Friday, February 22, 2013

Being a Critical Fan: Calling Celebrities Out on their Privilege

Last week, Azealia Banks was once again put under the public spotlight for tweeting anti-gay slurs repeatedly after releasing a remix of "Harlem Shake" without permission form Baauer, the artist who recorded the song. She got into a Twitter feud with Baauer, calling him the f-word repeatedly for expressing his dislike for Banks's remix of his song. Banks, rather than apologize this time for throwing out the f-word multiple times, tried to defend her use of the word, saying it means "coward, liar, backstabber."

I personally don't condone Azealia's use of the f-word since she uses it from a place of ignorance, not knowing how harmful the word can be. At the same time, I have heard that her use of the f-word may come from a different cultural perspective, since the f-word may have different implications in the black community. I'm no expert on the varying cultural contexts the f-word can be used in, but it still carries with it decades of oppression that can trigger some individuals who still identify the word in context with its derogatory nature.

It wasn't until recently that I came across the term "critical fan." It means liking celebrities (singers, actors, celebrities) while also being open-minded to the fact that they are not immune to being called out on their bs, so to speak. In other words, it's alright to like people/things that have problematic elements to them as long as one realizes and understands why those elements are problematic. A person can call Azealia Banks out on her supposedly improper use of the f-word but still be a fan of her music and her artistry. As Kim said during her workshop a few weeks ago, if one were to automatically count someone out when they say something problematic, there wouldn't be much left to choose from, so we have to be critical about the things/people we like.

And in the end, I think it shows that the person cares enough about the celebrity enough to try to educate them and help them become more aware of their privilege. I love Lady Gaga's music. I like that she reaches out to girls and young women who may be struggling with body image. I like that she is at least an ally to the LGBT community (albeit, mainly the LG community). I like that she expresses compassion for her fans. At the same time, I realize that she has made some racist, cissexist, and ableist statements in the past. She irks me a lot, but I still enjoy blasting Born This Way on my truck's stereo!

Also, going back to Azealia Banks, I always wonder just how many of the people, whom I think are mainly white gay men, who are quick to criticize Azealia Banks for her use anti-gay slurs but draw the line at issues that have little to no affect on them. I wonder how many of her critics would be willing to call out cissexism when they see it occurring. Or how many of them are calling out Banks from places of white male privilege. I hate how it seems like so many white gay men are quick to cast aside Banks after one incident and still hold white pop artists like Gaga or even Lana Del Rey above being called out. In my opinion, it seems that part of white privilege is being given the benefit of the doubt while upholding racist assumptions that POC are automatically homophobic. I think this story just perpetuates that stereotype even further and makes Banks a scapegoat for a lot of angry white gay men on the Internet.

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