Every Canceled Celebrity of 2016, from Lena Dunham to Taylor Swift
Ever since Brexit, social media has politely requested that 2016 be canceled. Unfortunately, time, despite being a construct, doesn’t take its cues from Twitter. From the #KimExposedTaylorParty to the #JustinBieberIsOverParty, we’ve spent the past 12 months bidding farewell to some of our most problematic celebrities. As we remember those we have lost to cancellation this year, let’s pray to God that 2017 isn’t a rerun.
Kanye West has always courted controversy, saying the sort of problematic shit that only a living legend can get away with. But this year the rapper’s ramblings, usually relegated to “10 Craziest Quotes From Kanye’s Latest Interview” lists, actually started to stick, turning the cruel and fickle zeitgeist against him. While no one can say with 100 percent certainty exactly when the tipping point came, I would point to September’s Yeezy Season 4 NYFW show. The event installed a maze of street-cast models in tan underwear around the ruins of an abandoned smallpox hospital, appearing to take its cues from an abandoned monologue for SNL’s Stefon. Yeezy Season 4 had it all: $400 glorified Spanx, sweaty and disgruntled fashion influencers, and Teyana Taylor. As with all Kanye productions, it’s hard to say if this Season 4 fiasco, during which multiple models fainted or stumbled down the runway, was mistakenly meta or deliberately ridiculous. Whatever his intentions, Kanye clearly went too far, garnering angry reviews from fashionistas who insisted that his methods were inhumane.
Yeezy Season’s September show becomes even more questionable when you consider that Yeezus leaned heavily on performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, his frequent co-collaborator, who came under fire this year for saying some extremely messed-up things about race. In a New York Magazine interview, she explained that she had divided her personality: “There is Vanessa Beecroft as a European white female, and then there is Vanessa Beecroft as Kanye, an African-American male,” she said. She went on to reveal that she actually took a DNA test to double-check if she was black. “I was kind of disappointed, and I don’t want to believe it,” Beecroft recalled of her lily-white results. “I want to do it again, because when I work with Africans or African-Americans, I feel that I am autobiographical. If I don’t call myself white, maybe I am not.”
Kanye West has never been famous for his impeccable judgment. He has, however, enjoyed a certain amount of respect stemming from his anti-racist politics. While West’s oeuvre often dips into meditations on blackness in America, his most profound political statement came when he publicly called out George W. Bush in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It’s the sort of pop-culture moment that isn’t easily forgotten. Unfortunately, from writing checks to aspiring Rachel Dolezals to coming for Beyoncé and Jay Z in public, West has gone out of his way to contradict everything he once stood for. Instead of speaking truth to power, he’s retroactively supporting Donald Trump.
Of course, it’s hard to know which of West’s rants and actions this year were tied to his deteriorating mental health. When West was hospitalized due to what was reported to be temporary psychosis, fans hoped that their hero would come back more principled and clearheaded than ever. Instead, a recently released West decided to visit the president-elect at Trump Tower, becoming one of the very first A-list celebrities to meet with the future leader of the hopefully still-free world. In a shocking blow to the iconic rapper’s legacy and to Kim Kardashian West’s brand, we have to call it: 2016 Kanye is canceled.
In light of Amber Heard’s domestic-abuse allegations, Depp actually belongs in a separate, million-word-long list of accused male abusers who deserve to be canceled, but aren’t. Still, let’s approach 2017 with some completely unwarranted optimism, and imagine a world in which possibly beating your wife is actually seen as a career impediment.
You’ll always remember exactly where you were the moment you realized that Taylor Swift was canceled. For me, it was all the way back in October 2015, when The Weeknd recalled TayTay non-consensually stroking his hair at a party. Swift has always been a polarizing figure. As a country crossover, Taylor once bet that her saccharine appeal would set her apart from all of those belly-button-ring-wearing pop-star floozies. Of course, there are a million ways to hate a woman. While Swift’s good-girl image appealed to parents who thought that underage singers had become oversexed, her approach struck some listeners as exploitative. After all, Taylor is famous for dating boys, dumping them, and then writing extremely pointed hit singles. Think PG revenge porn, but with way more acoustic guitar.
While Swift’s active love life elicited some snark, she didn’t experience a true backlash until she assembled the squad. Taylor’s girl squad, with its handpicked celebrity lady friends in delicate shades of white and taupe, cemented Swift’s status as Hollywood’s biggest control freak. While the young pop star had always seemed eerily in control of her image, the hiring and maintenance of an entire friend group was the final straw. As if its mere existence wasn’t confounding enough, Swift’s squad took over social media via a series of parties, sleepovers, and photoshoots, each more contrived and Pinterest-able than the last. Never before have so many girls who don’t eat gluten posed with so many pies.
Taylor’s girl-power group masked some very real hypocrisy. From her white feminist tendencies to her war on Katy Perry, Swift has a habit of using feminism as a PR move, as opposed to an active ideology or way of life. Of course, Swift’s 2016 only truly blew up when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West caught her in a flat-out lie. On the holy day now known as Gossip Christmas, Kardashian revealed that Taylor had actually approved West’s “Famous” lyrics. This was big news, seeing as Swift had spent weeks performing pseudo-feminist offense at the derogatory rhymes. Kardashian’s outing was a true revelation. It showed that Swift wasn’t above bending the truth, making Kanye out to be a villain so she could play the victim. The rest is history (and a whole lot of snake emojis). TayTay went into hiding, matting her cat’s fur with tears and waiting for Lena Dunham to FaceTime her back. For all of her conniving—R.I.P. Hiddleswift, forever and always my favorite fake celebrity couple—Taylor will go down in history as one of Hollywood’s most ambitious stars. This has not been a good year for women who try hard.
With over two centuries worth of anecdotal evidence, we’re ready to call this one: Sending white men abroad to represent this country is canceled. It’s really not working out.
Imagine—if you dare—a Donald Trump clone gone wrong. That clone is Piers Morgan, the British TV personality who infamously called Nicki Minaj a “stroppy little piece of work.” From “all lives matter” to slut-shaming Susan Sarandon, Morgan has a monopoly on all the wrong opinions. On the other hand, suffering through one of his op-eds is a great way to test your gag reflex. In his most recent attempt to make you projectile vomit, Morgan announced that he was “skeptical” of Lady Gaga’s experience as a sexual-assault survivor. He continued, “Lady Gaga & Madonna have both made ALLEGATIONS of rape many years after the event. No police complaint, no charges, no court case.” In another tweet, he opined, “I fear [sexual assault has] become the latest celebrity accessory.” And then, because he’s the fucking worst, Morgan concluded, “I wouldn’t automatically believe anything either Madonna or Lady Gaga claimed about their lives.” When Morgan isn’t personally harassing female celebrities, he’s working as an editor-at-large for Mail Online, with its unnatural fixation on the most superficial aspects of famous women. Since objectification and sexism are Hollywood institutions, it’s rare to find a tabloid that warrants its own dishonorable mention. Mail Online, which Maisie Williams famously took to task last June, is that tabloid.
Peter Thiel is Silicon Valley’s most eligible gay bachelor. He enjoys bankrupting media companies, stumping for Donald Trump, and harvesting the blood of the young. His ideal date consists of protecting a single-digit millionaire and finding a way to live forever. Unfortunately for Thiel, immortality loses some of its appeal when you’re permanently canceled. Also, gay dudes aren’t exactly lining up to date guys who donated over $1.25 million to the Trump campaign.
Fuck this guy.
For years, fans have stuck by Justin Bieber through some of the stupidest celebrity gaffes of all time. No amount of public urination or ill-advised egging could convince Beliebers to abandon their cherubic overlord. Then came 2016, the year that Justin Bieber slept with every blond B-lister in the 30-mile zone. While Bieber’s 17-year-old fans can put up with a lot, they apparently draw the line at watching Bieber wine and dine yet another 17-year-old. After Beliebers began protesting Bieber’s budding relationship with Sofia Richie, Justin went off on his own fans, saying he would delete his social media if they couldn’t pull it together (and simultaneously squabbling with his ex, Selena Gomez). Shockingly, Bieber actually delivered on this threat, deactivating his Instagram and sparking the #JustinBieberIsOverParty hashtag. Apparently, Sofia Richie was able to do what years of bad behavior, canceled gigs, and petty crime couldn’t, turning the Beliebers against their chosen deity once and for all.
I pity Meek Mill. For a gangster rapper from Philly, that is definitely not a good thing. First, Meek became a hip-hop punching bag, absolutely decimated in a beef that he initiated. That feud started when the rapper called out Drake for using songwriters, and ended almost as soon as it began, as Drake pummeled the Philly native with a series of diss tracks. But the saddest thing about Meek is that he doesn’t even know he’s canceled. Eviscerated by a Canadian former paraplegic, Meek should have appreciated the one thing he had left: his relationship with Nicki Minaj. Instead, he allegedly stepped out on Nicki with a “local boutique owner,” AKA someone who definitely won’t be paying his bills. It takes a special sort of idiot to cheat on Nicki Minaj. For not realizing just how good he had it, Meek Mill is officially canceled for the second year running.
Lena Dunham is the LeBron James of being canceled. She’s the clickbait GOAT. From bringing millennial white privilege to prime-time to getting her foot permanently installed in her mouth, Dunham has been demoted from problematic fave to huge problem. Still, in honor of the last season of the series that catapulted her to fame, we’ve decided to give our lady of ill-advised soundbites one final shoutout. This year, Lena inexplicably called out Odell Beckham Jr. for not paying attention to her at the Met Gala. And just last week, she made a very weird comment about wishing she had had an abortion—really got that one in under the wire, girl.
Here are my final four words: What the fuck, Rory? My problem is not with the Gilmore Girls revival on the whole, which offered just enough Paris Geller to make a wasted day feel worthwhile. My problem is with Rory Gilmore. In an age of deeply flawed television protagonists, Rory may just be the most selfish, spoiled rotten character helming a major series. She’s bad at her job but expects accolades and offers around every corner (though, to be fair, think pieces about what a horrible reporter Rory Gilmore is are also canceled). She’s a horrible girlfriend, and an even worse ex. In this reboot alone, Rory relied far too heavily on her objectively superior friends, manipulated her mother, slept with a source, showed up for a job interview without prepping beforehand, and became the other woman to an engaged ex-boyfriend. While I generally say to each her own, my issues with Rory’s side-piece status have more to do with her general ineptitude than with the concept of infidelity. If you’re going to sign up to be a mistress, don’t get offended when your slam piece occasionally has to actually see his fiancée—and definitely don’t try to surprise him by rescheduling your visits. For all this, but mostly for choosing Matt Czuchry over Milo Ventimiglia, Rory Gilmore is canceled.
Apparently, Jennifer Lawrence felt the need to scratch her butt on sacred Hawaiian rocks—on multiple occasions. Here’s a tip: If your entire brand depends on being universally well-liked, maybe don’t package your disrespect for another culture as a hilarious interview anecdote. And let’s not even get into Passengers. Do better, J-Law.
There’s no wrong way to come out of the closet…except as straight. This year, How to Get Away With Murder star Jack Falahee decided to publicly address his (hetero)sexuality. On the Shonda Rhimes show Falahee plays a gay character, but he’s historically been private about his own sexual preferences. No longer! In a lengthy Twitter post, the actor confessed that he felt driven to out himself in the wake of Trump’s election. “In the past I’ve declined to discuss my own sexuality in an attempt to try and dismantle the closet,” he wrote. “Opponents to my ambiguous answers to questions surrounding my sexuality argued the importance of visibility. Ultimately I think my stance has been unhelpful in the fight for equality.” He concluded, “Now more than ever, I want to offer my support to the community as an ally.” Thanks a bunch, Donald Trump!