Chapter 4: Convincing Discourses
English 102, March 2021
For my final research paper, I have decided to change my topic. I wanted to still somehow keep the idea of popular music, but I wanted to branch out a little further. The topic I will be writing about focuses on social media, celebrity, fans/fandoms/stans and cancel culture. The main reason I chose this topic was after seeing something recent on twitter, I had seen Taylor Swift confront a mildly sexist joke about her on a Netflix tv show and then saw her hardcore fans, also known as “Swifties,” attack the actress on her social media platforms, worth noting that most attacks were racially motivated towards the actress. It was interesting to look at this because I am a fan of Taylor Swift but am not a fan of the behaviors exhibited by her most die-hard fans. Then from there it reminded me of Swift’s cancellation in 2016 but could also be stated it started back in 2009 when Kanye West interrupted Swift as she won an award claiming Beyonce should’ve won. In 2016 Kanye West released a song “Famous” which featured the line “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex, I made that bitch famous.” Swift released a statement that she didn’t approve of the line “I made that bitch famous” or was aware of it. Later Kim Kardashian released an edited video of a phone conversation between Swift and West where it seemed like she was aware of the line and Kardashian on twitter started calling her a snake which led to the hashtag #TaylorSwiftisoverparty. Thi all made me want to look at what is being cultivated online from how fans react to certain situations including being cancelled. I think it would be interesting to look at the mental/emotional toll that is taken on someone when they are cancelled or when someone they look up to is cancelled. One thing I would like to do in my paper is to have a healthy balance between my research and my opinion. I don’t have a strong opinion for or against cancel culture and social media, but I do see the pitfalls. Even as I’m writing this, I want to apologize for talking about Taylor Swift so much, but this also applies to the idea of how people react to who people are fans of. I have this opinion that if I tell someone I am a fan of her that the only reaction I get is negative. This is partly why I would like to include my opinion and experience of being that fan.
The introduction will start with my thesis. After watching the thesis statement video, I feel I would probably follow two different ideas that would help build my paper a little bit better. I think one of the approaches I would do is from John Lovas. So, my thesis will be a few sentences that I can give a better description of my paper in than just one sentence. The other approach I would be using is from Santi Buscemi where I will form my thesis statement after the body of my essay is done. Then I will go into defining what is cancel culture and who it affects this is the main focus of the paper. The following questions I will try and address in my paper. Is cancel culture beneficial in society? Can someone truly be cancelled, who does cancel culture actually hurt? Is cancel culture actually hurting more than helping? When has cancel culture gone too far? How do people interact with the idea of cancel culture on social media? What happens in a fandom when someone is cancelled or actively being cancelled? Do fans go too far? Has there been a time when a fandom has gone too far? What are different ways cancel culture affects those who are cancelled? Has cancel culture breed a new type of internet troll? Is there still room to enjoy what is created by a cancelled entertainer?
I think my main point is to display the culture on social media with cancel culture and how to break through the negativity to learn from situations. Social media has created a closer connection between a celebrity and a fan. This can lead to an unhealthy obsession to defend that celebrity or attack someone for not agreeing with that celebrity. I would like to show how we can maybe break through that thinking and just enjoy the entertainment that is created. I will then go through the questions listed in the first paragraph. I want to talk about the degree to which someone and whether the punishment fits the crime. There have been multiple examples of whether or not it was warranted like Taylor Swift, James Charles, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, etc. The next thing I would like to talk about is how fans take things too far for the celebrity they love, i.e., “Swifties.” I want to show the clear difference between fan and stan. I will also define what a stan is and how this term has encouraged fans to take things too far and possibly becoming a new internet troll. I think fans are relentlessly attacking people in the name of other celebrities. Another thing to address internet trolls is that I would like to do is draw from experience by going through twitter and the replies on singers, actors, and politicians. I am also going to look at misogyny and its role on social media platforms. I have seen this to the extreme when the person being cancelled is female or when someone tries to address sexual assault. I think those are some of the main points I would like to discuss in my paper among other questions within my topic. I think the most important part of my research that I have is showing how cancel culture has affected multiple areas across society. The majority of my research material is scholarly articles found on Google Scholar but I do have a few from entertainment sites. I wanted to include a few of those articles to talk about current events right now in entertainment. I will be using them just to establish what is being written about the situation and how people frame the celebrities involved.
The academic fields interested in my topic are communication, business, political science, psychology, neuroscience, and sociology. You can look at the topic through communications by looking at the forums (i.e., twitter) and the discourses created between the interactions between fans, celebrities, and the combinations of both groups. The different forms of communication used on social media from slang to hashtags. From a business stand point, you could look at how social media and cancellation can affect the value of the art or artist. This can also determine whether someone in an industry is bankable enough to leave cancelled or have a redemption arc. There has been notably an increase of talk about cancel culture within political science. This could be attributed by the political climate of the past four years with Donald Trump and conservative news networks. Within that there can be seen an outrage machine where if something is being “cancelled” it becomes the newest thing to fight for based solely on political stance. I feel like the psychological aspect is interesting to this topic because we have to look at how cancel culture can be detrimental to those it affects. This can also be looked at from the standpoint of the fan to the cancelled celebrity and their reaction. There may be a relationship with celebrity and fan but there is a disconnect that is not seen. We don’t truly know if what we say is seen by them and how it affects them. There seems to be this type of thinking that on social media people say and do what they want with no repercussions because there is no indication of what’s going on behind the scenes.
BBC News. “Taylor Swift: ‘Saying You’re Cancelled Is like Saying Kill Yourself.’” BBC News, 9 Aug. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-49289430.
This article is not a scholarly article but it was a good example to show the psychological effects of the 2016 cancellation of Taylor Swift.
Carr, Nanci K. “How Can We End# CancelCulture-Tort Liability or Thumper’s Rule?.” Cath. UJL & Tech 28 (2019): 133.
This article goes into the legality of cancel culture. It goes into detail about unearthed tweets from celebrities and the repercussions of those tweets. The article also goes into detail of a regular guy who gained internet fame by showing a sign at a sports event asking for beer money and later went on to donate that money. It goes on to explain a writer at a newspaper went through this person’s social media to find a couple old racist tweets and how it turned this person’s life upside down.
Chiou, Rocco. “We Need Deeper Understanding About the Neurocognitive Mechanisms of Moral Righteousness in an Era of Online Vigilantism and Cancel Culture.” AJOB neuroscience11.4 (2020): 297-299.
This article looks at a recent study that links people’s attitudes on various socio-political affairs with neural activity. A sense of moral righteousness can lead to aggressive online behavior, which can sometimes be a vigilante in nature.It also looks at how cancel culture goes into effect when a public figure says or does something considered offensive or pejorative to a given group, disparaging comments pile up on social media.
Clark, Meredith. “DRAG THEM: A brief etymology of so-called “cancel culture”.” Communication and the Public5.3-4 (2020): 88-92.
In this article the author briefly maps an etymological examination of “canceling” in terms of social media. It looks at examples of the discourse of accountability practices, including reading, dragging, calling out, in and even canceling, and how they are the creations of Black culture.
This is not a scholarly article but it goes into detail when Taylor Swift publicly talked about how she was not able to purchase her masters, essentially her own music, and the public outcry from her fans which led to the new owner of her masters, Scooter Braun, and his family to be attacked.
Haylock, Zoe. “Taylor Swift Fans Are Not Here for John Mayer’s TikTok Presence.” Vulture, 2 Mar. 2021, www.vulture.com/amp/2021/03/john-mayers-tiktok-berating-taylor-swift-fans.html.
This article is not a scholarly article but an example of online fandoms attacking celebrities over what they think their favorite celebrity is thinking, in this case Taylor Swift fans attacking John Mayer over a breakup a decade ago.
Hooks, Austin. “Cancel culture: posthuman hauntologies in digital rhetoric and the latent values of virtual community networks.” (2020).
This essay looks to demonstrate how cancel culture has definable and recognizable traits that one can use to identify and distinguish cancel culture from that of call-out culture. It also talks about how the political environment and cancel culture affect each other.
Imam, Aya. “Twitter, What’s The Verdict?.”
This article talks about the varying degrees of public outcry when someone does something wrong. It looks at social media reactions to different offenses and whether or not those reactions are deserved. The article also examines why everything might seem to be offensive and briefly how to change that form of thinking.
Laconte, Stephen. “Taylor Swift Fans Are Attacking A Star Of ‘Ginny & Georgia’ After That ‘Deeply Sexist’ Joke — But She Had An Important Response.” BuzzFeed, 5 Mar. 2021, www.buzzfeed.com/stephenlaconte/taylor-swift-ginny-georgia-sexist-joke-antonia-gentry.
This article is not a scholarly article but it is a good example of stan/fandom twitter and how their overreaction to a criticism Taylor Swift made about writing on a tv show led to fans attacking the actress instead.
Lambert, Anthony, and Sarah Maguire. “Has cancel culture gone too far?.” (2020).
In this article the author says that culture has always evolved, and it may be doing so in a way that is kinder to people and their particular pain. The author says the average person is being called upon to become a media and cultural critic.
mariandigitalnetwork. “#TaylorSwiftIsOverParty: Cancel Culture and Its Dangers.” The Network ’20, 24 Nov. 2020, mariandigitalnetwork.com/2020/11/24/taylorswiftisoverparty-cancel-culture-and-its-dangers.
This article is not a scholarly article but goes in depth about the “cancellation” of Taylor Swift. It shows the psychological effects on not only the celebrity but also the fans.
Nguyen, Brandon. “Cancel Culture on Twitter: The Effects of Information Source and Messaging on Post Shareability and Perceptions of Corporate Greenwashing.” (2020).
This article talks about how social media has become a powerful force in regular life, making way for the rise of digital cultures and social movements. It goes on to say it is gaining strength since it has become an apparatus for the modification of online behavior through cancel culture.
Pointer, Anna. “From JK Rowling to Taylor Swift, Women Are Cancel Culture’s Biggest Victims…” The US Sun, 2 Aug. 2020, www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/1240191/cancel-culture-victims-jk-rowling-taylor-swift.
This article is not a scholarly article but it gives an example of comparing the wrongdoings of different celebrities, why they were cancelled, and was it equal. It shows the difference between the negative reactions to JK Rowling for transphobic comments and Taylor Swift’s personal feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Roos, Hailey. “With (Stan) ding Cancel Culture: Stan Twitter and Reactionary Fandoms.” (2020).
This essay talks about how cancel culture was rooted in activism and shed light on misconduct of influential individuals. It talks about how cancel culture has recently been appropriated by groups of Twitter users and is seen as a petty joke. By tracking the trends of cancel culture and stan Twitter the author looked at ways to uncover how users are becoming socialized to polarity and intolerant towards others with different opinions.
Theriault, Liz. “From cancel culture to changing culture.” (2019).
This article looks at the purpose behind cancel culture and how it may be productive, but the execution must be changed if we want to live in a time where privileged people of power are held accountable for their actions. Instead of cancel culture, where individuals are pressured by the mobs to disappear and never return, we should encourage changing culture. It looks at how celebrities like James Charles, Taylor Swift, James Gunn, Laura Lee, Kayne West, PewDiePie, Roseanne Barr, Shane Gillis, Logan Paul have, at one point in their careers, have been “canceled.”.
Velasco, Joseph Ching. “You are Cancelled: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Emergence of Cancel Culture as Ideological Purging.” Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities 12.5 (2020).
This article goes into detail about social media, it’s uses, and the evolution to a discourse on cancel culture. It talks about how celebrity culture changes on social media and how the internet has grown a conscious out of the birth of “wokeism.”
Welsh, Michael Tyler. Disruptive rhetoric in an age of outrage. Diss. 2020.
This essay argues that in an attempt to understand the broader category of outrage culture, one must critically look at disruptive discourse as a subset within it. Online practices often take place within a context know as an age of outrage. Outrage culture can be understood as the tendency for individuals to react publicly to any action that is deemed offensive, insensitive, or uncivil in nature. Also looking to hashtags on the digital platform Twitter as an affective marker of disruptive rhetoric.
Willard, Mary Beth. Why It’s OK to Enjoy the Work of Immoral Artists. N.p., Taylor & Francis.
In this book the author considers the ethical dimensions of canceling artists and the so-called “cancel culture” Willard concludes by arguing that the popular debate has overlooked the power of art to change our lives for the good. One natural thought is that fans ought to give up the artworks of immoral artists.