Celebrities aren’t untouchable: Criticize those you look up to

By Lily Nussbaum | Arts and Life Intern

As a self-proclaimed fangirl, I have spent my fair share of money, time and resources keeping up with my favorite artists, actors and personalities. That being said, I have come to realize it is OK to hold your “favs” accountable and criticize them when they act harmfully.

Celebrities, like any other human being, can mess up. The only difference is that their mess-ups are public. While it may not seem fair, their popularity allows them to be held to a higher standard. More people have access to their content, and when they act in a harmful way, it makes that action seem OK to their following.

To stop this phenomenon, fans need to feel comfortable raising their voices, and other fans should not attack them when they do so. I think there is often a stigma within fandoms that if you speak poorly about a celebrity, you’re not a real fan.

Think again.

By checking the behavior of celebrities, you are encouraging them to learn and grow from their mistakes, which inadvertently makes them better human beings and examples for their following.

For example, when Lizzo released a snippet of her single “Grrrls” back in June, it contained an ableist slur. While the term may have a different connotation in the U.S. than in the U.K., the term still originates from “spastic,” which describes the movements of people who experience spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.

Fans called her out on various social media platforms, disappointed by her lyrics. Criticism ranged from demanding the song be taken off all streaming services to changing the lyrics and re-recording. Instead of ignoring the criticism, Lizzo acknowledged her shortcomings.

In a statement, Lizzo displayed humility. She listened to her fans, took down the song, educated herself, re-recorded it and apologized.

Because fans were willing to call her out, Lizzo had the opportunity to educate herself on an issue she did not know about and become a better ally for a marginalized community. Additionally, it helped teach any of her fans, who were also oblivious, the harmfulness of using the word.

Another example of this is Coldplay. It is no secret that music touring is very damaging to the environment. According to a report from Julie’s Bicycle, a nonprofit environmental organization, live music in the U.K. alone produces 405,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

Music fans have been calling out this criticism for a while, and in 2019, Coldplay listened. They decided to stop touring due to environmental concerns.

After two years of consulting environmental experts and figuring out ways to make touring sustainable, Coldplay is back on the road and committed to cutting their carbon emissions by 50%.

While this decision and change wasn’t solely the result of music fans calling for better touring principles, fans played a part in it. Additionally, fans who now support these new initiatives are showing other artists that they care about the environment just like they care about seeing someone live in concert.

Criticism can lead to improvement. If you claim to be a fan of someone and they are acting or becoming harmful, it is your job to call them out.

Will your one voice cause someone with 12 million followers to change their ways? No. But, the reality is that when many voices band together, change can happen, and your “favs” will be better people for it.