2020 proved that cancel culture is alive and well. With the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic and a nationwide reckoning with racial injustice, people took to social media throughout the year to proclaim a number of famous celebrities—from J.K. Rowling to Ellen DeGeneres—and brands—from Netflix to Oatly—officially “over.”
Oftentimes, these people and brands are degraded because they have committed offensive behavior or shared beliefs that don’t fit in social norms or stand as politically correct. The internet is especially unkind to those who commit acts that go completely against their brand. In fact, some people believe cancel culture has gone overboard and propose to cancel “cancel culture.” This year, even gushed-over Baby Yoda received some cancels after the animated creature ate frogs eggs in an episode of “The Mandalorian.”
For brands, it’s still a cultural phenomenon that could easily lead to a public relations crisis and potentially hurt business. After all, 64% of consumers will buy or boycott a brand because of its position on a social or political issue, according to a 2018 Edelman study.
Here are the people and brands who have felt the sting of being publicly #canceled this year:
For many who grew up reading the “Harry Potter” series, J.K. Rowling served as a childhood hero. For those who felt ostracized, the books’ themes of acceptance seemed to say there was a place for them in the world. But this past June, Rowling lost many of those fans.
Rowling chose Pride Month for the time to tweet out another round of transphobic beliefs. She commented on a Devex opinion article about “people who menstruate,” tweeting: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimund? Woomud?” She followed that up with further comments on how sex matters, and something trans people cannot change.
For many fans, it was the last straw. The hashtag #canceljkrowling began trending on Twitter.