Lizzo has shared her take on cancel culture, expressing a belief that the term has been misappropriated from its foundations and is being “misdirected” in its modern usage.
“This may be a random time to say this but it’s on my heart,” the singer wrote in a tweet yesterday (January 8).
“Cancel culture is appropriation. There was real outrage from truly marginalized people and now it’s become trendy, misused and misdirected,” she continued. “I hope we can phase out of this & focus our outrage on the real problems.
In its modern usage, cancel culture refers to the form of social or professional ostracisation one may face when they have been accused of harmful behaviour or expressing socially unacceptable viewpoints. In the case of celebrities, it may come in the form of boycotts by the public or employers against them.
As Lizzo alludes to, the term ‘cancellation’ originally grew out of more grassroots foundations in the early 2010s. Also known as ‘calling out’, it was used by marginalised communities, often on social media, to draw attention to abusive or harmful behaviour, and indicate a personal decision not to support those who had been accused of such behaviour.
As the term gradually became popularised, it expanded to also refer to widespread outrage that emerged online following instances of insensitive or bigoted statements being made by public figures.
Last year, Lizzo faced backlash when her song ‘Grrrls’, taken from latest album ‘Special’, featured an ableist term that had derogatory connotations towards people with cerebral palsy. The singer responded by apologising and altering the lyric on streaming platforms.
During an interview in October, she reflected on the controversy, saying that she had “never heard [the term] used as a slur against disabled people” when the song was released.
“It’s a word I’ve heard a lot, especially in rap songs, and with my Black friends and in my Black circles: It means to go off, turn up,” she explained. “I used [it as a] verb, not as a noun or adjective. I used it in the way that it’s used in the Black community.”
In recent years, many public figures have voiced their opinion on cancel culture, with some rejecting its modern application. In 2021, comedian Kevin Hart – who in 2018 stepped down from hosting the Oscars ceremony after a series of homophobic tweets from a decade prior resurfaced – discussed the phenomenon.
“I personally don’t give a shit about [cancel culture],” Hart said during an interview with The Sunday Times. “If somebody has done something truly damaging then, absolutely, a consequence should be attached. But… when you’re talking, ‘Someone said! They need to be taken [down]!’ Shut the fuck up! What are you talking about?”
In May of last year, Succession star Brian Cox described cancel culture as “a kind of modern day McCarthyism” that he found “completely hypocritical”, later calling it “total fascism”. The same month, former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher called those who initiate the cancellation of a person “fucking squares”.
Speaking to NME for a Big Read cover story in October of last year, The 1975 frontman Matty Healy discussed his belief that Gen Z had “set up this moral standard that they can’t even live up to”.
“They’re starting to realise that as they’re getting into their mid-20s,” Healy said. “When you’re an idealistic 18 or 19-year-old, sure! But you will make mistakes, you will hurt people, you will do things that some people will perceive as rotten. It’s this standard that I’m trying to break down. I’m just a bloke, so are you. No one’s fooling anybody.”
However, some have questioned the perceived consequences that come to one’s career or social status upon their so-called cancellation. In October 2022, during an appearance at Cheltenham Literature Festival, Graham Norton discussed his views on cancel culture, arguing that the term ‘accountability’ is more appropriate.
“You read a lot of articles in papers by people complaining about cancel culture and you think, ‘In what world are you cancelled?’ I’m reading your article in a newspaper, or you’re doing interviews about how terrible it is to be cancelled. I think the word is the wrong word. I think the word should be ‘accountability’,” Norton said at the time.