Who gets the benefit of the doubt online?

Illustration by Rachel Farzan

Sage Ludwig, Contributing Writer

In late July, it was announced that popular musician Ariana Grande was headed for divorce with her husband Dalton Gomez. News reports later came out and said it was because of an alleged affair with her “Wicked” costar Ethan Slater, who was married as well. 

This disappointed and upset a lot of Grande’s fandom, especially because Slater’s wife Lilly Jay filed for divorce and hinted at Grande betraying her. 

Grande has not come out with any statement about her divorce or the alleged affair, but instead introduced new makeup items to her brand, R.E.M. beauty, and rereleased her first album “Yours Truly” with new, live song covers for its 10 year anniversary. This has distracted fans, and it seems like the media has forgotten about her alleged affair. 

This whole situation is just a reminder that celebrities like Grande can get away with bad allegations without taking accountability because they are idolized by their die-hard fans. Regular people online, however, don’t get this kind of sympathy. 

Celebrities are put on a pedestal when they’re most likely not the role model people think they are. A lot of fans have a parasocial relationship with their favorite celebrity, causing them to justify that celebrity’s behavior. This gives the celebrity the power to do whatever they want, because in the end, they have crazed fans to defend them. 

On the other hand, there are many people on TikTok that become famous due to the randomized algorithm. People can blow up on the app and get a million followers in just a week. 

This quick fame can come with a lot of hate and negativity. Viewers can find them funny or entertaining, but the second the creator does something slightly problematic, they are shamed upon and forced out of the short-lived fame they never asked for in the first place. 

This way of rapid cancellation does not usually apply to celebrities, though, because of the idolatry from stans. Celebrities, like Grande, are excused for their behavior because they are wealthy and easily able to change their image and distract their fans from their own wrongdoings. 

When smaller TikTok personalities do something problematic or remotely bad, they are treated as if they are disposable. This online culture of hatred towards non-celebrities who have large followings is perpetuated through jealousy. TikTokers can easily see the hate they receive on the app.

When it comes to celebrities, a lot of fans feign ignorance or try to minimize that person’s controversies. Why aren’t regular people online extended the same benefit of the doubt?

It’s understandable that you might hold sentimental value towards a celebrity — I do too — but it’s not right to put your feelings above awful things celebrities do. It’s human to have an emotional attachment to a musician you might’ve listened to since you were young, or an actor whose movies you’ve watched, but it’s also human to be accountable for your actions. 

We dehumanize these celebrities by putting them at such a high pedestal in our society. In our lives, if we do or say something that hurts somebody we are most likely going to apologize and make things right. I don’t witness or read about celebrities being accountable for their actions, I only see media distractions to hide their faults.

Taking accountability isn’t difficult especially when fans would probably appreciate the gesture. Some celebrities appear to have the impression they are above us and they are going to go about things in private, like Grande, with their scandals. This won’t ever be fair to their fans who have supported them continuously. 

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