On celebrity hate

I’m not really into celebrities, and sometimes I find myself quite disgusted at the worshipping of them. Especially when it’s about royalty or figures like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton. Not that I want to necessarily call these people amoral, and I’m not one to judge people I know only from the media and not personally (see my article on Slow Opinion), but the worship seems so senseless. It seems to be a case, maybe, of “zeros as heroes“.

Beyonce

When, however, celebrities are being criticized when they are doing good things, as is the case in our movement when Ricky Gervais goes after hunters or when Beyonce advertises vegan eating or a vegan food business. The core of the allegations seems to be that these two people (and many others) are inconsistent in their behavior  (hypocrital) because they are not vegan. Beyonce, on top of that, still wears fur and has been called many unkind names for it.

I think accusing these people of hypocrisy for not being vegan is regrettable and unstrategic, and I think celebrities might do a lot of good also without being vegan, but I’ve written about that elsewhere (on Gervais and on Beyonce and also Being vegan doesn’t trump everything). Here I would just like to stop a brief moment to wonder if there’s anything more going on. That’s because I think inconsistency or even hypocrisy in and of itself doesn’t seem to warrant this much hate (if you think the word hate is an overstatement, just go visit some vegan/animal rights Facebook groups).

Apart from hate, what I seem to come across again and again is talk like “we don’t need celebrities” (“f*ck them”). DXE activist Wayne Hsiung, for instance, wrote an article on how celebrities are not as important as we think they are: Celebrity Vegans: what does the science say?

I’m not a doctor in psychology or something, but there does seem to be more going on here than a mere aversion to inconsistency or celebrities being useless to our cause (which I find extremely doubtful).

Clearly, many people don’t like celebrities in general, and Google turns up quite a lot of stuff when you enter the words celebrity and hate together. Again, sometimes the apparently disgusting behavior of celebrities makes it very easy to hate them: they can be overly concerned about their appearance, they may be greedy and extremely needy of attention, etcetera.

But this is nothing that “normal” humans don’t do. Probably many people, in case they would suddenly be propelled to celebrity status, might exhibit the same kinds of behavior. Still, we love to hate celebrities for their all too human flaws. Maybe we’re jealous? Maybe saying celebrities are evil or ridiculous is a way to deal with our frustration of not having what they have? Or maybe we, as activists, get jealous because while we have been working so hard to get attention for the cause, famous people only have to sneeze to create massive media coverage. It’s a bit irrational, as we should be happy with every attention our cause gets, but I guess it’s all too human too.

Or maybe what’s behind celebrity hatred (or irritation) is not jealousy but a desire for fairness. Maybe we just don’t like it that there are people out there earning so much more money than the average citizen, getting so much more attention, having, maybe, so much more power… Maybe we dislike celebrities because we want to live in a world where all people are equal, and celebrities are very much an illustration of how that is not the case.

I don’t know if there’s any truth in my guesses, but I think that when we judge or critize celebritities, it’s good to be aware of our motivations.  Knowing which role celebrities actually play in social change is definitely important, but we need to be careful not to get carried away by anti-celebrity bias when trying to establish that role.

While I can understand celebrity hate, I believe it’s good to remember that they are people too, with their frailties, sensibilities, desires and emotions. More importantly, I think that the moment when these famous people are actually something good (be it inconsistently) is, in my humble opinion, not the best time to express celebrity hate.

5 thoughts on “On celebrity hate

  1. Very thoughtful blog. Regarding your post “On celebrity hate,” I think it was correct of you to bring in psychology, and you were on the right track to think that people are jealous of them for the reasons you mentioned above (and others).

    I think you overlooked one component of that jealousy. While I’m not saying this applies to everyone, I know it applies to some people (such as myself, thougt I don’t hate celebrities).

    I think why many activists may get angry when celebrities do something good (in this case in reference to animal rights) is because the celebrities get the attention/importance of the cause. Many activists try to convince others to be vegan and have been working on spreading veganism/animal rights for years, for instance, but they don’t get much attention or success (of course they could be doing a bad job). However, all Beyoncé has to do is say she’s vegan and she gets so much attention (positive and negative) and importance, and people ask her about veganism and she gets credited with spreading it. Why should she get the importance when activists have been espousing veganism so much and for so long? Moreover, for said activists, who dedicate their own time/energy to veganism/animal rights, to have the credit go to a possibly fickle celebrity who is ultimately not going to give up her (or his) wealth or fame or status to dedicate herself to animal rights, yet still gets the attention for the cause, it can be like their source of value or self-worth has been taken away from them. The celebrities both get further celebrated by vegan groups and the attention of broader society.

    I’m not defending this line of thinking and it shouldn’t matter who helps reduce animal suffering, but I think that is definitely a component of celebrity hate.

    I also want to emphasize that this is certainly not applicable to everyone and is probably only applicable to a small handful of people. I think successful activists, in fact, are those who, with a discerning and critical and strategic mind and not blindly of course, embrace it when celebrities do something good because it hopefully means the cause is spreading. (Of course it is that embrace that leads some to then hate celebrities.)

  2. Nice blog! It’s wildly unfair that somebody who has been vegan for two months gets lauded for all they are doing for the animals, but for the sake of the animals we must embrace that particular injustice and use it.

  3. I think if we’re talking about hate, I don’t see much hatred of celebrities more valid criticisms.
    The place I see most hate is on things like the recent thing Gervais has been promoting (pictures of that female hunter) where we seem to get loads of animal advocates pouring hatred towards someone for harming animals. Gervais himself seems to be on a mission to stir up hatred. It’s entirely understandable that he’d come under severe criticism for stirring up hatred for someone who harms animals when he himself harms animals as he’s a non-vegan.

    I think that type of campaign is quite bad and can have the effect of normalising animal use/abuse whilst people are shouting scum at someone else for harming animals.

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