Holding others Accountable: Why Shaming, Cancel Culture and Boycotting are not the best way to go about it!

These past few years several actors, entertainers and public figures have been and are being held accountable for offensive remarks they made in the past. An example of this is the actor and stand-up comedian Kevin Hart. Back in 2018, the actor was asked to host the 2019 Oscar ceremony. But he eventually backed down after receiving backlash for a homophobic tweet he made years earlier. Lately, popular television shows like America’s Next Top Model and Friends have also received backlash for offensive remarks and situations that were presented in these shows. Many people wonder how it was possible that these shows could air on television and demand that those involved in their production be held accountable.  While holding others accountable for their mistakes can foster growth, is the way we are going about it now (i.e. shaming, cancel culture, and boycotting) the best way to achieve this?  Especially when dealing with old shows, tweets, comments and/or presentations.

Most of the current backlash towards shows like ANTM and Friends is the result of our current consciousness and societal developments. This means that now a lot of us are aware of and able to spot offensive remarks used in these shows. At the time, in the 1990s and 2000s, we watched these shows, we enjoyed the shows and some of us did not register these remarks as offensive and if we did, we remained silent and let it continue. Meaning that we participated in the process, consciously or not. So, wondering why these shows weren’t cancelled when they aired doesn’t help. The shows were not cancelled because no one stood up and demanded that they be cancelled. There wasn’t a movement. So, as hard as it is to admit, we must accept that we also participated in the continued perpetuation of those remarks, comments, and scenes. The blame is not only on the cast or the show host or the production company. If we didn’t massively watch these shows, these shows might have been cancelled due to low ratings.

The fact that now we, as a collective, can recognize these offensive, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, or shaming remarks and moments and that we don’t remain silent means that we have made progress. In the same way that we’ve made progress and evolved into a more critical version of ourselves, we should also look at others and ask if who they are now is an evolved version of themselves or not. Before immediately going into defensive mode and demanding that they be held accountable for what was said or done 10 or 20 years ago, we should also look at what they are doing now. What are they saying now? What are they tweeting now? Are the contents they deliver now still offensive? Or do we notice a change between what they said and did back then and what they are saying and doing right now? Do we see that they’ve made progress? If they’ve made progress, is it alright for us to dismiss the progress they’ve made since then and demand that their current shows, projects etc. be cancelled? Is it alright to boycott their current achievements?

Before rushing into action, take a moment and think about this: You’ve also made progress. Is it alright for others to judge you based only on who you were back then? Or do you expect them to take into consideration how you’ve grown and how far you’ve come? If so, why not apply this to others? This does not mean that people should not be held accountable for what they did or said, but there are better ways than shaming, cancelling them out or boycotting them.  No one is perfect. I most certainly am not, and you aren’t either. None of us are. But I’m sure that we can hold each other accountable while still being critical when evaluating people’s past behaviors and when evaluating if someone has made progress. Let this critical evaluation of someone’s character be at the base of our actions, comments and demands. Let’s look back at these shows, acknowledge what could have gone better and use these lessons for future productions. There’s no use crying over spilled milk. The same goes for individuals who’ve made bad comments or presentations in the past. Before boycotting their present achievements, let us consider if they are worthy of it or not based on what they are doing now.

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