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The Unfollow Trend: Cancel Culture's Ripple Effect on Public Figures

From celebrities to journalists, producers to pop stars, no one seems immune from the relentless tides of public scrutiny and social media judgment. 

Join us as we venture into the murky waters of cancel culture, where reputations are sink or swim, and redemption is a treasured lifeline. Brace yourselves for an eye-opening exploration of this cultural phenomenon and its far-reaching effects on many public figures.

Key Findings

What Is Cancel Culture?

Cancel culture refers to a contemporary social phenomenon where individuals or groups use public pressure, often through social media platforms, to call out public figures or entities perceived to have engaged in objectionable behavior or expressed controversial views.

The goal is to “cancel” or withdraw support from the target, leading to consequences such as public shaming, loss of employment, or damage to their reputation and career.

Around 1980, the renowned songwriter Nile Rodgers had an unpleasant date with someone who tried to use his fame to manipulate others, inspiring the song “Your Love Is Canceled.”

Then, the concept of canceling someone was first used in the 1991 movie “New Jack City,” featuring Wesley Snipes as a gangster named Nino Brown. In a particular scene, he dismisses his girlfriend callously after she becomes distressed by the violence he causes, saying, “Cancel that b****. I’ll buy another one.”

Afterward, the idea of canceling gained popularity and started being used to respond to someone’s disapproved actions — either jokingly or seriously.

Around 1980, the renowned songwriter Nile Rodgers had an unpleasant date with someone who tried to use his fame to manipulate others, inspiring the song “Your Love Is Canceled.”

Then, the concept of canceling someone was first used in the 1991 movie “New Jack City,” featuring Wesley Snipes as a gangster named Nino Brown. In a particular scene, he dismisses his girlfriend callously after she becomes distressed by the violence he causes, saying, “Cancel that b****. I’ll buy another one.”

Afterward, the idea of canceling gained popularity and started being used to respond to someone’s disapproved actions — either jokingly or seriously.

List of canceled public figures

List of canceled public figures

Why Public Figures Face the Chopping Block in Cancel Culture

In the fast-paced digital era, where social media reigns supreme, “cancel culture” is reshaping the fate of public figures with lightning speed. Like a virtual guillotine, this phenomenon quickly brings down even the mightiest icons for their alleged wrongdoings. But what are the most common triggers that spark this intense backlash?

While the reasons for cancelation may vary, several recurrent themes have emerged during our research, shedding light on the most common triggers for public figures to face the wrath of cancel culture.

Inappropriate behavior, violence and assault, and racist and homophobic remarks are among the top reasons. Additionally, deception and fraud, cheating and infidelity, criminal activities, and legal issues are significant factors contributing to the cancelation of high-profile individuals.

American rapper Lizzo

Lizzo, the American rapper, is facing serious allegations accusing her of sexual harassment, fostering a hostile work environment, and fat-shaming. Three of her ex-dancers filed a lawsuit on August 1 in Los Angeles, making shocking claims against the 35-year-old artist.

This development is particularly surprising given Lizzo’s previous reputation as a body-positive advocate. In the wake of the news going public, Lizzo experienced a significant drop in her followers, losing the support of nearly 200K people in just four days.

YouTuber Colleen Ballinger, aka Miranda Sings

YouTuber Colleen Ballinger, also known as Miranda Sings, suffered a significant loss of over 90K subscribers on YouTube in the past month due to serious grooming allegations and bullying within her fan base.

These accusations initially emerged in 2020 when a former fan, Adam McIntyre, released a YouTube video exposing her behavior as toxic and inappropriate. Despite facing initial backlash, the allegations resurfaced with additional evidence, shared by McIntyre just last month.

In response to the controversy, Ballinger published a ten-minute apology song that received over 11 million views but was heavily disliked, prompting her to make it private. It appears she is facing a challenging situation to recover this time around.

The "Attention" singer Doja Cat

Doja Cat unleashed her frustrations on her fanbase recently. The singer of the hit song “Attention” vented her anger on Threads over the weekend when her fans referred to themselves as “kittenz”, leading to some offensive remarks from her.

This outburst has left her fans outraged, with one pleading for a simple expression of love and support from the rapper. However, Doja Cat responded coldly, stating that she doesn’t love her fans. As a consequence of this conflict with her loyal supporters, Doja Cat’s follower count has taken a hit. Social Blade reports that she has lost over 577,5K followers on Instagram in the last month.

The Gender Gap in Cancel Culture

Our list highlights a notable gender discrepancy in cancelation cases, with males representing 61.3% and females comprising 38.7%. It is noteworthy that men are more frequently canceled for abuse, sexual assault, and inappropriate behavior compared to women.

Gender Disparities in Cancel Culture

Meanwhile, according to a Times Opinion and Siena College poll, more women (61%) than men (49%) have admitted to self-censorship due to fears of retaliation or harsh criticism. This awareness of potential backlash may shape women’s actions in the context of cancel culture.

Gender Disparities in Cancel Culture

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Male
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Female

Our list highlights a notable gender discrepancy in cancelation cases, with males representing 62.3% and females comprising 37.7%. It is noteworthy that men are more frequently canceled for abuse, sexual assault, and inappropriate behavior compared to women.

Meanwhile, according to a Times Opinion and Siena College poll, more women (61%) than men (49%) have admitted to self-censorship due to fears of retaliation or harsh criticism. This awareness of potential backlash may shape women’s actions in the context of cancel culture.

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0 %
Male
new-asetttt-123-05.png
0 %
Female

Meanwhile, according to a Times Opinion and Siena College poll, more women (61%) than men (49%) have admitted to self-censorship due to fears of retaliation or harsh criticism. This awareness of potential backlash may shape women’s actions in the context of cancel culture.

gender-disparities-.png
0 %
Male
gender-disparities.png
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Female

Cancel Culture: Targets Across Professions

Cancel culture knows no bounds, targeting public figures from every walk of life. The data reveals that actors and singers lead 43.5% of the cases, followed closely by social media personalities at 27.4%. This comes as no surprise considering their heavy reliance on the fickle world of social media, where fame can be made or shattered instantly.

On the other hand, media personalities and writers/authors account for 12.9% and 6.5% of the cancellations, respectively. Both groups significantly impact public opinion, making them susceptible to cancelation when their actions or statements spark controversy.

And lastly, the reasons behind sports-related figures (6.5%), legal and juridical professionals (1.6%), and nobility (1.6%) cancelation incidents vary, ranging from misconduct allegations to unpopular political views.

Professions Most Affected by Cancel Culture

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Actors and Singers
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Social Media Personalities
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Media Personalities
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Actors and Singers
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Social Media Personalities
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Media Personalities
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Writers and Authors
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Sports-Related
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Legal and Juridical
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Nobility
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0 %
Writers and Authors
Sports-Related.png
0 %
Sports-Related
Legal-and-Juridical.png
0 %
Legal and Juridical
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Nobility

Brands Affected by Cancel Culture

From the uproar over controversial advertisements to allegations of unethical business practices, cancel culture has forced several prominent brands into the spotlight, facing intense scrutiny from consumers and the public.

The cancelation campaigns orchestrated on social media have hit major corporations and beloved household names, like Bud Light and Balenciaga, tarnishing their reputations. This phenomenon has also altered consumer expectations, emphasizing the need for transparency, accountability, and social responsibility from the brands they support.

As the cancelation wave shows no signs of slowing down, brands must navigate this treacherous terrain cautiously, adapting their strategies to align with evolving societal values and consumer sentiments to survive the storm.

Methodology

We performed a random Google search using keywords such as “celebrities canceled,” “public figures canceled,” and “cancel culture impact” to find articles and reports about public figures who faced cancelation between 2020 and 2023. We then categorized and analyzed this data by profession and gender distribution, identifying common reasons and patterns behind their cancelation to determine the prevailing causes.

In addition to the above, we thoroughly analyzed the Instagram followers’ reports of the canceled public figures during the period they were facing backlash.

Limitations

It is essential to acknowledge the limitations of this research, such as potential biases in the data collected from online sources and the possibility of overlooking less publicized cases of cancelation.

The study also focuses on cancelations reported in English-language media, which may result in an underrepresentation of cancelation incidents from non-English-speaking regions.

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Media Contact

SamanthaReec

s.reece@viralyft.com