Caroline’s Look: So Your Fave Has Been Canceled…Now What?

Warning: The following article discusses topics that may be triggering to some readers such as sexual assault and pedophilia.


Caroline Look

Some of the celebrities who have gotten canceled recently

Caroline Look, Editor-In-Chief

A few weeks ago, I had to write a paper. And being that I am neurodivergent and a procrastinator, the first step in that process was choosing what music to play. 

I felt the urge to listen to an artist’s discography on shuffle as opposed to one of my million playlists. 

The only one to stand out in my mind was Panic! At The Disco.

The issue? They were canceled in summer 2020 due to the band’s founder and frontman, Brendon Urie, being accused of sexual assault, racism, transphobia, and more. 

Panic! At The Disco was the first band I ever seriously became a fan of. They were my first concert. I know all of their songs. I own their merchandise. 

Thus, when news hit of his deeply problematic and even criminal behavior, it left me so disheartened.

I hadn’t listened to a Panic! song since summer as I stopped adding their music to my new playlists. That day, however, I turned on their radio on Spotify, but I could only listen for less than an hour before I had to turn it off out of guilt.

The reason this news about Urie was so painful was that I do not subscribe to an idea in academia known as the death of the author.

The term means that the art and the artist are separated. Once the art is made, the artist is no longer associated with it.

For example, author J. K. Rowling gets called out for transphobia every few months. People who cry death of the author usually do this so they can continue to support her and not feel as bad. 

Her point of view seeps its way into her work. Just last year, she released a book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith where a cis man dresses up as a woman in order to kill people. 

Now, if I wrote this article a few months ago, I would have linked to a YouTube video that explains death of the author very well, but ironically, the creator got canceled for anti-Asian racism a few weeks ago. 

This wasn’t the first time I experienced someone I looked up being called out for problematic behavior–and I’d wager it’s happened to you, too.

From influencers to actors, everyone in the public eye is under the microscope due to “cancel culture.”

According to a Business Insider article, the term “cancel culture” first popped up around 2017, and it has been making its way across the internet ever since.

Perception of the phrase has varied throughout the past four years, so to make things simple, the definition of canceling I’m going with is an internet-wide effort to de-platform someone as a result of a problematic or even illegal action they committed.

In Urie’s case, there are allegations surrounding both.

Caroline’s poster wall displaying a Panic! At The Disco and a Harry Potter poster, both of which have a connection to a canceled person (Caroline Look)

After someone has been canceled there are three ways for fans or consumers to react: quit cold turkey and never look back, quit then check in some time later or continue with business as usual.

Since the Panic! At The Disco controversy happened less than a year ago, it hasn’t given me much time to check back in, so I am in the first category. An example for which I think this is the appropriate response is when charges are brought against the person.

For instance, the rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine admitted to “the use of a child in a sexual performance in 2015,” according to a Vulture article. He was sentenced to four years of probation. In this case, when the person themself admits to gross misconduct, I think it is more than appropriate to quit cold turkey. 

To me, certain behaviors cannot be forgiven, and pedophilia is one of them.

Despite this admission, he is still given a platform. YouTubers like Logan Paul are still giving him a place on their channels, and artists like Nicki Minaj still collaborate with him. 

The latter option where one quits and then checks back in to see if any progress has been made yields various results.

On the successful side, there is the case of Kat Von D and her makeup brand KVD Beauty.

In June 2018, while she was pregnant, she explained on Instagram that she had “the intention of raising a vegan child, without vaccinations.”

Soon after, consumers started a boycott. A year and a half later, in January 2020, it was announced that she sold her shares to Kendo, the brand’s partner, and was no longer affiliated with the company. 

It soon rebranded to KVD Vegan Beauty, a move to try and disassociate from Von D herself.

In my opinion, the KVD Beauty story is one of the few cases in which canceling worked. Consumers noticed something they didn’t like, and they voted with their money to the point where the brand had to oust its founder or else it would go under.

A story in which the “check back in later” method failed was with beauty YouTuber James Charles.

After making headlines in 2016 for becoming Cover Girl’s first Cover Boy, Charles amassed a YouTube empire of 16.5 million subscribers on YouTube.

That is until May 2019 when a fellow beauty YouTuber and mentor of Charles, Tati Westbrook, posted a now-deleted call-out video about Charles titled “Bye Sister,” a play on Charles’ branding.

In the 43-minute video, Westbrook alleged that Charles made inappropriate passes at waiters and tried to manipulate straight men into dating him. The video painted a pattern of abuse that simply could not be ignored. 

Westbrook spoke, and the internet listened: Charles lost about three million subscribers in three days.

Charles hit back with two explanation videos. With those videos, Charles had basically won the internet back. People believed him again, and he continued to grow. Now, he sits at about 25 million subscribers. 

A few weeks ago, more allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior were released. This time around, however, it was involving mostly minors and fans, a disgusting abuse of power. 

The pile of evidence against Charles is hard to argue against. The “check back in later” method failed here because we knew of this behavior three years ago but ignored it. It’s like we saw someone light a match, and now, we are acting surprised because of the fire. 

Now, we are left with the final option: business as usual.

To me, this one is hard. Depending on what the person does and their response, I may employ this response. 

Displays of homophobia, racism or misogyny are all examples for which I would sit back and see what they do. If they get defensive, I leave. If they make a manipulative apology, I leave. If they don’t admit to any wrongdoing, I leave. 

The thing about the internet is that everything is cataloged. A tweet you thought would only get seen by a few friends in 2008 now can be accessed by millions of your followers. Due to the usual gap of time, I usually like to think the person has changed, but I cannot be sure until the apology. 

I have high standards for apologies from celebrities, influencers specifically because I do not think it is hard to apologize. We are taught how to in kindergarten. In theory, adults with PR teams should be experts, but you’d be surprised. 

Cancel culture started with very pure intentions: hold people in power accountable. 

Its conceit is not inherently bad. I just think that the term itself has morphed into a failed invisibility cloak where influencers think they are hiding so well, but we see their true intentions.

Canceling is a very personal thing. Something which offends me may not offend you, and vice versa. But, when your fave is canceled next, I implore you to listen to the communities that their actions affected and go on what they say. 

This situation is hard–we are essentially writing the rule book between plays.

My advice is to remember that these people are not your friends. Fight that parasocial bond that celebrities, YouTubers especially, prey upon. They are just as fallible as you are. They make mistakes. Most of them are growing up in front of an audience. 

Also, keep in mind, not everyone needs to have a redemption arc. Charles and 6ix9ine showed themselves to be incredibly problematic, to an illegal extent, and I think they should not be allowed to have an audience anymore. 

Similarly, demand better from your influencer. If they are partying during the pandemic, unfollow them. If they make the same mistakes over and over again, unsubscribe to them. 

I just hope we can make “accountability culture” the next cool trend.