What Went Wrong With… Fans Defending Celebrities (Especially Celebrity Bigots)?

Caricatures of bigoted celebrities hiding behind a shield

When you criticise someone’s celebrity hero, fans usually have a hissy fit. They can’t comprehend why someone would besmirch their all-time favourite star. Of course, hating a celebrity can be for something as trivial as not liking their face all the way to something significant such as disapproving of their actions. When you knock a celeb because of something they’ve said or done, surely that’s a logical and well-founded reason to dislike them, and yet their fans think otherwise.

Out of all the things you can criticise a celebrity for, there’s nothing more divisive than outlining their prejudice, and if you do, fans will instantly defend the indiscretion when really they shouldn’t. Firstly and most importantly, when someone is making people aware of a racist lyric, a sexist script, a stereotypical character, whatever it is, it doesn’t mean the commenter wants the frigging thing banned. A celebrity fans’ first line of defence is to act like criticism is somehow preventing free speech, as though freedom of speech should only be afforded to their beloved star. If something is subjectively offensive, what’s wrong with people outlining their opinion? Isn’t that freedom of speech too? Highlighting something wrong with a piece of art isn’t “political correctness” it’s simply criticism and an aspect of living in a democratic society (but try telling an entire fandom that).

What’s strange is that fans for some reason always try to defend the prejudice itself; Eminem has black friends so he can’t be a racist, Natasha Leggero isn’t racist because she was being satirical, blah blah blah. The most overused excuse however, has to be “but they were young, you say dumb things when you’re young”. Here’s an example of this excuse which a commenter left under my recent article, used by a fan to defend Prince Harry‘s racism…

…Since we’re all beholden to linear time, this justification has to be the weakest of all. Users of this warped rationale would have you believe that by making it to tomorrow, yesterday’s bigotry is cleared because it was when you were younger and therefore immature. Whatever a fan’s excuse however, it’s strange that a person completely unconnected to the event itself would vehemently defend someone they’ve never met. Instead of trying to justify something which you’re not responsible for (surely it’s the celeb in question who should be defending themselves) maybe just acknowledge that your treasured singer, actor, comedian, or royal has flaws and is not as perfect as you once may have thought. Yes, they’re your favourite celebrity but they’re also twats, get used to it.

Finding out that a famous person is a wanker happens many times throughout your lifetime. You live your life consuming products; buying movies, watching TV shows, downloading albums, then suddenly the actor, the director, or the musician who you’ve been supporting for years turns out to be a grade-A prick. At that point you have a choice to make; stop buying that person’s products and get rid of the stuff you have (the most extreme option), stop buying that person’s products but keep what you own up to that point (the balanced option), or continue to buy that person’s products knowing what you now know (the blinkered option). I personally was two albums in before I found out Big Punisher beat his wife, and I was three albums in before I discovered Canibus was Islamophobic, but Capital Punishment and 2000 B.C. are still sat there on my shelf (but they’re no longer on my iPod). That was my personal choice, those pieces of music played a part in my life, I listened to them when I was growing up and they still evoke a sense of nostalgia for me. That being said, I can’t with good conscience defend what these two have said or done.

Of course continuing to like something after you’re aware of the person’s shortcomings is your choice and it can be conflicting. You can be a Jew who loves the movie Apocalypto, you can be a Muslim who likes the music of The Smiths and that’s fine, but don’t ever defend Mel Gibson’s antisemitism and Morrissey’s Islamophobia. Sure, a celeb’s actions are separate from their output, but as a fan, you must acknowledge that a person criticising what a celebrity has said isn’t suggesting that what they’ve created is crap (although sometimes both can be true like how Morrissey‘s Low In High School album is utter shite).

It’s okay for example, to be a fan of Roman Polanski’s movies because a lot of them are classics, it’s okay to be a fan of R. Kelly because some of his songs are also classics, liking the art that these two have created over the years doesn’t mean you approve of (alleged) peadophila and rape. It’s okay to like a piece of art but loath the artist, in a modern, open society, you can be both appreciative of someone’s creations but at the same time despise what the person has said and done, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ll acknowledge that some of my favourite albums from the 90s contain homophobia and misogyny, but just because I disagree with those aspects as an adult, it doesn’t mean I’m building a bonfire and destroying all the Hip-Hop and Reggae albums from my childhood. What I’ll never do however, is defend any of the prejudice that is contained within these songs, firstly because that’s not up to me, and secondly because I actually agree that it’s prejudiced. But alongside agreeing that lyrics which contain the words “batty boy” or “batty man” are homophobic, I’m allowed to listen and enjoy music by Buju Banton and Vinnie Paz and everything in-between. A person is free to listen to bigoted music, watch bigoted TV shows, and watch bigoted movies either because they’re entertaining despite their bigotry or because they agree with the bigotry itself. Parallel to this however, another person is free to say how these pieces of music, TV shows, and films are bigoted. That’s freedom.

So let’s all acknowledge that whilst they’re objectively talented, Quentin Tarantino keeps making movies containing racial epithets, Eric Clapton once said “coons” and “wogs” and wanted to “keep Britain white” despite ripping-off Blues music, Elvis Costello said “nigger”, Dr. Dre assaulted a woman, Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for domestic violence as too was Sean Penn, and Axl Rose is both racist and a wife beater, and the list goes on and on (just take a gander at this site).

Bottom line, fans need to get a grip. They need to remember that it’s their favourite celebrities who are accountable when they say or do something prejudiced, it’s not someone’s fault for calling it out. And by the way, celebrities aren’t your friends, they’re not your family, you pay for their creations which in turn makes them rich and famous. If you didn’t buy into them, these people would cease to be celebrities and you wouldn’t know them, they’d be just a regular guy or gal on the street. So would you defend a bigoted bloke in the street if they were yelling “faggot” or “nigger”? No? So why do it when the person is famous?

Don’t Big Up Bigots.

6 replies »

  1. Hip Hop has been full of xenophobia , homophobia , transphobia , misogyny and many other forms of bigotry for as long as it’s been around .

    I bet The Notorious B.I.G. , Pimp C , Tupac , Eazy-E , Big L , Guru , Jam Master Jay , Eyedea , Apache , MC Breed , ODB , J. Dilla , Too Poetic , Mac Dre and many other deceased legendary artists weren’t always pleasant to be around .

    They were products of their environment and the times in which they lived .

    Twenty or thirty years ago – in first world countries – gay bashing and misogyny were commonplace . It didn’t mean it was right , but it was commonplace .

    By all accounts Pun was a very insecure and violent individual . Still , he is a top ten lyricist of all time . Same thing with Canibus . Bis was an egotistical fucker before the Dizaster battle in 2012 . Especially when he was under thirty and still on the mainstream’s radar . His last album that came out three years ago was his best album ever . I highly recommend that you check it out or buy it . Bronze Nazareth has great production on it and Dizaster is featured on one of the tracks .

    Wise Intelligent – formerly of Poor Righteous Teachers – is probably the most bigoted and insecure of all the living old school legends . I still buy his albums because he continues to make great music .

    In fact my favourite emcee of all time , K-Rino , is extremely homophobic . He has stated many times in his music that he doesn’t approve of the “gay lifestyle” . Many white hip hop heads would claim that he’s racist , as well . We all hold our individual prejudices . Nobody’s perfect .

    • I’d just like to add, being bigoted isn’t just a Hip-Hop problem, there’s plenty of Rock, Reggae, and Country artists who show signs of prejudice. Plus TV and film actors too.

      And also, the way Spotify is removing music by R.Kelly from their official playlists, that just adds to the conflicting messages we have from the media. If a company is removing alleged paedophiles from their music catalogue, how about Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, David Bowie, Ted Nugent, Iggy pop, Bill Wyman? Seems a tad racist to single R. Kelly out plus it’s a stupid road to go down – you’d be banning a huge amount of music because you disagree with various musician’s lifestyle choices/crimes. Like I said, you have to separate the two.

  2. Rest in Paradise to all those deceased legends you and I have mentioned .

    We have to focus on what makes a great emcee great and what makes their material relatable to our lives or meaningful in our lives .

  3. Wise Intelligent released recent music in (2017) which he states that he still supports The Zulu Nation and it’s pederast former leader . Also he has advocated for violent protests . He also blamed hip hop fans for not buying his newer material .

  4. I can’t say anything bad about Wise’s lyrical ability or his music . “Game Of Death” with Gensu Dean and “The Blue Klux Klan” were two of the best albums last year . The track “Game Of Death” is an instant underground classic . Check that track out it’s free on Sound Cloud and there is a full music video of it on the Mello Music Group YouTube channel . There’s no equating the way I look at Wise Intelligent today and the way I look at Andre Benjamin or Killer Mike . Wise stayed true to real hip hop and the others went for the fickle and superficial mainstream .

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