By Megan Loock
Elm Staff Writer
Comedian and YouTube personality Jenna (Mourey) Marbles’s channel departure on June 25 of this year shook the internet. In a confessional video, Marbles said that her early videos were filled with racist behavior that contributed to her early internet fame.
Although Marbles deactivated her channel on her own terms, she may have done so as a preemptive measure to avoid being “cancelled” by her fans.
“Cancel culture” refers to the phenomenon of people rescinding support for a celebrity, brand, or organization due to what they view to be blasphemous behavior. Though the practice is viewed as contemporary, nothing about cancel culture is novel.
Cancel culture directs accountability where accountability is due. It places a check on the seemingly uncheckable — celebrities, billionaires, CEOs, or anyone with overarching power.
“…Racist, sexist, and bigoted behavior or remarks don’t fly like they used to,” Time’s Sarah Hagi said. “This applies to not only wealthy people or industry leaders but anyone whose privilege has historically shielded them from public scrutiny.”
Some view cancellation as a toxic societal practice.
In July of this year, numerous writers signed “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” which was then published in Harper’s Magazine. The letter suggests that “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of society, is daily becoming more constricted.”
While this statement may hold some weight on its own, it is important to note that among the mostly elite writers who signed the letter was Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who was recently cancelled for her transphobic tweets and comments.
Rowling represents the percentage of cancelled celebrities who refuse to learn from and take accountability for their mistakes. After receiving backlash for her transphobic tweets, Rowling continues to defend herself.
When someone refuses to concede to political correctness, it highlights their refusal to acknowledge the pain and offense they have caused others. Rowling’s comments demonstrate the lack of empathy she possesses, which, until now, may have been excused as blissful ignorance.
Cancel culture is not just a trend to victimize the successful. It also affects the ordinary.
In her video explaining the reasoning behind deserting her channel, Marbles exemplifies the importance of self-accountability.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” she said. “I want to move on from this channel. I want to make sure the things that I’m putting out into the world are not hurting anyone. I want to hold myself accountable, it’s painful and it’s not fun. I am ashamed of the things I’ve done in my past but it’s important.”
The best way — maybe the only way — to survive cancellation is to take accountability. Cancelled celebrities should actively acknowledge their mistakes and receive the social punishment that is adjudicated. Marbles did just that.
Marbles is unique from other cancelled celebrities in that she cancelled herself. Her humility should be valued, especially when she could have employed the popular “it happened ten years ago” excuse to absolve herself of guilt. Marbles’s actions show that even if content is published with the best intentions, this means nothing when it comes to whatever impact it may have on the viewer.
Cancel culture forces us to consider our actions before we execute them. Instead of pressuring the victim of intolerance to “forgive and forget,” the threat of cancellation helps place responsibility back onto the perpetrator.
It is time to start looking at cancel culture as a power check rather than something to fear.