• Julia Pizzuto

Cancel Culture: Apologies vs. Saving Your Ass

People make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. What makes an apology enough to avoid being canceled?

Since 2012, YouTuber Jenna Marbles has provided the Internet with her signature quirky humor and dog content. As one of the forefathers of YouTube culture, many Zillenials grew up with her. On June 25, Jenna Marbles published a video titled “A Message,” in which she revealed that she is leaving the YouTube community.


Jenna canceled herself before the internet could do it for her.

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter Movement, “cancel culture” has tarnished the fame of stars who have made controversial or racist statements, no matter if they are recent or happened years ago. Several celebrities have published apologies in response to their old, offensive content, though some are much more believable than others.

Let’s have a look at Jenna Marbles’ apology video against fellow YouTuber Shane Dawson’s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ardRp2x0D_E&t=12s), which followed the day after Jenna’s – arguably one of the clearest examples of taking accountability vs. a desperate attempt to save your own ass.

Genuinely Taking Accountability:


Jenna: 1000%. Jenna had received minimal heat for her content recently, though she chose to take a closer look at her past given the current sociopolitical climate. Jenna proactively removed a lot of her older content that was offensive or even had the slightest potential to be.


Shane: Said in the first five minutes of his video, “I saw Jenna Marbles’ video and it really inspired me,” and it “felt like a sign from the universe that I want to do this.”

Ok, what? Shane could have been genuinely inspired by Jenna, yet the statement is a blow to his authenticity - did it really take someone else’s apology for Shane to realize his past was worth acknowledging?


Concrete Action:


Jenna: “I’ve spent a lot of the last few days privating almost all of my old content.”

It could be questioned why Jenna didn't delete it all together, but it is at least no longer available to the public eye.


Shane: Says he’s “changed” since his past apologies, and claimed he was "willing to lose everything." but does not provide any real evidence and has acted questionably until very recently (allegations from Tati that Shane and Jefree Star pressured her into starting “dramageddon” with James Charles just came out in late June - check out what Tati has to say here: https://youtu.be/1aIYkgTcHBw

Pointing out actual mistakes


WE ARE HERE FOR RECEIPTS, PEOPLE.


Jenna: Specifically points out her blackface as Nicki Minaj in 2011, actually shows the clip, apologizes directly, then the same for other old offensive videos.


Her critics could say that replaying these clips is adding to the trauma and negativity that she claimed to never want to put into the world again; Jenna herself acknowledged that intent does not outweigh impact, and her video could have benefitted from a content warning.


Shane: Brings up mistakes and old content and discusses them, but does not actually show any of said tweets or clips.


Past mistakes include literally talking about murdering a real person:


Shane: Yup.

Shane admits that an old podcast episode discussing murder fantasies was not about YouTuber Franchesca Ramsey (@Chescaleigh), but another woman. Shane then said, “not that it makes it okay.” CLEARLY, SHANE. He goes on to say that he knows it was not okay to talk about any person like that, yet still makes a point of explaining that he “had a lot of anger for this person” and she tried to do things like ruin his relationship – which sounds a lot like trying to justify his behavior.


Jenna: Simply no???

Jenna proved that she could make things “more shocking," as Shane said he wanted to, by doing things like turning herself into a chair.


Overall Believability:


Jenna: I’m no expert, but Jenna’s words, actions, and facial expressions made her apology seem genuine. She paused at one point to collect herself, possibly to assure she doesn’t give us another video of a star crying.


The video has since been taken down, which could serve as an attempt to save her aesthetic. However, given Jenna is taking a break from publishing content at this moment, the removal of the apology could serve as proof she was not attention-seeking.


Shane: Brings up his past “apology videos” over the years, although he says they were not enough. Great for him to acknowledge this, but why should we believe him this time? He also mentions that in previous apology videos.


Leaving YouTube?


Jenna: Yes.


Shane: Didn’t say he was, but had his channels demonetized by YouTube. If Shane continues to put out content without payment, maybe it proves his authenticity.


Also… Shane’s video failed to mention this little tidbit:


Fans of either YouTuber will go to war for their idol, but what makes a star worth fighting for? Do either of them deserve to be totally canceled? Does anyone?


Plenty of non-famous folks have said and done things they regret–I know I have. But no one is ending the entire career of average Joe or plain Jane for something they said a decade ago when they were less educated, less mature, less woke, if you will.


Some mistakes are unforgivable when they cause lasting harm and are numerous repeated offenses with repeated apologies that don’t seem to stick.


But canceling people robs them of the opportunity to grow and learn, and possibly use their platform to spread positivity into the world, similar to what Jenna has done unproblematically for years now.

Just a reminder, fellow long time fans: Jenna did leave a little room for a return so there is hope. In the meantime, take a look back at Jenna’s most iconic videos. Alexa play “In the Arms of an Angel.”

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