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UPinion: The Recipe Behind "Cancel Culture"

By Marissa Rotolo


It is a bandwagon, it is a curse on modern culture, a modern day witch hunt. We are all familiar with the lore behind “cancel culture.” The one mistake to end your entire career and negate all your work. The accidental overexposure that causes the public to change their mind. Or can it go beyond that? Can it exceed surface level over delicate analyzations? In my opinion, we are watching "cancel culture" begin to take its form on one of the most famous icons in not only America, but the world: Taylor Swift.


Do not get me wrong, I am as big of a Taylor Swift fan as the next person, if not more. Regardless of public opinion, I will always love Swift. With her over a billion dollar grossing Eras Tour, 200+ million Instagram followers, songs charting that were released years ago, and a plethora of other record breaking accomplishments, Swift is at a level of unprecedented fame and success.


This recognition first came to me when the news broke that Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, were dating. Prior to this, the public seemed to be in agreement that whether you loved Swift or hated her, she is a talented woman with a unique sense of artistry and craft.


Now that her rumored romance is also out in the open, there has been a subtle shift in Swift’s copious fame. When Swift was photographed at the Chiefs game with a plate of food, ketchup and “seemingly ranch,” as shared by a post on Twitter from a fan, the internet broke out in chaos. Heinz released limited edition bottles and companies used this to boost their marketing. Additionally, her sheer presence at the game prompted the NFL to change their bios on social media to “NFL (Taylor’s Version)” for a moment. Kelce’s jersey sales went up 400%, female viewership saw a 63% increase, and the next introduction to an NFL game was Taylor Swift themed. The influence Swift possesses is entirely unrivaled.


So why do I think that this exposes a variety of "cancel culture" that exceeds the average “cancel culture” formula?


Swift’s recent skyrocket to the top has evolved from being “cool”, to being “basic”, to being “overrated.” This is for a few reasons. The first reason being that when something is viewed as cool on the internet, it loses its luster quickly. We have seen this in fashion trends; the cycle of trends moves faster than people can keep up with. The more something is shoved in consumers faces, the more it loses its value. People are not exempt from this. The second reason being, Swift’s fame is so unprecedented that it exceeds people’s comfort level, it’s uncharted. We have not seen this level of success since The Beatles. Swift has found a way to dominate her industry while also spilling into other areas of pop culture: she is inescapable. People were willing to accept that Swift was objectively talented when she stayed within the confines of her career up until this point.


When you hear people calling Swift “overrated” or “boring,” it is not a reflection of Swift’s artistry, or a prediction of her historical legacy. This is simply an attempt for consumers to cycle a new trend: a consequence of being “chronically online.” When people are intimidated by something unfamiliar, like Swift’s striking success, they revert to becoming negative as a defense. Within the cancel culture, nothing is moderate; emotions are expressed radically. It is not enough to reject the media or to shrug off indifference. Intensity will be met with intensity; Swift is intensely in our faces so people’s discourse will also be intense.


Swift’s overexposure is something beyond her control. This is a new branch of cancel culture that is a product of content being consumed at a rapid and abundant pace. Swift is doing nothing new; she’s releasing new music, touring, and dating like a normal person. The media however, is doing something new: a mixture of oversaturating content and the trendiness of loving Swift. Going forward, I think we are going to see more celebrities fall victim to being canceled due to overexposure.

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