Has your favorite celebrity ever done something that shocked you? Like finding out Harry Styles does juice cleanses, or that Taylor Swift seemingly dyed her hair the colors of the bisexual flag for a music video. How do we hold up accountability in the era of cancel culture being one of the main pitfalls of idolization?
Maybe your fave did something that doesn’t sit right with you on a moral level, like Justin Bieber having dreads or Demi Lovato glorifying substance abuse.
These shocks or disappointments happen when a celebrity fails to meet our expectations of them. This becomes a problem when we project our personal values onto them, assuming that Harry Styles supports social justice causes or that Ariana Grande knows better than to blackfish. Because as much as we admire them, we really don’t know them as people. And in some cases, fans have taken things too far, getting mad at their fave for not being the person they thought they were.
In this episode we explore the line between expectations and reality – between projected morals and real actions. (Or sometimes even inactions like Taylor Swift not acknowledging that she was claimed to be a white supremacist princess.)
So when is it warranted to be mad at your idol? When should you pressure them to speak out or hold them accountable for doing something that you think is immoral?
Because at the end of the day accountability is more important than canceling, so that we can all learn and grow from our mistakes.
You can learn more about parasocial relationships in our previous episode When Idolization Goes Too Far.
Sources for Accountability, Cancel Culture and The Pitfalls of Idolization
Why Teenagers Obsess Over Pop Stars (Childmind by Joel Tiller, 2011)
Parasocial Relationships: Definition, Examples, and Key Studies (Thought Co. by Cynthia Vinney, 2018)
Can Celebrity Admiration Go Too Far? (Fair Observer by Lynn McCutcheon, 2017)
Everyone Is Canceled (NY Times, Jonah Engel Bromwich, 2018)
These Musicians were Canceled but People Kept Listening (Jezebel, Rich Juzwiak, 2019)
How ‘cancel culture’ quickly became one of the buzziest and most controversial ideas on the internet (Insider, Rachel E. Greenspan, 2020)
Harry Styles Stays Silent on Black Lives Matter Despite Concert Woes (Affinity Magazine, Victoria Mione, 2017)
Harry Styles Joined A Los Angeles Black Lives Matter Protest (Elle, Alyssa Bailey, 2020)
Why Harry Styles fans are taking #BlackLivesMatter signs to his gigs (NewStatesman, Anna Leszkiewicz, 2017)
Taylor Swift’s bisexual flag hair in her new video has got LGBTQ+ fans talking (Cosmopolitan, Paisley Gilmore, 2019)
The Queasy Double Message of Taylor Swift’s You Need To Calm Down (The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhabler, 2019)
Taylor Swift in legal row with blogger who suggested she encouraged white supremacy groups (Sky News, 2017)
Demi Lovato Recreated Her Overdose For a New Music Video, but Not Everyone’s a Fan (HelloGiggles, Morgan Noll, 2021)
Stars Now Understand That Their Destruction Is Our Entertainment (The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber, 2021)
Billie Eilish – Everything I Wanted (Song Exploder, 2020)
Justin Bieber is Getting a Little Too Comfortable Being Black (Chaos and Comrades, Morgan Skinner, 2021)
Jesy Nelson is being called out for blackfishing (The Tab, Harrison Brocklehurst, 2021)
How Ariana Grande Fell Off the Cultural-Appropriation Tightrope (The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhabler, 2019)
‘Music’: The Backlash Against Sia’s Autism Movie Explained (Newsweek, Samuel Spencer, 2021)
Sia’s film Music misrepresents autistic people. It could also do us damage (The Guardian, Clem Bastow, 2021) (author is austistic)