The convoluted mess that is the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard issue brings at least one thing to light: there is something deeply wrong with the ‘cancel culture’ that’s become a norm today. People are quick to make judgments and call out others for the smallest perceived slight. And often, those call outs end up leading to more harm than good.
But let’s backpedal a bit and talk about why the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard fiasco is particularly relevant in this discussion. In the midst of Depp and Heard’s divorce case, information came out that Depp had been an abusive husband. Because she seemingly had the evidence to back it up the public bit her story, hook line, and sinker. People immediately began canceling Depp, declaring boycotts of his projects and disparaging him online.
Now, Depp is pushing his own defamation case against Heard and is claiming abuse by her hands. He, too, has the evidence to prove it. 87 videos, 2 testimonies from police officers, and a number of pictures serve to bring the situation into a frenzy. Already people are switching sides, canceling Heard and un-canceling Depp.
The problem here is that people act so quickly with too much reliance on sensationalized information and hyped-up emotions. It’s the act of canceling then flitting over to un-canceling with barely even any consideration that grates. People forget that just because Depp is a victim doesn’t mean he can’t likewise be an abuser. These quick conclusions and false equivalences are symptomatic of cancel culture.
People tend to move on the standard of ‘offense’ rather than logic. They see something that makes them angry and instantly calls for it to be canceled. While the intention may be good, the execution leaves much to be desired. This is, after all, how we create echo chambers and extremist pockets on the internet. People become alienated by call-outs, rather than educated. They are shamed and retreat further into their ideas, rather than invited to seek out discourse.
It’s ordinary people on social media who are affected by cancel culture the most. There are so many social media users who slip up and say something offensive only to have the wolves descend on them. Those who say something because they didn’t know any better suffer the overzealous hate. Those who actually believe in problematic ideologies are not likely to be swayed by a score of individuals calling them names.
Ultimately, the problem with cancel culture isn’t in its outcomes but the method by which it produces them. The harm in canceling is only present when rashly decided. By all means, boycott a proven pedophile’s work. Unfollow that influencer that is a blatant racist. Cut out the people in your life who turn out to be abusers. But do it only when you’re sure of the fault and when it’s not just a choice borne out of the bandwagon effect.
Do you think cancel culture has done more harm than good?