On Cancel Culture: Could We Consider Redemption & Societal Restoration

April 20, 2023

Any A-list celebrity scandal is sure to dominate the news cycle, especially when there is an arrest involved. In that process, hot takes, internet sleuthing, and overall gossip are commonplace. Between porous police stations and hospitals, details like images, police reports, and the like are often acquired from dubious sources. Particular to instances of physical or sexual violence allegations, reactions take different tones depending on the accused abuser and alleged victim. It cannot be ignored that racism and gender inequality play a role in the public’s perception of any given allegation. At the same time, false reporting is usually overinflated to discredit survivors of abuse.

New York vs. Jonathan Majors

Nevertheless, when someone is accused of a heinous crime, the public has a vested interest in the details. To this point, while some reactions would suggest that the news was not surprising, the arrest of Jonathan Majors in March 2023 drew as much attention as his box office success. As his performances and public engagements endeared him to viewers around the world, Majors’s star shone brightly. As of this week, his management and publicist have severed their relationship with him, as reported by Deadline. In addition, he’s been dropped by a handful of future productions, with many questioning whether he’ll be able to remain as Marvel character, Kang. As for social media, there are far less thirsty tweets and fancam edits of Jonathan, while hot takes on his arrest dominate search results. While the actor maintains his innocence and has yet to be found guilty before a court of law, this looks a lot like the beginnings of him being canceled…but to what end? 

In my opinion, callously referring to what’s happening as “canceling” is disingenuous. In the same way that conservatives have bastardized the term “woke”, the same can be said about the term “canceled”. Instead, I believe it’s fairer to say that the public is demanding that we refrain from carrying on “business as usual” until the matter is concluded. Pending that outcome, determinations around the next steps and what constitutes justice will be considered. Could he be found innocent? Yes. Could he be found guilty? Yes. At this point, the various entities distancing themselves from Majors and the rumored additional victims cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney, indicate the beginnings of what could be a polarizing court proceeding. A prime example of which being the trial for California vs. Daystar Peterson (aka Tory Lanez). 

What comes after canceling?

man in black jacket standing on snow covered ground during daytime

Censure and the public’s cold shoulder, essentially public shaming and ostracization, constitute the foundation of cancel culture. Neither concept is new in society, albeit advances in technology allow the news of bad behavior to travel internationally in a matter of seconds compared to the times of the scarlet letter. However, as we know, there are differences between a person in their youth, adulthood, and old age. Regardless of one’s preference between prison reform and abolitionism, in the event a person is found to have “served their time”, they are expected to rejoin society – they don’t just vanish into thin air.

At the same time, where there haven’t been arrests and or time served, it’s important to consider contrition and what that means to the survivors of said abuse (if there are any). It’s my opinion that in order for there to be social cohesion, some semblance of peace and recovery, once justice has been served and/or if an individual has reformed, and is sincerely contrite, there should be a consideration for their redemption. Nevertheless, while we still live in a world that systematically silences survivors of intimate partner violence, we can be empathetic to those who share their stories and strive towards a judicial system and society that is fair for all.