The Consequences of Cancel Culture

With the anniversary of the death of Caroline Flack, Catherine Upex questions the social acceptance of online cancel culture

TW – This article contains suicide references which may be distressing to some readers.

Last Monday marked a year since the death of television presenter, Caroline Flack. News has since emerged of plans to release a documentary providing insight into the star’s life. The plan was originally to work with Caroline to reveal what it was like to live constantly in the spotlight. However, the documentary will now act as a legacy to her life and work.  It is surely set to make us question our commitment to cancel culture and consider its consequences.

Flack fell into disrepute in December of 2019 after she was arrested for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend after she suspected he was cheating. Flack herself denied the charges and her boyfriend at the time Lewis Burton did not support the charge. However, despite no clear verdict on the incident, the general public turned on Flack, flooding her social medias with online abuse. Flack’s reputation fell so low that she was dropped from the 2020 series of Love Island – a show she had become the face of in recent years.  

Just over two months later, Flack had taken her own life. What followed was an outpouring of grief from celebrities and the public alike – a stark contrast to the abuse she’d been receiving just days before. It was all too little too late.

Whether Flack was guilty or not, she was a victim of ‘cancel culture’ – the phenomenon in which a person or brand is thrust out of social or professional circles after being exposed for inappropriate behaviour.

The idea of cancel culture is nothing new. For years, we’ve witnessed the downfall of some of the world’s biggest businesses after the last palatable side of their brand was exposed. One of the most recognisable examples was that of SeaWorld. The American theme park chain saw a huge drop in admission sales after the release of the documentary ‘Blackfish,’ which investigated the treatment of the parks trademark killer whales. SeaWorld could do nothing as overnight it was rebranded as a whale killer.

In recent years, cancel culture has begun to target individuals rather than brands. This can be put down the increasing addiction of posting every aspect of our previously private lives in the public eye. Things we had previously kept hidden are now open for everyone to see, meaning they’re also open to intense scrutiny.

The rise of the influencer has also meant that now more than ever individual’s personalities are becoming their brand. One false move and celebrities can find themselves out of the spotlight and out of a job.

Despite the seeming finality of cancel culture, individuals can recover. One notable example in recent years is James Charles. The Youtuber was ‘cancelled’ last year after accusations of sexually harassing straight men. Charles saw a huge drop in subscribers and followers. However, he has since seemingly recovered from his cancellation, openly learning from his mistakes, and regaining popularity.

Yet there is still a permeant emotional toll. Charles has spoken openly about how during the height of his unpopularity, at just 19 years old he considered taking his own life.

Of course, if an individual does wrong, they deserve to face consequences, and when living in the public eye, one should expect scrutiny for their actions, not just praise. However, people should be allowed to learn from their actions and face any punishment in the eye of the law. The problem with cancel culture is that social media is often the judge, jury, and executioner.

In Caroline Flack’s case, despite no official verdict and denials from multiple parties, the public swiftly made their mind up about the TV Star, and the whole situation ended with the most devastating of conclusions.

Whether she was guilty or not, if Flack were a member of the public, she would not have faced the same repercussions as she did in her position. It is up to the individual to decide whether she deserved to lose her presenting roles and social standing because of the accusations against her. However, it is harder to justify the abuse she received online. This new documentary about the star will surely open our eyes to the darker side of the living in the public eye and the most serious consequences of a culture we are all too used to.

With the anniversary of the death of Caroline Flack, Catherine Upex questions the social acceptance of online cancel culture