And quite the opposite of cancellation is on the horizon. Dr Seuss books are seeing a boost in overall sales, and the books pulled from the shelves are selling for up to $500 online. Hasbro is expecting a similar bump to sales. Its CEO has said he expects double-digit growth in the next year, and the rebranding and expansion of the Potato Head line may be a part of the equation. Whether or not these were calculated marketing strategies is unknowable, but they fall into a well-established pattern in which corporations try to clean up their pasts and appeal to the public in a way that won’t negatively affect their ability to reap profits.
What we perceive as “cancel culture” is just a fundamental function of capitalism playing itself out. Companies must adapt with the times to make money on a perpetual track of constant and infinite profit. This is why businesses engage in practices like greenwashing – packaging their goods and services in superficially environmentally friendly ways, while doing little to change their real environmental impact – and pinkwashing, the annual tradition of turning products pink for breast cancer awareness, even for products that may cause cancer themselves. These corporations don’t have morals, and don’t care about taking political or ethical stances; their bottom line is just that – their bottom line. This is how an oil company like Chevron can pat itself on the back for investing $100m in lowering emissions while simultaneously investing $20bn in oil and gas, or how Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfield operators, can proudly distribute 1,000 pink drill bits across the planet, while using known and possible carcinogens at their hydraulic fracking facilities.