“Cancel Culture” Should be Cancelled

Illustration by Esther Liu | Contributing Illustrator

Noe Padilla
Staff Writer

Over the past few weeks, James Charles, a YouTuber in the beauty community, has been a prevalent topic of discussion throughout the internet, from YouTube, Twitter, to even major news sites — specifically the movement to “cancel” him in response to the recent controversy he was involved in. However, the idea of cancel culture confuses me.

All of the drama surrounding Charles began in the middle of April. After posting a video on his Instagram story promoting SugarBear Hair’s brand of sleeping vitamins, Tati Westbrook, a YouTuber and collaborator on Charles’ channel, responded emotionally in a video on Instagram. Westbrook owns a beauty vitamin company called Halo Beauty, so the fact that Charles promoted a rival company was a probable factor in her response.

On May 10, Westbrook posted a 43-minute video to Youtube expressing frustrations and issues with Charles stemming from the Instagram drama. Within the video, Westbrook accuses Charles of attempting to use his fame and wealth to manipulate straight men into having sexual interactions with him. In addition, Westbrook spoke of a moment when Charles knowingly pursued a straight waiter.

After the internet heard Westbrook’s claims, a movement began to “cancel” Charles. In the span of a weekend, Charles lost approximately three million subscribers. Charles was also condemned on a multitude of social media platforms and lost his partnership with Killer Merch.

Since then, he has released a response video revealing that the waiter Westbrook referred to in her video was actually bi-curious at the time, and messaged Charles first.

Personally, I believe that some of Charles’s hate has been misguided, and purely the result of a specific type of cancel culture that treats conjecture as fact.

Cancel culture is a complex issue, but fundamentally, cancel culture involves “dumping” or withdrawing from a celebrity or social media influencer who commits an act that social media users deem immoral.

Examples of cancelling include mass unsubscribing to a YouTuber, getting a celebrity kicked off a show, or requesting companies stop promoting materials related to the person in question.

I understand that the idea of cancel culture is meant to give users the power to express their belief on an issue, but I personally can’t find the same through line of immorality in this case that is present in other cases.

The idea that the internet would try to cancel an individual purely based on allegations seems hard to justify. When the internet found out about the scandal, it didn’t wait for a response from Charles before deeming him guilty in the court of public opinion.

The conflict between Charles and Westbrook could have easily been solved privately. Although some of the allegations are serious, like his alleged predatory behavior towards straight men, I don’t believe that this was the main purpose of Westbrook’s video.

I believe that the original intention of the video was to hurt Charles and the allegations were just a byproduct of her frustration. But, these allegations that have caused most of the backlash towards James Charles, and that’s what I find most perplexing.  

When I think of an individual who has been justifiably cancelled, people who come to mind would be Logan Paul, whose choice to film in a “suicide forest” was almost universally considered immoral.

There are other cases of “cancellation” in which individuals get accused of a serious immoral acts, but in the end will be justifiably cancelled based on proven evidence. Individuals who fall into this category would be vloggers like Projared. In Projared’s case, his ex-wife accused him of cheating and soliciting inappropriate photos from individuals online, claiming that she had evidence to back up her claim.

What irks me about the James Charles situation is how the internet treated it. From what I could tell, the internet justified cancelling Charles by arguing that Westbrook’s accusation of Charles was true, based on her claims that seemed like credible evidence, when in reality her claims were more based on conjecture.

I don’t believe James Charles’ cancellation was justifiable. Regardless of whether Charles is a good person or not, I believe that the internet wrongfully put him on trial in the court of public opinion.

Although I don’t agree with the notion of individuals being judged based on the court of public opinion, I at least understand why it happens. “Canceling” is the internet’s way of trying to determine what is morally right or wrong on the internet, but a major issue I have with it is its willingness to perceive opinions as facts. If someone is to be deemed guilty of an action, it should at least be based in fact and not opinion.