Cancelled, I Was
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is, essentially, a story of a woman being cancelled—poor Hester Prynne was subjected to endless suffering by her Puritan neighbors. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, really; Puritans aren’t exactly remembered for their ability to move on. These days, however, it would generally be frowned upon to force someone to wear a bright red “A” for “Adulterer” on all their outfits.
That’s not to say our urge to label people has gone away. Think about it—if a person transgresses in some way, mightn’t you want an easy way for everyone to know to shun them? In place of a scarlet letter, mightn’t you reply to one of their tweets with a little red “x” emoji? Mightn’t you send them a flurry of insults, asking why they are so intent on depriving the world of joy? Honestly, if someone is responsible for a really heinous crime – for example, getting Baby Yoda suspended from Twitter – what else would you do?
I should explain. It all started with my hatred for Lin-Manuel Miranda, which is insatiable. If I see a tweet about him, I report it, just because I can. One day in mid-December, I did just that, and promptly forgot about it. But Twitter didn’t forget. A couple days later, on December 14, 2019, I was notified that the account I reported had been suspended. I clicked to see who I had murdered and was confronted with the username @BabyYodaBaby and the number of followers the account had once boasted: 150,000.
I laughed, obviously. I didn’t think the account had broken any of Twitter’s official rules – only one of my personal ones – so it didn’t seem like this could really be my fault. That wouldn’t stop me from taking advantage of the situation, though. I slapped a few screenshots in a tweet and captioned them, “i got baby yoda suspended for tweeting about lin manuel miranda” (all lower-case because I’m cool) and sent it out to my own measly 150 followers. I felt like one of those evil rich people who shoots a giraffe and then poses for a picture with the animal’s dead body—except with my actions not being morally bankrupt.
Baby Yoda Twitter disagreed. Bereft of the only source of joy in their lives, they lashed out and flooded my feed with insults and outrage—how could I be so soulless as to take away their joy? Like any normal person upon being thrust into the spotlight, my first instinct was to put the best replies together in iMovie and play the Cantina Band song (of Star Wars: A New Hope fame) in the background. My video ended with a short statement letting the outraged parties know that I really didn’t think it was my fault, and even if it was, I wasn’t sorry. After all, if these people wanted to look at pictures of Baby Yoda so badly, they could just Google him.
My new friends didn’t appreciate my hard work, and got mad at me again, this time following up their angry tweets by blocking me. Their replies all asked the same question: Did I get the attention I wanted? I thought it was nice of them to ask, because if they hadn’t, I could have let them know. But my appetite had indeed been slaked, so most of us moved on with our lives. Little did we know, the best was yet to come.
The red “x” emoji didn’t appear in my notifications until nearly two months later. When I was born, my mom had wanted to name me after Hester Prynne. Now, even without her name, I was fulfilling her legacy. Several other notifications accompanied my personal scarlet letter, each from another mourner of Baby Yoda. I hadn’t been aware of any new developments in my story, but I knew something must have happened to inspire my latest assailants.
It only took a bit of investigation to find out what: Insider had published an article called “A Baby Yoda Meme Page Was Mysteriously Banned, and its Community of Fans is Asking Why Twitter Took Their Fun Away.” The article includes a direct link to my Twitter and names me a suspect, but ultimately lays blame on Twitter rules that prevent one person from operating multiple accounts that interact with each other, which apparently the owner of @BabyYodaBaby had been doing.
Exhilarated by this acknowledgement from a Real News Site, I set out on a more in-depth search. I discovered an Esquire article titled “How an Unofficial Baby Yoda Twitter Account Managed to Find the Light Side of Twitter,” which calls my behavior “villainous” and my video “deeply strange.” Honestly, things were only getting better for me. Esquire also provided the pièce de résistance of my new collection: a Buzzfeed- style list boasting to contain “The Most Tantalizing, Ridiculous, and Unfortunate Celebrity Feuds of 2019.” Tantalizing! Celebrity! My Twitter account, @postsbyfiona, is last on the list, only after Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian and the entire Boomer generation are named.
When I said I’d already received enough attention, what I really meant was that I wasn’t going to explicitly ask for more. But these B-list news sites were offering me attention on a silver platter. I couldn’t deny them. So, I told everyone I knew that I was famous. When they didn’t believe me, I showed them the list—then they couldn’t argue. I did eventually run out of people to tell, though, and those who had already heard grew tired of the story. So, my fame sputtered out, gone as quickly as it came.
Maybe story should have a moral, like, “People on the internet are crazy,” or, “Cancel culture has gone too far,” or even, “Our standards for what qualifies as news are way too low.” Those are probably all true, but they’d be disingenuous coming from me, since I enjoyed my brief and second-rate fame so much. Maybe the moral is that it’s just not that deep; if your only joy comes from a little green baby invented by Disney to make money, it might be time to reevaluate.
Just one final thought: Esquire’s Adrienne Westenfield gave me a piece of advice, and I’d like to return the favor. She wrote, “Of all the sparring partners in the world, don’t pick a universally beloved green baby. Baby Yoda is gone from Twitter, yet all the Nazis remain.” Well, Adrienne, if you get the Nazis to tweet about Lin-Manuel Miranda, I’ll see what I can do.