The return of the art of cancellation

Earlier this month, Chrissy Teigen posted a series of photos of herself on Instagram wearing a Halloween costume that no one would describe as low-key: a flamboyant Carmen Miranda-inspired ensemble that included a skirt with dangling bananas and a basket. fruit perched dangerously. on his head. In one photo, she posed with a seemingly homemade meatloaf, informing her 35.8 million followers that her cookbook “is $ 5 cheaper on Amazon today !!!”

Looking at them, you would never guess that just five months ago, the model, entrepreneur and social media maestro got canceled. In May, her career seemed in tatters after it emerged that she had used her Twitter account to troll TV personalities in the past, including encouraging one to take her own life. It was over. Dunzo. Or was she?

To recap, being canceled is essentially a cultural boycott; a decision by fans that an individual did something so heinous that he no longer deserves attention. In recent years, it feels like pretty much everyone from Taylor Swift to JK Rowling has been more or less prone to this phenomenon.

For some stars, like Teigen, the damage can seem irreparable; our basic perception of them has changed. Yet his comeback, while incomplete, is underway – and so far it seems rather successful. While some people clearly remain undone – Harvey Weinstein, now in jail, for one – barring outright crime, most people have an opportunity to return, believes public relations expert Mark Borkowski.

“It depends on how you face the crisis, the level of outrage and, most importantly, the loyalty of your fans.”

Teigen’s Recovery was a masterclass in undo rehabilitation. The first step she took was to apologize profusely, saying, “Not a day, not a moment has passed that I haven’t felt the overwhelming weight of regret for the things that I have done. ‘ve said in the past. ” She’s also been careful to steer clear of social media to reflect on her actions, and even now that she’s back she still refers to it in comments such as “Cancel club is a fascinating thing and I have a lot. learned”.

For Sara McCorquodale, founder of the influence intelligence platform CORQ, apologizing, and in the right way, is crucial. “There has to be a very sincere apology, so that their audience can get the idea that they are only human and that they made a mistake,” she said. “It’s also helpful to be transparent about what they’re doing to fix what led to their cancellation, so it’s not just about quitting social media for a few days and coming back expecting it. let everything be the same. “

A good apology can nip a backlash in the bud, as it did when this year’s Framing Britney Spears documentary highlighted the role Justin Timberlake played in demonizing his former girlfriend. “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life when my actions contributed to the problem, where I in turn spoke or did not speak about what was right,” he wrote on Instagram, naming Spears and Janet Jackson, who suffered a backlash after her nipple was exposed during her 2004 Superbowl performance with him.

In contrast, Kendall Jenner’s lack of a public apology within six months of appearing in that 2017 Pepsi commercial – in which she resolved a protest by handing a police officer a can of soft drink – allowed the scandal to degenerate and bound it to it. permanently.

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Influencers are particularly susceptible to cancellation, because what they often sell is not a talent or a piece of work, but their own life – and if their audience finds out that they are not who they are presenting themselves, woe to them. Jeffree Star, one of YouTube’s most subscribed beauty influencers, was at the center of a storm last year after allegations of racism and predatory behavior were brought against him (which he denied), but managed to keep going after making several apology videos. Sometimes, says Mark, rehabilitation is about “facing the storm, because tomorrow there will be another story that everyone has to overcome.”

Midwife-turned-mom-fluencer Clemmie Hooper could attempt a more stealthy comeback after being called off in 2019 when it emerged she had dragged other influencers under a fake name to toxic gossip site TattleLife. Recently, she has been appearing more and more on her husband’s @Father_Of_Daughters account (including a recent birthday photo taken of the couple in the bath) and in an account dedicated to renovating their home.

Sara suspects that a pivot may be in action. “I wonder if they attracted a different audience with their renovation story, which is less aware of what happened,” she says. “They can still make money out of it, but Clemmie is less in the crosshairs. It is possible for her to reappear as a different influencer without necessarily putting her name on it. The pivot strategy worked for Logan Paul, the vlogger who drew widespread criticism for posting a video showing the body of a Japanese suicide victim. He is now making more money than ever after reinventing himself as a boxer.

To some stars, what they do doesn’t seem to matter – they seem to be immune to cancellation.

Mel Gibson has a long history of alleged anti-Semitism, but remains a major Hollywood actor, as Johnny Depp’s career continues despite his status as a domestic abuser having been proven in court. Mark points out that they have vast resources at their disposal, including public relations teams, “and a loyal fan base built up over the years – that older audience is more forgiving than the younger one.” However, it is difficult to imagine that women in the same position are allowed to continue.

What is clear is that the culture of cancellation isn’t going away anytime soon – and the most important thing for canceled celebrities to realize is that their situation is usually their own fault. “People are usually canceled because they are out of touch with today’s culture and say or do things without realizing it’s a problem,” says Sara. “If enough people following them are angry, it is very difficult to find a way to go back because, at the end of the day, their success depends entirely on their audience.”

READ MORE: What is cancellation culture? And who’s been canceled now?

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About Oscar L. Smith

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