In a late April bout of lack of self-awareness, a string of celebrities have come out this week against what they’ve perceived as unfair or overly critical media coverage. I will give celebrities a lot—money that they don’t need, complimentary coverage that they probably don’t read, and endless amounts of my own time and energy. But even I have to draw a line, and I’m drawing it at pity. No, Justin Bieber, I don’t feel bad for you because someone on TV said that your lip-syncing was bad. It was bad! Get over it.
Our current celebrity ecosystem features a largely symbiotic relationship between celebrities and the journalists and TV personalities who cover and opine on their comings and goings. And while celebrities need press, and the press needs celebrities, there’s no illusion of equivalence between, say, Kendall Jenner and someone who gets paid by the hour to blog about Calabasas. This week’s celebrity call-outs are notable because of this flagrant power imbalance—rich, influential people using social media to criticize music journalists and bloggers—as well as the relative innocuousness of the coverage that they’re clutching their pearls over.
As everyone who’s currently wasting their short life on it knows, the internet can be a vile place. Some celebrity coverage is truly disgusting. In the past, The Daily Beast has felt it appropriate to single out individual outlets, whether it’s TMZ going to bat for allegedly abusive men or the Daily Mail publishing cringe-y copy that reduces famous women to their cleavage. Anyone, even an A-lister, has the right to voice their opinion if they feel that they’re being unfairly treated, or even bullied. But critical coverage isn’t playing dirty, and feeling hurt isn’t a great excuse for losing your shit at individuals who are just trying to do their jobs.
Last week SNL’s Michael Che, who has a history of siccing his fans on journalists whose coverage he doesn’t like, went after Uproxx’s Steven Hyden. For the crime of noting that a lot of people don’t like Che’s Weekend Update co-host Colin Jost (where is the lie), Hyden faced the full wrath of a popular comedian with a large social following. In since-deleted posts to his Instagram stories, Che called Hyden “some regular mediocre ass white dude”—probably a reference to the article, which talked about Jost’s general aura of white mediocrity—before going on to accuse him of having a “secret life where he was rescuing dogs and sucking them off.” Che stuck to the bit, at one point writing, “people are telling me that there IS a steven hyden in minnesota that is a blogger or something, and that it can’t be him. also, its possible that theres 2 steven hydens in minnesota, and one is a blogger dude, and the other sucks off stray dogs and farm animals.”
In another social media post, Che wrote, “lol ill never understand why when they shit on people its criticism. but when i shit on them its harassment.” Somehow, we’ve found ourselves in a world where famous people think that repeatedly mocking a writer to their hundreds of thousands of followers is the same as a comedy critic criticizing a comic.
Perhaps sensing that no one else will do it for them, there seems to be no limit to some celebrities’ self-pity. On Wednesday Justin Bieber, who has the kind of net worth that means that you don’t ever have to do anything you don’t want to, took time out of his day to compose a Twitter thread addressed to an E! network host. Directly @-ing E!’s Morgan Stewart, Bieber wrote, in part, “Imagine if you spent even half the time you spend laughing at other peoples expense actually building people up and encouraging people how much positivity you could bring. What hurts about this is the fact that you have a platform to make a difference. And rather than being positive you belittle people.”
On top of the extremely sanctimonious tone, Justin Bieber, a celebrity who has no doubt benefited from E! coverage in the long term, is calling Stewart out for some pretty quotidian, albeit catty, celebrity commentary. After playing a clip that shows Bieber visibly not singing as his track played during a Coachella appearance, Stewart called his lip-syncing attempts “fucked up” and also made a negative comment about his appearance. It’s a pretty short segment, and one that’s been flooded with angry fan comments in the wake of Bieber’s rant. Speaking of using your platform to promote positivity, Stewart’s latest tweet, which is totally unrelated to Bieber, received numerous pointed replies, such as, “you messed with the wrong fandom,” “stream sorry by justin bieber and think about ways to be a decent human being,” and “you were and are nobody before and after this.”
Then Ariana Grande, whose Coachella set Bieber was singing at, backed him up on Twitter, writing, “we also decided to do this ten minutes before my set started. we had 0 soundcheck, 0 rehearsal. u were singing with the back tracking like most cameos do. people are bored. people don’t know how it feels to be under such scrutiny. the world was happy to have u on stage again.” Grande even brought “bloggers” into all of this, for some reason, saying in a since-deleted tweet, “people are so lost. one day everybody that works at all them blogs will realize how unfulfilled they are and purposeless what they’re doing is and hopefully shift their focus elsewhere. that’s gonna be a beautiful ass day for them! i can’t wait for them to feel lit inside.”
While it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for these celebs, we can certainly empathize. It probably does suck to put yourself out there with a song or a performance, only to feel like you’re being instantaneously shut down. But powerful people need to take a deep breath and realize that they have all the resources in the world to overcome a mean comment on E!—and that it’ll probably be a long while before Morgan Stewart, an individual who presumably doesn’t have a security team or multiple assistants to handle social media for her, gets rid of the irate Beliebers in her mentions.
For tips, stars like Bieber can look to Lizzo. The beloved singer foreshadowed Grande’s blogger hate with her own Twitter pronouncement, “PEOPLE WHO ‘REVIEW’ ALBUMS AND DONT MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES SHOULD BE UNEMPLOYED.” Seemingly a response to a less-than-glowing Pitchfork review, Lizzo’s tweet immediately sparked backlash. Given the precarity that so many media workers currently face, calls for even more unemployment don’t go over so well. To her credit, Lizzo listened and evolved, later posting, “THIS IS AN INVITATION TO ALL MUSIC JOURNALISTS TO KICK IT IN THE STUDIO WITH ME FOR MY NEXT ALBUM! I’d like to understand your world as much as you can understand mine,” before writing “Gonna take my temper off the internet.” A great idea for all of us!
But all of this was merely lead-up to Thursday, when Olivia Munn self-published a full takedown of fashion bloggers The Fug Girls. The actress’s “short essay” attempts to present Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks’ blog, Go Fug Yourself, as an affront to all women. She does this by screenshotting a post in which the Fug Girls describe a recent Munn outfit as looking “like she got roped into making a sequel to American Hustle that ended up going straight to on-demand.”
In the multi-paragraph post, Munn tries her hardest to make a case for Morgan and Cocks’ purportedly “ugly behaviors,” gesturing toward headlines like “‘Julianne Moore Looks Like A Cloud,’ ‘Taylor Swift Looked Very Twee…I think this outfit is quasi-ridiculous on you but I look forward to your new work,’ and ‘There Is Just So Much Fug In This Coachella Post.’” Munn argues that these two women sharing their fashion critiques online is a form of “fashion policing,” which “ultimately contributes to the perpetual minimization of women and propagates the idea that our worth is predominantly (or singularly) tied to our looks.”
In a sexist world where it’s easy to find objectively misogynistic, cruel tabloid posts, Go Fug Yourself should be the least of anyone’s worries. It’s a site that criticizes (and praises!) outfits—not one that publishes slideshows of actress’s butts or makes cruel comments about their body types. As a woman, Munn having the audacity to compare her anti-Fug Girls crusade to “the girls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland who recently made headlines by standing up to the boys in their school who circulated a list that ranked them by their appearance” is far more offensive to me than anything that’s ever been published on Go Fug Yourself. “These girls refused to accept the excuse that ‘boys will be boys,’ instead they banded together to educate their peers and community about the damage caused by objectifying women based on a ‘point system’—not unlike what The Fug Girls do on a bigger platform,” Munn continued.
Because writers on the internet saying that they dislike what a celebrity wore to a public event is exactly like 18-year-old assholes giving their female classmates’ appearances number grades.
Throughout her essay, Munn makes it clear that she thinks Cocks and Morgan are bullies who profit off of misogynistic content. As Fashionista noted, “There’s something particularly grating about a celebrity who can rake in tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands, or even millions—per job getting angry that someone can eke out a living writing about what they wear. Here, Olivia Munn is betting that her 825k+ followers will fight back against The Fug Girls’ more modest 110k+ following, even including a photo of the two.”
In the midst of what Cocks and Morgan described as “quite a morning,” they told The Daily Beast in a statement that, “We absolutely respect Olivia Munn’s right to her opinion—even if we disagree, as we do here! Red carpet fashion is a big business and an art form like any other, and as such there is room to critique it. Having said that, we wish her nothing but the best and look forward to her next project.”
Throughout her essay, Munn appears to be inspired by her own heroism, stridently declaring that, “People shouldn’t get away with spewing whatever vitriol they want just by betting on the antiquated notion that the people they target won’t say anything.” It’s hilarious that Olivia Munn thinks that celebrities have been historically silenced and intimidated by bloggers, when it’s consistently the other way around. No matter how sad she is that two ladies didn’t like her pantsuit, Munn can’t play the victim here.
If artists like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Olivia Munn truly want to use their massive platforms to “make a difference,” they should bankroll bloggers and critics’ salaries (both because we help keep them relevant, and because no one else will)! ‘Til then, they can pry my keyboard from my cold, dead, bitchy hands.