Generations of stars have endured the sniping and scrutiny of gossip rags, from that of Louella Parsons (America’s first Hollywood gossip columnist) to modern versions like PerezHilton.com and TMZ.
But with social media, attacks on celebrities, even from their own fans, have become even more relentless. Amy Schumer, Lady Gaga, Chris Pratt, Rene Zeleweger, Justin Bieber, Leslie Jones, Jennifer Aniston, Kelly Clarkson, the list of those who have been cybershamed is never-ending.
While some may say this is the cost of fame, that doesn’t mean these celebrities can’t have hurt feelings. In 2015 when Candace Cameron-Bure appeared on “The View,” she told viewers: “I’ve never been more verbally abused in my life than on Twitter, and specifically in the last few months, having come on this show. You don’t have to verbally abuse me and rape me. That’s what they do to me on Twitter.”
Lessons from the Rich and Famous about Celebrity Online Shaming
In Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate we discuss Shaming, Celebrity Style. There’s no denying the fact that celebrities have the advantage of money, fame and crisis management teams to help them control their online hate. But what can the average person learn from these experiences? What can parents share with their children?
1) Shame doesn’t define you.
From Gabby Douglas to Jennifer Lawrence, these young women were taunted and humiliated, yet persevered.
In 2016, gymnast Gabby Douglas was at the height of her career as digital trolls relentlessly mocked her hair, her body and harshly judged her during the national anthem. “Sometimes I would be in the bathroom, bawling my eyes out, wanting to quit. I felt like I was all alone,” Gabby told People magazine.
Jennifer Lawrence had her nude photos hacked for the whole world to see. In a Vanity Fair interview, a defiant Jennifer refused to carry the mantle of shame. “I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for,” she said. “I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years.”
2) Bad things happen to good people.
Ariel Winter, the young actress who plays Alex Dunphy on Modern Family, has been repeatedly body shamed for her voluptuous figure. When she celebrated her high school graduation with a photo on Instagram, some focused on her full figure and her pink dress, with its revealing cutout. “Who goes out in public like that!!,” wrote one commenter. “Gosh I hate to say it but do 18 years olds [sic] really dress like this? Lovely dress and body, but it doesn’t give anything to the imagination.”
Actress Melissa McCarthy, of Mike and Molly and movies including Spy and Heat, was called “a female hippo” by one movie critic in 2013. Today she’s an actress in high demand, launching her own clothing line.
3) There’s nothing wrong with a little digital detox.
When Justin Bieber had enough of his fans leaving their opinions about his new girlfriend (at the time), the slew of negative comments forced him to take a break from Instagram. This left 77 million followers in the dark in the summer of 2016. He eventually came back; however, it’s a great lesson that there’s nothing wrong with taking a social media break.
In the summer of 2016, Normani Kordei, member of Fifth Harmony, was attacked with racist photos and insults. “I have shown nothing, but commitment for the success of Fifth Harmony even promoting on my days off, but yet I always find myself as the target of unjust hate and slander.” She decided to remove herself from Twitter. By the fall of 2016, she came back stronger than ever as a diversity ambassador to CyberSmile.
Of course, celebrities can also make serious mistakes that rightly bring condemnation upon them. While we live in a society quick to judge, we can also be very forgiving. Time and time again, we have torn down our beloved idols, only to welcome them back into our lives—provided that they are contrite, humble, and willing to accept responsibility for what happened.
Celebrities like Martha Stewart, Brian Williams, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps may always have a smudge on their reputation, but that doesn’t stop them from rebuilding their identities. You can too.
Behind the glitz and glam, celebrities are human beings. Celebrity online shaming doesn’t have to define them and it doesn’t have to define you. Bad things happen to good people, and remember, we all could use some time offline.