Vetting Celebrities

I carefully examine potential friends, partners, and even social events before choosing. Now I have to add celebrities to the Official Vetting List.


John Mayer

Of course it never takes long for a celebrity to make headlines for poor behavior or provocative statements. TV stations, radio, and bloggers make a living from reporting the latest shenanigans by the world’s (in)famous. But it seems celebrities have become more bold about expressing and endorsing questionable beliefs and actions. For me that means making some adjustments in who I support. Too many celebrities are failing to make the grade:

Goodbye John Mayer because racism, misogyny, and homophobia is just about too much prejudice for one person. I was never fond of loud mouths.

See you around Chris Brown because domestic violence and colorism have never been on my list of issues to support. We’ll forgive you when you show some improvement.

Jill Scott, you can sit in your own corner some time. Maybe next time you’ll think before speaking for other people and setting the progress of black American women back 50 years. Not that I’m betting on it.

Some would say that it shouldn’t matter what these celebrities opinions, personal beliefs, or actions are. What matters is their product; whether they bring value through entertainment. This is partly true. Everyone is allowed their personal quirks. I’d never penalize a person for smoking cigarettes or having an anger problem. But I draw the line at a celebrity causing harm to other people through their words or actions.

Celebrities have a global audience. What they say and do has a great impact on society at large. I will not support, through viewing, buying, or requesting the products of people who are not using their platform to better society but to damage it. Negative reinforcement is sometimes necessary and, best of all, it works.

Anyone else vet celebrities?

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16 thoughts on “Vetting Celebrities

  1. I understand the need for vetting celebrities. Can you truly support a person (let alone buy his products) that holds beliefs you find so questionable? How can you respect such a person?

    And yet, I am usually able to separate their work from their personal statements and beliefs. They are not my friends, and yes, bad people can make beautiful art, as proved times and times again.

    People in my culture do celebrity vetting. It’s just something that comes naturally. My country was heavily satanized in media in the last 15 years, so anybody who buys into this stories and believes everything (s)he sees on the news gets a huge minus in our book. Likewise, celebrities who “like” us (or even don’t trash talk about us, such as Robert de Niro or Johnny Depp), are universally loved actross my culture. It’s just how it goes, I guess.

    On the other hand, it’s really difficult, if not nearly impossible, to find a celebrity (or a non-celebrity for that matter) who’s not affected by the news and the satanization, so you might as well forget about any foreign (particularly Western) celebrity to support. Some people, indeed, do that.

    I am not one of those people. I try to look the work, the art and the talent and not focus on the (always present) question: “do (s)he hates us?” I manage to do it most of the time, but still, there is subconscious thing that just doesn’t let me fully support otherwise excellent artists. I like U2, for example, but my admiration is never full. Same goes for Nirvana. I really like them, but my support for Pearl Jam is stronger (which might not have anything to do with this issue, since Pearl Jam hates us, too – so maybe I just prefer their music).

  2. Mira,

    “I am usually able to separate their work from their personal statements and beliefs…and yes, bad people can make beautiful art, as proved times and times again.”

    It’s hard to cross out a celebrity if you really, really like what they do. Luckily, none of those I’ve crossed out have been that great.

    Is it really that hard to find a celebrity who isn’t at least neutral about your country? I can’t remember anyone saying anything bad about it, but then I wasn’t looking for them to.

    I don’t assume a celebrity has opinions or values that are opposed to mine; the default for me is not to think about it at all. But when they show their true colors, I don’t think “Well, he’s still a great singer/actor”. I just can’t, unless it’s something minor. I’ll always look at them differently.

  3. I guess I was a bit harsh. There are always people who don’t trust everything they see on TV, or (even more) those who don’t think about it at all (unless it concerns them). And I also admit I might be a bit fixated on this problem; it’s impossible to live here and not be.

    Is it really that hard to find a celebrity who isn’t at least neutral about your country?

    These days, no, because we’re not in the news that much any more, so people focus on other conflicts (Iraq, now Egypt, etc). But yes, back in the days (90s), it was difficult to find neutral people.

    This experience is one of the main reason I argued in my “American Privilege” post that all Americans, regardless of race, care only about things that concern them, or their group, while they are equally able to believe everything they hear on the news about other issues. I honestly didn’t see any differences in the way people of different races reacted to this.

    But like I said, it’s better today. We are not in the spotlight anymore. Which is good.

    You are right about looking at those celebrities differently after finding out about their beliefs. Even if you manage to separate your respect for his work from his personal beliefs, something’s just not the same, and respect can never be full. Still, I do think I am able to separate the two most of the time. I do think bad people can make beautiful art, so while I might not respect them as people, I can still like their work.

  4. Mira,

    “…all Americans, regardless of race, care only about things that concern them, or their group, while they are equally able to believe everything they hear on the news about other issues.”

    Hey, not all Americans. 🙂

    I agree though, most people in general are like this. And what people consider to be their group is not always what others think that their group should be. Race loyalty doesn’t exist in general, I think. Except possibly, maybe, amongst white Americans.

  5. Sorry. When I said “all Americans”, I didn’t mean all Americans individually, I meant on all groups (or races if you will). I apologize. I wrote that in a hurry. I’d never mix general and personal level; individual Americans are individuals (and I must say most of those I’ve met are quite rational and educated about these issues ).

  6. Oh, okay. I understand. And yes, I completely agree. Although some groups/races believe they are not like that, it’s evident whenever there is an issue that doesn’t involve them: they usually couldn’t care less.

  7. Well, to be honest, I consider that to be the normal reaction. It might not be the most noble one, but I certainly understand it. People have their own problems (be it individual or group), and caring about problems that concern you is more important than for general issues.

    Still, in order to understand social issues, one must try to gain a better understanding.

    The only thing I find problematic about caring only for the issues that concern your group is not admitting that’s what you’re doing. People in my culture are like this. They are so pissed off because of negative portrayals, and they will criticize anybody who buys into stereotypes about us, and yet, they are quick to believe almost anything that they see on the news/media, as long as it’s not something about our culture.

    So before you criticize others and consider them stupid/evil for doing that, take a look at yourself and realize how easy is to stereotype and believe lies you hear on TV.

  8. Race loyalty is really such a funny thing.. Just look at Obama who have almost a 100% support from the black community and tbh, from my view-point he has barely manage to get health care and the rest of the changes in. Not saying that we didn’t do the same thing with Mandela. But after all he did sit 27 years in a prison for us all so I think he deserved a little bit of slack for the things he screwed up with…

    Just wait until your next black president or the one after and people will start to grumbling about how they just like the rest of the worthless politicians 🙂

    Anyhoo on the subject. I don’t like celebrities at all. Especially actors seriously they have the easiest job in the world and the biggest ego, just show up and say the lines you are told and get 20 millions. It’s sick. They ain’t making the world a better place.

    I would not buy an album from a racist, wife beater or pedophile.

  9. Mira,

    “The only thing I find problematic about caring only for the issues that concern your group is not admitting that’s what you’re doing.”

    Yup. And that’s what most people can’t do, especially if they’ve built up an idea of themselves as being open-minded and fair.


    Acting isn’t that easy. Maybe bad acting is. But I’ve tried acting before, and unless you’re one of those people who can place themselves in the role as if it’s real (which I can 🙂 ), then it’s not so easy.

    “They ain’t making the world a better place.”

    Huh… some say Something New changed a lot of lives. 🙂

    “I would not buy an album from a racist, wife beater or pedophile.”

    Well, looks like you won’t be buying an album from 90 percent of rappers… just (half-)kidding!

  10. I don’t think acting is easy. Not at all. It’s quite difficult, actually. I have some school experience with it, and it’s difficult (directing and writing is not easy either, but I’m better at it). What’s particularly challenging with acting is remaining sane. If you’re not careful, it can mess with your brain, because in order to be convincing, you have to experience all the emotions and character traits of your character. So you need to be a very stable individual to do it. Add fame in it, and you get a mess. Stage acting is particularly challenging.

    But I do agree actors (and musicians for that matter) are overpayed. Acting is not easy, but it’s not worth 1 (let alone 20 millions). Same goes for sportsmen.

    While on the other side professors live in poverty. Not to mention those who work on dangerous jobs, such as miners.

    And that’s what most people can’t do, especially if they’ve built up an idea of themselves as being open-minded and fair.

    That too, but also victimizing. Groups that are victimized are often unable to see they, too are perfectly able of stereotyping and other bad things. When you are a victim, it’s quite difficult to understand there are other victims, too, or that you might be the one who is hurting others. (This works on personal level surprisingly well, too).

  11. It’s an easy occupation compared to others they don’t have to break their backs…. I’m just pissed that they seem to believe that their occupation makes them somehow better than a doctor or a miner… I mean every actor is a liberal and a humanist and seem to care so much about the world, but in the meanwhile there’s no occupation that has so self centered people obsessed with believing in what they do is really important.

    Ah I guess that movies changed lives… I just read the book Swedish mafia and it’s quite disturbing on how many very scary guys in this country has been influenced by movies..

    And now everyone is going to believe that I hate movies lol.

  12. ^^I want to know that too. And what U2 said.

    Nkoszana, no, I know you just love movies. You’re just picky. 😉

  13. Bono and Pearl Jam didn’t do anything horrible, but they are guilty of a heavy “white liberal” syndrome (TM). White liberal syndrome, as I’m sure you are very well aware of, means being so full of yourself and your (patronizing) ability to “help” others, while not being particularly educated on the subject.

    In this particular case, they are guilty of explicitly taking sides in a local Balkan conflict(s), supporting selected group against another. There’s nothing wrong with it per se (anybody can support whoever they want); however, media campaigns were made in a way it’s normal and humane to take the side they chose to take, and satanize the other side (in this case, Serbian). So just like all normal and humane people would side against Nazis and support their victims, they sided against Serbia, as if it’s the similar situation, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    This shows profound misunderstanding of Balkan conflicts (which were,in most part, a cross between Gaza conflict and your usual Civil war), in which all sides that participated committed war crimes, killings and genocide. But the way (Western) media presented it, only one side (Serbian) was the aggressor.

    People like Bono (and other musicians and celebrities, including, but not limited to, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam) were simply buying into this propaganda. Unlike what they think of themselves, they are obviously not educated or rational enough not to trust everything they see on TV, or, even worse, do not even case about gaining a true understanding of the issues.

    Bono seems particularly vocal, and the guy knows shit about history, politics, etc. (Judging by the way he interprets things). I sympathize with the Irish people and their struggles and problems with England, but this situation has no resemblance whatsoever to anything that happened on Balkans. But I guess activists like Bono are unable to grasp this (or maybe they don’t even care?) Hey, it’s easier to educate yourself through media (which you claim you don’t trust!) and make a humanitarian concert than to really study and understand real issues at hand.

    This problem (white liberal activists and their attempts to “help”) are, as far as I can tell, not limited to Balkan conflicts. I am not familiar with various problems and conflicts in different parts of Africa, but I know many Africans who are less than impressed by Bono’s activism in Africa, so I guess none of this is unique to his Balkan activism.

    Luckily, it’s getting better media-wise these days, mainly because Balkan is not an attractive subject anymore. Also, more and more people describe the Balkan conflicts in a truer light, as a series of conflicts in various sides attacked each other and performed war crimes and genocide (the combinations on who attacked whom and when are complex).

    Sorry for the long rant. This is something that means a great deal to me, and I guess I’m unable to talk about it without getting angry.

    PS- I still like Pearl Jam. A lot. In a way, they (along with some other bands) defined my teenage years, my taste in music and my coming of age. I guess it’s impossible for me to just forget about them simply because Eddie Vedder is an uneducated white liberal (who thinks “my” people are violent criminals). Maybe it’s because, to me, personal identities are more important than the collective ones. So while I feel bad knowing Vedder’s views, I still like his music, because it has a strong impact on me personally as a human being.

  14. @ Mira: well written. Are you bi-lingual?. I ask because English is my mother tongue, but not using it regularly for the last 23yrs has greatly affected my ability to express myself written or vocally…..

    I don’t vet celebrities per se, but I certainly don’t hold any human up to higher/lower standards than myself simply because they’re famous, rich, powerful. My respect has to be earned. Period. The only public people I vet would be politicians, or any elected official as they are representing the issues I deem important for myself, my son, my environment and eventually the rest of our World.

    Celebrities are narcissists, except Viggo Mortenson of course! (LOL)

  15. Mira,

    Ugh, I knew it would be Bono trying to play the Mighty Whitey again. He’s not a terrible person and I think his intentions are good, but I dislike when people make themselves an ambassador for a conflict which has nothing to do with them. Bono seems to have a bit of a God Complex.


    I didn’t know you had a son. I need to have a “Get to Know the Readers” post or an off-topic section where we can all discuss whatever.

    “Celebrities are narcissists”

    I’ll agree with that, for the most part. I don’t mind if they are though, as long as they don’t bother anyone else with their narcissism.

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