Cancel culture. A tool that the internet has used to all extremes. It began with people on Twitter denouncing celebrities who had committed crimes or held problematic beliefs, such as R Kelly or J.K. Rowling. It then spread through YouTube, where youtubers’ offensive old tweets or videos would resurface, and they would be ultimately ‘cancelled’.
The phenomenon has been controversial in in of itself – ironic I know. Some people online believe that cancel culture has inhibited our ability to learn and grow from our mistakes, as well as affecting the right to free speech. Others see it as a way to hold influential figures accountable for what they say and do.
Cancel culture isn’t fundamentally bad. At its core it is supposed to limit harmful behaviour and speech on the internet. But like many things online it has been warped and misunderstood: used to censor content we simply don’t agree with.
One case of this is Taylor Swift’s new music video for her song Anti-Hero. In the video there is a clip of Swift standing on a weighing scale and the word ‘fat’ appearing. This caused outrage on Twitter as many deemed it to be fatphobic which led to the clip being removed from the video completely.
People thought that Swift using the word ‘fat’ to portray negative feelings she’s had with her body image encouraged the idea that being overweight is a bad thing. I understand this viewpoint and agree that we have to change the idea that our self-worth is linked to our weight. Yet was this not Taylor Swift’s intention also?
In the music video it is her alter-ego who views the idea of being fat as negative. It’s an exploration of Swift’s personal journey with her body image. If anything, she is criticising her own past mindset and how do we condemn someone for that?
The point of art is to provoke thought, to explore personal feelings, to question ourselves and others. Taylor Swift was simply creating art. How do we cancel art? We can’t begin to remove artwork simply because we don’t agree with it. Even at that, it appears most people who were offended by the video were missing the point of it.
One of the things I find most beautiful about artistic freedom – whether it be in writing, music, or artwork – is the artist’s ability to convey an honesty that they may not be able to otherwise. Some of the most private musicians, who stay out of the public eye completely, lay their souls bare in their music: revealing their flaws and mistakes for us to relate to.
Art is an essential part of society, allowing us to reflect, discuss and grow. It has been a part of our culture for centuries and its contribution to who we are cannot be underestimated. To remove it simply because we don’t agree with it sets a dangerous precedent. How do we cancel our culture?