People Outing Celebrities On Social Media For Their Behavior Is Creating A New Paradigm — And It’s Exciting
This week's newsletter: Why this new trend is challenging the celebrity power structure while maintaining the fun, and why I think the Los Angeles mayor stepping in to penalize TikToker Bryce Hall for throwing a party during a pandemic is "good" (even if losing your basic needs is rarely ever good).
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Ticktock on celebrities behaving badly with no consequences
Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed a particular kind of TikTok popping up more and more. The videos feature a person who says they either used to work with or have served celebrities, and they’re now “rating” their experiences. The videos have become so popular that some instantly make headline news, like on our mothership, BuzzFeed.com.
Take one recent TikTok, in which @_sincindy says she works at an airline. She gives Kendall Jenner a 2/10 rating because she was “not really friendly to anybody and just walked around really arrogant." Conversely, she gives singer Bad Bunny a 10/10 because he was “super fucking polite” to her.
Naturally, the comments are full of people saying they’ve either had their suspicions about a celebrity confirmed or they were pleased to hear about celebrities being kind.
These videos have made such an impact that some celebrities who’ve been called out have felt compelled to respond. In July, Hailey Bieber attempted to apologize after a host at a Nobu restaurant in New York City called her “rude.” The host claimed she’d met Bieber on a number of occasions and had never had a positive interaction.
This new trend is exciting to me as an avid consumer of celebrity culture and gossip. It feels similar to reading blind items about A- and B-listers — but this time the fodder isn’t blind! Someone is appearing on camera, as themselves and on the record, to share their personal experiences with a litany of famous names.
It feels refreshing and empowering that we’ve reached a point in our society where non-celebrities are emboldened to talk openly and casually about their experiences without fear of retribution. Of course, intimidation is still weaponized in the industry, and we have a ways to go (Ellen, anybody?). But this new trend is a good step forward in dismantling the power that celebrity culture has — while maintaining the fun and voyeurism.
I reached out to someone who’s had a ton of celebrity encounters at her job and who’s been making TikToks about them. Erica Smolcynski, 31, has worked in restaurants in Los Angeles for over six years. She first went viral for a video last month in which she called Reese Witherspoon “an actual fucking angel” and Joel McHale “an asshole.”
(I also reached out to the celebrities mentioned in these TikToks.)
Erica told me she chose these celebrities to talk about “at random” and wasn’t hesitant to speak so openly because she’s simply speaking her truth.
“I am not really nervous about outing any celebrities, but I make sure I am not saying anything too distasteful,” she said. “I don't want to offend anyone, just give people the facts. I think that is why I am able to just go for it.”
Unlike blind item websites or dramatized storytime vlogs, Erica’s stories come across fairly credible. She thinks it’s because she talks about it with a sense of humor, and with some objectivity.
“Society wants to know if the celebrities they worship are actually decent human beings. I get it,” she said. “I am a super-honest person in general, and I believe that is coming across genuinely while I am making these videos. The feedback I am getting from TikTok users is that everything I am saying about these celebrities seems very truthful.”
Mostly, she said, she believes we’re edging toward a more realistic perception of celebrities.
“I do believe society is seeing a more honest depiction of how some of these celebrities behave by having the information come from ‘normal’ people on TikTok,” she said. “We have nothing to lose, y’know what I mean? That leads to content creators just giving people the dirty deets about celebs without truly worrying about the ramifications. ‘Tis a beautiful thing!”
Erica also wanted to add that while her videos have had some impact, she hopes she’s “not ruining careers over here.” She doesn’t really want to form any kind of relationship with the celebrities she’s talked about but welcomes hearing from them if they want to reach out.
“If Reese Witherspoon contacted me and said ‘hey, your video about me was sweet,’ I would lose my poop so hard. Other than that, I hope they don't contact me, because I legitimately would not know what to do.”
The mayor of LA shut off the power to the home of TikTokers who threw that huge COVID-19 birthday bash, and, IMO, good
I just want to say it’s rarely ever “good” that someone has their power cut off (especially during a heat wave). It happens most frequently to people in low-income areas, especially when infrastructure fails or when natural disasters hit.
When I read the New York Times report that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to popular TikToker Bryce Hall and the massive birthday party he threw over the weekend during a pandemic by shutting off power to his Hollywood Hills mansion, my initial thoughts were, “K, good.”
I did not feel “good” that Bryce and his fellow Sway House TikTok boys, who apparently live in the house with him, were without power. But I felt good that his actions had resulted in formal consequences. It’s not the first, or second, or third time influencers have brazenly thrown big parties while coronavirus cases have risen in California, specifically the LA area. But it is the first time the city imposed a “zero tolerance” response to them. While this is the first offense, at least publicly, that Bryce has had to face, he and other popular TikTokers have been seen at big bashes over the past few weeks.
Garcetti tweeted that he authorized the city to shut the power for people who are “in flagrant violation of our public health orders,” and he’s sending a clear message: Do not gather a ton of people together in an enclosed area during a public health crisis where people can contract and spread the coronavirus. Don’t do it!
I’ve brainstormed other punitive measures that city officials could take to try to stop these parties and thought maybe they could issue big fines instead. The problem with this is that these TikTokers are making a lot of money. They could easily pay it off and perhaps throw another rager in a few weeks. The lessons would likely not be learned, and the greater crisis not resolved.
It’s profoundly unfortunate when we have to resort to this extreme action in order to communicate that these times are very serious and we all need to be responsible to help. Reasonable people do not want to see a bunch of young people without power in their homes. But if these young people won’t adhere to orders, or don’t understand why they should not be partying, someone needs to impose that boundary.
Perhaps a more patient person who knows them personally (a parent???) could do the labor and take the time to educate them. But it’s not going to be me.
Until next time,