Pop culture needs to change

Calls to cancel celebs only fuel their fame

Dave Chappelle onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Dave Chappelle onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Image: Kevin Winter

In 2016, the Fees Must Fall movement was on all of our lips. If you weren’t chanting on the front lines, you were sharing an opinion on the matter. One public figure who shared her opinion was Caster Semenya and it was not welcomed with open arms.

Semenya’s view was that the protesters were “wasting” their time. The 400m star not only sought to be quick on the track but quick to graduate. Fees Must Fall threatened this personal best and in her opinion it halted their individual graduations as well.

Another issue she touched on was the politics within spaces like the Fees Must Fall movement. There were many had their own motivations for protesting, whether it was because they viewed it a political stepping stone or as a means of suspending the academic year so their already poor marks could be remedied.

While Semenya shared on why she would not take part, she continues to be lambasted for having a differing opinion on the matter.

People like Semenya are often thrust into the spotlight because they speak to the aspirations and dreams of millions. So, when they align with political ideologies that don’t line up with the liberalism of wokeism, it often paints the image that there are high expectations that are unfair to them.

One such celebrity whose controversial, and more than often offensive, remarks have landed him in hot water is Dave Chappelle. As a revered comedian, Chappelle is beloved for his irreverent approach to humour, racking up accolades for many of his works.

Of late, Chappelle has been criticised for repeatedly making transphobic jokes, which reached  a fever pitch recently when he was chastised for aligning himself with trans-exclusionary radical feminism. This is a type of feminism that does not include trans women in their struggle.

Fuelling the sentiments of transphobia, Chappelle’s show continued the hateful treatment many transgender folk face today.

However, this is not Chappelle’s first rodeo. Now on his fourth Netflix special that has earned him $20m per filming, Chappelle is the streaming company’s cash cow, so it’s no surprise that his offensive remarks are protected.

Chappelle has also amassed a great following, with old and new fans tuning in to listen to his many other funny jokes. Calls to cancel a man who often uses woke social media users as a punchline only helps cement his fame.

So, when another call to cancel someone like Chappelle comes up, it falls on deaf ears because the people who tuned into Chappelle’s show aren’t there to understand the lives of trans people but are there for those exact crass jokes.

When the celebrity is unwilling to change because it pays to be problematic, the illness is not necessarily just them, it’s also the fan base and celebrity culture that keeps them in the spotlight.

There is a clear, distinguished form of thinking between the two. Semenya is sharing an opinion where her aim is to not vilify but to give a different point of view.

Chapelle, on the other hand, is perpetuating hatred towards a group of people rather than sharing an informed opinion about them.

It is in these differences that cancel culture becomes a vital tool in holding celebrities accountable, where there are repercussions for using their platform irresponsibly. However, they cannot be effective when the issues are not recognised as problematic.

For that reason, cancel culture does not help the many situations in which we find ourselves in relation to public figures. Sure, it’s a catchy call to action that helps rally people against a problematic figure but it does not encourage those people to change their ways. Instead, it allows them to be rebels or martyrs.

So, before you participate in the next cancellation of a celebrity, perhaps ponder how you can affect pop culture enough to change the way in which people worship celebrities.​


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