OPINION: Humanize, don’t idolize celebrities

(Emily Gao • Student Life)

When it comes to music, I’m a Gen Z cliché. I’ll prove it to you: my two most-listened to artists are Harry Styles and Taylor Swift. So naturally, I know, as a fan and an observer, that some of their fans are embracing obsession and forsaking the healthier territory of love and appreciation.

I’m obsessed with “folklore”. I casually say that I’m obsessed with styles. But I ask myself the important questions: are the behavior and actions of artists excusable because of their notoriety? Does what they mean to us personally mean they can’t do any harm?

I find myself concerned about this generation’s unwavering devotion to celebrities. We are actively elevating celebrities to the point where there are no boundaries. Idolatry is permission to exist without consequence – and it is a dangerous phenomenon to subscribe to.

The problem I see is that many of us consider celebrities to be untouchable. Artists are ordinary people who have been given a platform. Despite their overwhelming power over their audience, they are still human. They can make serious mistakes, mislead others, and be guilty of the same things as normal people. Their flaws are just conveniently masked by the privileges they have and we don’t. So why should we excuse their mistakes?

Another feeling I’m well aware of is that fans have the potential to be so dependent on celebrities – dependent on a constant stream of updates, their whereabouts and their well-being – that theirs is inextricably linked to their idols. Worship becomes so instinctive that autonomy is sometimes compromised. We lose our sense of identity to the emulation of a stranger’s life.

I can say with confidence that celebrity worship is not healthy because we admire a fictionalized version of our idols. To put someone on a pedestal is to worship someone who is supposedly perfect. We should just love someone imperfect.

Some of Swift’s fans noted that the pop star used her “Miss Americana” documentary to highlight relevant issues, but then went silent after Roe v. Wade earlier this year. To me, this is what artist support should look like: the friendly coexistence of productive criticism and appreciation.

A Reddit user shared their view that Swift should have signed Planned Parenthood’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” campaign, receiving nearly 2,000 upvotes. At the end of their short opinion, they wrote: ‘I don’t come to this from a hate point of view [point-of-view] because I love Taylor and his work regardless. Personally, I want to see more: supporters who love their idols by considering them as real human beings.

It can also happen with Harry Styles, whose comments about gay sex in his upcoming film “My Policeman” have sparked debate among his fans. When talking about what he liked about the film, Styles said“A lot of the gay sex in the movie is two guys engaging in it, and that sort of takes away the tenderness,” noting that “My Policeman” depicts the more “sensitive” sex between two men.

A article approached Styles’ comment with skepticism: “It’s the suggestion that cinema suffers from an abundance of ‘two guys getting into it’ that has understandably drawn the most backlash – the assertion does not bear any scrutiny… I have seen a lot of queer films over the last ten years and, with a few exceptions, I wouldn’t say there has been a preponderance of explicit sex.

Swift and Styles both prove flawed in the eyes of their fans, in their inaction and in their words. Love your favorite artists, but try not to love them unconditionally. They are capable of being imperfect, and they should be held accountable. It happens to be really powerful when those who hold celebrities accountable are their fans. Appreciating idols means giving them space to stray while guiding them to improve.

Shay Suresh CM ’24 hails from San Jose, CA. She loves literary fiction, indie music and browsing Pinterest.

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