If websites truly cared about mental health, they would stop contributing to cyberbullying.
Trigger Warning: Su*c*de
Whenever a famous person loses a battle with mental illness, the media reaction plays out in a similar fashion, rife with memorials and reminders that suicide is preventable.
But how can a website act like suicide is a tragedy and mental health issues need to be taken seriously when they've directly contributed to the denigration of those same people, time and time again?
Now I want to preface this article by saying that I recognize a certain degree of hypocrisy inherent to writing something like this on a site that thrives on entertainment news and pop culture. But at the same time, I speak from my own personal perspective, and I feel strongly that this bears saying:
Gossip "journalism" that directs constant negativity towards celebrities is cancerous and dehumanizing. It contributes to a larger online culture characterized by cyberbullying and cruelty, and when someone commits suicide as a result, that culture and the people who propagated it deserve a large chunk of the blame.
Recently, K-Pop star and actor Sulli (Choi Jin-ri) passed away at only 25-years-old. From her time in the girl group f(x) to her later appearances in movies like Real and her solo single "Goblin" in June, Sulli stood out as an incredible talent. She was a vocal proponent of women's rights, advocating for pro-choice policies in Korea and shirking traditional idol boundaries by publicly dating and posting pictures with her boyfriend. In many ways, Sulli was a symbol of progress, fighting for her rights and self-agency even when those around her wouldn't, giving voice to mental health issues in a career where those issues are often suppressed.
In return, K-Pop gossip media and netizens (online commenters) bullied her mercilessly, criticizing her fashion choices, making fun of her body, and even sh*tting on her mental health. Then these same sites (Koreaboo, Allkpop, Netizen Buzz, etc.) that profited off her "controversies" turned around and profited off her death, spouting fake platitudes about mental health awareness.
For instance, Koreaboo, an English language Korean pop culture website, has been covering Sulli's passing incessantly while Tweeting about suicide prevention.
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress,… https://t.co/sPiysx1HtW— Koreaboo (@Koreaboo)1571043618.0
But fans have been quick to point out that Koreaboo had contributed to her online harassment multiple times. One would think that if they truly cared about her mental health, they would have listened when she talked about her own struggles and stopped contributing to her bullying. Except they clearly didn't.
@Koreaboo Or maybe if you stop doing this! https://t.co/7tM8WSdnjI— IGOT7 FOR GOT7🖤 (@IGOT7 FOR GOT7🖤)1571064133.0
Similarly, Sulli had reportedly turned to her management company, S.M. Entertainment, for help in regards to the constant stream of online hatred directed towards her, but their response was less than helpful.
"My life is actually empty, so I feel like I'm lying to everyone by pretending to be happy on the outside," said Sulli on The Night of Hate Comments, a variety show she co-hosted dedicated to celebrities reacting to cyberbullying online. "I asked around a lot for advice. They told me, 'Everyone has a dark side in their lives but they live pretending that they don't. Don't think of it as weird.'"
Sulli's words draw attention to the dehumanization that celebrities often face in the public eye; this is not an issue limited solely to Korea or K-Pop stars. Social media crowds and celebrity gossip sites alike tend to forget that the famous figures they're constantly harping on are, in reality, actual people with complex thoughts, feelings, and identities that transcend their public personas. Their fame does not make them impervious to emotional damage, and anyone who spends years subject to constant online abuse, bullying, and gossip is at risk of long-lasting mental health repercussions. There's also a pretty big difference between valid criticism and bullying––dwelling on someone's physical appearance and dramatizing their every minor action is absolutely the latter.
People can't spend years delighting in taking someone down for no better reason than drama and clicks, only to then feign sympathy when that person succumbs to the abuse. It's more than just hypocrisy; it's an absolute miscarriage of journalism.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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