Celebrity Bashing is Not a Healthy Sport

A reminder to think about the way we treat celebrities, by Elizabeth Ajao

I want to be a TV presenter. My version of career success would be sitting on a panel and nattering away with other people while the audience (hopefully) laughs. The only problem with that goal is that I would never want to be famous. For some, fame is the absolute dream: get yourself on ITV’s Love Island or X Factor and you’re bound to come out the other side with a few hundred-thousand followers and enough sponsorship deals to keep you set for life. I’m sure that the novelty of instant fame from reality TV provides a buzz like nothing else, but it doesn’t last long. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d be hard-pressed to name five winners of X Factor, and I can barely remember the name of every Love Island contestant when they’re on the show, let alone for years to come. We can all list the perks of the glitz and the glamour, but until the tragic death of Caroline Flack, nobody really talked about the downsides of fame.

I am obsessed with “trash TV”. If you walk past my room you’ll probably hear the Real Housewives of Anywhere screaming at each other, no matter what time of day it is. My boredom in the first lockdown steered me towards Keeping up with the Kardashians, and it was only then that I truly noticed how much these people were in the press. From the first season, Kim was chased around by paparazzi shouting inappropriate things at her when she was trying to get frozen yoghurt with her kids. It seems futile to even begin to discuss the disgusting comments made about their bodies (especially those of Kim, Khloe and Rob) which should never even have been thought, much less said.

It’s no secret that social media has transformed our ability to communicate with each other. Whilst it’s great that we can heart react to our best friend’s latest post and occasionally give our old classmates a quick Instagram stalk to see what their new lives are like, the immediacy of our reactions to posts is scary. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s accidentally double-tapped on an ex’s post, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sent an embarrassing snap to the wrong person, and, as we all know, once it’s sent it’s sent. The same goes for sending that rude comment you’re not sure you should post. The notification pings up on their phone, and they open it within seconds only to be pleased with their new like, mortified at the snap they clearly weren’t meant to receive or distraught at the vile thing you just said. For some reason, we seem to forget (or ignore) the fact that celebrities respond the exact same way.

Take Love Island host, Caroline Flack, for example. Following the alleged domestic abuse of her boyfriend, Caroline was torn to pieces by the media. One of the headlines actually read: FLACK SACK AND WHACK. Comedian David Walliams made a cruel joke about her at the NTAs, and a disgraceful Valentine’s Day card was released making fun of her trial (pictured below). Given what she was going through, the last thing that Caroline needed was to be bombarded by the media. As a result of the inner turmoil she was facing, Caroline Flack was found dead having hung herself on February 15th, 2020. 

Celebrities don’t owe us anything. The excuse, “they shouldn’t be famous if they can’t handle criticism” just doesn’t fly. Because we don’t know them, because we’ve never seen them in the flesh, it’s easy to pretend that these people are just characters, figments of the media’s imagination. It’s not until a celebrity dies, be it Caroline Flack, “Muggy” Mike Thalassitis or even Princess Diana, that the public thinks about how they treat celebrities. Even then it’s only temporary, it’s only days before those vile messages reappear, before the press start chasing celebrities to get the most unflattering shot they can. Just because they knew what they were getting themselves into, that doesn’t mean we should push them as far as we can. It isn’t difficult for us ordinary people to let the pressure of our own little social media bubble get to us, so take a minute to think about what on earth life must be like for the ones who have that on a scale a hundred thousand times the size of ours. They’re people with heads and hearts just like we are, it’s time we started acting like it.

Image credits

2021. Caroline Flack Valentine’s Day Card Mocks Troubled Star. [online] Available at: <https://headtopics.com/ie/brutal-caroline-flack-valentine-s-day-card-mocks-troubled-star-with-i-ll-f-ing-lamp-you-message-11299289> [Accessed 8 January 2021].