Saturday, 14 October 2017

Why Do Trolls Not Understand That Celebs Are PEOPLE, Too?!

If there's one thing guaranteed to get my interest piqued, it's talk of my favourite ever girlband.  Yes, I'm talking about Ginger, Sporty, Baby, Scary and Posh: The Spice Girls.

A few days ago, I was scrolling through Facebook, paying very little attention to the photos of people's dinners/babies/cats/completed Christmas shopping lists and the "share this if your husband is the light of your life!!!1!!one!!" updates, when I stumbled upon a short video of Mel C (aka Sporty Spice) being interviewed by John Bishop for an upcoming TV show.  In the clip, Mel explained that whilst she had fond memories of being in the band, there was definitely bullying within the group and that she often found it very hard to deal with.  Mel was visibly upset as she spoke and, having experienced bullying myself, both at school and in the workplace, I felt for her.

And then I did a stupid thing.

I read the comments.

We all know that any online comment section is going to feature the worst of humanity, collected together like flies on sh!t.  I was expecting nasty comments about how Mel C was "the least talented one" (like hell is she; she's had a musical theatre career!) or jibes about her looks (beauty is subjective and whilst I've always thought Mel to be very pretty, I knew there would be cruel folk in the comments, making her out to be "Ugly Spice").  But beyond all that, I also expected that there would be people discussing what Mel was saying in the clip and perhaps expressing some sympathy.

And yet...

It just wasn't happening.  What was happening was some spectacular "othering" of this woman, based on nothing more than the fact that she's famous.

"I was bullied at work," one woman crowed, "and it really WAS Hell for ME, because I didn't have the luxury of being rich and famous, like Mel did!  She should try living MY life!"

"Still accepted all her royalty checks, didn't she?!" A man agreed.  "So it can't have been that bad!"

Hang on a second, let me get something straight...  Are we seriously implying that being "rich and famous" somehow buffers you from all of life's negative experiences?  And are we supposed to believe that just because a person gets on with their job, despite the problems they're having within it, the problems are somehow less real?!

The idea that being wealthy, successful and well known means that you can't possibly suffer the way that "normal" people do is utterly ludicrous.  Look at Robin Williams.  Chester Bennington.  L'Wren Scott.  These were all people who had achieved success in their careers, had reached a certain level of fame and were apparently much better off than most of us will ever be.  And yet all of them took their own lives.

Yes, fame can bring you money, meaning that you might not suffer the same financial concerns that plague many regular people.  And of course, there must be something nice about making headway in your chosen career to the point that you are known for it, potentially on a global stage.

But fame is not a bandage for all of life's wounds.  A break up, a personal illness or - yes - bullying, still affects a person, regardless of how many people know their names, or how many zeros are on the end of their pay check.

In fact, when life is giving you a rough time - when you are going through some kind of personal trauma - fame is almost certainly salt in that wound, rather than any kind of bandage.  

Just like both Mel C and the harsh woman in the comment section, I've been bullied in the workplace.  I know how much I hated having to smile and pretend I was fine just in front of the parents bringing their kids to the pre-school I was working at (and of course, the kids themselves).  If I'd had cameras thrust in my face and reporters desperately chasing me for a story, let alone fans - and detractors - talking at length about how easy my life must be, because I had wealth and fame, I can only begin to imagine how much worse the pain would have been.  

When people talk the way that woman in the comment section did, they don't make a clear, or in any way valid point about fame cushioning celebrities from life's problems.  What they do do, is make it clear they have a pretty massive chip on their shoulder about their own lack of wealth, success or notoriety.

"Well, I had it much worse, because I'm not rich and famous!" is not a meaningful or helpful contribution to a conversation.  It's the kind of thing a jealous kid says, because their next door neighbour's bike is newer and shinier than theirs.

Reading that woman's comment made me upset and angry that there are people in the world who genuinely seem to believe that when you accept fame and fortune into your life, you somehow also agree to lose your human capacity to feel, as well as your right to any kind of sympathy, should something bad happen.

Aaaaaand then I read the guy's comment.

I originally put it on a par with the woman's ridiculous bleating about celebs having it easier because they're celebs, but in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, it feels far worse.

The guy was, if you recall, suggesting that Mel shouldn't have carried on accepting her royalties, if she was that unhappy in her job.

I get that Mel C was in a place of luxury, in as much as she was probably earning a pretty decent amount and was therefore more likely to be able to quit her job and not have to worry about being broke as a result.  But she'd still receive royalties from the songs she recorded with the group, if she went the way of Geri and left.  So, was this guy suggesting she shouldn't accept those payments, either?  By way of somehow proving herself?!  And who the hell does she have to prove herself to, anyway?!

When I was being bullied in my old job, I still took my wages home when they were given to me.  The money was one of the things that kept my life stable; despite what was going on at work, my wages meant that I could afford to do things outside of my job, that took away some of the sadness I'd been feeling.  It helped me to keep living my life.  In the end, when I did hand in my notice, with no job in place to go to next, I ended up being doubly depressed, because by then, not only had I been bullied out of a job I once really loved, but I was also financially crippled as a result!

I mentioned Harvey Weinstein above, because the guy in the Mel C comment thread was echoing sentiments I've seen written by others (many men and some women) about the actresses who've made allegations against the producer.

"If they were willing to prostitute themselves for a job in the first place, they can't whine and stamp their little feet about it now," one guy ranted in - you guessed it - another Facebook comment thread.

I feel a little rage break is needed...

...And we're back.

Victim-blaming is of the most gross, hurtful and depressingly common reactions to stories of abuse or accusations of sexually predatory behaviour.  And it seems to me that yet again, the guys who are slinging these harsh words around are forgetting that they're talking about real people.   Sure, real people who work in Hollywood, live in mansions and are hugely famous, but still people.

If an actress comes across one of the most powerful and influential producers in Hollywood and is purposefully intimidated or sexually advanced upon by him, she will be aware of his standing.  Aware of his ability to make and break careers.  Aware of the power he wields, if it comes to her word against his.  Possibly, she may even be aware of previous allegations that hadn't yet seemed to have harmed his glittering career.  It's not necessarily a case of should she speak out, but does she feel able to?  Does she think she'll be believed?  Does she even think it'll change anything?

The circumstances may be different, but at heart, Weinstein preying on actresses as he's alleged to have done, is not so far away from the company boss, harassing the young intern, just starting out in her career.  It's still a person in a position of enormous power, behaving in a way that, as a result of his seniority, he believes can be shrugged off as "banter."  It's still a question of whether that intern feels she'll be belittled and laughed at if she speaks out.  "Oh, take no notice, Geoff's just got a bit of an eye for the ladies."

The fear, shame, embarrassment and anger felt by that young intern are no different to the emotions an actress might feel when groped and harassed by a powerful, famous producer or director.  And it seems that Hollywood has that same "office mentality" of turning a blind eye and tutting "well, you know what he's like..."

I'm tired of reading these kinds of comments every time a famous person speaks out about a personal problem.  I'm sick of people tutting and shaking their heads because the person talking just happens to be a celebrity, as though fame insulates them from harmful experiences.

Yes, being famous enough to have a fanbase must be wonderful.

Yes, having more money than you or I will ever probably have in our lives must mean financial aspects of life are a lot easier to handle.

But fame alone doesn't mean that a person no longer feels things.  It doesn't prevent them from experiencing heartache, pain or suffering.  Fame doesn't mean that a person can't be a victim of something or someone, and speaking out about bad experiences should be applauded, rather than mocked.  

We're all people and we all deserve to be listened to and believed, regardless of what job we do and how much cash is in our bank accounts.  

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