Cancel culture’s fine line between ruination and accountability

YouTuber Jenna Marbles speaks at VidCon 2012 in Anaheim, Calif. Fans
say she was unfairly “canceled” for an incident she was not at fault for.


YouTuber Jenna Marbles speaks at VidCon 2012 in Anaheim, Calif. Fans say she was unfairly “canceled” for an incident she was not at fault for.

Keira MacDermott

In social media today, the infamous “cancel culture” is known to destroy the lives of countless well-known celebrities. Whether this is for vulgar and unspeakable actions or a misstep in speech, the carnage that cancel culture has left in its path is immeasurable. Many debate whether those who have fallen victim to cancel culture are victims at all and, if it is truly a campaign to rid society of toxic celebrities, whether it is working.

A prime example of a canceled celebrity is YouTuber and aspiring filmmaker Shane Dawson, who was revealed to have filmed multiple sketches in blackface or as characters intended to be “ghetto” or “hood.” These videos, posted in 2013 and earlier, have since been deleted from his YouTube page, along with multiple other problematic skits after he began facing backlash in the summer of 2020. Twitter users swarmed to his many social media platforms, demanding acknowledgment and an apology for the flagrant racism that stained his past, as well as association to makeup mogul Jeffree Star, who has also been accused of racism. After weeks of silence, he posted an ill-received apology video titled “Taking Accountability,” addressing his past actions. Despite his apologies, Dawson’s career was decidedly over, and his reputation deemed irreparable. Additionally, the scripted and awkward apology paled in comparison to that of another famed YouTuber and comedian, Jenna Mourey.

In contrast to Dawson, Mourey’s situation was widely debated on social media, with many of her supporters claiming that she was scared off of the internet for things that she was not at fault for. This is questionable, as among her most criticized moments was a Nicki Minaj impression that Mourey had performed in a skit, coincidentally done while wearing a harsh spray tan. This was perceived as blackface by many, and though Jenna reassured her audience that her dark complexion in the video was unrelated to the impression, she apologized for the hurt that it may have caused those watching. Mourey said in her own video, “I don’t want someone to watch something and feel hurt or offended now for any reason, at all.” Mourey, who went by the username JennaMarbles, stated that she would be leaving her channel and all platforms indefinitely in June 2020. Her devout followers begged that she return to YouTube, reassuring the influencer that she was forgiven and that she would be missed. Despite the masses demanding that she make her return, YouTuber and Mourey’s long-time boyfriend Julien Solomita requested that viewers respect her privacy.

There is one crucial difference between the acceptances of these apologies. Many assume that it was the apologies themselves that caused such a difference in reception, but it was in fact each influencer’s personality that affected their reputations moving forward. While Shane Dawson was known for walking the line between acceptable and problematic, JennaMarbles was famously wholesome and remains a source of comfort for her followers.

Twitter user Grace Calcagno said “Cancel culture works if it means that the person is going to be held responsible for their actions not only by others but also taking responsibility themselves.” Though both have “taken responsibility,” watchers have assumed based on past instances the genuineness of their claims. As a result, Shane Dawson has left a legacy of racism and questionable quotes behind, while JennaMarbles is remembered as a victim to a malignant wave of toxicity.