When it comes to music, I am a Gen Z cliche. I’ll prove it to you: My two most-listened-to artists are Harry Styles and Taylor Swift. So naturally, I know, as a fan and an observer, that some of their fans embrace obsession and forgo the healthier territory of love and appreciation.
I’m obsessed with “folklore.” I off-handedly say I’m obsessed with Styles. But I ask myself the important questions: Are artists’ behavior and actions excusable because of their fame? Does what they signify to us personally mean they can do no wrong?
I find myself concerned with this generation’s unwavering dedication to celebrities. We actively uplift celebrities to the point that there are no boundaries. Idolization is permission to exist without consequence — and that is a dangerous phenomenon to subscribe to.
The issue I see is that many of us see celebrities as untouchable. Artists are ordinary people who have been given a platform. Despite their overwhelming power over their audiences, they are still human. They can make grave mistakes, mislead others and be guilty of the same things as normal people. Their flaws are just conveniently masked by the privileges they have that we do not. So why should we excuse their errors?
Yet another sensation that I am well aware of is that fans have the potential to be dependent on celebrities — dependent on a constant stream of updates, on their whereabouts and on their well-being — to the point that their own is inextricably tied to their idols’. Worship becomes so instinctual that self-sufficiency is sometimes compromised. We lose our sense of identity to the emulation of a stranger’s life.
I can say confidently that celebrity worship is not healthy because we are admiring a fictionalized version of our idols. Putting someone on a pedestal means worshiping someone who is supposedly perfect. We should just be loving someone imperfect.
Some of Swift’s fans have noted that the pop star used her documentary “Miss Americana” to bring light to relevant issues, but then remained silent after the Roe v. Wade leak earlier this year. To me, this is what supporting an artist should look like: the amicable coexistence of productive criticism and appreciation.
One Reddit user shared their hot take, that Swift should have signed onto Planned Parenthood’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” campaign, receiving nearly 2,000 upvotes. At the end of their short opinion, they wrote, “I am not coming at this from a hateful POV [point-of-view] because I love Taylor and her work regardless.” I personally want to see more of this: supporters loving their idols by seeing them as real human beings.
This can also happen with Harry Styles, whose words about gay sex in his upcoming film “My Policeman” sparked debate among his fanbase. When talking about what he loved about the film, Styles said, “So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it,” noting that “My Policeman” does represent more “sensitive” sex between two men.
One article approached Styles’ comment with skepticism: “It was the suggestion that cinema suffers from an abundance of ‘two guys going at it’ which provoked the most backlash, which is understandable – the claim doesn’t bear any scrutiny whatsoever … I’ve seen a lot of queer films over the last ten years and, barring a few exceptions, I wouldn’t say there has been a preponderance of explicit sex.”
Both Swift and Styles prove to be flawed in the eyes of their fans, in their inaction and in their words. Love your favorite artists, but try not to love them unconditionally. They are capable of being flawed, and they should be held accountable. It just happens to be really powerful when the ones holding celebrities responsible are their fans. Appreciating idols means allowing them the space to be misguided while also guiding them to better themselves.
Shay Suresh CM ’24 is from San Jose, California. She loves literary fiction, indie music and browsing Pinterest.
Original posted at tsl.news