It all started with the arrest of Harvey Weinstein a couple of years ago. He was accused of a series of sexual misconducts by top Hollywood celebrities including Lupita Nyong’o. Weinstein was later arrest and convicted, but he died in the process.
The accusation of Weinstein birthed the #metoo movement. A movement that saw people, mostly women, speaking up against the sexual harassments that they have received, professionally or otherwise. #metoo became a movement, one where people felt comfortable to speak up against abuse. Celebrities like Meryl Streep, who said she wasn’t directly affected by Weinstein, spoke out in solidarity to other women.
The #metoo era has set a precedent on celebrities being in the forefront of political and socio-cultural issues. Before then, celebrities might stay away from speaking out for personal reasons.
Following the MeToo era was the Cancel Culture. The Cancel Culture started as a way for people to keep celebrities in check. Like the name states, a celebrity who, for whatever reason, did something wrong would be cancelled.
One of the biggest Cancel Cultures was fashion photographer, Mario Testino. He was accused by a couple of male models for sexual misconduct. Testino’s career came to an abrupt stop. Conde Nast, the publishing house in charge of Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar, cut ties with him. The fashion industry, in essence, cancelled Mario Testino.
The Cancel Culture worked until people started misusing it. The slightest err from a celebrity would result to Twitter fanatics calling for a cancellation. Like in the case of Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey interviewed two men who said they were abused by the late Michael Jackson. People started a campaign to cancel Oprah, which did not work.
There are a number of reasons why a cancellation wouldn’t work. Like in the case of Dolce and Gabbana—the Italian brand has been accused repeatedly for misogyny and hate comments. The traction to cancel D&G has never worked because the fashion industry isn’t behind the cancellation and most people are not customers of the brand.
If the industry isn’t behind a cancellation and people can’t cut off the patronage, then cancellation is futile. This is the biggest problem behind the Cancel Culture.
Then came the “call out.” Celebrities are called out and “dragged” when they have not commented or contributed to an issue. Or maybe the celebrity is standing on an opinion different from public opinion.
Celebrities have taken it as a duty to comment on any serious issue trending online. Like in the case of Toyin Abraham, who promoted her movie in the midst of the EndSARS protests. She was called selfish and out-of-touch, to put it mildly. Abraham apologized and even joined the protest at Ibadan.
Celebrities wield power. This power goes beyond the influence they have on their fans, but also in the influence they have amongst elites. And people expect them to use this power for the general good.
Celebrities have large followings and would reach so many people faster. Couple with the fact that celebrities sensationalize issues. A tweet from a famous person would become a media frenzy. This is a way for issues to get the attention of the world.
In a way, people expect celebrities, who have been given so much, to give back by fighting for them. And in moral terms, the right thing to do.
If this was a cage fight, celebrities are losing. Most celebrities speak out on issues going on in the world. Burna Boy put up EndSARS billboards around Lagos after so many criticisms. But may be the point is not about who is winning or losing. It’s about what’s best for everyone.
And as famous as they get, celebrities are one of us, right?