Joshua Bassett and the Immorality of Modern Cancel Culture

Joshua Bassett was a twenty-year old well-established and rising actor in 2021, riding off the highs of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” Then, Olivia Rodrigo released one of the biggest songs last year, “Drivers License.” Everything changed.



Headlines dictated Joshua Bassett’s career as much as they impacted his mental health.

Zain Khalidi and Alyssa Yoon

On January 8, 2021, musical artist Olivia Rodrigo released her debut single “Drivers License.” Almost instantly, the single caused relentless controversy as fans of both Rodrigo and her twenty year-old co-star, Joshua Bassett, speculated that he was the subject of her breakout single.

Prior to her jumpstart into the music industry, Rodrigo starred in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” with co-stars Joshua Bassett, Sofia Wylie, and Matt Cornett. Bassett and Rodrigo’s behavior towards each other sparked rumors about their romantic relations. The two actors were a couple on the show and were viewed as a couple in real life. 

On Nov. 1, 2020, while filming season two of the series, Bassett was seen with singer/actress Sabrina Carpenter, dressed in “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” Halloween costumes. This instantly sparked new rumors amongst fans, who assumed Bassett “cheated” on Rodrigo disregarding the fact that they never confirmed their relationship.

When “Drivers License” dropped, this solidified all of the fan theories. Although these events seem to coincide with each other, this drama was completely unnecessary. The song resonated with Rodrigo’s fans, due to her heart-wrenching lyrics, tempting them to point the finger at Bassett.  This caused an intense hatred towards Bassett because of the false allegations that were associated with his name. Soon, teenagers across the world, some fans of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” some casual lurkers of the internet, had their eyes on Bassett. 

Although there is a possibility that this story is true, it is extremely intrusive of fans to automatically assume something so passionately when nothing was officially confirmed. Situations like these involving juvenile drama is something that should be handled privately and out of the public media’s eye. This is a clear invasion of privacy, and Bassett doesn’t deserve the hate that was brought upon him. Many fans forget that he is still a human being and has feelings of his own. 

Following all of the drama, Bassett announced that he would release new music, and with every presave he would donate $1 to charity. In December of 2021, he released an EP with three singles that fans believed was a direct response to the drama with Rodrigo. While the songs indirectly responded to the resulting conglomerate Rodrigo created; they furthermore explored internalized conflicts Bassett had been dealing with for years. He then released limited-edition merch that directly linked to his new songs. When fans purchased this merch, 100% of the proceeds were donated to a charity of their choice. Bassett has always used his platform as an influencer to spread awareness for sexual assult, autism, anxiety, and depression. Bassett made a sensitive instagram post sharing his experience of sexual abuse as a young child, just one example of how he shares his stories and experiences to help his fans who may be going through similar experiences. 

Bassett handled the situation extremely well in the public eye. He was very mature with his words and how he responded to the situation. Rodrigo should have spoken out to confirm the allegations about her song instead of letting it get this out of hand. She could have prevented a majority of the backlash, but she chose to just stand there and watch him go up in flames.

Beyond the situation absolutely destroying the internet (Bassett was found trending on Twitter days following the release of “Driver’s License”), it sparked a new age of cancel culture: extending beyond cancellations to those condemning racist, homophobic or sexist behavior. It seems that since the Rodrigo-Bassett mess went public, situations that could otherwise be deemed “high school drama” are now worthy of cancellation.

Differentiating offensive behaviors and petty high school drama should be a no-brainer. The problem here is that to many…it isn’t.