social capital


“The practice of no longer supporting people, especially celebrities, or products that are regarded as unacceptable or problematic,” the repercussions of Cancel Culture in India.

Macquarie Dictionary Named ‘Cancel Culture’ as the Word of the Year 2019. “A term that captures an important aspect of the past year’s Zeitgeist…an attitude which is so pervasive that it now has a name, society’s cancel culture has become, for better or worse, a powerful force,” wrote the Macquarie Dictionary committee in a blog post.

What is ‘cancel culture’ and what does ‘getting cancelled’ really mean? It’s a form of social boycott of someone, most often a celebrity, who would have shared a questionable opinion or has had problematic behaviour that is called out on social media. The idea is to deprive a celebrity of attention or in extreme cases, your money. There’s a hierarchy to transgressions that could get one cancelled. At the bottom of the totem pole is saying something that offends a section of the society to more serious wrongdoings like sexual assault. This, in turn, seems to determine the degrees of being cancelled. However, more often than not, though this fevered dream of cancellation is just that — a dream. In the real world, it rarely has any tangible or long-term effects on the lives of the cancelled.

“They said they would boycott her film. They said they would cut off her head. They said she couldn’t act. Deepika Padukone has spent her career putting ‘them’ in their place”, Raja Sen, a critic and author wrote. Padukone was a victim of name-calling and vile attacks after she visited the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University to express her solidarity with students who had been grievously injured in violent attacks. Hashtag Boycott Chhapaak trended, and there was social media outrage to boycott the products she endorses. This is a reflection of the erstwhile not talked about side of Cancel Culture, a phenomenon which is not only the copyright of liberal, progressive ‘woke’ people; but a weapon which is wielded by right-wing, fascist trolls alike.

In a post-MeToo India, it’s becoming increasingly challenging as survivors to see predators flourishing in various industries. The term cancel culture is a mere question mark in the face of industries like Bollywood, built on the foundation of predatory behaviour where sexual harassers are more likely to find work than survivors. Such is the case of Utsav Chakraborty, who came back a year after he was cancelled to nullify the accusations targeted at him and proceeded to dox various women under the garb of ‘uncancelling’ himself.

However, all hope is not lost. Female filmmakers such as Zoya Akhtar, Meghna Gulzar, Konkona Sen Sharma and Gauri Shinde, among others, have expressed their solidarity with the movement. In a combined statement shared by Gulzar on Instagram, the filmmakers announced their decision to not work with people guilty of sexual harassment and misconduct. The statement read: “We are here to spread awareness to help create a safe and equal atmosphere for all in the workplace. We have also taken a stand to not work with proven offenders. We urge all our peers in the industry to do the same.”

Personally, Cancel Culture will continue to not work, giving a platform to problematic people if we, as a public that consumes art don’t hold ourselves accountable. It should be a conscious choice of each one of us, to not invest in the art of a person who has previously done something harmful to a particular person or group and has shown no signs of repentance and growth. Because, in the words of comedian Hannah Gadsby, “Pushing for a culture of respect is not the same as cancelling culture.”

Featured Image Credits: Well and Good

Paridhi Puri

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