The concept of “cancel culture”—and whether or not it even exists—is a hot topic these days, especially when it comes to the entertainment world. As the objectionable behavior, comments, or opinions of public figures have come to light, almost immediately, a response follows. Whether it be social media backlash or the loss of a job, the celebrities below have seen things that they’ve done or said arouse anger or even disappointment. And while many think of “being canceled” as just a buzzword for “facing consequences,” these stars claim that the phenomenon has negatively impacted their careers. Read on to find out how they stoked the internet and/or industry’s ire and what they had to say in their defense.
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In the summer of 2021, model and lifestyle maven Chrissy Teigen received considerable backlash when Courtney Stodden (who uses they/them pronouns) revealed that Teigen had bullied them over Twitter DM about their marriage, at the age of 16, to 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison. Though Teigen apologized to Stodden publicly, the damage had been done, and she found herself losing out on brand deals and social media followers.
Later, Teigen took to Instagram to share how she felt about being part of the “cancel club.”
“Only a few understand it and it’s impossible to know til you’re in it. And it’s hard to talk about it in that sense because obviously you sound whiney when you’ve clearly done something wrong. It just sucks,” she wrote in July 2021. “There is no winning. But there never is here anyhow.”
The Mandalorian actor Gina Carano was fired from the show in 2021 when she posted a meme to Instagram comparing being Republican in America to being Jewish in Nazi Germany. Later, she appeared on The Ben Shapiro Show, claiming she’d been punished because she didn’t fit the “narrative” of Disney, who owns the Star Wars universe, including the Pedro Pascal series.
“I’m not the only one that’s ever been bullied by this company, and I know that so deeply,” she said at the time. “I could share a story which would turn things around in the media but I can’t because it would sell out a friend… everyone is afraid of losing their job.”
When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special, The Closer, premiered in October 2021, the comedian came under fire for making transphobic jokes, including claiming that “gender is a fact.” Calls to boycott Chappelle and the streaming service quickly followed, and the angry response is something he addressed during a standup performance at the Hollywood Bowl later that month.
According to Deadline, after receiving a standing ovation, Chappelle said, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it. [Expletive] Twitter. [Expletive] NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid [expletive] networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life.”
After Kanye West’s failed presidential campaign and controversial, very public rants on topics including slavery and even his own children, he described himself as “the main person that’s been canceled” in a January 2022 interview with Hollywood Unlocked.
“Obviously, as a celebrity, there’s a lot of people that are around me that can influence me and no human being is immune to their surroundings,” he said, calling for everyone listening to “cancel cancel culture.”
In 2020, former employees at The Ellen DeGeneres Show spoke out, including in an exposé for Buzzfeed News, about allegedly toxic working conditions behind the scenes, including racism and retaliation from the higher-ups. This, paired with a viral Twitter thread about DeGeneres’ own alleged bullying behavior, may have been what led to her announcing that she’d be ending her show after this current season.
“There was an internal investigation, obviously, and we learned some things, but this culture we’re living in [is one where] no one can make mistakes,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in May 2021. “And I don’t want to generalize because there are some bad people out there and those people shouldn’t work again, but in general, the culture today is one where you can’t learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we’re here to do.”
Reporting on Mehmet Oz running to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, The Philadelphia Inquirer referred to him without the “doctor” title, leading Oz to take to Twitter to announce that he “won’t be canceled.”
“Last week The Philadelphia Inquirer had me on their front page as ‘Dr. Oz.’ This morning they just announced, no more doctor, even though I’m a practicing physician. I’m taking care of patients,” he says in the video. “I’ve done thousands of heart surgeries. They don’t want to call me doctor anymore. I won’t be canceled.”
The paper explained that the change was made because, according to their style guide, the outlet doesn’t refer to anyone as “Dr.” on the first mention, including a headline.
In a June 2021 interview with The Sunday Times, Kevin Hart said that he’d been canceled “three or four times” and that he thought people are now “supposed to operate perfectly all the time,” which he claimed had complicated his job as a comedian.
“You’re thinking that things you say will come back and bite you on the [expletive],” he said. “I can’t be the comic today that I was when I got into this.
Hart’s comments on cancel culture came two years after he stepped down as host of the 2019 Oscars after homophobic and transphobic comments he’d made in tweets years earlier had resurfaced online.
A year after quitting Good Morning Britain when he was called out for comments he made about Meghan Markle and her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Piers Morgan announced that his new talk show, which will air in Australia, the UK, and the US, will “cancel cancel culture.”
“A year ago today, I was forced to leave a job I loved, at the peak of its success, for having the audacity to express an honestly held opinion,” Morgan said in a statement in early 2022, via The Hill. “This shouldn’t happen in any democracy supposedly built on the principles of free speech and freedom of expression.”
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After Amber Heard’s allegations of abuse against Johnny Depp were made public, he was asked to resign from the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Later, while accepting an award at the 2021 San Sebastian Film Festival, Depp addressed the cancel culture he claimed to be a victim of.
“It’s so far out of hand now that I can promise you that no one is safe. Not one of you. No one out that door. No one is safe,” he said in his speech, via Deadline. “It takes one sentence and there’s no more ground, the carpet has been pulled. It’s not just me that this has happened to, it’s happened to a lot of people.”
During an appearance on Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh podcast in April 2020, singer Demi Lovato (who uses they/them and she/her pronouns) said they’ve been canceled “so many times, I can’t even count,” but went on to say that they don’t believe cancel culture is “real.”
“I don’t think anyone was ever officially canceled, otherwise certain people wouldn’t have Grammys, wouldn’t have Oscars … certain people wouldn’t be where they are in their positions.” Lovato said, adding, “Cancel culture will not work unless people have some sort of mercy. You have to be able to do that. I think if it’s somebody who refuses to learn, just has the entitlement of I can never do any wrong and I can get away with this, then yeah … go ahead and cancel them.”
Sitting down with friend Piers Morgan on his show, Piers Morgan Uncensored, Sharon Osbourne opened up about leaving The Talk in 2021 after she was accused of making racist comments, including her defense of Morgan’s behavior, which led to his own so-called cancellation.
“It was tough on me, and it did affect me mentally. It honestly did, because after everything that I felt, all my dreams I had achieved, everything that I’d wanted to do, I had achieved,” Osbourne said on Morgan’s show in May 2022. “And did I want my legacy for my family to be? ‘Oh, well, your Nana was on television, but everybody said she was racist, so she never went on television again.'”
Frank Langella was fired from Netflix’s upcoming series The Fall of the House of Usher after a complaint was made by a female co-star about his behavior. He wrote a column for Deadline confirming that he’d not followed the instructions of the show’s intimacy coordinator, which he called “ludicrous,” while also claiming that he’d been unfairly canceled.
“Cancel culture is the antithesis of democracy. It inhibits conversation and debate. It limits our ability to listen, mediate, and exchange opposing views. Most tragically, it annihilates moral judgment,” he wrote.
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