We all know by now that a life lived online, or in the public eye, is one vulnerable to a lot of criticism. There are a lot of good things that have come from the globalised world we all live in now, and a lot of things to be grateful for with the rise of the media, but I think sometimes it does all go a bit too far.
I’m sure I could spend many a blog post discussing the nuances of various issues prevalent in the news and media today, but what I want to talk about in this post is the idea of conversation and second chances.
We all remember the infamous Kardashian-Swift feud when it came to its climax in 2016. I’d be surprised if many people hadn’t yet heard of the Logan Paul debacle from the beginning of this year. A few other incidents that come to mind include when Selena Gomez released ‘Good For You’ and received a significant amount of backlash for being “un-feminist”, the time Alfie Deyes released that “living on £1 for a day” video, when Matt Damon went on defence for all the men who don’t sexually harass women, James Gunn being fired by Disney for years-old tweets, and every other time a celebrity was ‘cancelled’ in the last couple of years for something they said.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some people simply don’t deserve to have a public platform. I don’t believe Logan Paul is anywhere near responsible enough for the platform he has. I’m still not entirely sure what the appeal is of the Kardashians, but if you support them, then that’s your choice.
Yet something does strike me about the way we treat mistakes – especially mistakes made public – in today’s climate. I believe there is a difference between doing/saying something intentionally harmful, doing/saying something which is inadvertently harmful, and having done/said something harmful in the past out of ignorance. But, somehow, they all seem to be judged the same online.
It’s a tricky situation, because a lot of the time these are very sensitive issues – matters of whether celebrities/public figures abused their power sexually, for example – and the implications of these situations can be immense. If, like in the case of Harvey Weinstein, there are dozens of accusers, and little to no doubt about his wrongdoings, then of course we should be taking action to take their platform away. That should go without saying.
If, however, someone is caught out for having a few tweets from many years ago which say something we don’t approve of today? I’m not so sure. I’m going to use the James Gunn example here, and absolutely feel free to disagree with me – but please bear with me and read to the end.
James Gunn’s tweets were, without a doubt, extremely distasteful – apparently intended as jokes by somebody trying a bit too hard to be edgy and outspoken. But he’s admitted off his own back that he used to be a pretty dislikeable person, apologised willingly, and made no effort to excuse himself. And I’m not sure that the outpouring of outrage at his firing would have happened if his colleagues, people who’ve worked very closely with him, didn’t genuinely believe he’d changed since posting those tweets.
Maybe some people will view me as overly optimistic to believe that people are capable of significant, material change. I think it’s overly pessimistic to believe the opposite. However, what I am certain of is that all humans are human – and therefore susceptible to all the flaws that are trademarks of humanity: ignorance, naivety, and making mistakes.
When Jack Maynard left I’m a Celeb (a show I don’t watch but hear about nonetheless) because a bunch of his tweets had resurfaced, I felt that there was an element of injustice going on. Yes, homophobia ought to no longer exist because those views are outdated and borne of prejudice, but can anybody between the age of 15 and 40, probably even older than that, honestly tell me that while they were in secondary education, the words ‘gay’, ‘faggot’ and more weren’t bandied about as insults? or at least teasingly? I am by no means defending the usage of these words in this way, but the fact is, teenagers hold a great propensity to be idiots. Anyone who’s been one knows that. You don’t have to lack intelligence to be an idiot, and it’s very easy to say things without due consideration. Again, I’m not encouraging this behaviour, but merely pointing out that Jack Maynard was hardly on his own there – and it’s been several years since their posting, during which time, he grew out of that behaviour.
I think the key point is that when we see celebrities saying or doing something that correlates to a society-pervasive issue, it’s taken as an opportunity to really shine a light on that issue, and for people to voice their opinions left, right and centre. This is simultaneously a beautiful and scary thing. I love that we are open to having the difficult discussions these days, probably more so than ever before. I love that much-needed change is being wrought because of this.
And yet… we can’t completely eliminate second chances. We shouldn’t be disregarding people’s ability to change or grow over time, and to genuinely realise their mistakes. I dislike the way that, nowadays, people will just #cancel somebody for something that may well have been – and frequently has been – taken completely out of context. Society is going through changes extremely fast in our hyped-up, interconnected, New York minute world, and it is going to take a while for the whole of humanity to catch up.
In the meantime, I think we should keep in mind the difference between someone making an inexcusable mistake in the present and needing to face the consequences for it, and those whose past ignorance is dug up by someone searching for a good story.
This isn’t aimed at anybody in particular, more just an observation of things I’ve seen and read about recently. But I’m interested to hear other opinions on the matter – do you agree with me? or do you agree with the one-chance world? Or do you have another opinion on the matter?