What do a romcom actor, a pop star, a movie director, a major league baseball player and a grime artist have in common? This isn’t the beginning of a bad joke; this is a legitimate question. Answer: they’ve all been called out on Twitter for problematic behaviour from their past. And, they’ve all had to issue a public apology on social media for it.
Israel Broussard, from Netflix’s smash hit To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, published tweets with xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric. Josh Hader, a baseball player for the Milwaukee Brewers, published tweets of a similar vein. A video of Dua Lipa, singer of the smash hit New Rules, saying the n-word was discovered on YouTube. James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy, made “jokes” about paedophilia and rape. Stormzy, one of the biggest grime artists, had sent out tweets containing homophobic language.
At the emergence of these tweets, these people were immediately branded as “cancelled”. Within hours of these tweets going viral, each issued a public apology.
Israel apologised for his “insensitive” words and vowed to become more informed and educated. Josh Hader blamed his immaturity and stupidity, and said his words were inexcusable. Dua Lipa claimed not to have said the entire word, but admitted that she shouldn’t have even “gone there”. James Gunn explained that his words were failed attempts to be provocative, and do not reflect who he is today. Stormzy said his language was born out of ignorance, and that he’s unlearned these discriminative views.
There’s no way to know for sure if these apologies are genuine. Celebrities’s livelihoods are built on their public perception – just look at Taylor Swift’s past few years for proof. One of the best ways to see if what they’ve claimed is genuine is to see what they’ve said, done and supported since their problematic tweets. Have they continued along with their offensive and discriminatory rhetoric? Or have they diversified their viewpoint?
It seems every celebrity gets a social media background check the minute they enter the public stratosphere. My guess is most of the time these people don’t have any recollection of saying, or even thinking, these things. However, these thoughts shouldn’t have been published on social media in the first place. If you wouldn’t say it in your place of employment, maybe don’t say it to a group of strangers that can turn literally anything viral. As a friend said to me in a discussion about Israel Broussard’s tweets, the fact they aired these opinions is a testament to their conviction in their belief.
We’re allowed to criticise people and hold them accountable for their offensive language. Calling them out is valid, especially if it’s it’s a recurring viewpoint. However, if we immediately “cancel” someone for the ignorant and offensive language of their past, we disallow them the opportunity for growth and education.
Currently, a Twitter takedown involves the following formula: people dig for past tweets, people find offensive past tweets, offensive tweets start trending on Twitter, offensive tweets get covered by major media outlets, the celebrity is then “cancelled” and writer of offensive tweets publishes an apology across their social media accounts (hastily written, and screenshotted from the notes app), The MLB provided a more suitable alternative to the end of this formula, as was seen after Josh Hader’s past tweets surfaced. The commissioner’s office required him to participate in diversity and inclusion initiatives, and sensitivity training.
Next time a celebrity is found to have held offensive viewpoints – and unfortunately, I’m guessing it won’t be long until another controversy like this comes along – let’s not cancel them. Let’s attempt to challenge them, and change their perception. And let’s not hold the mistakes of their past against them, but allow them to use this mistake as a tool for learning and growth. Better yet, implement mandatory social media training for up and coming celebrities, and drill it in them that they shouldn’t post anything on social media they wouldn’t want to appear on the front page of the Daily Mail attributed to them.
By Kate Edwina