Why are we so mean to celebrities?
At 6'3" with a chiseled physique, Outlander star Sam Hueghan doesn't seem like your stereotypical bullying victim.
And yet, in an emotional post on social media, Hueghan lays out the emotional effects of having a 6-year-long bullying campaign waged against him.
Stay safe all.x https://t.co/9WbwAnT6nz— Sam Heughan (@Sam Heughan) 1587101539.0
"After the past 6 years of constant bullying, harassment, stalking and false narrative I am at a loss, upset, hurt and have to speak out," Hueghan stated. "It's affecting my life, mental state and is a daily concern." Hueghan asserts that he's been doxxed, slandered, and sent death threats over false accusations such as "manipulating fans," "being a closet-homosexual," and "disregarding Covid advice."
He doesn't go deep into the specifics, but he does say that many of his abusers are "professionals: teachers, psychologists, adults who should know better."
The scariest part about Hueghan's alleged harassment is that his claims are immediately believable. It's a narrative we've seen play out across social media again and again and again. For whatever reason, some portion of grown adults choose to spend their free time bullying artists online.
But why? What could possibly lead someone, especially an adult "professional," to think it's okay to harass a random actor on the Internet?
While most studies and literature related to cyberbullying focus on children, it turns out that adult-perpetuated cyberbullying is far more common than many people think. But whereas child bullies tend to focus their vitriol on classmates, adult bullies prefer targeting celebrities.
Studies suggest that children who engage in cyberbullying tend to have less empathy than their peers. Moreover, the act of bullying other people online makes them feel "funny, popular, and powerful." When it comes to adult cyberbullies, the psychology at play might not be so different.
Strangely, it actually makes sense that a lot of unhappy adults who lack empathy and want to feel powerful would specifically target celebrities. Even if most adults wanted to target the real sources of their unhappiness—bad bosses, financial entities, politicians, etc.—they probably couldn't attack them in any meaningful way. But celebrities offer an easy target. They're people of high-perceived social status with jobs that, while public-facing and consumed by many, are often looked down upon as not being "real work."
So while some angry Internet troll might wish he could lash out at his manager, he instead decides to channel that rage against a celebrity who he doesn't like on Twitter. Perhaps to him, the celebrity isn't even a real person.
Except celebrities are real people, and they're not any more impervious to constant negativity than anybody else. Having a public facing job as an entertainer should not be equivalent to signing yourself up for a lifetime of bullying.
Yes, famous actors and musicians may be vastly overpaid and privileged compared to the average working person. At the same time, not every person you see on TV is privileged millionaire, and the majority of people are more than happy to binge consume art while vastly undervaluing art and the artists who create it.
Moreover, a famous actor who makes their millions off a movie that brings many people joy is still a lot better than a faceless CEO who makes their billions off the backs of underpaid workers. Imagine, for a moment, if we treated CEOs with nearly the same level of scrutiny that we treat famous artists. What sort of tabloid stories would come out about American Airlines CEO Doug Parker as his company refused to give customers refunds amidst a pandemic? What if we held GameStop CEO George Sherman personally accountable for his company telling employees to put bags over their hands at the risk of their own lives?
George "wrap a plastic bag around one hand to protect it from exposure to the virus" ShermanVictra
It's bizarre that, by and large, we denigrate artists who, at the very least, make money through their own efforts, and simultaneously revere businessmen who profit off the backs of others while providing little societal value themselves.
There's a lot to be angry about in the world right now, but taking it out on random celebrities is misguided, pathetic, and wrong. If you're going to rage against the world, at least make sure you're raging in the right direction.
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