Cultural Appropriation x Cancel Culture
Cultural appropriation remains controversial in the social media culture, internet users immensely dedicated to police misconducts and violations to conserve the ideal community standard. As we all know that internet access breaks all physical boundaries, connects and diversifies public discourse across the globe.
The multi-cultural atmosphere emerged as an inclusive forum for disparate cultures and identities; cross-cultural interactions both advocated and subdued certain native prides due to the lack of apprehension toward minor cultures, thus exploitation of sub-cultures through the dominant gaze.
Cultural appropriation may differ from meaning to meaning, but the key inquiry is the power imbalance of cultural exploitation, when a dominant community enters into possession of non-dominant cultures without proper knowledge of the historical context. Hence, exploitation is equivalent to invalidation of cultural origins and reinforces stereotypes of minor cultures for urban profit.
Victoria’s Secret Appropriated Chinese Culture
In 2016, there was a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, called “The Road Ahead,” which tried to present Chinese culture by using outfits in a dragon theme. It led to controversy and was widely accused of cultural appropriation as the dragon is a traditional symbol of Chinese.
Despite the fact that it was Victoria’s Secret marketing trying to attract Chinese consumers, it was still the use of Chinese’s culture for commercial purposes.
Elsa Hosk was the one who wore this Chinese-inspired outfit. As Chinese called themselves as a descendant of the dragon, the way they let white model wear the outfit caused dissatisfaction. According to Jing Daily, there were two sides of Chinese’s opinion discussing whether it was an appropriation or not.
Vogue Promotes White Mediocrity
Vogue posted a picture of Elise McMahon, a furniture designer, claiming that she upcycled overabundant shirts in order to create textile items for a variety of purposes. The post created controversy among Filipinos as it was similar to their local “Basahan” and was used without giving any credits. There are a number of comments on the Instagram post speaking about their local mats. In their country, Basahan is the mat which is inexpensively sold and most households have.
In response to the accusation, McMahon revealed that she did not know about Basahan before, but now she knows and also respects them using methods to reduce fabric waste. She then apologized for being ignorant about ‘Basahan’ weaving style.
Filipino-American, Jan Vincent Gonzales, also called out Vogue on instagram to give credit to their local culture. Unfortunately, despite all issues happening, Vogue did not take any official actions towards this controversy.
A former NAACP head of the local chapter who has a passion for African American issues, Rachel Dolezal, said she is not white. However, her parents who are biologically Caucasian exposed that she was pretending to be black. In the NBC News “Rachel Dolezal Breaks Her Silence,” she was asked if she is an African American woman and she answered that she identified as black.
Her fake identity also enables her to earn a large amount of income from selling her books, selling her arts and speaking engagements. In the report, she said her income was not more than $500 a month, but it was investigated that she actually had $84,000 in her bank account illegally.
She was eventually charged with welfare fraud by the court and also fired from teaching at Washington University and being a leader of the NAACP. It’s safe to say that she faced both legal consequences and got canceled by society due to her dishonesty and appropriation toward black culture.
Cancel culture is a contemporary justice system in which is critically active on social media platforms as opposition against heretical views or political incorrectness.
According to Rob Henderson (2020) in Psychology Today, “Cancel Culture refers to ending (or attempting to end) an individual’s career or prominence to hold them accountable for immoral behavior.’’ It is indeed a social contagion with extensive effects in media contribution and reception, ‘Canceling’ usually consists of two parties; one party that aims to cancel or boycott another party that transgresses the ideal practice.
This online phenomenon contributes a vast impact on society ranging from neighborhood to international level. We have seen a decent amount of public figures such as Novak Djokovic, a professional tennis player who got ‘officially canceled’ by Australia due to his unvaccinated status. The canceled individuals can encounter acute consequences in accordance with the public demand, many serve jail time or are unable to resurface in the public sphere.
Cancel culture carries aggression, disgust and invalidation against so-called bad actors.
Such a modern public shaming potentially accelerates online division, it seems to eliminate alternative viewpoints and suppress societal repercussions which supplement public consensus.
On the contrary, cancel culture emphasizes the individual right, that a person does not need a power or authority to counter mistreatment or inequality, but utilize one’s capability to be vocal of something unacceptable in society.
J.K. Rowling being TERF
J.K. Rowling, an author of the Harry Potter series, was getting multiple cancellations in the past few years. The multi-millionaire author has been backlashed for her controversial opinions on people identifying as transgender. Rowling is what is known as a TERF, trans-exclusionary radical feminist. It simply explains a feminist who does not consider trans women to be women. Earlier this year, a Harry Potter-themed segment at a book festival was canceled as the latest cancel culture controversy of Rowling.
In 2020, she was facing criticism for her latest novel called ”Troubled Blood”, penned under the male pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Many criticized a plotline featuring a male serial killer dressing up in women’s clothing to commit murders since it led readers to the portrayals of trans people as villains.
It’s not the first time that she has been condemned for her trans issues within her novels. The Silkworm, another of Rowling’s books published under another Galbraith moniker, illustrates a trans character’s appearance that was described using problematic stereotypes. Furthermore, many people controversy about Rowling’s pseudonym since Robert Galbraith Heath is the name of the man who created conversion therapy— a treatment to change a person’s sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity.
Variety magazine reported the sales of Harry Potter books were suddenly dropped in the 2020 summer as her tweet in June. Also, some Harry Potter fandom websites like MuggleNet have removed references to the author, showing how the fans turned to cancel the Harry Potter creator.
HBO Max has launched a Harry Potter special “Return to Hogwarts”, invited the stars for a 20-year reunion. Nonetheless, J.K. Rowling as the creator is remarkably absent. Moreover, the size of her name has been diminished in the promoting ads of Fantastic Beasts films.
Pimradaporn Benjawattanapat, aka Pimrypie, is a famous online retailer in Thailand. Her popularity comes from her assertive and witty speaking style. Additionally, she posted charity contents on YouTube, which became a trend #Pimrypie on Twitter as her empathy and consciousness of inequality. However, she became a hot topic due to her debatable attitudes.
‘Netizens enraged toward Pimrypie’s mockery of being Putin’s wife and claimed Russian troops would invade Ukraine if consumers won’t purchase her products.’
According to the latest incident, she publicly apologized about the Ukraine-Russia conflict on her Facebook page, “I reckon the conflict will be solved after the negotiation, but the situation gets worse. I have no intention to mock the mortality, and I wholeheartedly apologize for my hurtful statements.”
The number of audiences and sales on her livestream dropped by half. She sarcastically addressed on her previous livestream, “I’m not shy to announce my loss, from ฿100-million to ฿50-million in profit hence I have to work twice more.’’
Pimrypie constantly uses discriminative statements to insult grassroots—her primary audience, causing ongoing social outrage.
In stances where severe misconducts occur, cancel culture is undeniably applicable.
However, the invisible limitation of cancel culture urged concerns toward such subjective arguments:
- Is it fair for someone to lose their job for their inability to act with good morals?
- Is it too abrupt to invalidate an entity in the manner of political correctness?
Cancel culture may introduce the extreme binary of human decency—either good or bad, whereas viewpoints vary and the public sphere exemplifies a spectrum of human expressions in which all can reflect and law enforcement already exists to institute civil interactions.
Cancel culture is occasionally unjust and unsuccessful, people shall acknowledge that negative forces may not be effective in every event, it may bring light to some underlying issues but oftentimes disdain positive changes that provide hope and additional gateways for ‘canceled individuals’ to reconfigure their morality and behavior.