Here Are 4 Easy Ways You Can Stop Celebrity Domestic Abusers

Yesterday, I wrote about a few of the many, many male celebrities who are guilty of domestic abuse and other violent acts. I first became interested in this subject matter because I found it absurd. How did these men not just make it through these crimes with almost no repercussions, but continue to have huge careers for years afterward? How did they still make money? Why weren’t more people angry? Where was justice?

 

The more I thought about it the more I realized my own complicity in the system. Kovie Biakolo, writing for Thought Catolog, puts it best:

 

“The truth is if the majority of the public wanted something better from our celebrity culture, we would have it, so if we’re going to claim that celebrities owe a certain responsibility to the public, it would do you and I some good to first take a long, hard look in the mirror; to ensure that we are not part of the problem.”

 

I have taken this long, hard look in the mirror, decided I no longer want anything to do with this system, and now I’m looking for ways to actively remove myself from it.

 

A few quick caveats before diving in:

 

  • The point of these actions is not to suggest that we should attempt to control public figures by expecting that their morals and beliefs completely align with our own. Freezing out a celebrity because they are voting for someone else for president, said something stupid, or claim a different religion or belief system seems pointless. Extending this line of logic would mean cutting off all human relationships because no person’s beliefs line up exactly with another person’s. However, it’s not unreasonable to hold public figures, especially celebrities whose work is not for the public good, accountable. In cases of documented offenses universally considered wrong, we should not allow the elevation or idolization of these figures to continue.
  • Believing that I, personally, should not financially support these men does not mean that they are evil human beings who do not deserve to live have any income. It means they should not be held up as icons in our culture. There’s a difference between celebrity accountability and celebrity shaming. This is accountability.

 

 

 

I’m not interested in critical writing (or thought, for that matter) that leads to lots of intellectual wandering and no action. Just because justice appears impossible, does not mean we do not bear personal responsibility to pursue it. (More on that in the coming weeks.)

 

With all of this in mind, here are four ways you can challenge the system that allows male abusers to go unpunished.

 

1. Don’t purchase their products

 

It’s obvious, but shouldn’t be overlooked. Don’t reward entertainers who beat up women by buying their albums, concert tickets, or movies. Removing this direct line of financial support is the easiest way you can hold them accountable.

2. Let corporations know you disapprove

 

The entertainment industry is just that. An industry. Until companies are convinced that violent abuse perpetuated by their employees will affect their brand’s financial viability they will not act. Don’t think Fox should headline their biggest show with a documented abuser? Tell them.

 

(It might sound hypocritical for someone who just last week wrote about the shallowness of trendy social media justice attempts to advocate for using these tactics, but changing the standard for celebrities is a different task than tackling the problem of global poverty.)

3. Abstain from celebrity culture

 

 

The reason celebrities yield the power they do in our economy is not because of their artistic talents but because they sell products by selling themselves. When you follow a celebrity on social media, buy a magazine with their face on the cover or a product they’re a spokesperson for, or even just click through on articles about them, you make them a profitable person for companies to work with. This is the reason there are no celebrity names mentioned in this post.

 

4. Don’t make celebrities role models in the first place

 

When I put this question out on Twitter, the most common response was to question the moral authority of celebrities in the first place (something I’ve written about before here):

 

 

 

This is probably the hardest, and most important, thing you can do. Hard because our culture has allowed celebrities to cast themselves as humanitarians and activists, and important because if they don’t have this role we can focus on bigger issues and worthier people. Our moral guidance shouldn’t come from Hollywood, but from ideas that have weathered history, people who have devoted their life to service, and our own constantly re-examined perspectives.

We should not expect celebrities to be role models, but we should expect them to pay the price for their crimes.

 

Want more ideas for how to take action for good in the world? Subscribe here.

Advertisements

Why Do You Support Abusive Male Celebrities?

Last week the world was rocked. Partially because of explosions in New York City and ongoing horrors in Syria and other places around the world, but mainly because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced they are getting a divorce.

Brangelina’s demise beat the discovery that Donald Trump settled legal disputes for his for-profit businesses using $250,000 in funds from his charity as the most important news topic of the day. It also detracted from President Obama’s speech at the United Nations.

The divorce saga culminated in a possible FBI investigation into Pitt for potential child abuse. Though authorities say they will likely not pursue the charges, people were shocked and outraged.

Given the long list of celebrities who have retained their wealth and fame after committing horrible crimes, it is unclear why anyone would be surprised.

We Need to Talk About Chris Brown

In 2009, singer Chris Brown attacked his then-girlfriend Rihanna until, in her own words, she was “battered” and “bleeding.” This is actually an understatement. Brown choked her until she nearly passed out, threatened to kill her then bit her and beat her until her mouth was full of blood. He was convicted of a felony and spent five years on probation.

Three years later he performed at the Grammys and won the award for Best R&B album. Earlier this year he was arrested for assault after a woman called the police claiming Brown pointed a gun at her. Investigation into the incident led to a stand off with police that lasted hours.

Brown isn’t alone. The list of famous men in the entertainment industry who have committed incredibly violent acts with little to no repercussions is depressingly long.

A Brief Primer On Hollywood’s Leading Abusers

Terrence Howard, the star of Fox hit show, Empire, has been repeatedly accused of assaulting women. He admitted to hitting his first wife (“even slapping her was wrong”), and his second wife accused him of beating her as well. He reportedly makes $125,00 per episode and the showrunner, Lee Daniels, has defended him.

Woody Allen’s daughter has repeatedly accused him of molesting her. His latest movie Café Society has made 20.7 million so far at the box office in 2016.

Sean Penn once dangled a photographer over a balcony and allegedly beat Madonna with a baseball bat. He is usually described as an activist and humanitarian.

Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist. Sean Connery— has said “it’s not the worst thing to slap a woman now and then” and “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman.” Johnny Depp reached a settlement in charges of abuse from his wife Amber Heard. She submitted photos documenting the abuse as part of her case.

Dr. Dre attacked journalist Dee Barnes in a bathroom. Charlie Sheen shot his fiancé in the arm.

And Marky Mark (people who call him Mark Wahlberg are only fooling themselves), was convicted of assault in 1988 for beating a man to the point of making him blind in one eye. It was racially motivated. Also, he asked to be pardoned in 2014.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Who’s to blame?

Most careers only require minimal morality. The kind that applies only to how well you perform your professional responsibilities and can be checked at the door when you leave work.

Celebrities are necessarily different because they have sold their lives—their personalities, morals, and choices—as the product. A celebrity is less a person and more of a business idea. If you are a successful celebrity it means millions of people implicitly approve, and in many cases, idolize, your lifestyle.

“When we don’t hold these men accountable, when we prop them up on pedestals with awards and accolades and lots of money, we’re saying that this is OK,” writes Zeba Blay, in a piece for The Huffington Post.

“Terrible crimes don’t automatically negate an artist or celebrity’s contribution to society—but rape, sex crimes, and brutalizing women are not hobbies that audiences should tolerate,” Asawin Suebsaeng wrote for The Daily Beast. “It’s the sort of behavior that is now unacceptable in virtually all other forms of business. Surely, Hollywood should not be exempt from such a standard.”

Suebsaeng isn’t wrong. Hollywood shouldn’t be exempt from the standard. But he wrote this piece in 2014 and nothing is different.

Numerous other essays and opinion pieces have been published, including Aly Neel’s much lauded “No More Free Passes for Famous Men Who Abuse Women” for The Washington Post in 2013 with no discernible changes.

But the free passes have not expired. Nothing has changed, including the fact that, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 10 million men and women will be the victims of abuse by an intimate partner this year.

Expect More

Why write on this topic when so many have already called out the ridiculous leeway granted to male entertainers? Precisely because none of the “calling out” has worked.

The economy of celebrity relies on our eyes and wallets. This means the person to blame for Chris Brown’s continued popularity is not the Grammy’s or media. It’s me. These men are still famous, wealthy, and receiving free passes because we allow them to.

If we believe that physical abuse is wrong and not to be tolerated, then it is time to stop expecting more from Hollywood and start expecting more from ourselves.

Come back tomorrow for a more detailed breakdown of what you can do to abstain from supporting violent, male celebrities.

Subscribe here to never miss a post.

The Most Dramatic Bachelorette Finale Viewing Party of All Time

On a recent Monday evening a group of women gathered in a nook of an apartment in Queens to watch the season finale of The Bachelorette. The host was a young, moderately successful professional who made peanut butter cookies for the first time to commemorate the occasion. The invite list had been long, but only three guests arrived for the viewing party. Other friends cited previous engagements—birthday parties, Broadway shows, maintaining personal dignity—as reasons for not attending.

The first guest to arrive was twenty minutes early because she had sprained her ankle and wanted to make sure she didn’t miss the beginning. Earlier she had explained to the host why a producer for a very successful political talk show enjoyed The Bachelorette. 

“I feel like I watch The Bachelor because on some level it is humanizing,” she said. Although she was suspicious of the series at first, she now sees it as an example of the various ways love can be found in the digital age. “Granted the show is different in that there are multiple people dating the same person at the same time, which does seem a tad polygamous, but in reality you have to get out there and meet people to find ‘the one.’ We just have to accept that’s how the world works these days, so you might as well enjoy the entertainment that comes from it.”

The next guest was an advertising saleswoman who arrived with a box of wine and cardboard cups from the dollar store. They were so thin they leaked wine all over the couch. The host suspected this was payback for the time she accidentally spilling a glass of wine on the saleswoman’s couch at a viewing party earlier that year.

While they waited for the finale to start they discussed their opinions of the show.

“I’m nosy and I love gossip,” the saleswoman said. “I feel like The Bachelorette gives me more juice.”

Another friend, who couldn’t attend the finale because of a volunteer commitment explained that instead of actually living a “boozy, B-list, celebrity-esque” life, she just watches it on TV.

“It lets me pretend that falling in love consists of perfected segments of flirtation, dream dates, confusion and slight heartbreak, then the final making up and falling into an everlasting love kind of relationship. As a single girl, that’s very compelling.”

The show began with the bachelorette, a Dallas socialite named JoJo, introducing the two final suitors, Robbie and Jordan, to her family. Jordan was up first.

“Who doesn’t like Jordan?” JoJo’s mother asked after meeting the former “professional” football player.

“Um, Aaron Rodgers?” The saleswoman was incredulous. Chris Harrison, the conniving host of the series brought up Jordan’s more famous, possibly more talented, and definitely estranged quarterback brother as often as possible. The man is a publicity master.

Jordan’s visit went fine, but Robbie really impressed the family with his terrifying sunburn and aggressive romantic declarations. The party guests were not as impressed.

“I believe that Robbie believes what he’s saying,” the saleswoman said in the soothing voice of a therapist. The women nodded in agreement. His genuine sincerity was matched only by his genuine delusion.

“They should be a throuple!” she concluded.

As the family meeting was wrapping up, one of the inhabitants of the apartment sat down with a bowl of pasta after a long day of work. She had not been a fan of the show before moving in to the apartment, but after numerous intellectual discussions about the cultural merits of #BachelorNation, watched the show. To be clear, she watched because it was on in her living room, not because she was a fan.

“This is Edward versus Jacob,” she said. “Always go for the vampire.”

As JoJo cried on the couch and explained to her family how difficult it was to be loved by two beautiful, washed-up athletes, the saleswoman sipped wine from her leaking paper cup.

“I just can’t stand the suspense. It’s the most dramatic cup of wine I’ve had yet!”

The girl with the sprained ankle was also having difficulty choosing between the men.

“Is it Robbie with a ‘y’ or with an ‘ie’?’”

“Does that make a difference?” the host asked.

“Yes.”

“What do you prefer?”

“‘ie’ duh!”

The host assured her Robbie was, in fact, spelled with an ‘ie.’ The producer exhaled slowly. This information did not make her decision any easier.

“Are they trying to be ironic that they are on an island called Phuket?” The newbie’s joke was met with silence. There was no room for laughter about sexual innuendos when eternal love was at stake.

On a commercial break, the saleswoman held up a picture on her phone.

“Should I get this phone case that has avocados on it?”

“Do you need a new phone case?” The host thought it was a reasonable question, but the responses indicated it was irrelevant to the discussion.

“I didn’t want it at first, but now that it’s been showing up on my timeline for a week I kind of do,” the saleswoman said.

“Pineapple!” The TV producer exclaimed and began searching for a superior phone case with pictures of a pineapple on it.

“No! Don’t do it! That’s just Zuckerberg in your head.”

“Advertising works on me,” the saleswoman said before switching gears as the commercial break ended. “Is Robbie the one who broke up with his girlfriend to come on the show?”

“Allegedly.”

Robbie and JoJo went on a generic date, which is not worth mentioning other than to excerpt Robbie’s description of the future he envisioned for the couple:

“I see us just sitting on the most comfortable sofas…and there’s a dog on the couch with us obviously…and then we smell food burning…”

The room was silent.

“This is weird,” the producer said. Everyone agreed.

After the next commercial break, the camera panned back to Robbie and JoJo’s date and his name popped up on the screen.

“It’s spelled with a ‘y’!” The producer shrieked. This changed everything.

“He’s wearing hotel slippers,” the advertiser said. Another game changer. “They’re like gay besties. Just look at his bracelet. Look at his leather, braided bracelet.”

“He is Ken,” the producer sighed. “If you held a picture of him up to a picture of Ken they look the same. It’s uncanny.”

“Unkenny?” No one appreciated the pun.

“He has a nice body,” the producer continued. “I appreciate that about him. Hellooooo abs.”

“It’s the type of person that Robby is that you want by your side,” JoJo said, a statement exactly zero people in the room understood.

JoJo’s date with Jordan mainly consisted of them arguing. Unlike Robby, Jordan did not ask her parents for their blessing to marry JoJo. His explanation—he wanted to wait until he knew she would pick him—did not hold up in the world of communal dating.

“So you need to know I feel?” JoJo asked. She sounded confused.

The host checked the clock. She had already eaten four cookies and it was only 9:15.

“What is she going to do for 45 minutes?”

“Cry on the beach.” Based on past episodes, the saleswoman’s assessment was a safe bet. “Jordan would be an awful bachelor.”

It was looking like Jordan, the front runner from the beginning of the season, might not be chosen. This would mean he’d likely get his own TV show and become the star of The Bachelor.

“Yeah. He’d invite every girl up to the victory suite,” the newbie said. She meant the Fantasy Suite, where contestants go to get “off camera” time, most likely of an entirely sexual nature. Rookie mistake.

“There’s forty more minutes!” The host was still trying to rally. “Bring on our main man Lane Bryant!”

She meant the jewelry designer, Neil Lane, who is paraded out each finale to sell engagement rings to the finalists. The other guests were disgusted by her complete lack of basic engagement jewelry knowledge.

Jordan made up for his earlier lapse in judgment by calling JoJo’s parents and asking for their blessing. Then he penned JoJo a letter in chicken scratch and left it under a conch shell outside of her room.

A voice over of Jordan reading the letter played while the camera showed him staring deeply at the One Ring to Rule Them All and lint rolling his suit. Next came a voice over of Robby reading a letter (unclear whether he left it under the same conch shell) while staring at himself shirtless and then putting on his shoes.

“No socks,” the saleswoman said, and shook her head. “Of course.”

JoJo cried while waving the letters in front of her face, then said she was having a panic attack.

The girls in the apartment grew anxious as the first car pulled up to the proposal location. The first person to exit the car would be the loser.

As the car door opened, the camera panned to the ground to focus on two feet touching the ground.

“He’s wearing socks! He’s wearing socks!” the saleswoman yelled.

The women were shocked the show had the ability to surprise them. Jordan had been set up to win from Episode 1. The Bachelorette is reality TV because it plays into real aspirational desires, but it is not like reality in that nothing truly unplanned ever happens.

The saleswoman threw a pillow over her face and curled into the fetal position on her chair. This prevented her from seeing the camera pan up to show Robby’s face. The women began yelling again.

“They literally showed him putting on his shoes without socks and then he showed up wearing socks!”

“Those little bastards!”

“Robby’s delusional but at least he loves you!”

As JoJo allowed Robby to express his love and devotion to her, the women grew more agitated.

“Pull the plug! Pull the plug”

“Mercy kill!”

Eventually JoJo cut him off and Robby’s face didn’t change much, but it is reasonable to assume he was disappointed.

“My heart physically is hurting right now,” JoJo said. “ I don’t even know if me telling him that I loved him helped.”

The saleswoman ignored JoJo’s tears and began singing, “What Hurts the Most.” (What hurts the most was being so close/And havin’ so much to say/And watchin’ you walk away)

JoJo quickly pulled herself together for Jordan’s proposal. She told him she loved him and he smiled. Then he mumbled a lot of words about love and life and marriage.

“He’s just trying to think of all the clichés he’s heard on Friday Night Lights,” the saleswoman said. The socks incident had turned her into a cynic.

The show ended with Jordan on one knee and JoJo saying “No!” over and over again. The host thought someone should probably inform JoJo about the “No Means No” movement.

The beach scene faded out and the lights went up on a live studio audience.

Chris Harrison interviewed the couple (bringing up Aaron Rodgers as much as possible) and then previewed Bachelor in Paradise that would begin airing the very next day.

The women at the party were not paying much attention to the screen. They had to be up early for work. Harrison looked weary as he described the antics that went on when paradise becomes reality.

“It is a train wreck.”

Can We Just Admit J.K. Rowling is Ruining Harry Potter?

J.K. Rowling wrote the most popular book series of all time. She created a world so engaging, it inspired a generation of kids to read again. But she is not an infallible creator.

The last book in the original Harry Potter series came out in 2007 and the last movie came out in 2011. When the last book came out she claimed to be ready to move on.

“I think it’s definitely time to stop,” Rowling said in a documentary from 2007. “It gives me a certain satisfaction to say what I thought happened and to tell other people that because I would like my version to be the official version still even though I’ve not written it in a book. Because it’s my world. But, no, I don’t want to write anymore Hogwarts books.”

She spent the last nine years writing books under pseudonyms, novels under her own name, and sporadically releasing information about the Harry Potter universe before unleashing a storm of new Harry Potter stories via theater, film, the internet.

Storytelling requires the reader and the writer to enter into an unspoken agreement. The reader agrees to invest their time and energy into the writer’s words, and the author promises the investment will be worthwhile because they can be trusted to tell the story. Of course, authors disappoint fans all the time, but for the most part, this pact remains unbroken because the writer is at least trying to hold up their end of the bargain.

Rowling continues to ignore the rules of the pact. She frequently references the Harry Potter universe as her world which is accurrate, seeing as how she made it up and everything. She has set up herself up as an inerrant creator, but in trying to to extend, rewrite, and zealously control this world, she has made her word meaningless.

She said in 2014 that Hermione and Ron’s romantic relationship was written as a form of “wish fulfillment” and that Harry and Hermione were a “better fit.” She said in 2015 she regretted killing of Fred Weasly and in 2016 that she was sorry for killing off Lupin.

“It’s my world,” she told Matt Lauer on the Today show in 2015. “And I might choose to step back into it.”

When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out this weekend, Rowling told the press “Harry is done now.” I’ll believe it when I see it.

A wise professor once said that part of what makes a painting beautiful is the frame. In seven books, Rowling created a boundless world of imagination and got the world reading again. By constantly reasserting her presence and editing supposedly canonical books she is making millions of dollars by weakening the stories that enchanted readers.

It may be Rowling’s world, but we don’t have to live in it.