If James Charles’ New Year’s resolution was to avoid controversy, he has already failed miserably. We’re not even a full day into 2020 and the beauty influencer is already trending on Twitter after yet another scandal. 2019 was full of headlines and cancelation for Charles, so it comes as no surprise that he’s starting this year off strong.
In a video posted to his Instagram stories, Charles can be seen enthusiastically squealing along to Saweetie’s “My Type.” This clip instantly triggered backlash (along with some Gina Rodriguez déjà vu), as many claimed he sang a line that included a racial slur. Charles quickly took to Twitter with a brief statement that denied any use of the ‘n word.’ Of course, in true influencer fashion, this refutation was followed up by a glamorous and spiteful photoshoot.
no? turn up the volume & listen, I skip over it. how stupid would I have to be to confidently record a video of me singing the n word and still have it up the next morning
— James Charles (@jamescharles) January 1, 2020
Between Charles’ denial and Twitter’s outrage, there’s an ongoing debate over whether or not he actually sang or mouthed the word. The video itself is slightly unreliable, with loud screams and flashing lights coming from every direction, not easily yielding a conclusion to this cancelation. Many do not care to even examine the video, though. Once they see the headlines and #JamesCharlesIsOverParty trending on Twitter, they run with their opinions. The fact that many are so quick to characterize him in such a way, then behave so routinely with the flood of hate tweets and condemnation, says a lot about both Charles and cancel culture itself.
Regardless of whether or not he said a racial slur in this instance, James Charles has already been canceled before. So why does he keep getting canceled, especially if his career was already ended? In case you need a brief reminder: first, it was the ebola joke in the midst of his Covergirl campaign. Then, it was Tati Westbrook exposing his predatory nature. Give or take a few insensitive tweets and social disgraces, of course. The specifics don’t matter, though: he’s already been called out and ‘canceled,’ yet these scandals are seemingly brushed under the rug after a week, and he still has a thriving career.
We see this in instances of Logan Paul’s cancelation as well. Paul, a fellow problematic YouTube star, continued to gain exposure and fame after incidents in which he filmed dead bodies, disrespected nearly every marginalized community, and displayed unabashed homophobia. While Charles’ offenses seem like jokes compared to Paul’s controversies, they both have something in common: they kept their careers, and continue to, after numerous scandals and alleged cancelations. We see it nearly every time someone is ‘canceled,’ and we see it with most influencers and public figures in general. The Twitter-enforced boycott just never seems to stick.
Why? Because it has become a bandwagon activity—a rash decision everyone can get behind. We are so eager to start cracking jokes and post reaction videos that we forget what the influencer in question has even done. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t hold people like James Charles and Logan Paul alike accountable for their problematic actions. We should just do so more effectively and permanently, without the humor and without the YouTube drama channels. Because right now, our current system does not reprimand properly or for the right reasons, and it doesn’t diminish the platforms of those who shouldn’t have one to begin with. Cancel culture is a bust, and people like James Charles who slip through its cracks are proof.
It doesn’t matter if James Charles didn’t actually say the n-word—he’s officially canceled. Don’t worry, though. It doesn’t matter if he is canceled for saying it either. Ending someone’s career no longer means ending their career, so he’ll be fine next week when his eyeshadow palette continues to sell out. Punishments and consequences do not mean anything in this current social climate—in this current cancel culture. If they did—if cancel culture worked effectively—he would have never had a career past his Covergirl campaign. Cancelations do not reprimand influencers or end their careers. They merely propel these problematic stars into the spotlight, expanding their platforms even further.
Featured image via James Charles