes of a societal practice of inclusivity. However, in the attempt to encourage intersectionality through political correctness, we are simultaneously ostracizing celebrities for mistakes of their past. A bit counterproductive, no?
At the start of the year, producers at Fox revealed that actor and Youtuber Kian Lawley will no longer star in their film The Hate You Give, even after scenes had been shot. Prior to this, five year old videos of the entertainer surfaced to the directors that had racist and discriminatory content. THYG recasted, refilmed, but did not reconsider the possibility that a lot can happen in five years. Rather than making a statement of personal growth, they kicked Lawley out and replaced him within a couple months. The actor took a long break from the limelight, and has not starred in a film since.
A politically aware society in its ideal form is essentially a good thing. But when have we ever taken anything in its ideal form? Twitter and instagram cease to be platforms only for posting pictures of fancy breakfast and latte art, but are now evolving into smaller branches of news vessels. In an hour, a piece of information from other side of the country can spread to everyone in my social circles. For curiosity connoisseurs such as myself, I cannot deny this convenience. However, there is a fine line between news and gossip. And just because the subject is famous does not make the shaming any less brutal.
Kendall Jenner. Back in 2017, the young model and reality tv star starred in a Pepsi commercial that sparked severe controversy. The content of the commercial deemed Jenner racist, ignorant, and eventually canceled (for the time being, at least). The public blanketed over her the image of a privileged, uneducated white girl that had never encountered the definition of struggle and proceeded to barrade her through the internet. Pepsi however, continued to carry on producing sweet sodas after a formal apology and transferred the heat onto the then 21 year old. Why? Because there is no face to Pepsi. There is no physical image the nation could publicly shame.
In the simplest of terms, we expect more from celebrities than we do of ourselves. We place ourselves at a pedestal behind our screens and pretend to be holier than thou, as though we have never slipped, tripped and fricked up. In psychology, researchers conclude that humans maintain one of two different mentalities when it comes to their traits: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Fixed mindset-ers believe that all traits one is born with more or less stay the same throughout one’s life. For example, they would argue social skills to be something you either have or you never will. In contrast, growth mindset-ers believe that with effort comes change, i.e. a trait such as social skills can eventually be learned. Psychologists also concluded that people with growth mindsets often carry much greater probabilities of success in that they practice a constant revaluation of themselves (search it up I promise).
The point of this psychology lesson is not to put you to sleep (though I apologize if it did), but rather to point out the importance of the marriage between method and mind. Just like a plant needs water and sunlight to grow, humans need effort and the belief in progression to change. In no way will society eventually manifest into an ideal humanity in which slurs are unheard of so long as we correct people using fear and shame as oppose to inclusion and constructiveness. Cancel culture needs to redirect its focus away from canceling people and instead cancel their actions. Nothing good comes from digging up the past, as it is filled with embarrassing Justice t-shirts, feather hair clips and all our not-so-proud moments.
MEET THE WRITER:
Sarah Kadous is a 15 year old Muslim American political activist and writer from the mostly sunny San Diego, CA. Kadous is currently a sophomore at Mt. Carmel High School, and plans on pursuing a career in political journalism and public policy once she graduates. When she’s not fulfilling her duties as a writer for Adolescent Content and Pure Nowhere, you’ll fine her rocking out to Tchaikovsky in her bedroom, eating a plethora of strawberries, protesting on the streets or angrily listening to the news while on a run.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @sarahkadous