There’s this young, Staten Island mom on Tik Tok that amassed 2.7 million followers in a matter of months just from being herself.
With a strong Staten Island accent, she was unabashedly open about her life, her baby son and his health challenges, and the thing that put her over the top—her penchant for stuffing bell “peppas” with cream cheese and various other seasonings. She quickly moved on to noshing on her beloved mother-in-law’s chicken cutlets smothered in melted cheese and barbecue sauce, Valentina hot sauce, Tapatio sauce (which she couldn’t pronounce for the life of her), and Tajin seasoning.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I ordered Tajin (a Mexican lime and chili seasoning) solely on her recommendation. Her videos—part-mukbang/coffee addiction/real talk—quickly catapulted her to verified fame faster than most content creators. It wasn’t long before she ventured into POV territory as “Aunt Amanda,”—every teenager’s dream aunt—talking through tough topics over snacks and coffee with no judgment and total understanding.
Describing herself as decidedly unpolitical, followers found in her a safe space from the divided and toxic culture of election seasons, and her account was a place where she laughed at herself for her mispronunciations, lack of knowledge on some topics, and devotion to Dunkin Donuts iced coffees with their many flavor combos.
But election day changed everything. While the rest of America either voted through mail-in ballots or waiting in long early voting lines, Aunt Amanda stayed mum on the topic until November 3. In an emotional post from the morning, she agonized over voting because she didn’t want to engage in the judgment and toxicity of the democratic process of choosing new leadership, she said. In the end, she cast her vote, reported on it, and went her way. Until that night.
Loyal viewers—many of them from the LGBTQX, LatinX, and liberal communities—were appalled to catch her Live from a Trump election night watch party. With her boss dancing in the background clad in head to toe American flag and Trump gear, she laughed hysterically at comments calling her out for what many felt was a huge betrayal of trust. Later on, she flat out told people to just unfollow her if they had issues with her choices.
And that’s all it took—by the next day she had lost thousands of followers, other Tik Tok creators made videos “auditioning” for the new Aunt Amanda vacancy, and her husband took down his account altogether. The backlash went fast and furious with countless “#cancelamanda” -type hashtags popping up with record speed. In the two weeks since the debacle erupted, she turned her comments off and made a couple of videos trying to apologize and explain herself. To date, she has not been forgiven, let alone her gaff forgotten.
Possibly on track to have become a Tik Tok content creator with lucrative sponsorship deals of the kind that could have snowballed her to Tabitha Brown-level fame, Aunt Amanda appears to have been cancel culture’s latest brutal victim.
So, what exactly does cancel culture accomplish? For the wronged, it is swift vengeance. And for the wrongdoer, it can certainly be the kiss of death for a burgeoning influencer career. But is canceling a creator or other person of fame the best way to teach a lesson or make some sort of point? Or do those doing the canceling come off looking like unrepentant destroyers of someone’s reputation and livelihood?
In the case of criminals, vitriolic celebrities, and otherwise harmful people, cancel culture is justified, in my opinion. But what happens to ordinary people who happen to gain a following on social media who quickly turn into internet-famous villains? The domino effect is real for them. Sponsorships disappear, potential clients back away, and the hate comments explode causing some to experience severe challenges to their mental health. For these types of creators who don’t have the backing of an already famous name and body of work behind them, what happens can destroy lives.
Is that the goal of “canceling” people? Can those who offend be taught a better lesson in a better way? I’m not completely sure.
So, here are some questions I leave you with. Is cancel culture the way forward? Is it just cruel or tough love? Have you been part of canceling someone?