What is cancel culture - and who has been cancelled?

From JK Rowling to Kanye, many celebrities have been 'cancelled' in recent years

A collage of celebrities who have been cancelled
(Image credit: Future)

You probably recognise the phrase or maybe heard about someone being "cancelled" before, but what does cancel culture actually mean?

Language is constantly evolving, bringing new words and phrases with it. But sometimes familiar words can take on a whole new meaning, and just like people have been asking what is gaslighting and what does woke mean in recent years, many have begun asking the same of cancel culture.

The term "cancelled" with its new meaning can be traced back to 1981, when it was used in the song "Your Love is Cancelled" by Nile Rogers. But it's in more recent years that the word has become mainstream, and has sparked debate in the process, with some arguing it amounts to bullying, while others see it as an expression of free speech or a way to hold individuals accountable.

What is cancel culture?

Simply put, cancel culture is the idea of taking away support for an individual, their career, popularity and/or fame because of something they’ve said or done that’s considered unacceptable. 

Most of the time, people are "cancelled" because they are a public figure with influence over a huge audience and what they’ve done or said is alleged to have caused harm to a particular person, group of people or community. For example, many of those who have been "cancelled" have received this public backlash following accusations of violent, sexist, racist, homophobic or transphobic activities or comments. 

Some see participating in cancel culture as the most effective way to hold public figures to account, especially if no other lawful way appears to be working. By bringing the grievance public, it forces the accused's employers and others to confront the situation and distance themselves from the perpetrator. In other words, it re-balances the power gap between those with huge audiences and the people or communities who could be negatively affected.

However, others believe cancel culture is more of a "mob mentality" that’s gone out of control.

The idea of cancel culture or "cancelling" someone hasn’t been around forever, though. It first appeared in a breakup song written by Nile Rogers in 1981 called "Your Love is Cancelled", before being used in the dialogue of 1991 film New Jack City. Following this and throughout the 90s and early 2000s, artists continued to use the phrase in music and YouTube videos. It became more mainstream when a comment was made about "cancelling" someone in a 2014 episode of popular reality show Love and Hip Hop. The term was frequently then used on social media - particularly on Black Twitter - either seriously or as a joke.

The term once again became more widely used with the #MeToo movement, as public figures such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K and R. Kelly were all "cancelled" due to allegations of sexual abuse.

Since then, cancel culture and "cancelling" have made their way into mainstream vocabulary. But while the idea has been around for some years now, the new use of the verb ‘to cancel’ only entered the official Merriam-Webster dictionary earlier this year. 

What does it mean to be "cancelled"?

To be "cancelled" is effectively to be boycotted, with the intent that the person will be ostracised and no longer benefit financially, personally or professionally from their elevated position.

Some people who have been "cancelled" have gone onto be held accountable for serious crimes, relating to what they were called out for. For example, Harvey Weinstein was first "cancelled" following allegations by multiple women published in The New York Times. After three years and several further allegations of serious sexual violence, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault.

While many people see "cancelling" someone today to be trial by social media, conducted largely by anonymous accounts, it has been publicly used a force for justice in the past. In the case of Weinstein, many women felt that their accusations had not been taken seriously by the entertainment industry, in which the disgraced film producer was seen to be at the helm of, or by the authorities. By coming together in numbers and "cancelling" Weinstein through the power of media, it allowed the women to finally be heard.

Harvey Weinstein

(Image credit: Getty Images)

However as an uncompromising form of public backlash, it doesn't always work this way - or have social justice as its primary motivator.

“Some have mixed emotions about cancel culture and the way that people on social media hold influencers and celebrities accountable,” explains leading psychiatrist Dr Tiago Reis Marques. “It can be seen as helpful particularly around large social issues but also damaging to someone’s career and reputation."

Dr Marques, who is also the chief executive officer of Pasithea Therapeutics, says that for the "cancelled" person, the mental impact can be huge. “It can essentially feel like they are being attacked by the whole world. This is particularly harmful to a person’s psychological state as we have seen in previous cases and often leads to chronic depression and anxiety."

This is why many people refer to cancel culture and the idea of "cancelling" someone as a public pile-on. While the most famous examples are A-listers, people have called for reality stars - who often have less media support or PR understanding - to be "cancelled" for innocuous comments and actions distorted in production, leading to damaging consequences.

"As cancel culture often leads to an individual being ostracised for something they have done or said, it can cause the person in question to feel rejected," our expert says, especially if it turns out the "cancelled" person in question has actually done nothing wrong.

"Rejection can have a negative impact on self-esteem and self-worthiness which are known risk factors for depression and anxiety, potentially leading to a worsening of the patient mental health. Cancel culture is public shaming and social media has given rise to a particularly virulent form of mob justice that is negatively impacting our mental health."

Who has been "cancelled"?

James Corden

James Corden

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The most recent victim of cancel culture is English actor and comedian James Corden, following a temporary ban from a New York restaurant because of the way he treated staff.

For fans wondering what did James Corden say to staff at the restaurant, Keith McNally, who owns iconic New York brasserie Balthazar, took to Instagram to publicly announce the ban to his 88,000 followers, saying that James Corden was "the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago," and going on to share two managers' reports from when Corden had visited Balthazar. 

The most recent, from October 2022, explained how Corden had reacted to the restaurant making a mistake with his wife's order, saying: "James Corden began yelling like crazy to the server: "You can't do your job! You can't do your job! Maybe I should go into the kitchen and cook the omelette myself!"

James Corden's last episode on The Late Late Show is in April 2023, after eight years on the show.

The post went viral and led to many people calling for Corden to be cancelled, as well as a slew of unverified anecdotes of people's experiences of Corden - in which he allegedly behaved in a similarly unpleasant way. Some of the accusations that have resurfaced come from a three year old Reddit 'Ask me Anything', which invited users to ask him questions.

The forum was flooded with stories accusing the talk show host of unpleasant behaviour. One user claimed to have sat next to Corden and Harry Styles at a restaurant in London in 2013, and wrote "We didn’t bother you but you [...] treated the waitstaff like sh-t and when one of my party politely suggested you calm down, you got really aggressive and threatening." Another claimed that he ignored his wife and tantrum-stricken baby for almost an entire flight from New York to London.

It's unclear whether these claims are true - and Corden is yet to address them - but it seems he has only been temporarily cancelled, because his ban from Balthazar was lifted less than a day after McNally's original post, when Corden called the restaurant owner to apologise. 

In a new Instagram post, Keith McNally wrote: "James Corden just called me and apologized profusely. Having f****d up myself more than most people, I strongly believe in second chances." He went on to say, "anyone magnanimous enough to apologize to a deadbeat layabout like me (and my staff) doesn’t deserve to be banned from anywhere. Especially Balthazar. So Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Corden, Jimmy Corden. All is Forgiven. xx"

Will Smith

Will Smith

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I'm sure we all remember the slap at the Oscars that saw the cancelling of Will Smith. At the awards show in spring 2022, the Hollywood actor shocked the audience and viewers when he stormed onto the stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock, who was presenting an award.

Smith's actions were in defence of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, after Rock made an ill-judged joke about the actresses' shaved head. Pinkett Smith has since shared her experience of alopecia.

After Smith made the appearance on stage, he continued to show his anger by repeatedly shouting "Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth!"

Will Smith apologised for his actions in a statement the next day, saying: "Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable." He went on to add, "Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness".

He also resigned from his position as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and has been banned from the Oscars for 10 years. Veteran screen and stage actor Harry Lennix, who is an Academy member, called for Smith to return his Oscar after the incident, writing in an op-ed for Variety, "The stain on the Motion Picture Academy cannot be easily remediated. The only hope for a justifiable grace must involve Smith voluntarily returning his award for best actor."

The controversy also saw the delay of the release of Apple TV's film Emancipation, which stars Smith, while another film he was working on, Bright 2, was cancelled.

Jimmy Carr

Jimmy Carr

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Jimmy Carr's Netflix special His Dark Material - released in late 2021 - caused outrage. In a clip from the show, which originally aired on Christmas Day, the comedian makes a 'joke' about how "no one wants to talk about the positives" of the fact that "thousands" of people in the travelling community were "killed by the Nazis". 

The comment referred to the Holocaust - in which an estimated half a million Roma and Sinti people in Europe were murdered by the Nazis - and has been slammed by various charities along with then PM Boris Johnson and MPs Sajid Javid and Nadia Whittome.

The Traveller Movement's official Twitter account posted in response to the comments, saying: "This is truly disturbing and goes way beyond humour. We need all your support in calling this out," while CEO of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Olivia Marks-Woldman OBE shared a statement online which read, "We are absolutely appalled at Jimmy Carr's comment about persecution...and horrified that gales of laughter followed his remarks.

"Hundreds of thousand of Roma and Sinti people suffered prejudice, slave labour, sterilisation and mass murder simply because of their identity - these are not experiences for mockery."

Phillip Pullman, the author of His Dark Materials novels - which have nothing to do with Carr's special other than the link through their names - said he would be "very glad if he called his show something else from now on".

Jimmy Carr addressed the controversy in February 2022 by telling attendees at a gig recently that he was "going to get cancelled". According to the Mirror, the comedian said, "We are speaking, my friends, in the last chance saloon. What I am saying on stage this evening is barely acceptable now. In ten years, f****** forget about it.

"I am going to get cancelled, that's the bad news. The good news is I am going down swinging.

"The joke that ends my career is already out there. It's on YouTube, Netflix or whatever, and it's fine until one day it f****** isn't."

Carr, who is also the host of panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats, added, "You are going to be able to tell your grandchildren about seeing this show tonight. You will say I saw a man and he stood on stage and he made light of serious issues. We used to call them jokes and people would laugh."

Netflix, who are still streaming the set on their subscription service, have also yet to comment and the programme is still available to watch - with the 'joke' included.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

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J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was another famous "cancellation" of the last couple of years. The multi-millionaire took to Twitter in support of Maya Forstater, a researcher who was fired from her job after she tweeted that people cannot change their biological sex in a comment that has been labelled as transphobic.

Rowling tweeted in response, "Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who'll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?" adding the hashtag #IStandWithMaya.

This then prompted Alphonso David, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, to tweet, "J.K. Rowling says she's opposed to fundamentalism in any form, but she's promoting a harmful fundamentalism that endangers the LGBTQ community — particularly transgender youth. She should apologize."

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While the author has been praised for some of her previous efforts to defend LGBTQ+ people, she has since been labelled a 'TERF' (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) by her critics. In 2017, Rowling liked a tweet that promoted an article seen to be transphobic. She liked another tweet that referred to trans women as "men in dresses" earlier that same year, although her spokesperson said it was an accident.

Following the Harry Potter books, J.K Rowling released a crime novel series called  Cormoran Strike. Instead of using her own name, she used the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Rowling has explained that the name came from one of her personal heroes, Robert F. Kennedy, and a childhood name she invented for herself, Ella Galbraith. However, Robert Galbraith is also the name of the man who invented conversion therapy - a treatment to change a person's sexual orientation or suppress their gender identity. Many were quick to point out that this information is available with a simple Google search, something they say Rowling should have done herself.

In August 2020, Rowling return the Ripple of Hope Award bestowed upon her in 2020 by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation (RFKHR), after its president criticised the author's views on transgender issues. Meanwhile, members of the Harry Potter universe including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, have appeared to distance themselves from Rowling by showing their support for transgender individuals. Grint said in a statement to Us Weekly in June 2020: "I firmly stand with the transgender community."

However, Rowling has hardly had an extreme experience of being "cancelled". In fact, following the controversy and the beginning of lockdown, Bloomsbury announced that sales of the Harry Potter books were up and had boosted their children's division by more than a quarter.

Chris Noth

Chris Noth

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Following the reemergence of actor Chris Noth as "Mr Big" in Sex And The City reboot And Just Like That, two women approached The Hollywood Reporter accusing him of sexual assault. 

The women, who did not know each other and remain anonymous in the piece, alleged that Noth raped them. The first, who used the pseudonym Zoe, said that she met Noth when she was 22 years old and living in Los Angeles, and that he would regularly visit the place she worked for business. The second woman, who told her story under the name Lily, told the publication that she was working in the VIP section of New York nightclub as a waitress in 2015 when she met the actor.

Chris Noth denies all claims made against him, telling the paper that the accusations were "categorically false" and the encounters were consensual. He said: "These stories could've been from 30 years ago or 30 days ago - no always means no - that is a line I did not cross. The encounters were consensual. It's difficult not to question the timing of these stories coming out. I don't known for certain why they are surfacing now, but I do know this: I did not assault these women".

Even though (spoiler alert) Mr Big dies in the premiere of the series, Noth was apparently due to come back in the finale for a dreamlike scene where his wife Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica-Parker, scatters his ashes. Following the publication of the piece shortly after the first episode aired in December last year, it was revealed that he would be cut from the scene. 

Shortly after the allegations were made public, Sarah Jessica-Parker along with co-stars Cythia Nixon and Kristin Davis issued a statement in support of the women. "We are deeply saddened to hear the allegations against Chris Noth. We support the women who have come forward and shared their painful experiences. We know it must be a very difficult thing to do and we commend them for it."

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After a third woman alleged Noth assaulted her back in 2013, the actor's agents dropped him and he lost his role as a regular on CBS series The Equalizer. Peloton, who released an advert featuring the star after Mr Big dies following a ride on one of their bikes in the first episode, also pulled their feature.

There is currently no criminal cases against Noth, The Independent confirms.

Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigan

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Chrissy Teigen - model, television host and bestselling cookbook author - was arguably most famous to those in the Twitter sphere for her 'honest', witty observations and jokes often levelled at widely criticised political figures. 

She's gained a multi-million person following over the last few years and even managed to warrant an outburst from former President Donald Trump on the platform. She's also been praised for her honesty after opening up about her struggle with postpartum depression and sharing tragic news of her miscarriage on social media.

But it was in March 2021 when one of the people who Chrissy had levelled her Tweets at years before revealed the dark side to the star's online habits. Courtney Stodden said they first met the model was when they were 16 years old, after marrying acting coach Doug Hutchinson - who was 34 years their senior. While the relationship would be looked at very differently today, Vox reports that at the time, Stodden was considered the butt of the joke due to the relationship and someone "whose feelings you didn't have to care about". Among others, Teigen directed her barbs straight at the reality star.

Stodden revealed in an Instagram video posted in March 2021 that Teigen had sent multiple nasty public Tweets to them in the early 2010s, including one that referenced them taking a "dirt nap" and another simply saying "I hate you." Along with this, Teigen also allegedly direct-messaged Stodden, according to the star's interview with the Daily Beast, telling them to kill themselves.

Speaking about how they reacted to the onslaught, the star said, "I experienced so much harassment and bullying from her when I was just 16 years old. At a time when I needed help. I was being abused."

They continued, "It really affected me. It's so damaging when you have somebody like Chrissy Teigen bullying children."

Following this revelation, the line of cookware that Teigen had stocked at Macy's disappeared from the store's shelves - without comment from the retailer. Multiple headlines covered the pages of papers, including Page Six, which declared the model as an "undercover bully", referencing the fact that she herself had moved away from Twitter due to trolling. On Saturday Night Live, which is watched by an average of 9 million Americans every week, Pete Davison joked that "getting Chrissy Teigen out of our lives" was one of the only good things to happen over the last year.

In May 2021, Teigen made a statement herself about the controversy. "Not a lot of people are lucky enough to be held accountable for all their past b******* in front of the entire world. I’m mortified and sad at who I used to be. I was an insecure, attention seeking troll. I am ashamed and completely embarrassed at my behaviour but that is nothing compared to how I made Courtney feel," she wrote on Twitter.

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One month later, Teigen wrote a post on Medium apologising for her past tweets. "I won't ask for your forgiveness, only your patience and tolerance," she wrote. "I ask that you allow me, as I promise to allow you, to own past mistakes and be given the opportunity to seek self-improvement and change. I ask that you allow me, as I promise to allow you, to own past mistakes and be given the opportunity to seek self improvement and change."

Since then, not all that much has been heard from Chrissy Teigen - although she is back on Twitter. When asked in an interview recently how long she thinks she could be a member of the "cancel club", the star replied with a laugh, "I don't know, it could be forever. I have no idea. I don't know."

She said, "All I can do is live my life and take care of my kids and family. Everyone else can make their own choice."

Other than the removal of her cookware line from Macy's and Twitter-based public condemnation, Teigen hasn't faced many repercussions for her actions against Stodden. By the looks of her Instagram, she's back to normal and promoting her new cook book - 'Cravings: All Together'.

R Kelly

R Kelly

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People have issued allegations of sexual abuse against I Believe I Can Fly singer, R. Kelly, for more than 20 years - many of which concern his involvement with teenage girls. 

The allegations first surfaced at the beginning of the 1990s when Kelly - real name Robert Sylvester Kelly - was just starting out in his career. He famously married singer Aaliyah at a secret ceremony in Chicago when she was just 15-years-old and he was 27. Two years later in 1996, Tiffany Hawkins sued R. Kelly for the "personal injuries and emotional distress" she allegedly experienced during her relationship with the star when she was 15 and he was 24. According to Chicago Sun Times, Kelly denied having any sexual contact with the teenager and Hawkins settled out of court for $250,000, a fraction of the $10 million she originally sought in damages.

Multiple other law suits soon followed, though Kelly denied any wrongdoing and the consequences were minimal. 

In 2017, Buzzfeed published a report that accused R. Kelly of trapping six women in a sex "cult". The article, which featured interviews with women all of legal age, claimed that Kelly seduced young women when they came to him for help with their music careers, taking control of their lives. Kelly strongly denied the claims, but it was not long after that the first signs of him being cancelled appeared.

It began in July 2017, with the creation of the #MuteRKelly campaign. Co-founder and activist Oronike Odeleye said that she helped to create the movement, alongside Kenyette Barnes, because "someone had to stand up for Black women, and if I wasn't willing to do my part — no matter how small — then I couldn't continue to complain. It's time for us to end this man's career. Enough is beyond enough."

She said, "#MuteRKelly continues until the Black community has fully financially divested from the man and his music and we tackle the overwhelming issue of sexual abuse."

The campaign lobbied the singer's record label RCA to drop the artist and contacted promoters of his work, ticket sellers and even streaming services - such as Spotify and Apple Music - to cancel Kelly's appearances and demote his music from their playlists. Although the services agreed at the beginning, they reversed the decision later on before then once again removing his work from their sites after the Surviving R. Kelly documentary series aired in January 2019. Artists who worked with the singer in the past, including Lady Gaga, also apologised and removed their music collaborations with the singer from the streaming sites.

“I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously,” Lady Gaga wrote in a Twitter statement. "I’m sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young, and for not speaking out sooner."

In September 2022, R Kelly was found guilty at a Chicago federal trial of sexually abusing his 14-year-old goddaughter on videotape back in the 1990s, and was also found guilty of sexual misconduct with two other minors around the same time period. A year previously, he was found guilty of being the ringleader of a scheme to recruit women and underage girls for sex. He was convicted of all nine counts against him and is currently serving a 30 year prison sentence.

Ellen Degeneres

Ellen Degeneres

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One of the most famous cancellations to happen in 2020 was that of American television show host Ellen Degeneres. She came under fire after Buzzfeed News published an article where former members of her staff claimed the star created a "toxic work culture". 

The former employees claimed that DeGeneres is not the same person she appears to be on the show when the cameras stop rolling. Instead, one claimed she was "demeaning" and her senior exclusives failed to follow through with her famous tagline of "be kind" - firing people who took sick or bereavement leave. One former employee also claimed that her top senior producers made "racist comments" and contributed to micro-aggressions on set.

While several of those who spoke to Buzzfeed blamed executive producers and managers on set for the toxic environment, rather that Ellen directly, one former employee said that because it's ultimately Ellen's name on the billboard, "she really need to take more responsibility" for the environment around her.

At the beginning of season 18 of the show, DeGeneres said, "I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected."

Despite this apology, The Ellen Show came to an end in May 2022.

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson

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In February 2021, actress Evan Rachel Wood named singer Marilyn Manson - real name Brian Warner - as her alleged abuser. Wood and Manson were in a relationship when the actress was 18-years old and the singer was 36. The two were also engaged for a brief period of time in 2010.

Wood wrote in an Instagram post, "He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander or blackmail. I am here to expose this dangerous man and call out the many industries that have enabled him, before he ruins any more lives. I stand with the many victims who will no longer be silent."

Following the post, multiple women came forward with more allegations of horrific experiences with Manson in Vanity Fair magazine.

Manson has denied all the allegations against him and responded at the time by saying, "Obviously, my art and my life have long been magnets for controversy, but these recent claims about me are horrible distortions of reality.

"My intimate relationships have always been entirely consensual with like-minded partners. Regardless of how - and why - others are now choosing to misinterpret the past, that is the truth."

Despite sexual misconduct allegations and convictions stretching back as far as 1998, Manson has only a small handful suffered professional repercussions for his actions in the last year.

Following Wood's post on Instagram, Loma Vista Recording - who have worked with Manson since 2015 - dropped the artist from their label. They said in a statement, "In light of today’s disturbing allegations by Evan Rachel Wood and other women naming Marilyn Manson as their abuser, Loma Vista will cease to further promote his current album effective immediately. Due to these concerning developments, we have also decided not to work with Marilyn Manson on any future projects."

Marylin Manson still making music, though, as he famously appeared on Kanye West's new album - one of the most hotly anticipated releases of 2021. He accompanied the singer and rapper on Donda on a track called 'Jail pt.2' and was brought up on stage during the listening party in Chicago.

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Manson's appearance on the album was widely condemned and some reviewers dismissed it based on that fact, handing the entire release a 0-star review because of the "sour taste that no number of good beats, gospel choirs or church organs will cleanse."

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake

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Following the release of The New York Times documentary 'Framing Britney Spears', focusing on Britney's conservatorship and the #FreeBritney movement, Justin Timberlake received renewed backlash for how he treated the star in the early 2000s. The two were in a relationship that garnered much press attention and even created somewhat of a super fandom among the couple's dedicated supporters.

After their break up, Timberlake was accused of weaponising his 'Cry Me a River' video to pin the demise of their relationship on Britney and her alleged infidelity. In the video, he appears alongside a blonde look-alike and it's widely understood that the song is about his ex.

By pinning the fall of their relationship on Britney, critics of Timberlake argue that he received positive professional attention while leaving his ex-girlfriend - who was only 21 at the time - to suffer at the hands of his fans and the tabloids.

Justin Timberlake took to Instagram to apologise to Spears, as well as Super Bowl half-time show co-performer, Janet Jackson, following accusations of racism and sexism. In the 2004 show, Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's bare breast live on TV, an act that some saw as a deliberate publicity stunt at the time rather than the wardrobe malfunction it was passed off as. While Timberlake faced no professional consequences for the stunt, Jackson was blamed for the incident and forced to issue a public apology.

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Shortly after the "Framing Britney Spears" documentary aired, people began calling for Timberlake to be "cancelled" on social media. While #JustinTimberlakeistrash is a hashtag that first appeared on Twitter in 2012, it quickly grew in posts after the documentary aired as more people called for boycotts of the singer's music and other professional endeavours.

However, some believe that Timberlake has escaped what could have been an inevitable cancellation by apologising quickly. On the second slide of the post, the singer says that the music industry “sets men, especially white men, up for success”. And while he “didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life", he said he does not "want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again”. He concluded, “I can do better and I will do better."

Since the apology, Justin Timberlake has appeared on social media in the studio with big names in music, including DJ Khalid and Timberland, leading us to the conclusion that Justin's career is just fine.

Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan

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Very few people won't know who British journalist-turned-television-presenter Piers Morgan is - or why he's been "cancelled" numerous times.

In one segment alone, he managed to mock minority communities by taking aim at the BBC's plan to teach children gender diversity, saying that he identified as a "penguin", and was accused of sexist remarks towards co-host Susanna Reid.

"It's not fine that the BBC should be doing this," he said in response to the plan. When Reid attempted to diffuse the situation, he added, "You women moan as well. Women have it so hard don't they? They have it so hard. But you and your massive salary, working four days a week. Come on."

Even before this point, there had been multiple calls for ITV to sack the controversial host - though he appeared to redeem himself after successfully holding a handful of politicians to account during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Soon afterwards, Morgan quit Good Morning Britain after a clash with a colleague over comments he made about Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah. In the episode following the bombshell interview, he said that he did not believe Markle had been suicidal. The comments were slammed by mental health campaigners internationally, along with numerous celebrities, and over 41,000 people registered complaints against the host with Ofcom.

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After the backlash, the network released a statement saying, “Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain. ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add."

But despite all of this and more, it's difficult to argue that Piers Morgan has actually been "cancelled". Months after leaving GMB, he's up for an award at the National Television Awards for his time on the show. He continues to make headlines almost daily, with his Twitter account still active.

Morgan himself even confirmed that he wouldn't be going anywhere as he spoke to reporters in March 2021. He said that he still doesn't believe Meghan Markle's claims but if anyone else wants to - "that's entirely their right".

He also said, "I think it's fair to say, although the woke crowd will think that they've cancelled me, I think they will be rather disappointed when I re-emerge."

And re-emerge he did, as little over a year after he left Good Morning Britain, Morgan has a new show with TalkTV called Piers Morgan: Uncensored. His first guest in the show was former President of the United States Donald Trump. 

In an appearance on Lorraine, Morgan said: "We live in a society where if you raise your head above the parapet, the woke brigade come for you!” and said that his only regret from leaving ITV is that they "tried to make me apologise for something I believe in."

Lea Michele

Lea Michele

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Glee star Lea Michele came under fire from multiple angles in June 2020 following a post about George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis in May 2020.

After tweeting about Floyd with the Black Lives Matter hashtag, fellow Glee star Samantha Ware responded by writing: "Remember when you made my first television gig a living hell?!?! Cause I’ll never forget. I believe you told everyone that if you had the opportunity you would ‘s— in my wig!’ amongst other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood.”

Many more of Lea Michele's former co-stars from various productions backed up Ware's claims, appearing to create a pattern of behaviour. For example, former Glee co-star Amber Riley confirmed that she didn't believe Michele was racist - but she certainly made life very unpleasant for people on set with her.

Keeping it diplomatic, she said that she wasn't "going to say that Lea Michele is racist". However, she said that the Glee set wasn't "the most comfortable environment" to work in and was she glad Samantha Ware had spoken out.

She also urged people to consider the bigger picture during the Instagram Live, as she said, "I don't give a s***. People are out here dying, being murdered by police."

Gerard Canonico, who worked with Lea Michele on the Broadway production of 'Spring Awakening', wrote on Twitter, “You were nothing but a nightmare to me and fellow understudy cast members. You made us feel like we didn’t belong there. I tried for years to be nice to you to no avail. Maybe actually apologize instead of placing the blame on how others ‘perceive’ you. You’ll probably just delete this though.”

After Ware's first Tweet hit the headlines, Michele lost a brand partnership with HelloFresh, while Zola, a wedding registry company Michele was working with before the accusations, saying that while they weren't working with the actress anymore, they were disappointed to learn of her behaviour.

A photo posted by on

Following this, Lea Michele posted a long apology on Instagram. She wrote, “I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused.

“One of the most important lessons of the last few weeks is that we need to take the time to listen and learn about other people’s perspectives and any role we have played or anything we can do to help address the injustices that they face.”

In September 2022, Michele re-addressed the accusations and defended herself to the New York Times, saying, "I have an edge to me. I work really hard. That level of perfectionism, or that pressure of perfectionism, left me with a lot of blind spots."

And it looks like she's not suffered to much in the long term from being cancelled, as she returned to Broadway in autumn 2022 by taking over the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. On Instagram, she wrote: "A dream come true is an understatement. I’m so incredibly honored to join this amazing cast and production and return to the stage playing Fanny Brice on Broadway. See you September 6th."



(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fans were less than impressed when the trailer for singer Sia's film, Music, hit screens back in 2021. The film follows the life of an autistic teenager, played by non-autistic actress Maddie Ziegler. 

Twitter users considered the portrayal "offensive" and "inaccurate", while also claiming that the musician hadn't done her research, resulting in the film failing to portray the important and underrepresented topic in the right way.

Irish actress Bronagh Waugh, for instance, asked Sia why her main character wasn't being played by an autistic actor. "It's pretty offensive the way you've chosen to portray this character. People with disabilities are not broken and don't need fixing," she wrote on Twitter.

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Others argued that the trailer showed autistic people "suffering" and said that the film should have taken a more positive approach. As one user said, "Autistic people do not bring their families or carers suffering, in fact it’s often caregivers who cause harm to disabled people. autistic people need to be allowed to tell their own stories, not this garbage.”

Sia urged people to wait for the whole film to come out before making assumptions, but it appeared as though the damage had already been done. “Incredibly disappointing to see yet another misrepresentation of neurodivergent people. What an incredibly wasted opportunity to showcase autistic talent, and share an authentic story from that community. Will not be watching this,” said another person on Twitter.

Following the release of the film, in which the main character is shown under restraints at one point, critics from the likes of The Guardian and IndieWire called it "tone-deaf" and "baffling", and gave the picture a host of one-star reviews.

In response, the star took responsibility for the distressing scene, before deleting her Twitter account. She said, "I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough enough, not wide enough."

In November, a petition to cancel the film went up online. Sia herself described the petition as a "love letter to caregivers and to the autism community".

However, was Sia really "cancelled" after this? Music was given a Golden Globe nomination for best picture in the musical or comedy category, while Kate Hudson received a nod for best actress - though the film lost both awards and hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler called the movie the year's "Biggest Flopparonni". Since then, not much has been heard from the notoriously reclusive singer song writer, so it's not clear whether she's involved in any other major projects.

Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton

(Image credit: Alamy)

The so-called "cancellation" of Enid Blyton came amid plans by British Heritage to review almost 1000 blue plaques following the Black Lives Matter protests across the world in 2020. The plaques adorn buildings around the UK that have been significant in the lives of prominent figures in history. For example, Princess Diana's legacy was honoured with a plaque outside her former London flat last year.

In April 2021, British Heritage announced that they would be updating the website reference that links to the plaque outside the home where Blyton lived from 1920 to 1924. “Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit,” the website read, according The Washington Post and The Telegraph. The line recalled an article written by The Guardian in 1996 that looked into 'The Little Black Doll', a book published in 1965 where the character of Sambo is only accepted once their "ugly black face" is washed "clean" by rain.

As of February 2022, this line is no longer on the website - instead this part of Blyton's history is simply referred to as "Criticism" and the charity say that some people "took exception to what they perceived as social snobbery, racism and sexism embedded in Blyton’s storylines".

Naturally, as with any subject of supposed cancel culture, there were two sides to the debate when the Twitter sphere kicked off in June last year. Some consider Blyton's work to be essential in the literary canon and not subject to the same standards as today, considering the books were written almost 100 years ago. To others, this has been a long-time coming. The Royal Mint were forced to put plans to honour the author with a commemorative coin on hold in 2019, following backlash that referred to the author as a “racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”. But allegations of problematic language from Blyton have been around since before she died. Publisher Macmillan refused to publish Enid Blyton's story 'The Mystery That Never Was' in 1960, citing a "faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia."

So has Enid Blyton been cancelled? Not really. Firstly, British Heritage has apparently backtracked on their commitment to address “any uncomfortable aspects” of this plaque subject's life on their website, as promised. But to be "cancelled" requires mass public rejection of work, with the threat of a loss of reputation or earnings. Enid Blyton is still claimed as one of the most beloved children's authors to have lived and she is the fourth most-translated author in the world - coming in close behind William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and Jules Verne.

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Grace Walsh
Features Writer

Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics.  She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station. 

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