Can you fight the "cult of celebrity", and if so, how?


#1

Or, is this weird cultural feudalism we subject ourselves to just innate?

Here’s a twitter thread that I’m extremely glad showed up in my feed today.


#2

I’ma rant

How much better would society be if we didn’t dehumanize and deify certain people? Or is this just what our shared culture is? Do I actually care or am I just really giving a shit now that nothing matters outside of culture war, because everyone is so far removed from the mechanisms of power that all we can really do is have a cultural conflict that has no real end?

Or am I just being a shit? idk, I just feel like I’m dying.


#3

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being pissed off with the cult of celebrity. It’s a symbol of the fact that the only political arena that we feel we have any ownership over or agency in, is pop culture. And it’s dominated by people so rich and powerful that they will never want or be able to articulate a coherent political viewpoint that isn’t somewhat conservative or reactionary.

I “fight” it by not really caring that much about pop culture. I know who these people are but I put a lot of effort into not identifying with them. Try to identify or connect with the work, rather than with the figure/artist because the latter is what ultimately what makes them more money.


#4

This is the most relevant thing I could possibly post here. I so happy I saw that clip of Van actually confronting Kanye. Never would’ve known about this otherwise.


#5

Nothing wrong with liking the work, or even really liking and respecting the person. But the extreeeeme veneration is just weird (see: any article about Beyonce / warring fans on social media (more of whom are grown adults than is justifiable) / the repeated insistence from people that “there will never be another David Bowie” despite the fact that Bowie crucially and openly drew influence from artists he held in high regard etc.). I don’t even see how it’s fun to be that obsessive in one’s hero worship, seems like hard work.


#6

Not to derail the conversation, but did my dude really name his podcast “The Red Pill?”

Like, what he said was both poignant and eloquent, especially in the heat of having Kanye spew some seriously questionable stuff. But the fact that he named his podcast “The Red Pill” makes me question his total world view, especially because of the connotation of that phrase in today’s alt-right reality.


#7

If I had to guess, he’s probably not aware of the Antifeminst context of the term. It definitely looks at face value to be just a reference to the Matrix. But that’s also how the Reactionaries used it before everyone was on to their bullshit.

Before it became synonymous with PUA bullshit, it was just used by anyone who thought they were saying some real shit, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt until I have reason not to.


#8

the problem is capitalism; celebrity culture is a symptom. it’s an exacerbating symptom, to be sure, and we shouldn’t forgive or forget when folks use their platform for evil regressive shit, but it’s also important not to overstate how much we can actually Do about it while the platforms celebrities use are controlled by the bourgeois power brokers.

the way to resist in the meantime, in my opinion, is to promote alternative voices where you can and disengage from the self-seriousness of the media celebrity narrative in favour of broader anti-capitalist action. this stuff is serious, but it’s not that serious; kanye’s most offensive rant is a contributing factor to hegemonic capitalism, but he’s part of a wave being pushed by much larger forces. if kanye became a communist tomorrow, you know i’d welcome it, but you also know he’d lose the front page and be replaced by someone who fits better the capitalist narrative.

to be clear, this isn’t “ignore it and it’ll go away”; it’s “recognise the larger problem and focus your energies there.” shit is tiring. what can you do?


#9

I think this ties into the conversations the waypointers had on the podcast multiple times about defining yourself by the media that you like. It takes time, critical thinking and honesty to get out of that mindset.

In some ways it’s just what we do. My idols inspire me to keep going, but I’m also well aware that they’re just human beings and that I don’t know them on a personal level. The cult of personality is not the problem per se, it’s that the love we have for our heroes can blind us.

All of that said, it can absolutely still hurt, when your idol fucks up and it’s important to allow yourself to be sad and have a “griefing period.”


#10

Exactly. The ruling ideas of any society or the ideas of the ruling class, and most people are going to keep worshiping the rich and powerful as long as that’s the case. The source of these ideas is the real problem we should concern ourselves with.

(In this case, of course, there’s also the fact that Kanye’s black, and an oppressed person managing to find success despite their oppression can be inspiring to other people from that oppressed group, which shouldn’t be ignored.)


#11

honestly if we’re talking about rappers in particular here, we can’t ignore that it’s a genre where (by no accident!) the artists who tend to receive the most mainstream acclaim are the ones with at least a conservative streak, if not an outright parroting of specific regressive perspectives - much as is the case in All Mainstream Culture. i wrote my dissertation on this and im gonna go re-read it until i feel better!!!

(said dissertation was essentially just a rewrite of M. K. Asante’s ‘It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop’ and Byron Hurt’s 2006 documentary ‘Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes’, if anyone wants a reading list)


#12

:warning:Warning: Depressively violent rant

I hate Twitter, but not enough to stop using it, now I’m mad about the Grime/Musk shit. Not because I care about either of them (I’d probably love her music, but I’m not exactly regretting never actually getting around to listening to it now), but because so many fucking people (mostly young women) are upset about her and Elon Musk being a thing.

Before I really get into this, I feel the need to preface this all by saying that the emotions, thoughts, and opinions of these young women is entirely valid. Especially in the context of the larger society in which we all live. I’m about to shit on everyone, but I don’t want anyone to read this and think less of those women and girls. Society tries to invalidate women as is. That’s not what this is.

What this is however is another fucking example of why we don’t actually want to treat celebrity like Feudalism, even though that’s exactly what we all do. We want to treat this class of people as if they’re Lords and Ladies, we mythologize them, identify with them. But all that Neo-Feudal bullshit falls away when we’re forced to remember that they don’t give a fuck about the people beneath them. Why would they? What incentive does Grimes have to care that Elon Musk treats workers like shit? Hell what incentive does Elon Musk have to not treat his workers like shit? Why would Nobles care about the slave-serfs laboring themselves to death in the fields?

None of this is surprising, none of this is shocking, and none of the people mad or sad or both about this relationship are unaware of these things, that’s why they’re upset. It’s probably not gonna change anything though, they’re just gonna go back to worshiping at the alter, like we all do.

And fuck everybody making excuses for Grimes. Stop taking agency away from a 30 year old woman. She’s not a child unaware of the evils of the world or something. And I’m a fucking massive hypocrite about this btw, because if there’s a Revolution tomorrow and the rich get French-Revolution’ed I’m gonna have 0 problem with their S/O’s getting Marie Antoinette’d.

“No quarter for the bedwarmers of dictators” - Amber A’Lee Frost

I’m not sure how much of this rant is how I really feel, and how much of it is just me wanting people to see the cult for what it is, and fucking stop. Myself included.


#13

Just read something on Twitter about Grimes maybe being Non-binary. If they are, sorry for my ignorance.


#14

Related: why do so many celebrities get a free pass for their bullshit?

I’m thinking of Nicki Minaj right now. She recently released a video called “Chun-Li” and there’s a serious lack of criticism of the appropriation that goes on in that video. She already used Nazi imagery in the “Only” video. Now, in this video, she’s got chopsticks in her hair and has a neon lined qipao… but no one seems to be saying anything because its nicki? like cmon folks


Nicki Minaj and Chun Li - Cultural Appropriation?
#15

http://afropunk.com/2017/10/black-people-cannot-guilty-cultural-appropriation-period/

This is an article with some points I found interesting that relates to this sorta thing if you’re up for a read.

Most important is probably the quote “It is important to understand that Black peoples’ interactions with other cultures are not based on a historically violent relationship of taking from and benefiting from those cultures, which is what appropriation consists of.” dominant groups (see: white people) exploit other cultures and use apects for personal gain at their expense, as they have on a grand scale for much of history. This is a much different relationship when a black person incorporates elements into something, and it’s good to think about how the power dynamics at play there are dissimilar

No excuses on Nazi Imagery though. Everyone needs to cut that shit out, agreed


#16

I’m white, so I’m trying to be very conscious of my privilege and perspective.
That being said I think this is a problematic interpretation of the issue, and by looking through comments on that specific article, it seems I’m not alone. And looking at the general discourse on the issue of PoC appropriating other (namely oppressed) cultures, it seems like a lot of people are saying similar things.
So I’m saying this knowing that other people who are more experienced with these issues feel the same way: using another people’s culture as a prop is simply wrong. Profiting off of another people’s culture is wrong.

This obviously isn’t exclusive to Nicki Minaj, so I’ll point out others: A million things Katy Perry did, Pharrell Williams wearing an indigenous American headdress and selling “Holi” clothing, Lady GaGa wearing Indian garb and jewelry, Die Antwoord appropriating Xhosa culture, etc, etc, etc. None of these people are incapable of change and atonement. (Katy Perry, from what I understand, has apologized and changed a lot). But this “cult of celebrity” consistently incites fans to defend their idols for things they don’t deserve defense for. They don’t deserve a free pass because they make art we like. They should know better. When a celebrity is doing something wrong, they should be called out. They don’t need our protection, they need our criticism.


#17

I don’t feel entirely comfortable with Nicki’s video either, but I understand where the author of this is coming from, and I think this article goes towards explaining why there isn’t an explosion of outrage on the same scale as the prom dress incident recently or something like that. And yeah doesn’t Katy Perry get caught for shit like this pretty often? If they’re doing this type of thing all the time it gets to a point where you just have to make a decision about what kind of person they are. This is the age of the half-ass apology though, and unfortunately for a lot of people any mistake made by someone they adore can just evaporate as long as they say “oh uh my bad guys”. It’s getting exhausting.


#18

That Afropunk article, to me, kinda misses the anti-imperialist aspect of the question. Yes, Black people are oppressed in the USA, no doubt about that. But they’re still privileged relative to people in countries oppressed by the USA.

This actually reminds me of the discourse around Ethiopian Jews in Israel, who are easily the most oppressed Jewish group, but who still live on Palestinian land, go to the army, and get many of the other privileges that other Jews get. It’s not possible for an Ethiopian Israeli Jew to oppress me, but they could easily - and many do - oppress Palestinians.

In the same way, I don’t see how “Black people are the most oppressed in the USA” leads to “Black people in the USA cannot oppress anyone outside the USA”. Especially when, looking at the presence of Black people in the US army, quite a few of them literally do.

(That’s not to say I disagree that Lin’s response was shitty; he’s an American and therefore with him the situation is quite different. I’m mainly referring to Nicki Minaj here.)