No phrase has sparked more anger and confusion in 2019 than “cancel culture.” Such that the concept itself has become meaningless. Like the Bogeyman or marriage as an institution, cancel culture is a force both real and not real. Invisible, scary, unnerving—a “source of fear for many Americans,” according to Andrew Yang—cancel culture appears out of nowhere to snatch all that is sacred (often fame, money, notoriety) away from the persons facing cancelation. Boo! It’s me, cancel culture.
Does anything ever truly get canceled, though? Doesn’t matter! Jezebel has decided it’s time to cancel something or someone for good.
Despite what that may sound like, this process does not involve murder. Per civic duty—as with our previous March Madness brackets, most recently Pre-Apocalpyse vs. Post-Apocalypse—you’ll be voting in Jezebel’s Cancel Bracket 2019. The internet gave cancelation a new life in 2019 and made cancel culture a word of the year. Now we must choose: Who or what should be canceled?
First, just so we’re on the same page, there is a slight chance that the real-world impact of canceling has been overstated. What is cancel culture? It’s a climate in which when someone does something bad or unforgivable, they get canceled. What does it mean to get canceled? It actually means nothing, but theoretically, it means you call someone out publicly, block them on various social media platforms, stop supporting their work, and erase their relevance, but they still exist in the ether and also still continue to get work and be relevant. President Barack Obama called out cancelers for being melodramatic. Newsday described cancel culture as “the trend of shunning or shaming people for perceived offenses against progressive morality.” But as Sarah Hagi wrote for Time in November, canceling has “turned into a catch-all for when people in power face consequences for their actions or receive any type of criticism, something that they’re not used to”—in other words, a rage against the machine that’s raging against the machine.
Either way, the internet has made cancel culture quite visible, and now it’s your job to make it real. The subjects facing irreversible cancelation this year are divided here among four divisions: Celebrity and Arts, Politics, Lifestyle, and Concepts. What happens to the thing we decide to cancel in the end? Huh. Good question. Whatever happens, we can’t go back...
Let’s vote! We’ll start with voting on the Celebrity Arts division, where Kevin Hart (1) faces off against Offensive Comedians (16). We’re talking Dave Chappelle, Shane Gillis (former cast member of Saturday Night Live for like a day), and all comedians who strike back against cancel culture by uplifting the very thing people push back against (comedy that might be racist). Kevin Hart faced public criticism over homophobic jokes he made in the past via Twitter, then he refused to apologize, then he apologized but lost his Oscars hosting job in the process. Is that worth his being canceled? Or should all other offensive comedians be ceremoniously burned at the stake? Do comics need to upgrade their jokes, same as they’ve always done, or should they persist nonetheless with racist material in the name of free speech? No one’s judging here! Except you, because you need to vote.
Should the Kardashians (4) be canceled or should Clapbacks (13) against the Kardashians (hello Jameela Jamil) be ousted from this world? Also in this category: Kanye West (8) vs. Michael Jackson’s music (9), meaning a decision on whether to cancel MJ’s music for good or beckon for West to stop preaching in AutoTune. Child Stars (think: the Stranger Things cast) vs. YouTuber Logan Paul (12). The final season of Game of Thrones (11) was worth throwing our TVs out, but is James Corden (6) worse, with his Carpool Karaoke hijinks? Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello (3) have been kissing everywhere in a manner that’s annoying to some people, almost as much as Reboots (14).
There are too many things to stream on TV. Scarlett Johansson has talked a lot this year without saying much. And do we “need” podcasts?
You have 24 hours to cast your vote.