Readers’ Forum: ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’: The drastic effects of cancel culture

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We need to be aware of the issues surrounding cancel culture. Olivia Rodrigo and co-star Joshua Bassett are a prime example of this. (Vulture)

“I got my driver’s license last week, just like we always talked about,” is the opening line to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” record released on Jan. 8, 2021. The song, not only a breakup anthem but an expression of heartbreak devastation, skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

Rodrigo also happened to be the starring actress in the Disney Channel show “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” alongside Joshua Bassett. The filming of the show appeared to be where the hit song’s story began, as Rodrigo and Bassett played the lead love interests and fans began speculating the actors were more than just on-screen lovers.

The “Driver’s License” song continues with Rodrigo singing, “You’re probably with that blonde girl,” and although she never said who the blonde girl’s identity was, fans assumed the line referred to Disney star Sabrina Carpenter. Based on this assumption, the story about Bassett cheating on Rodrigo with Carpenter spread through social media posts and Bassett began receiving threatening comments about it.

Although Rodrigo and Bassett remained silent regarding the situation for a year, a great majority of people took Rodrigo’s side when there were never any real sides to take because the internet leapt to conclusions way too quickly.

Almost a year later, Bassett shared his side of the story as he released three songs and did interviews where he opened up about his relationship. His songs were raw and emotional, and the same people who slandered his name months before seemed to jump to his side.

This shows that the media is incredibly easily influenced and how people will jump on a bandwagon of whatever is popular.

It wasn’t until Bassett opened up about people’s online comments wishing death upon him and his hospitalization for heart failure brought on by stress that people began to think that he maybe didn’t deserve all the hate he got. Some fans even turned on Rodrigo saying she should have stopped the hated towards Bassett, switching the previous villain and victim roles.

Some Rodrigo fans still stick by her despite this and insist that Bassett deserves the hate he got for what he did. Being a fan, I think Rodrigo makes great music and I support her, but I also know that I have no idea what really happened between them.

It’s important to be mindful of cancel culture. It’s detrimental to those affected by it. Celebrities are people who make mistakes, and in the case of Rodrigo and Bassett, they are children who had a relationship in the public eye.

A song was written allegedly about Bassett and he was “cancelled.” When he spoke up, the same people who cancelled him turned on Rodrigo, and now she is “cancelled” for not defending Bassett.

I’m guilty of buying into what’s popular, we all are. I think we need to be more aware of cancel culture and of our actions that we think will not affect others, because they do and we may never know it.

–Karlee Pyne

Orem, Utah

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